Saved by a Pencil

Sometime in October 1993 we had a pop quiz in class, that was machine graded and required a #2 pencil. Another student (Bill) and I didn't have pencils. We were loaned one by the teacher, under the condition we wrote an essay describing why it was important to always have a pencil around. This is the essay I wrote.

Vincent Weaver
November 1, 1993
Honors English II

Saved By a Pencil

``Ouch'' said MacGyver softly while holding on to his head. ``Where am I?'' Suddenly it came back to him. He had been taking a canoe trip with some students from the John Carroll School. He and his partner in the canoe, Vince Weaver, had been canoeing up the Gunpowder River near Joppatowne...

. . . .

All had been going well until a student in another canoe, Nick Attanasio, noticed that along the shore all the trees and plants were either dying or dead. Nick's canoe partner, a young man named Bill Pate, quickly discovered why the plants were dead.

``Look! Over There! That sewage treatment plant is dumping toxic chemicals into the river!''

``How do you know that they are toxic chemicals?'' inquired Nick.

``It says so on the pipe!'' exclaimed Bill. After they told the rest of the canoers to go on without them, the four brave explorers got out to investigate.

``These are toxic chemicals, all right.'' Nick explained. ``Look at the way they dissolve my paddle.''

``You three stay out here,'' MacGyver said, ``I don't want you to get hurt. I am going to go in and find out who is the evil villain behind this terrible pollution.'' MacGyver crept up to the building unnoticed. There was a big steel door with a fancy computer-controlled combination lock on it. MacGyver tried to use his pocketknife to get the cover off the lock, but it didn't budge. He then decided to try entering random combinations. He pressed 1, 2, 3, 4. All of a sudden there was a click and the door opened. ``That's weird'' he said. ``That's the combination to my luggage. I better change it when I get back.'' He then walked a little farther down the hall. All of a sudden the floor opened up, and he hit his head. That was the last thing he remembered.

. . . .

``This is getting weirder by the minute. Who would want to keep me prisoner?'' puzzled out brave hero. Suddenly a speaker clicked to life.

``I am glad you are awake, MacGyver.'' said a voice. ``Now I can keep you from snooping around permanently!''

``Who are you?'' asked MacGyver.

``I am the evil Dr. Pegleg! I want to destroy Joppatowne! Then I can buy it real cheap and put up the Badminton arena I've always wanted to build. And by the way, I have a couple of visitors for you.'' Suddenly a door opened near MacGyver's head, and out fell Vince, Bill and Nick.

``I thought I told you not to come after me!'' exclaimed MacGyver.

``It was Nick's fault,'' said Bill. ``He wanted to be a hero.''

``Well never mind that,'' said MacGyver, ``We have to find a way to get out of here. All the walls of this cell are made of three inch thick solid steel. The only way out of here would be to blow the hinges off the door. I found some charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter on the ground, and I was able to make enough gunpowder from it to blow up the door. There is an electric socket six inches away, and if I could get the electricity from there to make a spark to explode the gunpowder, we could quickly escape. The only problem is I don't have anything that conducts electricity.''

``Wait a second!'' said Vince. ``Doesn't graphite conduct electricity?''

``Yes,'' said MacGyver sadly, ``but I don't have any.''

``Isn't the `lead' in a pencil made of graphite?'' enquired Vince.

``Yes, but I don't have a pencil.'' lamented MacGyver.

``Bill and I do'' said Vince. ``We didn't have a pencil once in Mr. Paaby's class, so he explained to us how important it was to always have one. We both always carry one around in our pockets.''

``Terrific!'' exclaimed MacGyver. ``Give them to me!'' MacGyver took one pencil and took the eraser off. He took the other pencil and put a notch in it with his pocket knife. Now the two pencils fit together forming a right angle. He then picked them up with a pair of pliers with a non-conductive plastic grip. ``Whatever you do, don't try this at home'' he said. He then made his canoeing companions hide behind some pieces of wood that were in the back of the cell. He carefully stuck one end of the pencil lead in the electrical socket and shorted it near the gunpowder. BOOM!! The hinges on the door exploded and the door fell over. The slightly-dazed prisoners quickly ran and found the main control room.

``Ah ha!'' yelled MacGyver. ``We have caught you, Dr. Pegleg. Now we can unmask you and see who you really are.''

Nick walked up and pulled a mask off of Dr. Pegleg's head. ``Oh my Gosh!'' exclaimed Nick. It is Mr. Scholl! I never thought you would turn to crime!''

``It was my last year's Honors Western Civ class that did it. They drove me mad!'' Yelled Mr. Scholl as the police took him away.

``Well'' said MacGyver, ``if you hadn't had that pencil, we all could be dead, or worse, playing badminton.''

``Yes'' said Bill ``I am glad I forgot that pencil in Mr. Paaby's class.''

``Me too.'' said Vince. And they all lived happily ever after.

The above has been transcribed from a dot-matrix printout. The corrections made by the teacher have been made, plus a few other relatively minor fixes. In red ink at the bottom of the paper Mr. Paaby wrote:
   An excellent lesson, Master Weaver, you learn so quickly.  
   Like a boyscout you will always be prepared.  Perhaps you
   qualify to run a counseling service to the forgetful
   students of the world.
   +3  - What a delightfully ironic bonus!

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