NOTE: Like all writers, I tend to be a little biased about my work–especially if it’s fiction, which I love to do. Below is a submission I made to Writer’s Digest for a writing prompt challenge they had a year or so ago. It actually comes in at 767 words now after a few edits since. It didn’t win the contest, but I had lots of fun writing it and think it’s pretty funny.
Yes, it’s also very autobiogaphical.
750 words: Start your story with “When I first told my family about ________, they didn’t believe me.” End your story with “And that’s how I ended up ________.”
By Richard Zowie
Birch Run, Mich.
When I first told my family about my obsession with pens, they didn’t believe me. Well, I didn’t exactly tell them. They figured that out on their own. Every time I went to Wal-Mart, I would immediately bolt to the stationary section and see what the latest offerings were from my favorite pen company, Paper Mate. Usually, I’d come home with one of many Paper Mate products. Sometimes I’d buy to acquire a new brand and try it out. Flexigrips and Pro-Fits are my favorites. G-Force isn’t bad. Others, like the Apex, are ok. Other times I’d find a pen I liked and buy up as many as possible (including primaries I’d use, backups, backups of backups and backups of backups of backups). These aren’t easy to find, and I like them, I’d tell my wife, reasoning with her that I like to have back-up pens in case my primary ones ran out of ink during a crucial doodle.
And, of course, my obsession hardly ended whenever I’d head to department or drug stores. At yard sales I’d find myself looking at vintage pens. Ones that looked like they needed a home amongst the 29 cups I had in my office that housed the 1,915 pens I’d acquired. Sometimes they’d be novelty pens like the one advertising the Dallas Cowboys, my favorite team. Other times they’d be the fountain pens that I’d read about and just had to have, even though I knew there was no way I’d be able to master the art of fountain pen writing.
Finally, Judgment Day came. In my office I was organizing my pens and trying to decide if I should sort them (by favorites or by color) when a knock came at the door. My wife entered with my three sons, my father-in-law, mother-in-law, three brothers-in-law, my parents, two sisters and their husbands and my 15 or so nieces and nephews. I even noticed a few people I’d never seen before in my entire life. Each carried with them a box. One by one, they dumped each box’s contents onto the floor.
Thousands and thousands and thousands of pens cascaded onto the floor, dully clattering against the thick carpet. Red pens. Black. Blue, purple, green and even a few colors that I never really even knew existed. Almost all of them were Paper Mates.
My heart skipped, and my stomach felt as if a giant ulcer was taking control. I was as if one of my children was deathly ill. My wife had discovered my secret stash: pens I’d secretly purchased but had hidden from her out of a fear that she’d be angry and ashamed with me, as though I was hording porn instead of pens.
“Rick, we have a problem,” Jennifer said. “You have TOO MANY STINKING PENS!”
“Don’t talk about my pens like that!” I snarled, clutching the three in my breast pocket. They were in danger of confiscation.
Jennifer, the chief of the Pen Police, sighed. Her father patted her on her back. “See, that’s what I’m talking about,” she said. “You have this obsession with pens! You need help! I swear, you love these pens more than me. In fact, you probably even talk to them. I’ll bet you even have names-”
“Sir Inky Winky! I’ve been looking all over for you!” I blurted, picking up a blue Dynagrip off the floor, miraculously being able to spot it among the thousands of other pens there.
Jennifer sighed and gave me an ultimatum. Seek professional help or get out. Pick about 30 of my favorite pens and give away the rest to Goodwill. She even had the names of a few psychiatrists written down and said she’d even called Dr. Phil’s producers. She was about to call one of them when I snatched the phone out of her hands and called U-Haul. I would need a big truck to haul away all of my friends. The thought of the task caused my breathing to become very shallow, to the point where I was hyperventilating. But before I could find a paper bag to breathe in, the world faded.
And now, here I am in this white, enclosed room. I can’t get out of this confining jacket, which is a shame since I have no way move my left hand to hold a pen and write. I am told that I will be let out of this jacket in three weeks with good behavior or whenever my wife comes by the divorce papers-whichever comes first.
And that’s how I ended up in this mental hospital.
Copyright © 2009 by Richard Zowie. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or republished without permission.