A Ballpoint Pen, The Autobiography of




I don’t know when I was made, but I do remember being in a box when suddenly the darkness turned to bright light. I looked around and saw others just like me. We were all lying side-by-side and there were yet more underneath us. A hand reached in and took a bunch of us out. We were unceremoniously placed in a jar. I am not sure what I thought about this, but it wasn’t fun. The glass jar with us all in was placed on a shelf and a label was stuck on the jar. What it said I could not see.
 
There was a tinkling bell as a door opened. A hand, not the same one as before, started poking about the other jars that were also on the shelf. Eventually a finger rummaged around in our jar. Two more fingers joined the first. I was plucked out from the bosom of my ‘friends’ and tossed on the counter, rather roughly, with some coins. The first hand picked me up and put me in a paper bag. The second hand, I assume, stuffed me in his pocket with no care for my comfort at all. Oh the indignity!
 
It was sometime later, after a lot of jostling, that I saw the light of day again. The top of the bag was opened and I saw the peering face of the man who, I assumed, bought me. Once more three fingers reached in and got me. I was placed on a desk beside a writing pad. There I lay resplendent with my silver button cap gleaming in the sunlight.
 
The pad looked new, crisp and ready to use for writing. Ready for me to do my stuff. I lay on the desk in the sun waiting. Slowly the light faded and I was in darkness for some time. A door opened and a click brought back the light. The man came and sat at the desk. He lifted me up and held me, thinking. He pressed my button cap and my ballpoint came out and settled protruding through the shiny nozzle at my end. He gripped me by the pointed end so I was protruding through his fingers then moved towards the writing pad, Dear Fionahe wrote. It wasn’t very clear. I am new, my ink wasn’t really flowing. He scribbled my nose on the blotter, “ouch”. New sheet. Dear Fiona  wrote again. Ah! That’s better it can be read now.
 
Dear Fiona
I am writing to say how much I enjoyed your company last night. I feel very privileged that you wanted to spend that time with me. I thought if it’s all right with you we might go to the cinema next week. There is a really nice film you might like to see on at the Odeon.
 
 Please let me know if that suits.
 
Maffi
 
PS The film is called ‘The Blue Lagoon’
 
Well that was a pleasant write. He has a lovely considered writing style, exactly what I was designed for. A delicate touch combined with long flowing strokes. What a nice chap he is. He placed me on the desk, stood up and walked away. Click! It went dark. It went darker as the door closed behind him. He had forgotten to retract my ballpoint and during the night it started to dry up and then the itch began.
 
He came in the room early the next morning. He picked up the letter, read it, folded it, and placed it inside a book. He picked me up and after retracting my ballpoint put me in his top pocket. Bit late now but at least the itching stopped. We travelled some distance before I was taken out again. I think we were in the post office. We wrote an address on an envelope with a stamp in the corner. He placed the letter in the envelope and me in his pocket, remembering first to retract my ballpoint. He gave the letter to the lady behind the glass. We went to the bank next where he used me to sign some papers in the manager’s office then we went home.
 
On our arrival a deliveryman was standing at the door. A package changed hands and we signed for it. How it happened exactly I don’t know, but I ended up in the other man’s pocket!!!
 
He sat down in his van. Took me out of his pocket and scribbled, yes, SCRIBBLED on his paperwork. He pressed very hard not at all delicate like the man I belonged to. I am sure he is a nice man, but he writes like a gorilla! When he had finished he threw me onto the dashboard and drove off.  There I stayed in the detritus of the dashboard for several days. Old broken pens, breadcrumbs, pop bottle and sweet wrappers. I have barely started on my life and now this. I was not a happy pen. Woe is I!
 
I was often jostled when the man looking for various things rummaged around in the rubbish tip that was his ‘office’. He picked me up from time to time scribbled something, and then chucked me down again. Then on a cold wet day he put me in his pocket instead of back on the dashboard.
 
I think I was in his house, hung up in his jacket when a young girl came and took me from his coat. She sat at a table with me doing her homework. There were daffodils in a vase and she kept poking me in the trumpets. Though she was an inexperienced writer she was not as rough as her dad. Her homework was varied. She seemed to do a lot of maths, a history essay and a short story about mice. When she had finished she left me on the table where I stayed overnight. The next morning mum sat down and we wrote a shopping list and then a birthday card to her mum.
 
Not exactly the pinnacle of my writing career so far, but at least I was away from the dirty dashboard. When she had finished she tidied the room placing me in a small vase on the mantel piece. It seemed like an eternity, just stood there, like a de-headed flower. It was warm. My ink started to leak out of my ballpoint. It was a little bit soggy there. Oh, I do so wish people would retract me.
 
