The Phantom 1/16

Late at night, deep in the woods, huddled around a dying campfire as the gloom descends, they tell in hushed tones the tale of the Phantom 1/16. It’s a story full of blood and menace, howls and moans, vengeance and forgiveness. And gallows humor … appropriately, since it involves — dun-dun-dah! — the guillotine.

The sweep of the arm, the flash of razor-sharp metal, the hollow thunk as the instrument does its deed. The scream as the executioner takes his measure. Ooh, I get chills every time.

See, it wasn’t so many, many years ago — OK, it was yesterday — that I, Shop Boy, recoiled in horror as a good woman cursed her God and her fate as she stood before the blade, decrying the crookedness in the land. “Why? Why? Why?”

In her hand was a piece of paper, upon which an image had been imprinted. A beehive dingbat, a name, a business, an address and a phone number. Witchcraft? Nay, for the agony was not over the image but the paper itself.

“Damn it!” she cried, slamming the pica pole on the wooden workbench. “One sixteenth!”

Yes, there was no denying it, though try I did. From one side of the sheet to the other there appeared an incline. Just slight enough to catch the eye, but extreme enough to drive Mary — dun-dun-dah! — insane.


Let me tell you, Marie Antoinette wasn’t as scared to approach the guillotine as we’ve been some days. The Typecast Press cutter, a Challenge that can handle sheets about 22 inches wide, is one I purchased from my brother-in-law. It’s a fine machine, with a blade sharp enough to have cost me a fingertip one day. All right, I’m being dramatic. It was just a little flap of skin … say 1/16 of an inch?

Anyway, we’ve spent hour upon hour, day upon day trying to rid our world of this dark force. It’s absolutely maddening. We’ve adjusted the back and blade guides to within an inch of their/our lives, changed blades, rebuilt the arm (was it somehow out of line?), tried countless channel guides and still, the Phantom 1/16. We’ve tried to outsmart the device, angling the paper just slightly. It won’t be fooled. We’ve set the paper along the left guide, in the center, to the right. We’ve used short stacks, deep stacks; soft paper, sturdy paper. The Phantom has mocked us to our faces … as it has others before — dun-dun-dah!

Yes, we’ve seen the Phantom’s dark work elsewhere, in business cards, party invites and other materials that we’ve collected, cut in other shops. The tiniest bit of crookedness. Some are clearly less afraid than we are to cut and run — and clearly less dogged than Mary, for she will fight the demon of the cutter to last tick of her final hour on Earth.

Or mine, whichever comes first.

Meanwhile, we’re salvaging a larger, much older cutter. It’ll give us a bigger cut, about a full yard wide. We’ll knock off the rust, sharpen and adjust the blade, synchronize the back gauge, oil it up real well. Then we’ll give it a go.

If the Phantom shows up, you’ll hear about it from a mile away.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: