Issue # 113 / 9 January 2009 //
Pen image © Classic Fountain Pens.
The Manly Pursuit of a A Lost Object
by Britt Leach
THERE IS NOTHING instructive to be found in what follows; I don’t write that way. In over one-hundred issues of Veritas: Any Day Now I can’t remember ever saying anything that I would call helpful or instructive. That fact will not change with what you read here today. One-hundred-thirteen issues. No wise words, nothing aphoristic, not even a household hint or recipe. So don’t expect anything now. I’ll just tell you a story and you can see if anything follows from it. See if you take something useful from what I will tell you; and I doubt that you will.
A few days ago, in the late morning, after working on my play, polishing one more revision, feeling pretty good about what I had written, I decided to make an entry in my journal to that effect, something about a feeling of relative contentment, and would use one of my fountain pens to do so. I’ve told you about my pens—one of my, I’m sorry, beautiful fountain pens, this time a Nakaya for the entry. A recent purchase, the Nakaya Decapod. So I took it from its wooden rest on my desk, removed the cap, opened my journal and put nib to paper.
But in starting the entry by writing the date, 4 January 2009, I saw that the ink was not flowing, the down-stroke of the “4” a stutter of a line, a dry scratch from my cursive italic nib, modified for my manuscript—pen-speak for my printed handwriting. So I reached for the bottle of ink, Waterman Black, and took the Decapod apart, so I could fill it.
I took the cap off the end of the pen, set it aside, and I then unscrewed the barrel, the part of the pen above the nib, so that I could get to the converter, which is where the ink goes. I then set the barrel aside.
A pen is properly filled with ink two or three times, the piston of the converter moves up and down two or three times, just to obtain one filling. Something about air in the ink reservoir, expelling it, so the ink will flow smoothly. So I did that, a pleasing, repetitive, mechanical moment in a life filled with the anti-mechanical and ephemeral. Twisting the little knob at the end of the converter, watching the ink fill the reservoir, two or three times, emptying and filling.
The reservoir is full now so I wipe the nib with a tissue and reach for the barrel to make my Nakaya Decapod whole again. And then I reach for the barrel…Where? There is no barrel. There’s the cap where I put it, on top of a book resting on top of my revolving bookcase, but I can’t find the barrel.
It must have slipped down behind some books, yes, that I have stacked on top of the revolving bookcase, so I look. Three or four stacks of books and I move them aside, lift them, look between them. No barrel.
So, yes, it must be on the floor, rolled off the top of the revolving bookcase where I’m sure that I put it and is on the floor, the mottled gray carpet on the floor of my office. So I look. Sitting in my desk chair, I bend over and look. I turn the case and feel under it, as best I can, while still sitting, reaching down.
Where the hell is the barrel, the Nakaya Decapod barrel? And never mind the cost of the pen; there’s no need to embarrass myself by telling you the cost, just know that I can’t find the barrel. It’s all you need to know.
I move off my desk chair—it takes a while—and kneel on the floor. No, I don’t kneel; why would I say that? I can’t kneel. My knees won’t allow any kneeling. I move to the floor and begin to crawl. That’s what I do. Still on my knees but with help from my hands.
I’ve crawled behind the revolving bookcase now, turned the case and peered behind it. Getting rather frantic now. I’d rather not tell you that, that I’m getting frantic; it’s not sensible or reasonable or even human to be frantic about the barrel of a fountain pen, no matter its cost or beauty. But that’s what I am. Frantic. Even vocalizing my… and I hate to tell you this…okay, panic. A fountain pen and panic. I’m ashamed. Okay, I’ll just tell you. I’m whimpering like a little girl. There.
Note, please, that I did not say weeping because my gender classification (male) would not allow weeping over such, but I will admit whimpering. Crawling around on the floor, whimpering. “Oh, no,” I said. “Where’s the barrel?” And my knees are beginning to hurt from all the crawling. You’ll remember that I avoided kneeling, but I am crawling.