“Mum where’s the pen.”
 
“On the Mantelpiece.”
 
“Ta.”
 
Once again I was picked up and taken to the table. The girl wiped me on her sleeve to clean my end.
 
“Don’t do that!” her mother shouted.
 
“Sorreee!”
 
At least now I was comfortable and clean. We settled down to homework again. Physics tonight followed by ‘The Reign of Elizabeth 1’. I spent another night on the table and was dumped early in the morning into her pencil case. She zipped it shut I couldn’t see a thing. I was jostled about for a while. We went on a bus. She had a fight and hit someone with her school bag. I had a right rough journey. Not really a petit young lady, no! I finally saw the light of day in the classroom when the pencil case was unzipped. Some fat podgy fingers rifled the case and took me out. It wasn’t the girl.
 
“Miss, Simon has just nicked my pen.”
 
“Sharon, sit down and be quiet!!
 
“But Miss . . . . . . .”
 
“SHARON! Sit down and get on with the set work.”
 
“I can’t miss. I haven’t got a pen.”
 
“Well you should have brought one shouldn’t you?”
 
“But Miss . . . . . . .”
 
“Sharon, I am not interested in excuses. You should bring a pen every day.”
 
“I did Miss. Simon stole it.”
 
“Right you’re on detention.”
 
Simon sat tapping me on the desk. No one said anything to him. He opened his book. Then just sat clicking my end cap. I don’t think he is ever going to write with me. He stopped clicking and started tapping his teeth with my end cap and then my ballpoint. His breath smelled. I wanted to be sick. Blue teeth, that would teach him. Wait, wait, wait, what this? We started writing. ‘I like doughnuts because . . . . .’ Well, neat, competent hand writing. Not bad for a thief. Small characters, perfectly formed, boxy and on the line. I am a bit worried about Sharon. She is being punished for something that is Simon’s fault. He didn’t bring a pen, so I spat on the page and spoiled his work. I think he was angry because the next thing I knew I was flying across to the corner of the classroom where I hit the wall and dropped in to the waste paper basket.
 
“Good shot,” shouted someone.
 
“QUIET,” said Miss.
 
I was nestled next to a day old apple core and a snotty tissue. UGH!
 
It was later, when the cleaners came, that I was picked up and placed carefully on the teacher’s desk, after first ensuring that I worked. Well, other than my one little aberration, I was still in perfect working order; lots of life in me yet.
 
There I stayed until the next day, which as it happens, was Saturday. This is the day when the adult classes take place. Many people came and went. During the course of the day several people picked me up and put me down. I think it was because I still had spit on my ballpoint. One kindly lady picked me up and cleaned me and I was promptly used to write. Oh the joy! The lady, a genteel woman of advancing years, had a beautiful script. It was a real pleasure to be in the hands of a writer who could write! I so wanted her to take me home. She left me on the desk where she found me. I waited. By the end of the day I was well handled and somewhat grimy. It was a young child that picked me up next. I think she was with the cleaners. She put me in a pocket in her dress and took me with her when she went home. On arrival she got some paper and drew with me. Can you imagine that! She drew with me. Oh the indignity! I am a pen not a pencil or a crayon. Good Lord whatever next?
 
Well next was simple. When she finished drawing she showed her mum what she had done. Mum asked, where she got the pen. She said the school. Her mother caught her a sharp slap across the face and called her a thief! I was thrown on to the kitchen worktop where I lay for some days.
 
A man, I assume, the girl’s father, picked me up next. He sat in an armchair then completed a Sudoku in the newspaper. He turned to the sports page. After underlining some things on the horseracing page he put on his coat and left the house. His journey took him a few streets down to the betting shop. There we wrote out his betting slips. He wasn’t a great gambler a couple of each way bets was all and he stayed to listen to the results. He was so excited that he had won £17.50 that he left me on the side by the till. The cashier lady noticing me there later tidied me up and put me in a jar on the side. Another punter picked me up to write out his betting slip. He was a rough writer and pressed hard like the van man. Oh wait a minute. It is the van man!
 
Well that’s certainly a turn up for the books. He put me by his paper and I eventually left the shop in the van man’s coat. I thought I would be back on the dashboard among the junk, but this wasn’t to be the case. He went to the pub and whilst there got into a discussion about the best way to get to Bethnal Green. He took me out and drew a map. The man wanting to go to Bethnal Green left the pub with the map, and me. We walked down the street, around the corner where he got into his car. He put me on the passenger seat. I couldn’t see where we were going but I remembered from the map the route and could sense all the corners. I must have missed one, or he did, because we stopped after a left and we should have stopped after a right.
 
