Various (Children)
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Memories of a pen

     I was assembled in a large facitory in Germany. I inherited one of the noblest family names in the world. I was well built and sturdy I was placed in a beautiful box and draped in silk. This became my domain.

Like many of my siblings, I was destined to leave the country. I was packed into a huge crate whose lid cut off all the light. It was peaceful in there. I fell asleep with the steady, chugging rhythms of the train as I sped along the tracks to an unknown destination.

When I woke up, I found myself in a window display of a small shop in Paris. I boasted to my friends that I was a bit of a star, a model on the catwalk even, while they were still stuck in their boxes. Soon, though, I realized the downside of this.

I was manhandled hundreds of times, sometimes by shaky old hands, sometimes by clumsy little fingers. Sometimes I was terrified by huge moustaches; sometimes I was seduced by charming faces.

But, however good the connection was, what always happened was that my friends would leave and I would stay behind in my shop window.

Finally, the day came when I was the only one left, an orphan. I was dying of boredom as I listened to the rain fall on the dirty tiles in front of the little Paris shop.

One afternoon, a still very young lady came up to the counter. The shopkeeper made big gestures with his arms while he talked to her. He pointed at me.

After long a discussion, one of them finally picked me up. They wrapped me in bright, beautifully coloured paper, and carefully placed me in a shopping bag. But upside down!

The shopping bag was able to tell me all the latest news from the world of politics. The passengers, two salads and a few oranges, explained to me that the shopping bag was part of the political opposition because his ideas were very advanced.

We spent the trip home debating and arguing a few times. A stunning ten-year-old boy took me out of my box and widened his eyes in wonder.

For the next two years, I went to school with him and, with his help, I learned to write in different languages, to do math, to draw, and many other things. Still, he had a terrible habit of chewing on my end! In the end, though, I got used to how he wrote and his other habits. He was very gentle and, aside from the chewing, he took very good care of me.

Unfortunately, one day, one of his classmates kidnapped me and stuffed me into his pocket. He soon sold me to a fat man with a terrible look on his face.

And this is how, a few days later, I woke up to find myself at the flea market, in an old box, there with some old worn-out old pens.

There I was left to feel the cold as well as the heat, the rain as well as the wind.

Dust and water were already wearing away at me when I went from hand to hand ... For a handful of coins, they sold me to a cobbler. I was used to write down long lists of names, addresses and prices.

Even so, one day, another pen came. It must have been a different sort of pen than me, filled with gluey ink,with a ball at its tip. He took over my work and I was stuck at the bottom of an old drawer between two shoehorns, a pair of flat pliers and a rusty knife.

The cobbler had a son, a lovely six-year-old. He took advantage of when his father was distracted. He grabbed me and began to make me draw all sorts of ridiculous doodles.

These thick lines, scribbled all over the place, took a lot out of me. He pushed so much that my tip broke.

Worried about getting in trouble after what had happened - and after having taken me without permission - he threw me into a garbage can.

For several hours I waited for death to deliver me from all my sadness. But then a homeless person came.

He was an old fellow with a wrinkled face and a bushy beard.

He took me in his dust-caked, trembling hands, looked at me, and turned me over. But when he saw that my tip was broken, he dropped me off the sidewalk, into the gutter.

There, about ten feet from the sewer entrance, sailing with some trouble through the rough waters, I saw a fleet of paper ships go by. Was that my funeral procession? No.

A child picked me up and ran to show me to his father. The father, seeing how beautiful I once was, had me repaired.

After I had rested up from my operation, I went back to school for a few months. This time, though, I wrote Latin and Greek, solved equations, and, once again, started learning new languages. As you can see, I didn't stop for a moment.

This young man's father was a secretary at the American embassy. As a holiday, my rescuer took me with him when he went to the US for work.

One day, when he was visiting the White House, he was invited to sign the guest book.

Then, in his nervousness, he mixed me up with the one there!

I lay there, next to this book, on its ornate desk. The spacious room that contained them became my home.

I had the honour of passing through the hands of some of the world's most powerful people. Hundreds of times I sketched the scrawled signatures of ministers, celebrities, and kings. I have seen men and women whose names would be written into [letters of fire in] history, sometimes dressed in the fanciest clothes and richest finery. I have met men and women from every nation on earth.

Never has a pen been so happy! I was the envy of all! I thought I'd never die.


Alas, my tip broke again. And, before I knew it, I was in a DC dumpster.

But there was no homeless person to rescue me. The garbage truck came by, taking me to a waste treatment plant where I was crushed and turned into landfill.

And so, even those who are called to the highest of offices return, in the end, to the land, whether on one side of the ocean or the other.


Translation : Andrew Gordon Middleton