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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Writer’s Skill/Craft (04/22/10)

TITLE: A Letter To Steven
By T. F. Chezum


Benjamin dipped his quill in the inkwell. The flickering light from the candles danced shadows across his desk. He secured his paper and prepared to write.

“Dad.” Robert closed a book, using his finger as a bookmark. “What’re you doing?”

“I’m writing a letter to your Uncle Steven,” the older man replied. His hand swirled into motion, Dear Steven, …

“Why do you still do things the old fashioned way?” the boy queried.

“What do you mean?”

“The candles and the quill,” the boy said. “Nobody uses those anymore.”

“Apparently at least one person does.” Benjamin let loose a brief laugh. “This is how I learned to write, and this is how I will continue to do it.”

“A lantern would give you better lighting,” The boy perched on the edge of his chair. “And they have pens you don’t need to dip now. Or even a typewriter.”

“The candles create an ambience.” Benjamin turned toward his son, his quill resting in his hand. “Just because something is new does not make it better. It is not only about the end result, it’s just as important enjoying how you achieve your goal.” His hands waved as if he were conducting an orchestra.

“Umm, Dad…”

“A typewriter’s cold and sterile precision cannot match the warm artistic flow of a calligrapher’s plume,” he continued. “This is the essence of the craft…”

“Dad!” Robert blurted. “Your essence is on fire.”

Benjamin glanced at a shower glowing embers and ash falling from his quill. “Oh, my.” He dunked the feather in a small cup of water on the corner of his desk.

Benjamin held his pen in the shimmering candlelight. “How does this work again?”

His son set a small bottle of ink in front of him. “Hold the nib in the ink and twist the converter.” He pointed to the top of the pen.

The older man dipped the tip into the container. “Like this?”

Robert nodded. “Now twist.”

Benjamin grabbed the top of the pen causing it to shift. The ink jar slid toward the edge of the desk. “Oh, no.” He flailed in an attempt to stop it from falling off the side. He lunged, sprawling his torso onto the writing surface, and cupped the bottle in his hand. “Whew.”

A candlestick teetered from the jostling of the desk.

“Dad, look out!”

The candle bounced off the father’s head and landed beside a stack of blank paper. “Ouch.” He patted his hair to ensure it had not ignited. As stream of smoke in his peripheral vision caught his attention. “Uh-oh.” He swatted the flame with his free hand until the candle and the edge of the papers were extinguished.

Benjamin set the lantern at the top of his desk. “Now let’s give this a go.” He placed the tip of the pen against the singed paper. De… D … He jiggled the writing implement in his right hand. Dea… “What’s wrong with this thing?”

“Did you prime it?” Robert stepped over to his father’s desk.

“Prime it?”

His son grabbed the top of the pen. “Turn the converter until the ink starts to flow.” He began to twist.

“Interesting.” Benjamin cocked his head to the side as he stared. “It’s not going to make a…” His eyes widened at the sight of an ink drop pulsating at the bottom of the pen. “Mess!” He shoved his left hand toward the dangling drip.

“Dad … careful.”

The elder man’s hand thrust under the ink blob just as it fell. “Ah-ha.” His hand continued upward ramming against the nib. A small spurt of ink spread across his palm. “Ow. These things are dangerous.”

Benjamin adjusted the flame on his lantern. He flexed his bandaged, and black dyed hand.

“Now what are you doing?” Robert lowered his book to his lap.

“I’m going to write that letter to your Uncle Steven.”

“Really?” A surprised look crossed the young boy’s face. “I thought maybe you’d given up on that.”

“You can’t let a couple of setbacks prevent you from pursuing a craft you enjoy.” He laughed for a moment. “I’m going to write this letter.”

Robert smiled. “Tell him I said hi.”

“Of course.” Benjamin turned toward his desk. Dear Steven… he tapped at the keys of his new typewriter. I’ve had quite an eventful week. I’ll try not to leave out any details. It all started when my quill…

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This article has been read 644 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 04/29/10
I enjoyed the progression of the MC's attempt to "craft" his letter. Sad to say, with texting, emails, twitter, etc., old-fashioned letter writing is becoming a lost art. This story brought a smile to my lips--thanks.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/30/10
This is wonderful. I can imagine your character adjusting to computers. It left a smile on my face.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/02/10
I enjoyed the progression to technology and had a smile along the way.
Barbara Lynn Culler05/02/10
Nice story.
I was confused at first read, thinking that perhaps there was a time lapse, and now the father had dementia.
Gerald Shuler 05/02/10
Your story raised a question in my unstable mind... When done with a pen our craft is called "Writing". When done with a computer wouldn't it be called "Tapping"?

Loved your entry.
Catrina Bradley 05/02/10
I really like this one. The historical lesson on the pen was especially interesting! The MC's perseverance and willingness to try something new, despite repeated setbacks in his writing, was a double-edged look at the "craft".
AnneRene' Capp05/02/10
Loved the entire mood of this story. Very warm and gentle setting. Especially liked your ending. Left me with a smile.:)
Rachel Phelps05/03/10
Too funny. Loved the different writing utensils and the attitude of the MC.
Joanna Stricker05/03/10
I was a bit confused as at the beginning of the story the MC seemed to know what he was doing (actually writing and said he had learned to write that way) but before long his son was showing him how to use the pen? Perhaps I am missing a jump in time that occurred? I liked the use of imagination and humor in this piece. (It sounds quite difficult to use an 'old-fashioned' pen).
Carol Slider 05/03/10
It's hard enough to progress from one version of software to a later version. But to start with a quill pen... Kudos to Benjamin for being willing to learn, and persevering despite the setbacks. He'll be using a computer in no time! Great story--very inventive!
Carol Penhorwood 05/03/10
A very creative twist...but now you see why I have a problem with all this newfangled computer stuff...I'm that OLD...(well not quite).
Connie Dixon05/03/10
Great writing. You've inspired me to go light some candles, grab my laptop and start my own manuscript. Thanks for the initiative.
Beth LaBuff 05/05/10
I had to smile at "your essence is on fire!" :) The transition to the "new typewriter" and the process to get there was great entertainment! :)
Carole Robishaw 05/05/10
Very funny. So glad they didn't give up, I'd love to see what happens if they attempted to to a PC.
Angela King05/05/10
I loved the banter between father and son! I could fully picture this scene. Nicely written!
Ruth Stromquist05/06/10
Nice humor in this. I especially liked the logic about advantages to writing by quill and found myself thinking it might be a good way to write.