The door on my side opened and some fat arse sat on me! I shouted but my voice was muffled and he didn’t hear me. We only drove a short distance and he turned right then stopped. We must be in Bethnal Green I thought. The man sitting on top of me rummaged around and extracted me from under his ample arse. We wrote something on an old envelope. Hold on! I know that address on the envelope. I wrote that at the post office just after the first man bought me. The man with the arse got out of the car leaving the envelope but with me in his pocket. Now where am I going?
The arse got into another car and we drove to a large apartment in Mayfair. There was a piano playing as we knocked on the door. A young lady in a maid’s attire came to the door (I wonder if she is Fiona). We were shown in to a large room where a man sat at a piano. He stopped playing, rose and greeted the arse. Hands were shook and the discussion was about playing at the RAH, do you know where that is? Royal Albert Hall ok? It seems there was to be a concert and the piano man was playing there.
“Have you got the contract with you,” said the piano man.
“Yes I do,” said the arse.
“Let me sign it now while we are waiting for tea.”
The contract was placed on the piano lid and the arse took me out and gave me to the piano man. The Piano man read through the contract and signed at the bottom, which as anyone knows is where all contracts are signed. The Arse witnessed the signature and the maid arrived with the tea (I bet she is Fiona).
“Thank you Fiona, that will be all,” said Pianoman (I knew it it is Fiona). After Fiona left the discussion revolved around the latest piece of music the piano man was writing. It was about an hour after we arrived that Arse left and I was still there on the piano. The man sat at the piano and started to play.
 
It was very nice here I quite enjoyed it. The man used me to write the lyrics to go with the music he was writing. His hands were strong but his writing style easy and fluid. Together we created some lovely lyrics:-
 
When the sun goes down this evening
and I’m sitting in my old rocking chair.
I’ll close my eyes and see your smile
and feel your presence there in the air.
I’ll smell your perfume on the breeze
and that will bring back memories.
Of days gone by when we were one
and I could see your beauty in the sun.

I remember all the features on you face
that I loved so long ago
Your button nose and sweet red lips
and smile that would melt the driven snow
The gleam in your eyes that would pierce
through the hearts of many men.
Your ivory skin and flaming hair,
but that was long ago way back when
 
I kind of like it anyway. It was nice to be being used to write proper stuff rather than just jotting down notes or drawing, it is after all what I was made for. The day of the concert came. It was a great success. After wards at the stage door we signed copies of the programme and made our way to the limo. Stepping into the limo I fell out of his pocket and down the side of the seat. I remained here until the next day when the limo was valeted. A teenage girl found me. She recognised me, how cool is that? It transpired that she had been at the concert and at the stage door where her programme was signed and she remembered the pen, me!
 
Well she was ecstatic not only did she have an autograph but the very pen ‘he’ had written it with. After work that day she showed me to her friends at home. They were all jealous. She felt so lucky. Jackie was jealous of her friend and during the evening she stole me. Dropping me over the garden wall so she could pick me up later. Unfortunately there was a young lad walking down the alley who heard me fall behind him. He turned around to see what it was and picked me up. He clicked my retractor in and out a few times and put me in his pocket. I wonder what the girl thought when she went back to look for me.
 
The lad was on his way home. On arrival there was no one in the house. We wrote a note and he left again, leaving me on the coffee table. The note said, “I’ll be back at 8.” A couple of people came in not long after the lad had left. They saw the note and grumbled. Picking me up one of them wrote your dinner is in the dog! Simple really they have set meal times. And eight is too late. I unfortunately ended up in the lady’s handbag! It was some weeks before I surfaced again and this time I was actually ‘given’ to someone else, an elderly retired gentleman who had spent time in the war I think it was the ladies father, or maybe grandfather. He was writing his memoirs and used me to do the corrections. He had a shaky hand as one might expect for a man of his years. We spent our time crossing out, putting in asterisks, adding notes, underlining and generally correcting spelling. I think the young girl who did the typing wasn’t very good. He wrote in a very precise military style as one might expect. All lowercase letters a uniform size, as were the uppercase letters, but taller.
One day the boy who picked me up in the alley came to visit. Apparently this was his great-granddad. He saw me on the table and said that I was his pen. The old man gave me back to him. The lad was a bit slapdash and had dropped me on the bus within the hour!
 
