500 words: The Fountain Pen Plays Hide-and-Seek

The Fountain Pen Plays Hide-and-Seek

By Richard Zowie

A few years ago, out of curiosity, I tried writing with a fountain pen. It belonged to a friend, but they let me try writing a few lines. My first efforts were messy, scratchy and barely visible on some lines, far too much ink bleeding onto the next line. But as I tried a few more lines, it seemed more natural, less awkward. This must’ve been why handwriting was so meticulous in the colonial days. You had to write slowly, so as to not waste paper and ink. Writing slow and giving time for your thoughts to flow, made for beautiful handwriting.

Today, I went to the local grocery store. I remembered they sold disposable fountain pens, so I figured I’d buy two or three. Buying just one pen doesn’t work for me: I have to buy two “backup pens” also.

As I looked, I imagined all the hand cramps Thomas Jefferson must’ve gotten as he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Despite the centuries of pen evolution, I suddenly had an obsession for a fountain pen. I imagined myself wearing black trousers, shoes, black vest with gold watch chain dangling from the button to the pocket, long-sleeved white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. A regular steam punk. The illusion was ruined, of course, by the store’s air conditioning. Outside, it was in the low 90s. Inside, it was around 68. If you came in sweating, you were shivering from the perspiration in your shirt.

Gel pens, ballpoint pens, pencils. Papermate. Zebra. Pilot. Pentel. Ticonderoga.

As I stared at the third shelf, I noticed the fountain pens were all gone. Had some student fascinated in calligraphy discovered them and bought them all? Perhaps some lawyer who preferred only ornate pens when signing legal documents?

I guess I’ll have to try Ebay and wait a few weeks, I thought as I left the aisle. Before leaving the store, I remembered that Halloween had just ended and that I could get some good deals for next year’s Halloween. Plastic pumpkins for holding candy, perhaps even a horror film. I still loved the cheesy ones from the 1970s, the kind that were so bad they’d put five to 10 of them onto a single DVD.

When I went to the discount section to look for those items, I noticed they sold pens. The logo and contour looked familiar.

As I looked closer, I saw the triangular logo and realized this is what happened to the fountain pens. They were simply moved to the discount section. Five of them for one dollar. Before, it had been five for $3.50 each. Instead of paying almost $19, now it was all five for a dollar and change.

What a relief, I thought as I walked to my car carrying my bag. What would I write? I thought. Perhaps I should try writing a short story, or a to-do list. Or perhaps start with basics and write the phrase: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs.

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