When The Pen was born it was placed in an elegant coffin. As it came to its senses it found out that it was immobile, held in place around the waist by an ivory-coloured band in the middle of a ivory-coloured velvet-cushioned box.
At a 45 degree angle, The Pen watched the world go by through the spotless glass case; between the legs of men and women, clothed, transparent, and bare; and past the revolving doors with the calligraphic writing on the glass: ‘Penman’s Fine Writing Instruments’.
By the end of the day The Pen [TP] learned two words – Open, Closed – written on either sides of a slate board and hung on the glass window that looked out on to the bright side and the dark side. Over the course of the week, TP learned other words mainly from the conversations of Jane and Oscar who manned the store. Hemingway, the third person who rarely spoke, came in at the end of the day, counted the cash, and closed for the night.
The day Jane wouldn’t stop talking about the fickle weather a family of three walked in, stomped their feet, and brushed snow off their jackets. They were talking in a sing-song language TP had never heard before.
Lady, “It’s my husband’s birthday and we’d like to gift him a nice pen.”
Jane, “That’s really wonderful. Many happy returns of the day, Sir!”
Perhaps it was the rhythm in the strange language, TP had dozed off. He was woken up by the world shaking. For the first time, TP was brought out of the glass case and he stared back at the three pairs of eyes scrutinising him.
Jane’s glowing words about its pedigree gave TP’s matte finish a shiny gloss. Jane unsheathed TP and presented it to the spectacled man with a clean shaven head and French beard, encouraging him to write. The Man’s gentle fingers ran over TP, lifted, and weighed him.
Like learning to dance The Man and TP took a few scratchy steps. The shapes ‘M’, ‘a’, ‘d’, ‘h’, ‘a’, ‘v’ filled the only clean portion of the densely scrawled sheet of paper.
The Man took fresh paper and started the waltz again. He copied the lines from the framed photograph behind the counter.
‘My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.’ – Graham Greene
“I like the feel of the pen.”
But TP did not feel anything. “Was that my purpose in life? To feel? Make others feel? Am I missing the connection here? Even if I discover those emotions how do I describe those feelings?”
Soon after, the lid of the coffin closed and TP heard the sounds of the cash register.
‘egoes where I go
On the journey to its new home TP, now TMP [The Mad Pen] and genderified to the male species, dreamt that he would be taking many a reader on journeys to the farthest corners of the universe.
In less than a year TMP learned about the letters of the alphabet, words, sentences, how to turn words and phrases with slight turns of his body, and to structure stories which in turn controlled the emotions of every human being that came in his path. TMP’s matte black coat began to take on a high satin finish. Black creative juices gushed out of him and filled stacks of paper; his valet had a hard time finding a place to store them.
On the day that snow piled up outside covering everything in sight, TMP stood staring at the sheet of blank paper. Nothing came to mind. Squeeze as hard as he might, the black juices stopped flowing. He doodled a few concentric circles trying self-hypnosis to jumpstart the juices. TMP took a mindful walk along the flowery borders of the white paper trying to push away all distractions. “Something is blocking my mind.”
He shook the warm blanket that enveloped him and lay down on the paper and rolled outside the sheet of paper. When he bumped against the still-open coffin at the edge of the table memories from his childhood came flooding back. The journeys he took to the edge of the mental and physical worlds. Creating stories upon stories that regaled audiences from eight to eighty.
TMP felt himself being lifted by The Hand and gently placed on the soft velvet which had now turned a gentle brown. The dust in the box chocked his senses and he sneezed and coughed bringing up the black bile within him.
“That’s it! It’s just all this muck that has been lying deep inside. It’s gone. Now I am free. Put me back in contact with the paper.” TMP did not have the words to express himself.
No amount of shaking and rolling helped TMP get out of the coffin without that warm, gentle crutch. TMP tried to get the attention of his valet, but the spectacled man kept looking out the window.
“Is this the end?” He dreaded that the lid will close down on him forever. “Will I be cremated or buried? Who will write my words of eulogy? Can anyone take my place?”
He lay there looking at The Man stroking his beard deep in thought.
“What was his role in this whole story? In my story? Was he guiding me all along? Is this really the meaning of ‘The Invisible hand of God’? Didn’t I create that phrase? Weren’t those really my thoughts … my words … my stories?”
TMP dozed off. When he woke up the lid was still up. A new day had begun. The sun shining on the snow was blinding, but it looked beautiful and he could feel the crispness in the fresh air.
The Man walked in when the grandfather clock was half way through sounding nine times. TMP was gently lifted out of the box. The slim fingers enclosed TMP in a gentle embrace and guided him. The dance between The Man, The Pen, and the words started again.