Flash fiction: Pencil by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story inspired by what you see out your window. This week’s post comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series. Find out more at www.corgicapers.com


By Val Muller

When I was born, my mother told me I could be anything. Dad wrote the first draft of a thesis that went on to earn the Nobel Prize in Physics, disappearing to the college and never coming back. Each night, Mom tells tales of what Dad must be doing. She imagines him in a glass case somewhere, under shining lights, being admired by passers-by as the brains behind the thesis. Mom has spent her whole life jotting down phone messages in the Jones’s kitchen. It’s not the Nobel Prize, but it sure helps the Jones family keep up their appointments.

picture prompt broken pencil

“We all have a purpose,” she always says.

Me? I wasn’t sure of my purpose until this August, when I was placed in Rob Jones’s backpack. Turns out I’m going to be a School Pencil. Mom told me that’s important because school is the foundation for everything else in life. Maybe Rob Jones will earn the next Nobel Peace Prize. Not in Physics, though, let me tell you.

Mom sent me off with a smile, knowing my life would already turn out better than Brother’s. We don’t really talk about the incident with Rover, but I’m glad Rob keeps my backpack on a hook out of Rover’s reach.


There’s an important physics test this afternoon, and I can’t help wondering if I’ll be chosen. After all, physics seems to run through my veins—my lead, that is. I’m sure I can help Rob ace the exam. After countless hours in the dark, Rob opens the backpack and reaches for the pencil case. His fingers grasp an erasable pen—don’t even get me started on the Paper Mate family—but then think better of it and choose me instead.

Now is my time to shine. The test is on Objects in Motion. This is easy stuff. Dad raised me on this like nursery rhymes before he left. I prepare to write my response when—Rob, what’s happening? His hand is getting sweaty, tarnishing my beautiful yellow shine. Now what’s he doing? Chewing my eraser! Rob, you know this stuff. No need to abuse me. Just write the response already.

Finally, he starts to scrawl something. He needs to brush up on rotational motion a little, but he’ll get partial credit, at least.

Now what? Ouch! He’s chewing on me. My smooth yellow coat is tainted with bite marks. My mind races with flashes of Rover. I see bits of Brother’s splintered body all over the kitchen floor, and I wonder if my fate is the same. The pressure is relieved by a gentle crunch.

An actual divot.

My dignity gone, I no longer care about the test. I just want to get out of there. My mind races. Maybe Rob can toss me on the ground, and maybe I’ll be picked up by that girl in the corner. She has a glitter pencil case and keeps all her pencils sharp one-hundred percent of the time. She never chews on her erasers, that’s for sure.

Rob slams me on the desk to go ask the teacher a question. I will myself to roll off the desk. Rob hears me fall and hurries back to pick me up before continuing on to the teacher. At the teacher’s desk, Rob’s sweaty hands plop the test down and then take out their frustration on me.

“I’m not sure I understand the question,” Rob says.

The teacher isn’t buying it. “This is all from the review packet,” he says. “If you were paying attention last class, and if you had studied, this would be easy stuff.” Indeed, the teacher motions to a stack of tests that students have already finished.

I realize in horror that Rob hasn’t studied. He doesn’t care about physics.

His frustration bends me—literally. He holds me between two hands, and he bends me in an arc.

“I did study,” he says. “This stuff is just too hard.”

The teacher’s expression remains skeptical.

“I think I need more time,” Rob says. “An extension.”

The shake of a head. “I can’t do that, Robert.”

The boy shakes. He’s angry now. The arc he’s creating with me sharpens, and my wood starts to creak and crack. Rob, stop. Stop this madness.

In my panic, I look up at the ceiling, where three pencils are stuck in the asbestos ceiling. Shot like arrows, no doubt. How many years have they been there, their lead impotent?

The tension becomes unbearable. Splinters break through my paint job. I snap in two, my lead exposed to the world, a small shard of wood landing at the door near the teacher’s feet. I’m sharpened lead on one side, eraser on the other, and a splintery mess in the middle.

The teacher just shakes his head. “I take it you’ll be repeating the class next year if you keep up this attitude,” he says. Then he looks down at me. “Looks like you’re going to need a whole lot more pencils.”

The teacher holds out his hand, and Rob slams me into it, both halves of me. I remain in his hand long enough to see him hand Rob a new pencil, a black Ticonderoga one. As if to say I wasn’t good enough for him. As he walks across the room toward the trash can, I realize my fate. Mother will never see me again. Instead, a high class snob will take my place and probably charm Mom into adopting him.

Or worse. With Dad out of the picture, who knows what charms that Ticonderoga will grace Mom with.

The day is long as I await my fate. It comes in the form of a squeaky cart rolling down the hall. A tired sigh as a custodian upends the trash can, tossing me with other detritus into a black plastic bag. Before long, the bag is closed around me, and all become darkness.


The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/


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