Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Pen (short story, unfinished)

Light, all syrupy, entered through a small slit in the blinds, full of motes, and settled in a swath across her crib. She could hear the Big Ones but could not see them. They made sounds like a happy song, she thought, and smiled. She also made a sound which surprised her, made her stop and wonder at it. She made a few more to see if she could repeat it but could not. She reached for the light, it felt warm and different. She liked it.

Movement caught her eye and she turned to see the Big Ones, noisy and fuzzy. They stopped at her crib, like they always did, and made funny noises, like they always did. But there was a new thing: the light glinted off of something on one of the Big Ones, sparkled there, so beautiful. But then it was gone and they reached for her, startling, heart jumping just for a moment, she flew up to meet them and threw her tiny hands into the soft top-part of the singing Big One, ecstatic and peaceful.


Evie's Daddy was sitting at the big, wooden desk as he always did on Saturdays, hunched over a stack of paper. The papers were the kind Evie was not allowed to touch, the special ones, her Daddy had told her. She and her Mommy had been out at the dance studio all morning and had stopped to get lunch at Mr. Don's place, and had only just gotten home.

The afternoon sun shone in from the back windows, cutting through the curtains, playing off the sun-catchers Evie had made, colorful and warm. A gap between the curtains allowed a shaft of light to cross her Daddy's desk right where he was writing in his little book. As he wrote, the sun glinted off the pen in his hand, the one he always had, everywhere he went. It sparkled in the beam, almost too brightly to look at.

"What are you doing, Daddy?", asked Evie, crossing the study to stop at his desk.

"Hmm?", her Daddy looked up once he finished writing a word. He smiled big at his little girl and reached out to touch her cheek.

"Oh, just paying bills, little bug. Big, grown up stuff.", he leaned close to her and whispered candidly, "It really is a stinky thing to have to do."

Evie laughed and hugged her Daddy's arm, "May I hold your pen?"

"This pen?", he held it up so that the light played off it again. "This is a very special pen, Evie. I got this from a beautiful lady."

Evie, cocked her head, a smile playing on half her mouth, "Was it Mommy?

Evie's Daddy laughed and mussed her hair, "You guessed it, li'l  bug."

For some reason, that pen seemed special to Evie. She didn't know why. It just...well it just was special. It didn't need a reason to be special, she guessed. She had never written with it, only held it once or twice, in fact, only saw it from time to time when her Daddy used it. Like when he payed bills or wrote a check at the hardware store or wrote a note to her Mommy. But every time he did use it, she watched it, how it danced, how it sparkled, how it looked heavy and solid and real. And her Daddy always put it very carefully in his shirt pocket, making sure that the clip snugged it to the cloth.

Her Daddy handed the pen gently to her. She held it, this mysterious instrument, twisting the barrel to make the nib go in and out, felt the ridges that lined it. It was warm in her hand. She glanced up to see her Daddy looking at her, a small smile on his lips, his eyes alive like fireflies. She handed it back.

"It is very special, Daddy. It is pretty.", she said solemnly.


Evie waited for the school bus, kicking pebbles in the street. It was probably a little too cold to be wearing her light jacket but she hated the big, fluffy one. She turned at an engine growl to see her Daddy backing down the driveway. he waved when he saw her and rolled the down the window.

"Evie, you little booger! Why don't you get your heavy coat?", he chided.

"No, Daddy! I like this one.", she said petulantly, stamping her foot on the gravel.

Her Daddy shook his head, a funny smile on his lips, then turned the truck and drove off. Evie regretted the way she talked to her Daddy. She knew he was just trying to tell her that it was cold outside, and now that she thought about it, it was pretty chilly. She felt the wind find the gap in her hood, chilling her, causing her to shiver and jam her hands into her pockets a little deeper and shrug her shoulders to cover her neck. She was about to walk back to the house to get a heavier coat when she saw the bus coming up the street, a loud, yellow caterpillar coming to haul her to her friends and lessons.


