Thursday, July 23, 2015

Notes on a Pencil

Continuing my occasional series of putting up old Creative Writing tasks, here's one from March last year. We were given an item and told to write something about it. Mine was a pencil and here it the homework:

Notes in Pencil

On the pencil is written the word ‘camel’, named not for humps or endurance but for the sandy colour of the paint on the outside. It sits on the desk beside the pristine writing paper waiting patiently for it to be used.

I will pick it up soon.

Usually the pencil lives in my pocket, next to a miniature notebook. It doesn’t look like it, but this pencil has been used many times. It has drawn maps and plans, sketches of flowers and butterflies, crude scribbles that look like faces. It has made hearts, hand gestures and hairy dogs. Timelines have been laid out, stretching forwards to the future and backwards into history.

I’ve written letters with it. Words spilled deliriously onto the page telling everything about everything. Quiet days and frantic nights, long lazy summer evenings as golden light caresses the trees and grass. A drink with friends turning into an improvised dinner that goes on as we plot and plan until suddenly we see the dawn ghosting into view.

I will use the pencil again soon.

I wrote about a set of Christmas Eve parties, moving from house to house in the cold sharp winter air. I drew the fireplace from one, the tree from another. An obnoxious cat that sat on the mince pies I cruelly caricatured, turning his round furriness into fat, his lazy gaze into malice. Mulled cider, sweet and warm and slightly sparkling, contended with dark winter ale in my letter, both losing out to a rich red Burgundy at the last stop.

I saw you at New Year, outracing the postman to arrive before the letter. I must have known that would happen. I wrote anyway.

I pick the pencil up. Next to the word ‘camel’ it says ‘made in Japan’. The distance it travelled to reach me is further than it has travelled with me; half the world to the shop where you bought it. There is a heart on the eraser at the end. I wonder if there is a more perfect analogy.

I put the point down on the page to write one last note. I know what it will say. I have it all clear in my head. I have only one question left; which will break first, the pencil or the heart?

This is slightly different to the direction I went in when given it in class:

On the side of the pencil is the word 'camel'.

On the back of the camel is a box of pencils.

Thrown in to a trade at the last minute. surplus to both merchant and caravaner's needs. (Also on the pencil, the word "made in Japan").


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