Monday, December 26, 2011

The Fountain Pen

By: Roy Obriecht

What could this be? Doris wondered when she discovered a cardboard box laying next to her front door. She wasn’t expecting anything – but she did enjoy surprises. Her first surprise was that the box had no address or postage. Doris brought the box inside and eagerly ripped it open. The contents of the box included a generic greeting card, signed with only a hand drawn smiley face, and a smaller gift-wrapped box, which contained the unusual pen.

Doris asked everyone she could think of if they knew who had sent the pen, but no one had a clue. Doris did some research (Googled) and found that the pen appeared to be an original German-made iridium nib fountain pen, circa 1920; as compared to the inferior and much more common imitation pens made in China around the same time which were brazenly engraved "Iridium Nib Germany". Doris continued her study and learned all about the pen, or so she thought.

A few days after the arrival of the pen, Doris received a hand-written letter from her Aunt Betty in Florida. Aunt Betty was one of the two remaining people with whom Doris exchanged correspondence using traditional pen and paper. For everyone else it was Facebook or Email – uniform Times New Roman fonts delivered in an electronic blink. Doris wasn’t opposed to quick and easy communication, but she thought there was something more personal about a hand written letter, a caring touch, she felt closer to the person, the words seemed more … impactful.

The letter from Aunt Betty provided no earth-shattering news. Her Aunt wrote about the weather: too hot, and her children: too busy, and her bronchitis: getting worse. While she read the letter, Doris could picture her Aunt’s loving hand, not as nimble as it once was, forming words in her own personal style of cursive script, not as smooth as it used to be. How much more intimate this was, Doris thought, than computer exchanges … where hurried fingers tapped briskly across a plastic keyboard.

Doris sat down at her mahogany roll top desk with a cup of green tea and reached into a cubbyhole to retrieve and use for the first time her anonymously delivered German-made pen from a bygone era. Doris took her time composing her response. She thoughtfully described the various not-all-that-special things going on in her life. Doris ended her letter with "Hope you feel better," which she never connected, understandably so, to the next letter she received from her Aunt, which said that not only was she over the bronchitis, but unexplainably her arthritis had gone away.

It wasn't until after Doris sent out Christmas cards, written with her antiquated fountain pen, which all ended with "Have a Great New Year", that she began to sense that something was out of sorts. Doris began hearing an increasing number of stories of good fortune from her family and friends: promotions, mended relationships, subsiding ailments, budding romances, and her cousin Frank won the lottery. Doris was bewildered, she could not believe what she believed might be happening.

It was on her vacation in Aruba, where Doris had used the pen to write postcards, all with the valediction Wish You Were Here, that Doris could no longer deny that there was something down-right eerie going on; because the next day everyone to whom she had sent a postcard … began showing up in Aruba.

What the hell was with this pen? Doris fretted over what she should do with it, what she might write next with it. And what about this trip? Her family had arranged to come to Aruba after she wrote the post cards but before they received them. What did that mean? Anything? Doris didn’t know whether the fountain pen possessed mystical powers or not. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know.

When her Aunt came up to her on the beach, Doris murmured quizzically, ”What ... what are you doing here?”

Her Aunt replied, "How could you possibly not know? Your cousin Frank bought this trip for all of us with his lottery winnings."

Doris’ extended family filled the beach area around her. Hugs, conversations, and laughter bounced around like a bunch of brightly colored beach balls being bopped up in the air by a tangle of giddy adolescents. The merry group brought their beach balls with them to dinner, a prolonged meal spent feasting upon: fresh seafood, tangy colored drinks, and one another’s company. The festivities went on and on until eventually they thinned and began to deflate and a spirited day came to a gentle end.

Even later, in the middle of the night, unable to fall asleep, Doris stood alone on the end of a pier and tossed into the dark expansive ocean a corked bottle containing one iridium nib fountain pen and a small piece of hotel stationary upon which was written – Write with love.