Tall Tales: The Pen Man

Catron Courier - - Front Page - By Sam “Sweet Wa­ter” Sav­age As al­ways, these sto­ries were ex­pe­ri­enced by me, told to me in person, or sub­mit­ted by read­ers of this pa­per. I sim­ply re-tell the sto­ries, fill­ing in some of the de­tails, and don’t make any judg­ments as to how true they are. H

Ball­point pens, foun­tain pens, cheap and ex­pen­sive pens—Henry loved them all. He had a col­lec­tion of thou­sands. He was of­ten asked where this ob­ses­sion came from, and he’d tell the story of his past as a poor im­mi­grant. Henry ate food do­nated by his church, and wore his fa­ther’s hand-me-downs.

Dur­ing par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult times Henry’s mother would pull out her most prized pos­ses­sion—a solid gold foun­tain pen that glimmered like sun­beams. It had been a gift her grand­mother had re­ceived for be­ing the first woman to grad­u­ate as a med­i­cal doc­tor. Her ini­tials “VL” were en­graved on it. That pen cheered the fam­ily be­cause it re­minded every­one that pros­per­ity was not that far off. Henry fig­ured this is where his love for pens be­gan.

Henry’s mother and fa­ther had died years ago. The pen had been lost. But Henry and his sis­ter, Su­san, had started their own fam­i­lies. Henry had be­come suc­cess­ful and had two lit­tle girls. One Christ­mas, his sis­ter per­suaded him to fly to his home town to visit her. As typ­i­cal with hol­i­day plans, this one was frenzied. He was to cel­e­brate an early Christ­mas with his sis­ter, and fly back on De­cem­ber 24 to cel­e­brate with his own fam­ily.

On his flight, Henry opened a magazine and an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “The Pen Man” caught his eye. The story told of a home­less man who hap­pened to live in Henry’s home town. The man was a wel­come part of the com­mu­nity; he would go into lo­cal banks, real-es­tate of­fices, and other busi­nesses and of­fer to dis­trib­ute the give-away pens. On the street cor­ner, he held a sign that said “Work­ing Pens.” He would test each pen to make sure it wrote per­fectly, and any­one who’d drop a few coins would get a pen. He also of­fered a guar­an­tee. “If you lose that pen, or it stops, come back and I’ll give you a re­place­ment. Free!”

With the money he made he could af­ford to shower and wear clean clothes. His smile and friendly na­ture made the big­gest dif­fer­ence. He was a plea­sure to be around. Even the busi­nesses liked him be­cause he brought then at­ten­tion and new cus­tomers.

Henry wished he could find the time on this trip to track down and share his pas­sion for pens with the Pen Man, but his sched­ule was too tight.

Henry en­joyed his time vis­it­ing his sis­ter and his twoyear-old nephew, but he was ready to get home. He had just enough time to pack his things and get the last air­port shuttle to get him to his flight. He plunked down his bag on the side­walk at the shuttle stop and took a deep breath. He felt eyes were upon him, and turned to see an old man with a wide smile and spark­ing eyes star­ing at him. The man held in his hands a dented tin cup and a card­board sign that read “Work­ing Pens.”

Henry couldn’t be­lieve his luck! Here was the Pen Man. He glanced at his watch. The shuttle was to ar­rive any minute so he nearly ran over to the man who looked ex­actly like he did in the magazine photo. “I love pens too!” Henry said.

“Yes, son. I know,” the Pen Man re­sponded, smil­ing. “Why else would you risk miss­ing your shuttle just to talk to an old home­less man?”

That made sense to Henry; so he said, “It’s funny, pens al­ways been a sym­bol of hope for me.”

“They are full of hope. A person can write a novel with a pen, or a love note. A person can even sign a first mil­lion dol­lar con­tact with a cheap lit­tle pen.”

Henry was amazed how well spo­ken the Pen Man was, and how wise. Be­fore he could pose his next ques­tions he was in­ter­rupted by the air­port shuttle. “There’s so much more I have to say,” Henry said, as he reached into his wal­let and dropped a crisp twenty dol­lar bill in the old man’s tin cup.

The shuttle driver be­gan honk­ing. Henry turned to­ward the shuttle when the Pen Man shouted, “Wait! You for­got your Christ­mas present!” Henry froze in his tracks. Christ­mas present?

The Pen Man got up on creaky legs and walked to Henry. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a pen and handed it to him. It was a gold foun­tain pen that glimmered like sun­beams. En­graved let­ters spelled out the ini­tials “VL.” Henry was stunned. A tear streamed down his cheek. “But… how?” Henry stut­tered.

The shuttle driver honked his horn im­pa­tiently.

“Don’t you be­lieve in Christ­mas Mir­a­cles, son? You’ve grown up into quite the man, Henry.”

“Sir! I’m go­ing to have to leave you!” shouted the shuttle driver.

Henry glanced one last time into the home­less man’s sparkling eyes. He turned and ran to the shuttle.

Henry wiped away tears, hold­ing the golden pen in his hand. Who was the Pen Man? It couldn’t have been his fa­ther who had died so long ago. But how else could he have had Henry’s mother’s beloved pen? Even though he searched ev­ery day for months, he never saw another men­tion of the Pen Man. All he had was a sweet, warm feel­ing in­side, his grand­mother’s golden foun­tain pen, a mil­lion unanswered ques­tions, and the knowl­edge that he’d ex­pe­ri­enced a real-life Christ­mas mir­a­cle.

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