pen in inkwell

Only Another Writer Would Understand Any of This

Found objects where I write. Flash Non-Fiction — 28 Days of Stories #3

Where I write is a collection of found pieces with missing parts. The top of my desk is a repurposed coffee table that my grandpa used for his last 20 years. I anchored its top to a pine frame — a tribute to the sort of box he always said to bury him in — and store-bought spindle legs stained with mismatched danish oil. Too many wood screws and too much glue keep it together. Where he used to prop his foot when he drank coffee is worn honey-blonde. It’s where my hand rests when I pause.

I still chat there with him, his Kentucky drawl echoing in my head while I write stories that breathe oxygen onto my raw nerve endings.

On this patched-together desk sits an inkwell I fished out of my aunt’s curio cabinet. This inkwell has a pink slip of paper curled in it with “Wilcox” written in blue ballpoint pen. She told us to choose what we wanted. I only wanted that.

I still remember stumbling to explain why I felt like I should have it. After all, I was the writer.

Years later, after she disappeared under the waves of a mind that failed her, I learned from her journals she had wanted to write children’s stories but never did. It explained the pained look on her face when I asked for it. She was a writer who never wrote down her words.

The inkwell has never held real ink in its time with me. In it, I wade into the mythology that glued my father’s family together. I hold it and see my grandma Edith writing her Dillinger sisters about cousin Johnny’s dramatic ending, as if we had proof beyond hearsay that we’re related to him, or her granddaughter scribbling out a quick play to perform in the barn later.

They had the rhythm of how many words they could write before they had to retrieve more ink. I wonder if knowing that made them economize, use fewer adverbs, write more slowly to keep from having to cross out a mistake.

The pen is orange-red and looks pieced together from a paintbrush handle and a leftover nib. It showed up in a box addressed to me from Cochiti Lake where my friend Lee lived out his years. He sent it with purpose. He didn’t want it tossed amid the junk his family would find of his estate, or sold in some depressing garage sale. Lee told me he’d signed his book contracts with this pen and was giving it to me so that I would do the same. I feel a tinge of supposition typing that. “My first book contract” feels arrogant to presume.

I write every day for the day when I will sit at my grandfather’s coffee table desk, pour words into the Wilcox inkwell, and draw from it my name with Lee’s pen.


About Christine Wilcox Anderson

Writer, former corporate communications exec, and perpetual student of life on this rock.
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