I was kicked under a seat, then kicked across the bus and finally picked by a student, who probably felt sorry for me. He dusted me off, tried me out on his hand, and then put me in his bag. I am not keen on bags I tend to stay in them for a long time. However this time after a bit of jostling I fell through a hole in his bag and skidded across the concourse at the bus station.
 
I was picked up by a tramp out begging. He treated me like I was a royal sceptre. A treasured gem. He placed me in a paper bag and put me in his inside pocket. I am not sure which inside pocket because he had on three or four jackets. He took me out every day, wiped me down with a cloth and wrote a few words on whatever scrap of paper he had to hand. I think he was an educated man who had fallen hard times, as is the way of the world these days. I sensed a bit of an artist in him. He thought carefully before he wrote and never made a mistake. His words were philosophical and considerably accurate. His touch was cultured and though he wrote mostly small neat words; on occasions (when he had a lot of paper) he would write with large swirling flourishes, quite a pleasure for me. I was very sad the day a policeman came and found him dead. I fell out of his pocket as they lifted him into the ambulance and was kicked into a corner. Soon a busker came to play.
 
My shine was beginning to wear off, but I still had about a quarter of my ink left. After the busker finished playing he collected all the coins off the floor and collected me in the process. I ended up in the guitar case. A couple of days later he went out busking again. He took me out of the case to write on a piece of card it said: - ‘Poor student no money for food’. He played well that day and collected lots of money. We went to a small restaurant off the main street where he ate well for the first time in several days. On the napkin we wrote some words:-
 
Sitting all alone by the telephone,
Waiting for my baby to call.
Seems I haven’t seen her in such a long time,
Now it’s getting close to the fall.
Well we had a little fight about a week ago.
I didn’t want to go out that night.
I was sitting on the porch listening to the radio.
She said, “Boy that don’t seem right.”
She said, “We could go dancing down at Jackson’s Bar.”
Drive to the beach in our drop top car.
We could hug and cuddle in the pale moonlight,
Then go on home and make lo-o-o-o-o-ove all night.
 
I like writing songs. I don’t always understand them, but the process is good. After another couple of verses he got himself together and left. I was still on the table! The waitress came and cleared the table and put me in her apron pocket. Regularly during the evening I was bought out to write orders for the restaurants customers. So here I was again just a jobbing pen doing a menial task. The waitress put me in her bag at the end of the night and we went home. She lived in the vicarage. Her father greeted her when she arrived home then continued to look for something.
 
“What is it you are looking for?” she said
“I seem to have lost my pen. I need to write this week’s sermon.”
 
“Here borrow mine. I need it back though.”
 
“Thank you.”
 
She handed me to him and he wandered off to the study. The vicar was a master of words. The Bible flowed from his every pore. I didn’t know the book very well, we pens rarely read books, but the sermon was about the loaves and the fishes and feeding a whole bunch of people. When he had finished he took me back to his daughter. She was reading the newspaper. She turned to the crossword page and set to reading the clues. 1 across was easy as was 4, 8, 10 then she came to a very hard one. 15. across HIJKLMNO. She skipped that and went on to 18. across. She worked her way all through the puzzle leaving just 15 across. The answer was simple but I of course couldn’t tell her. For the benefit of the readers I will tell. The clue is a section of the alphabet from H to O. Geddit? H2O. Water! Simple when you know. She left that clue undone though she finished the rest of the crossword. She would kick herself if she knew how easy it was.
 
In the morning she left for college. On the bus she made a few notes about today’s class. The bus stopped right outside the College. She entered in through the front reception hall and made her way to the Admin block. Her pigeonhole was empty. There was no post. She was disappointed. The girl made her way to the common room where she made coffee. Sitting on a soft chair she took out her notebook. I fell down the side of the chair. She didn’t notice. The morning bell rang and everybody hurried to his or her classes. Seated at her desk she opened her notebook and found me gone. A search of her bag only turned up a sweet. Now how was she going to write?
 
Back in the common room, another student sat in the soft chair. A few coins fell out of his pocket and as he reached to retrieve them he found me. I am beginning to think I am the most travelled ballpoint ever. The lad placed me behind his ear. Oh gross! He searched all the other chairs for change. £8.21 not bad. He headed off for his class, which for some students started half an hour after the rest of the college. Once again I was a note taker, Social Sciences. It was hard work. He was a prolific note taker. His hand was fast, accurate and neat. I was glad when the bell went. Quick as you like his books were packed into his bag and he was away. We walked down two flights of stairs, along the main hall, and out into the winter sun. Crossing the road we turned left and carried on down the road to the fish and chip shop. Using some of the money he found, down the side of the chairs, he bought chips. It seems all students are feeding their faces continuously. We made our way to the park where he devoured the chips, sitting on a see-saw. A friend came and sat on the other end. They began to see who could make the biggest bounce. The remainder of the chips went everywhere. I bounced out of his pocket and landed in the grass, where I lay hidden from view. I do seem to spend quite a lot of time on the ground.
 
