“The Pen” is one of the outstanding stories of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2016 written by Samuel De Franco, USA.
As the 8-year-old boy was biting into his pickle sandwich and delightfully staring out the window while daydreaming about his life, when his mom disrupted his thoughts, “Dan, how’s that story coming along? Miss Willow said you were having a bit of trouble.”
“I already finished it, mom,” he said as his heart skipped a beat. It was already getting dark!
Dan rushed up the wooden stairs of his home, being careful not to choke on the pickle sandwich that stretched his cheeks; he entered his toy-filled room and locked the door of his preferred room of the house. “Ah, my Sanctum Sanctorum…” he said as he took a deep breath and stared at the “Doctor Strange” poster by his nightstand.
Now sitting on the soft comforting sheets of his bed, he looked out the window filled with the dark blue sky and stars. Being the independent individual that he was, it surprised him that a feeling of alienation suddenly overcame him. As he flew his World War I aircraft as a chance to be distracted from the utter reality of responsibility, the engine started to fail. The hand that was propelling the metallic toy suddenly flopped to his side. The paper and pen that sat in peace on top of his desk was a daunting sight. “There’s nothing left to do…”
After Dan slowly sat down on the bright red stool, his body felt as heavy as a rock. He easily sat there staring for two minutes straight contemplating on… nothing really. His mind went blank as it normally went when he had to be creative; usually his thoughts went wild inside the copious lands of his brain.
Just as Dan’s sweaty left hand held the white pen in front of him, something bizarre happened. He felt a steady vibration coming from the cheap ink that his father had given him. “Yawwwwwn” the pen suddenly woke up from his everlasting slumber. “Is that pickle I smell?” asked the pen.
“You don’t like pickle sandwich?” Dan burst out. The object and the boy got acquainted with each other.
After some bantering, they eventually got to the topic of the writing contest.
“What do you mean you don’t want to write?”
“Look, it’s not like that. I love to write at school, but I don’t think I’m good enough,” the boy cried.
“Kid, after all my years in the shelves I learned a lot from the real world, and you know what, when your folks say you’ll make it when you believe in yourself, it’s all just spilled ink.”
“Spilled ink?” asked Dan.
“Never mind that. WhatI am trying to say is that even if you believe in yourself there is always a chance of failure. I do not know if you are old enough to hear this but try to remember that itdoes not matter if you are good enough in some things, but if you try your best,you will learn a whole lot! And if you lose, it doesn’t matter what other people think, at least you gave it your all.”
“Dan, are you there? I came to tuck you in.”
In the blink of an eye, Dan changed into his pajamas. “Hey you be quiet okay!” he admonished the pen.
The pen stayed still. He slowly opened the large door with one eye open and a subtle yawn. After Dan’s mom left the room and the coast was clear, he sprang up from the bed and landed on his chair. “Hey, pen, so you were talking about giving it my all,” he reminded the pen. The pen remained quiet.
Dan worked on the story through the rest of the night and when he finally finished, looking at the paper, he let out a laugh. After signing the document at the bottom like he always did at school, the exhausted little man finally went to bed.
A beautiful young woman brings in a stack of paperwork to an older man sitting behind a vintage desk with letters spelling out J-H-O-N-S-O-N-E-D-I-T-O-R-I-A-L-S on the wall beside him.
“Thank you,” he said. The suited man proceeds to take a sip of his coffee, then, grabbing a paper under his personal folder with a “2nd place” blue ribbon on the top right corner, he eyeballs it carefully and takes a bite out of his pickle sandwich.