I was raised on a farm in rural Eastern Oregon; three miles from the nearest town, with its two grocery stores, single gas station, lumber yard, hair salon and bar. Not quite Mayberry: we had neither sheriff nor jail. My sister and I helped out on the farm from a very young age, and we considered the adult neighbors our friends. We used to “help” Jim when it came time to harvest his corn, running through the field, picking up ears of corn the harvester had missed, and tossing them onto the flatbed. Jim gave us a penny per ear, and sometimes, a stick of gum, which was the real treat.
Despite the relative safety of our surroundings, or perhaps because of it, Mom felt it was important to stress the dangers inherent in the larger world. It’s OK to accept gum from Jim, but not from someone you don’t know. If someone other than Noma tries to give you cornbread, just say no. So begins the story of The Cutterman.
There had been a story on the news of an event that took place far away from our safe land – probably in California, because that’s where all the Bad Things happened. A child was kidnapped by a stranger who offered candy, and that child was later found murdered and cut into many pieces. This story was horrific, and our mother hoped hearing it would prevent Julie and me from getting into cars with strangers. If you know Julie, you’ll know why our parents were worried (I only wrote that because I know she’ll read this, and we’re on opposite coasts, so she can’t slug me).
And so it was, on a sunny spring day, that we found ourselves riding our bikes (hers a two-wheel bicycle, mine a child’s tricycle) up and down our long driveway, to the paved road and back to the house. On one loop, as we neared the paved road, a big, scary car pulled into our driveway. A stranger! In a Volkswagen Beetle! We, naturally, were in his way, and the driver got out of his car to a) ask us to move to the side, b) ask whether our parents lived in that house, c) ask for directions or d) lure us into his big scary car with candy, then cut us into A MILLION PIECES!!!!!!
I think we all know what his intentions were. Which is why Julie and I dropped our bikes, turned and ran back up the driveway, screaming: “THECUTTERMANTHECUTTERMANTHECUTTERMANTHECUTTERMAN!!!”
Evil Cutterman moved our bikes out of his way (Ha! We slowed him down! He won’t catch us now!), returned to his car and slowly followed us up our driveway.
Mom, hearing the infernal racket, stepped outside to learn what terrible evil had befallen her beloved daughters. We ran past her, into the house, screaming, “THECUTTERMANTHECUTTERMANTHECUTTERMANTHECUTTERMAN!!” Stunned, and having no idea what we were screaming about, she watched us
run past, and into our bedroom, where I’m quite sure we hid under the bed or some equally secure location. When the man got out of his car, he was equal parts stunned and apologetic. He had no idea what caused us to run screaming away from him, he was very sorry, he hoped he hadn’t done anything to alarm us, he just wanted to sell encyclopedias, or Fuller Brush or something. At that point, realization dawned, and Mom burst into laughter as she realized why we had been screaming, and what must have caused it. The Cutterman did not try to sell Mom encyclopedias that day, or any other day. He drove away, somewhat rattled, and never returned.
Ever vigilant, Julie and I remain in full possession of all our limbs.