When Evie got home that afternoon the sun had warmed the world a bit and she ran up the driveway, jacket tucked in her backpack, excited to see her Mommy and tell her about her day. She noticed that there was an unfamiliar car in front of the house and the front door stood open. She paused in her sprint, wondering at these things, these signs. For a moment, she had a cold feeling in her tummy. Something is not right, here. This is not the routine. 

Evie pushed the door wider and stepped into the foyer. She could hear voices in the kitchen, muffled, low, like when Daddy was talking to Mommy early in the morning so as not to wake her up. One voice was deep, a man's voice, sounding very soothing and a little sad. Evie had never heard this voice before. She wondered to whom it belonged.

When she steeped into the kitchen, Evie saw her Gramma sitting at the little table, holding a glass of water. She looked red-eyed and tired and sad. A man stood by the kitchen sink, very solemn looking but he smiled when he saw Evie. Well, he smiled with his mouth. Evie slowly took her backpack off and let it slide to the floor.

"Hi, sweetie.", Gramma said, extending her hands and flapping her fingers, beckoning her to a hug.

"Where is Mommy?", Evie asked, falling into her Gramma's arms. She felt a tiny kiss on her head.

"She...she is at the doctor's, sweetie."

"Is she sick?", asked Evie, worried now.

"No, honey, she is fine. She is there to see your Daddy. He an accident. The doctors are helping him get better. Don't worry, I am sure everything will be fine.", her Gramma spoke very quietly, soothingly.

Evie pulled back to look at her Gramma's face. She couldn't be sure, but she felt that her Gramma was telling a little lie. When she looked in her Gramma's eyes, they were wet and glistening. Evie buried her head in her Gramma's neck and cried.

"Shhh, Evie, shhh. It's going to be ok. Shhh.", Gramma stroked her hair, whispering to her. "It's ok, baby, it's ok."

The man leaning against the sink cleared his throat and said, hoarsely, "I should head on out, Mrs. Freddo. I will have someone call you from the, uh, from the doctor."

"Thank you.", Gramma replied, squeezing Evie a little bit tighter.

The rest of the afternoon Evie spent with her Gramma. She fell asleep for a little while and when she woke up, Gramma was sitting right there next to her on the sofa, staring at her. It was starting to get dark outside and Evie felt a little shiver.

"I am hungry, Gramma. When are Mommy and Daddy going to be home so we can eat dinner?"

Gramma's face looked very pale. She didn't blink, she didn't move at all. She looked frozen, a little scary.

"What would you like to eat, sweetie? You want some pasta? How about some soup? Soup is nice on a cold night.", Gramma was barely audible, her voice small and tight. She still didn't move.

"I guess soup. I don't care.", Evie replied. She was spooked by the strangeness in her Gramma.

Gramma stood, slowly, and walked woodenly toward the kitchen. She paused along the way to pick up a tissue that was on the floor and passed through into the kitchen. Evie could hear the clang of a pot and then the whir of the can-opener. After a few moments, she smelled something cooking. She stayed on the sofa, tucked in the afghan, eyes wide, staring at a dust mote descending through a beam of light from the foyer, agonizingly slow. Evie imagined that it was a tiny explorer from some far away and very small place parachuting in to the wilds of the living room, mapping it for future explorers.

Her reverie was broken when Gramma spoke from the kitchen. It was so oddly quiet in the house. Gramma didn't even raise her voice to call her for dinner. She padded into the kitchen in sock feet, very hungry now. Gramma had set a bowl on the table with some crackers and a glass of juice.

"You aren't hungry, Gramma?", asked Evie, climbing onto the vinyl chair.

"No, honey, I'm not. I think I'll just sit here with you and have some tea.", Gramma replied, smiling with her mouth but with a dull eye.

Evie ate, crushing her crackers and dropping them into her soup. She was so hungry that she didn't speak, just steadily spooned soup, pausing to sip from time to time from her juice glass. When she was finished, Gramma took the bowl and placed it in the sink along with the pot she had used to heat the soup. After a brief pause, she threw the dish rag in after the dishes and leaned on the sink, eyes closed tightly, breathing slowly.