Later the increase in the number of children in the park was indicative of school being over for the day. Children were running, shouting, laughing, and screaming as children do. I was stepped on several times. Then one child kicked me and I skittered across to where the mums were sitting. One of the children lifted me off the ground and wiped me on her sleeve and showed me to her mother.
 
“It probably doesn’t work Put it in the bin.”
The girl drew a circle on her hand, “Yes it does Mum, look.”
 
“It might be dirty.”
 
“No!” she said, “I wiped it.”
She put me in her pocket and there I stayed for a while. It must have been Friday and half term for she didn’t wear that coat again for a week. It was a Sunday, I think, when she took me out of her pocket. To do her homework, left it a bit late I think. Homework is best done as soon as you get it rather than in a panic the day before it is due in. The next day at school I was proudly placed at the top of the desk, ready to start work. The fire alarm went off and every one filed out of the classroom into the playground where they all lined up and the register was taken. Everyone was there. All accounted for. It was only a practice alarm. After every one was counted they all filed back in again. The girl sat at her desk and horror I had already been removed to elsewhere, but where? It wasn’t really important where because it was some months before I saw the light of day again. That’s just an expression because I saw the light of day every day given that someone had placed me on top of the blackboard. I saw everything that went on in the classroom, but no one knew I was there. The girl who had picked me up in the park got a new pen, and so forgot about me completely.
 
The caretaker was fixing a light over the blackboard one day when he noticed me out of the corner of his eye. He placed me in his pocket and by the end of the day I had migrated to his office. The ‘office’ was a corner of the school cellar. The walls were adorned with clipboards. They were checklists and work routines that the caretaker had to complete during the course of his week. I was bought into use to tick and cross and circle and sign. This was quite a high level of tedium, I was meant for greater things. Ho hum! It was while carrying out one of the maintenance routines in the dining hall that I fell off the clipboard and bounced out of his sight under another table. Will this journey never end?
 
A teacher found me next and popped me in his pocket. Teachers always have a need for pens especially free ones. After a short spell in the staff room we went home with a pile of marking to do, so ticks and crosses tonight then. My teacher was married to a nurse who worked at the local hospital. She was on early shift the next day and as she left the house at stupid o’clock in the morning she pocketed me. Oh I don’t think Sir will like that! On entering her place of work she used the hand cleaner at the door, she also wiped me down with the stuff. She was the first person to ever clean me. I felt quite fresh. I looked quite smart against the white uniform despite my tardy appearance. We recorded everybody’s vital signs on individual charts. Then HORROR I stopped working. She shook me, nothing. She scribbled me, nothing. I was finished. This was the end! I never thought it would come this soon. My life is over. Never again shall I write. Never again shall I meet such interesting people. I am sad. So very sad. I have no purpose any more.
 
We made our way back to the desk at the nurse’s station. I wondered what would happen. I expected to go in the bin, but no! What’s happening, she is unscrewing me? I am being taken apart. Why? She reached in to her desk draw and took out a small box from which she extracted . . . . . . . . (this is what we in the writing trade call suspense) . . . . . . . .a refill! Hallelujah!!!! I am having a transplant! How cool is that?
 
So there we have it. All sorted! Neatly packed away. This story came about because someone borrowed my ballpoint pen and I very specifically ask them to return it to me because I liked it. I never got it back. This was supposed to be a simple exercise of a couple of hundred words to expunge the sense of loss I felt, five thousand words later and we are here. The story has come, not to an end, but, to a point where I can walk away. I don’t suppose it is possible to end it any different, but there are those who will tell you otherwise. THE END, or is it?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love it! Such a quirky angle, and I wanted it to get back to Fiona's admirer!!
Sue

Maffi said...

It may. One never knows.

Shaun said...

The very best stories often go in circles. Your pen is on a fibonnaci spiral. LOL

Wozie nb Oakfield said...

An inspired, interesting story indeed Maffi.
It reminded me of a story I read many years ago about a lost coin, which had a similar adventure.
My your ideas continue to flow freely!

Maffi said...

Glad you liked it Wozie