Exactly whose homework is it?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

In the midst of weekend hubbub, I got a lesson on how to build a guillotine.

Before you call the police, let me explain.

Greg’s son had a school project that involved, for some reason I’m still working on, building a guillotine.

This social studies project comes on the heels of another one where students had to build a boat, similar to one that might have been used by early explorers.

It was during the boat project I learned that when Greg and Derek worked on projects such as this, I shouldn’t expect simplicity. There is something in their genes that requires them to break out the power tools, wood and nails.

I discovered this after I suggested making the boat out of a tissue box, only to be looked at with a &uot;What is she talking about?&uot; look.

The boat turned into an intricate engineering project involving clamps, popsicle sticks, glue and paint.

In the end, I was impressed. It may not have been seaworthy, but it sure was spiffy looking.

So, I expected no less in their construction of the beheading device. Knowing it was in capable hands, I went to another part of the house.

I saw them both head for the garage, where Greg has been storing most of his things until the Sept. 18 wedding. Before long, I heard a saw and then some hammers.

Derek stuck his head in the kitchen.

&uot;Do you have any wood glue?&uot; he said.

I scrounged around until I found some.

A few minutes later, he popped back in.

&uot;What about string? And tin foil?&uot;

An old tangle of embroidery floss solved that dilemma, as did a sheet of shiny aluminum foil. Greg walked in.

&uot;Do you have any spray paint?&uot;

I found a can of black spray paint, the perfect color for the instrument of death.

Another hour or so later, I was called out to the garage. Sitting on the work bench was an amazingly professional guillotine. It was about 6 inches tall and had a working blade, although that part was nothing more than a piece of cardboard covered in the foil.

The &uot;blade&uot; slid up and down on the grooves they had made in the wood, the track as smooth as glass. It was a work of art, even if there wasn’t a tissue box is sight. Derek seemed obviously proud, showing me how the string made the blade move up and down. He moved on, though, walking inside to play video games. The true pride, however, shown in his dad’s face.

&uot;Did you see it?&uot; he asked as he wiped the paint off his hands. &uot;Pretty cool, huh?&uot;

&uot;Yes,&uot; I replied. &uot;I think you – I mean Derek – will definitely get an ‘A.’ Maybe next time, the teacher will let you build a whole fort.&uot;

Leada DeVaney is the publisher of the Hartselle Enquirer and the Madison County Record. She is the former managing editor of the Shelby County Reporter