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PEN-MAD
A new story for Pentrace readers
from the fountain pen of Myra Love
Hello. My name is Rita Esposito, and I don't know why they locked me up in here. They claim I tried to kill my husband, but that's ridiculous. I love my husband. It's just my fountain pens that hate him.

Of course, it's not their fault. He doesn't understand them the way I do. They don't blame him for that, just for not even making an effort. He has said a number of times in their hearing that he thinks I spend too much time and money on them. "What are you spending so much on ink for? Just fill the suckers with that old blue ink your mother left in the cellar," he said loudly late last week. I could tell they were upset. That ink is a bottle of Parker Superchrome, and we all know what that does to pens, don't we? When I explained to him how dangerous that ink would be, he looked blankly at me, "So why don't you just throw it in the trash?" he demanded. "Sheesh, you ought to throw some of those old pens out too. Junk! Nothing but junk."

My pens are very loyal to each other. No jealousy at all since I pay a lot of attention to each and every one of them. All six hundred and forty-three. My twenty-seven modern pens (four Parkers, three Sheaffers, a Waterman, five Viscontis, two Auroras,, two Stipulas, three Marlens, two Namikis, a Platinum, a Bexley, a Conway Stewart,, an S.T. Dupont,, and a Krone Vintage Stretch) are all very protective of their vintage cousins, knowing very well how some people, mistaking age for frailty, might take undue advantage of them. So when Claude, my husband, suggested that I dispose of some of my vintage pens, the moderns just bristled and glowered. I could feel their rage through the leather of their cases.

My vintage pens didn't take him all that seriously. Many of them had survived much worse than scorn from an ignorant Claude. Yes, that's what they called him: Ignorant Claude. My forty-five Vacumatics have been inventing rude rhymes about him for years.

Ignorant Claude
Belongs in a Pod
Thinks he's God
His nib is flawed.

Claude is in need
Of a cleaning indeed
A clump of old crap
Is stuck in his feed.

They're not particularly gifted poets, but they mean no harm. It's just their way of letting off steam whenever Claude goes on about how stupid and wasteful a hobby my pen-collecting is. Of course, they resent being considered a hobby, so I reassure them that they're family members, just like our four children.

The dozen English Duofolds are much less tolerant, but then they're quite a few years younger than the Vacs and have lived through a lot less. They wanted me to divorce Claude the first time he told me that he could get a good price for them at the local antique shop. It took me a long time to calm them down. Not only did I have to reassure them that I had no intention of selling them, but I also bought each of them a Danish cousin as a companion.

Claude has been after me for years to get rid of at least some of my pens. "How many pens does one woman need?" he'd growl after a particularly hard day at work. "You could buy a new car with all the money you've spent on those scribble toys."

It wasn't really the monetary expenditure that upset Claude, I think, but having to share my attention with the pens. He was like that when our children were little too, at least until they got old enough for him to play with. I've offered to include him, giving him pen books to read and even a restored Parker 51 for his birthday and Christmas, but he put the books on the shelf and never even looked at them. The Parker 51 languished in a drawer full of old metal parts until I rescued it and put it with my thirty five 51, making an even three dozen.

Claude didn't seem to dislike my modern pens as much as he did the vintage even though the moderns cost a lot more. That's why I was surprised my Visconti Anniversary Voyager took the lead in plotting against him. That was just after Claude actually ran off with three of my favorite and most valuable vintage pens, a wonderful near mint Mandarin Yellow Duofold Senior with a medium nib, vintage 1928, a near mint Waterman Patrician in Moss Agate Green with a fine flex nib from 1931, and a rare Mont Blanc 246 in Tiger Eye Celluloid with a medium flex nib from 1951, to a pharmaceutical convention in New Orleans and sold them to an antique dealer for $800. I was devastated, and the other pens, vintage and modern alike, were furious. But what could I do? Have him arrested? I married him for better or for worse, and my property is his property. Of course, if I sold his video equipment, he'd probably kill me.

I knew the pens were plotting against him, but I didn't know how to stop them. I know you're going to think I should have locked them away where they could do no harm if I wasn't willing to get rid of them, but I just couldn't do it. It'd be like locking up my children or sending them off to foster care just because they didn't get along with him. Besides I thought they'd get over it in time. I tried to warn him, I really did, but he just laughed.

"Come on, Rita," he said, "the pens are just plastic, a bit of metal, and some rubber sacs. They can't conspire against anyone. You're just talking crazy. You don't want me to have you locked up, do you? This reminds me of right after the twins were born and you wanted to name them Aurora and Parker after your pens. 'Rita,' I said to you, 'pens aren't people. We should name the kids after my cousins'. Aren't you glad you listened to reason?"

I wasn't glad. I thought Aurora and Parker would have been much lovelier names for our first two children than Josephine and Morton. I never could tell Claude that though. He wouldn't have understood.

So I can't say I was really surprised when the pens attacked him. But I don't understand why he thinks I was behind it. That's what he told the police and the lawyers from the district attorney's office, so the judge sent me here to this hospital to have my sanity evaluated. What an idea! No one here uses anything but a Bic. How can they be competent to evaluate my sanity?

At least I know my pens are safe. When I realized what they'd done, I knew I'd have to protect them, so I sent them all to my niece Francine. She has five hundred and twenty-three of her own, most of them Waterman self-fillers and Conklin crescent-fillers with a few Mabie Todd Swans thrown in for good measure. Her pens and mine will be good company for each other, though I do wish she had a few moderns; I don't want mine to feel outnumbered and all alone in the world.

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