My friend Monte Stevens posted a photograph of a beautiful pen and in the description, he noted that it was just like one he had found once and eventually lost. I commented that I thought it was a great idea for a story - a pen that "finds" people, records their stories for a while and then finds someone new.
Here is my short, short story.
Tracy was hurrying, trying to take care of the final plans for her holiday. First, she had to get the travel documents and then go to the bank to get some cash and travelers checks.
As she opened the door of the travel agency, something caught her eye. Under a chair was a shiny, sliver pen. It looked like the kind of pen that might have been given as a gift for a special occasion. She picked it up and asked if it belonged to anyone in the office. No one claimed it. She examined it for an engraved name or initials. Finding none, she held on to it as she went to the front desk to pick up her tickets and itinerary.
One week later, she was sailing along the coast of Martinique, lounging on the deck, sipping a rum drink and writing in her journal. This trip was meant to… what? Mend a broken heart? Forget about someone who, less than a year ago, had seemed like someone she could share her life with? He was someone who made her laugh. Someone who invaded her every waking thought. Yes – he had some issues. But he was still the most fascinating man she had ever met.
As she wrote in her journal, she stopped to look at the pen she was holding. It was the pen she had found at the travel agency. She wondered if the owner had come back later, looking for it.
The message alert on her cell phone beeped and she looked at it for a long time before picking it up to check the message. “CALL ME… PLEASE” She put the phone and her pen down and took a long sip of her drink.
A week later she was headed home – a five hour flight to New York. Ah well, the time would be spent making plans… wedding plans! After filling out the customs form, she put it and the pen into the seat pocket in front of her. When the plane landed at JFK, she grabbed the customs form but the pen had slipped out of sight and she forgot all about it.
Six months earlier, David been laid off from his job. He had been with the company for thirteen years, but that didn’t seem to matter. Whole departments were being drastically reduced and several satellite offices were being closed and their functions brought back under the corporate umbrella. He had heard about the cutbacks, but thought with his length of service, that his job was secure.
He spent the next several months looking for work; attending job fairs and sending resumes to any job ad that even remotely matched his expertise and qualifications. He took night classes to bring his business skills up to date. He’d had a few interviews, but nothing had materialized into a solid job offer. Then he got a call from a former employer. They wanted him to fly to Iowa for a second interview. He had already had a telephone interview and apparently had given enough right answers to get him to the next level.
On a hot Texas Monday morning in July, he boarded a Delta flight to Cedar Rapids. He settled into his seat and reached for the airline magazine to pass the time. As he pulled the magazine out, something fell to the floor. He looked down, saw a silver pen and picked it up. It was a beautiful pen and felt comfortable in his hand. He flipped the magazine over and wrote his name on the back, to see if the pen still worked. He put the pen into his shirt pocket and sat back to relax for the remainder of the flight.
Two weeks later, he was signing employment papers and finalizing details for his relocation to his new job. As he signed the last form, he stopped and looked at the pen he was holding in his hand. It was the pen he’d found on the plane. He smiled and thought “Must be a lucky pen!”
That evening he was checking out of his hotel, heading back to Texas to get everything in order for the move. He reached for his pen to sign the bill and it wasn’t in his pocket. He searched through his briefcase and his computer case… not there.
The man was standing on the highway overpass, waving. As the cars passed beneath him, the travelers inside could read the sign he was holding: “Jesus Loves You”.
He wasn’t there very long before the Banks County patrol car pulled up and turned the blue lights on. Did he know it was illegal to stand on an Interstate overpass? No sir, he did not. How did you get here? I walked, sir. Well, let me give you a ride in to town and stay off the highway!
Jack didn’t have a home… hadn’t in a very long time. His marriage had ended six years earlier after he came home from Iraq, suffering from severe PTSD. He had drifted in and out of towns all over South Carolina; finding shelter for a time and then moving on… usually after an altercation with someone in one of the homeless shelters.
The police officer dropped him off in the middle of town and he sat on a bench, trying to decide where to go, what to do next. He couldn’t go home – wherever home was. He didn’t really remember a house or an address. He had about ten dollars in his pocket and figured he could get something to eat and still have money for a bus ticket to Anderson.
He stood up and while trying to decide which direction to go, he looked down and saw something shiny on the sidewalk. It was partially hidden by some trash, but he bent to pick it up. It was a beautiful silver pen… must have been special to someone, somewhere. He looked around, didn’t see anyone nearby and slipped the pen into his pocket. Then he started walking in the direction of the nearest shelter.
That evening, after eating a hot meal, he settled onto his cot to sleep. He closed his eyes for a few minutes and tried to let the days and years slide away. If only he could clear his mind to focus on the present, he knew he could figure out what he needed to do next. Before sleep could overtake him, he remembered the pen that he had found that afternoon. He took it out of his pocket and got a scrap piece of paper from another pocket. He wrote his name, what he thought was the current date and his former wife’s name and address… at least the last place he could remember.
Lesley would never get used to Christmas in L.A. It was hard for her to get into the holiday spirit with the warm weather, palm trees and everyone running around in shorts and tee shirts.
She wasn’t the stereotypical L.A. girl: she didn’t have long blonde hair, she didn’t wear high heels to the beach and she sure didn’t drive a $50,000 convertible. On this day, her flip-flops slapped through the sand as she tried to find a quiet spot to sit and… think? plan?
She settled into her favorite, well-worn lounge chair and removed some things from her tote bag: a book, a small camera and a notepad. She always took things to keep her mind busy; she had trouble letting her mind rest for more than ten minutes. The camera was there to catch any “Kodak moment” that might present itself. Lesley was a self-described “serious amateur” photographer and so she always had at least one camera with her at all times.
She leaned back in her chair, took a deep breath and closed her eyes. It had been a busy week at work and she hoped to get some mind-clearing relaxation before the frantic Christmas season took over every waking moment.
She listened: to the waves, to the gulls, to the kids playing in the ocean. She concentrated on her breathing… in, out, deep, even breaths; in with the good, out with the bad. She sneaked a look at her watch. Surely she had been there at least thirty minutes. Nope – more like five. She sighed. “Okay, let’s at least get something accomplished”, she thought. There were holiday lists that needed at least a first draft. She picked up her notebook and reached into her bag for a pen. She pulled out a silver pen… the pen. It was the pen that had been delivered to her along with the few personal items that had been found on Jack’s... in Jack’s pockets… when he was found.
She hadn’t seen Jack in years. They had been divorced for more than six years when he was found dead in a small South Carolina town. Her name had been in his pocket, so they sent all of his things to her. His worldly possessions amounted to his military ID tags, a wallet with three dollars inside and the silver pen. She looked at it now and thought about how incongruous it was with the man whose life had spiraled downward after coming home from Iraq.
A single thread… woven into and out of the lives of several people. Each of us touches many lives as we go through our days. It might not be a visible connection, but a ripple that we create with what we say and do which will, as it reverberates ever outward, affect others in unseen and unintentional ways.