Issue #49

Winter 2014


by Ken Poyner

I have had that pen since I was a child. It is my favorite pen. I've filled it with new cartridges more times than I can remember: and who does that these days? Pens now are as disposable as the words written with them. Out of ink? Chuck it, take one from work. Take one from the courtesy counter. Take one from a trade show booth and advertise while you scribble.

My thoughts are not simply of finding the pen, of seeing it returned to both its place and endeavors: no; I want to punish the thief. The idea of the pen's comfort and utility has gotten wound up in the sense that only retribution restores balance. Not only must the pen be reclaimed, but the act of its taking expunged. I do not think I can write again without order being re-established.

And so I set off down the street with a description of the thief: a huge, bulbous head ending in a beak; eight arms or legs, half left, half right; each limb covered in suction cups. You do not see that every day on a city street. Rubbery to the touch, if you venture close enough.

The housekeeper should never have let him into my study. I understand her appetites, her need for those eight arms to wrap seductively, seditiously about her; to feel the scrawl of his ink on the paper edge of her neck; to listen to his erotic clicks and fathoms; to feel the bare mercury of his suction cups on her periwinkle skin. I begrudge her nothing. But he should have stayed always downstairs, come in and out by the service entrance, and keep out of my study.

But, as I think of it, I notice the loss now only because it is my favorite pen. It is the one pen of the hundreds that contain me, and the one that immediately I would see as missing: the clarion. I can imagine, now, how many ordinary pens he may have, during his courtship of the housekeeper, taken wistfully into one of his arms: then palmed that coveted pen completely, and made out before the housekeeper suspected.

Perhaps all along the affair with the weary housekeeper was just a ruse – a way into the house, an excuse for lingering. How many spent cartridges can he have left tossed in the street around this house, how much ink could he have spirited?

By now he will be half way to the aquarium. I must hurry if I am to catch him while he is still possessed of the beloved instrument: the ink still running in his chowdery veins, the empty body of my pen yet in a tentacle, ready to be abandoned in the roadway like the cheap girlfriend you have enjoyed and merely pushed out of the hotel's fourth story window. No such fate for my pen. No. I will catch up.

Author Bio

bicycle cart

Ken Poyner lives in the lower right hand corner of Virginia, with his power-lifter wife and a number of house animals. His 2013 e-book, "Constant Animals", unruly fictions, is available at all the usual e-book sites; buy it, and feel good about saving jobs in the brewing industry. Recent work is out in Corium, Analog Science Fiction, Spittoon, Poet Lore, Mobius and many other places. His story, "The Detached Regularity," appeared in Issue #42 of The Cafe Irreal.