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My Kindgom for A Pen
By Bear Jack Gebhardt

From Fifty Something Magazine

Fifty Something Magazine

Coming back from taking my brother and his wife to the airport, speeding down the interstate, driving my brother's new Buick, an idea for our next marketing campaign came to me clear as the fourth of July. Not just an idea, but the whole enchilada - how we'd start, how it'd unfold, how we could bring it to a sweet, sweet conclusion.

I needed to write it down. I'd learned a long time ago that no matter how brilliant my ideas - so brilliant, how could I ever forget - if I didn't write them down, I'd forget.

Checked my shirt pocket. I'd changed to casual, just for the drive. No pen. I could've sworn I had one. Thought about my briefcase, but this was casual, so I'd left it at home. Opened the side arm container, between the driver and the passenger. Glanced down quick, didn't see one, but a lot of junk in there, so I started fiddling through it, my eyes on the road while feeling my way through all the contents of the drawer.

Nope. No pen there. Everybody keeps a pen in the car, for pity's sake. Maybe the glove compartment. No wait, he's got one of those plastic storage thingys on the visor. Maybe there.

Put the visor down. Unzip, eyes on the road. Feeling clip on sunglasses. Some receipts from the gas station, another from Burger King. Something from Pacificare. Still doing 70, glancing, back and forth, back and forth.

Check my shirt pocket again. Nope. Still no pen. Could've sworn ... Ok, ok, eyes on the road, it's the glove compartment, on the other side of the car. As the body moves, keep the head up, one hand steady on the wheel, reach ... Ahh, the seatbelt's too tight. Sit up, pop the belt. There. Much better.

Again now, carefully, eyes on the road, reach, reach, pop the glover … there, yes! Sit up. Glance, back and forth, back and forth. Looks like road maps. Napkins. A plastic folder with car manual, other sundry documents. Hmmm.

Check my shirt pocket again. Still not there. Reach again toward the glove box, a very awkward angle, left hand on the wheel, rifle through the bottom of the glove box. Nope. Nothing. Shoot! Surely, somewhere.

Check again, feel around some more. Why doesn't he keep a stupid pen handy? Check the glove box a third time. No. Arrgh!

Coming up behind a semi truck. Touch the brakes, slow down, sit up, take a deep breath. Where would he keep a pen. Surely…

Reach down in the crack of the passenger seat. Nope. Glance on the floors, first mine, then the passengers. Nope. How can my stupid brother have a car without a pen?

Ok, coming up to the Firestone exit and gas station. I'll go in and buy a damned pen.

So I take the ramp, pull into the station, with all the conveniences. Before I get out I search the glove compartment again, this time real good. And the side compartment. No pen, anywhere. I go in.

"You have pens for sale?" I ask, grumpy, walking by the young blond girl at the counter. From the look on her face, it's a tough question.

"Yea, I think so. Check over there with the combs, second aisle."

Ahh, yes, yes, yes! A pen. A buck ninety-five. Holy cow! Okay.

I take it to the counter, undoing it's plastic wrap. She rings it up. "Two oh two," she says.

I take two bucks out of my wallet, and search my pants for change. She takes my bills, and, not waiting, two pennies from the little tray.

"Thank you," I say as she hands me the receipt.

"Nice to have a pen when you need one," I comment, feeling a little better, still tearing at the plastic to get at the stupid thing.

"What about the one behind your ear?" she asks, pointing.

I pause. Let out a breath, reach up. "Nice to have two."

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