Welcome to the Armory by Abbey Howe

Welcome to the Armory by Abbey Howe

Drama, Vol. 7.1, March 2013

Scene: Inside an aisle found everywhere, in supermarkets and that gas station with overpriced cereal, the Customer approaches an array of writing weapons and waits for her eyes to settle on something familiar. The Armory Attendant, a commercial collection of voices rising from the packages, tells her how to think.

Armory Attendant: Here in the Temple of the Written Word, we provide you with the essentials of inked communication, your tools for worshipping the Almighty Language, the Shaper of thought and perception of time, Lord of Names, Author of Authors.

These are the handheld Creators of the Definitions of the world.

Customer: I hate pencils. They snap at ends like paper itself. What good is it for paper to be broken like that, to be scratched, to be colored, chalked, grated like cheese. I hate this; that pencils seem to remind me of crumbling bones. Temporary, granulate charcoal scraped on the page, not like the crisp, the entirely visible, the bloody loops of pens.

Armory Attendant: We offer only the most elegant instruments here. It is our tradition to provide classic, timeless pens, refined over ages of design. These are from our elite collection. Aren’t they perfect? Brilliant, like a piano. But over here, if you’re more revolutionary, as I might glean from your shoes (or perhaps that stare tells me you are unconvinced), we have our modern section of urban tastes. These pens value expressiveness and yet they’re fashionable, the latest styles for classy writing. Perhaps you’d like these more professionally dressed ball-points. They define precision, so mistake-free I would venture to say they’re smart. It’s simply inspiring, like the words panache and pizzazz. Have a kind of glossy flair, don’t they? With names like Lancelot, Energel, Clarius, Silhouette, and Capri (sharp names, smooth names), they’d make anyone practically envious. These are the sleek ones, the desirable ones. These are the best ink-eaters.

Customer: I rescue pens from the floor, from corners and Lost and Found boxes, from the edges of sidewalks, from the trash. I rarely buy them; I can’t remember the last time I did. Am I stingy or am I holy?

Armory Attendant: Your poor writing may be your pen’s fault. We want to make writing effortless. Our pens become an armchair for your hand. Come test the tungsten carbide ball points. They were fire-hardened in ovens to attain diamond-like strength, ground to perfect globes. Cartridges are spun in centrifuges; machines write circles like compasses to test the new-forged pens’ mettle.

Or perhaps you prefer felt-tip, leaky ink. Artists are fond of those. But I warn you, the stain is permanent…no, not on the skin, don’t worry about that… Oh, but it’s permanent everywhere else!

Customer: I see pens as solid. Who drew with charcoal? With lead? The ashes of fires, it must have been, scraped on rocks as one-dimensional as they could find. But they cut things into rocks first, didn’t they? Spoke for years and remembered for generations; they didn’t need writing. I search for pens on the floor where they lie like discarded pennies, and that’s what most are worth, a dollar or two, unless they are sleek and ergonomic, supersonic, titanium, engineered for the perfect hand to fit in some mysterious fashion. Their names are laughable, attempts at endearment, like “Papermate,” “InkJoy,” and “Pilot,” as if pens were any such company, ecstasy, or authority.

Armory Attendant: We try to make you happy. We try to help you see that magic in ink when your eyes fail, when your mind fails to care about those words you scratch, because you’d rather type, you’d rather gather pixels on a glowing screen, but we want you to know that pens are mighty, pens are ancient, pens are godly—why don’t you love them like we do?

Customer: You’re wrong. I am the proponent of pens; I am their salesman.

The Customer’s Inner Desire: I am searching for the flow, the river from a blueberry, a shining startling line as eloquent as Emerson in mere appearance; as smooth, as rich, as colorful as that wheel my uncle is always talking about, spinning peacock before my eyes, how he joins lines enough to make a moth flutter out of his canvas, those flawless joints between blue and green and purple to red and orange and yellow, back to grass and lakes when they seem deeper because the sky is stormy. I am looking for verisimilitude, for a liar on paper. I am looking for the dark, the night stain on the innocence, the beautiful adulterer perhaps, the perfect line bringing to an empty one dimension several transcendences—all ordinary, all mutable.

Roadkill by James Claffey

A Conversation with Laura Hope Gill, Author of The Soul Tree

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