And because crawling has not allowed me to find the barrel I now lie flat on the floor so that I can look under my desk. Flat on the carpet, the carpet that I don’t bother vacuuming, because I’m the only one in my office, and a dirty carpet doesn’t bother me. Flat on my dirty carpet, looking under the desk. Not there. Nothing, no Decapod barrel in that strange country, The Land of Underneath-The-Desk. I’d spilled a bowl of cereal in my office a week or so ago, and I did see a few of the flakes of Fiber One not collected in my cleaning of the spill one of which was actually leaning, a single flake, leaning against a wheel of my desk, amazingly on edge. But no barrel.
I sit up and think. Sit on the dirty carpet and think. Then I look, from my perspective, sitting on the floor, at the revolving bookcase.
There are fifty books in the case, arranged on four shelves. I’m staring at the case and thinking. Yes, the barrel must have made its way onto one of the shelves, having bounced off my filing cabinet. Yes, that’s it. Having been inadvertently struck by my hand as I concentrated on filling the converter, a random gesture, the barrel, struck by my hand, flew from the top of the bookcase, rebounded off the filing cabinet, and landed behind some books in the revolving bookcase. I’ll have to have a closer look at the shelves of the revolving bookcase.
I took them all out, fifty reference books, took them all, all the books, and walked them into the living room. Stacked them on the floor. At least five roundtrips—living room, office, living room, office….
Back into the office now, to examine the empty bookcase. And you’re right. The barrel had not bounced its way onto a shelf; it’s not there.
So it must be under the thing, that’s it. So to get a better look at the floor under the revolving bookcase, I carry it—and it’s heavy—into the living room and place it on the floor, next to the fifty books I had removed from it. Five or so stacks. Hard to tell, because several of the stacks have fallen over.
I go back into my office and look on the floor. Your surmise is accurate. The barrel is not to be found where the revolving bookcase had rested.
I begin to meditate, a mental projection exercise, while sitting on the floor. Yes, I’m back on the floor. “I am the barrel of a Nakaya Decapod, the barrel that will render the pen useless unless I am found. Where am I?” The barrel of my expensive fountain pen is now talking to me but providing no useful information.
Even so—and isn’t the universe strange?—with that moment of a possibly certifiable madness I have suddenly become calm. And tired, a little sleepy. Lifting, crawling, moving fifty books, a bookcase. I had even utilized a Black & Decker Shop Vac that’s appropriately stored in my bathroom and cleaned the floor around my desk while searching for the barrel. Something about crawling through dust balls the size of boulders, having to actually lift them with both hands so that I could see behind them, had suggested that I clean the floor around my desk. So, yes, I’m tired, but now strangely calm. The blessed calm of defeat.
And, continuing the theme of dementia, I start talking to myself: remonstrating. I’ve been looking for a thing, I say. A thing. Whimpering like a little girl over a thing. To hell with it. I’ll get back on my chair, climb back onto my desk chair, and rest. Maybe I’ll look at my screensaver for awhile, the little fishes; maybe I’ll check email.
You know about this. This has happened to you, how you just know that a lost thing is in one part of a room and not another? You know. After all, the pen’s cap was there on a book resting on top of the revolving bookcase. The pen had been disassembled there, on top of the revolving bookcase; and the revolving bookcase is in, let’s call it, the right half of the room, away from your desk. So the barrel has hidden itself in that half of the room somewhere. You know about that. You know about those kinds of certainties, and how in your methodic search for a lost thing you divide the certainly-it’s-got-to-be-here part of the room into sections to facilitate the search: quadrants, demi-quadrants, semi-demi-quadrants, and smaller, and even smaller areas—atoms, electrons, quanta. Because you just know what part of the room it’s in, that thing you lost. Yes, you know.
So I sit down at my desk to rest and write an email to…oh, hell, why not? Cathy, she hears all my other wails…and lift my now carpet-dirty hands and place them on the keyboard’s keys. That's what I do. And, yes, there, behind the keyboard, nestled, very quiet, behind the keyboard, leaning against my Mac’s keyboard, is the barrel of the fountain pen. On the side of the room that I had not touched in my search. Because it couldn’t be there, in the left side of the room, certainly not.
Almost two hours.
Why was the barrel of my beautiful Nakaya Decapod there? Three feet from the bookcase?
I have no idea.
There is no lesson in what I have just told you. Or if you have derived a lesson from what I have just told you, you will have forgotten it when next you lose…anything. V
This beautiful pen with its superbly modified nib was purchased from Classic Fountain Pens in Los Angeles.