The Pencil

By Gary Holmes
Posted 7/19/19

“I’m not giving it back.”Kenny was adamant, hands clenched, feet planted on the hallway floor as firmly as a 72-pounder could. It was his. HIS. His pencil. That damned girl—he …

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The Pencil

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“I’m not giving it back.”
Kenny was adamant, hands clenched, feet planted on the hallway floor as firmly as a 72-pounder could. It was his. HIS. His pencil. That damned girl—he knew he couldn’t say THAT out loud but that’s how he felt—she took it from him. Right off his desk. And now it was his again—once Mrs. Gallucci handed it back to him.
Beth stood on the other side of their teacher, arms folded with eyes glaring back at him. She wasn’t backing down, especially after the spitball he landed in her hair last month.
“I did not take his stupid pencil. He took it from my desk. I saaaw him.”
Margaret eyed them both with tired experience and cradled the disputed object in her hands, passing it between her fingers.
“It is a very nice pencil, Kenneth. I know how you felt when you saw it.”
His eyes inched upward. Her stare always accused and burned into him, no matter whether he was telling the truth or not. And he was! This time.
“I won it at Mills. Look, it says ‘Mills Amusement Park’ right on it. At the balloon pop.”
Kenny was good at that game. He won lots of stuff there.
“It is MINE,” the girl inflected with a force he had often heard from his little sister. Kenny waited for the tears. Girls always shouted and then cried and then got their way. Sigh.
Margaret pinched the part of her nose between her eyes. “Beth, did you win this at Mills?”
“No. It was given to me. It was a present.”
Margaret’s raised eyebrows asked, “From whom?”
Beth didn’t want to admit it out loud. It’s not something she wanted anyone to know, especially Kenny.
“I can’t tell you who”
“Oh?”
“Can I whisper it to you?”
“No. Kenneth deserves to know, too.”
She paused, looked around to make sure no one else was near: “It was given to me by… a boy,” turning red at the admission.
Kenny’s mouth dropped open. What boy would give her anything?
“And who might that be, Beth?”
“Ummm. Danny Brown, from Miss Gallucci’s class.”
Danny? Why would he give her…? Danny never won anything. But he was with him that night HE won the… Kenny stopped. OK… OK… He would settle this directly with Danny. AND tease him.
“If he wants the pencil so much, he can have it. I don’t even like Danny Brown.”
“I don’t want the stupid pencil. Especially since she ‘got’ it from her booooyfriend.” Googling eyes for maximum effect. Hah!
“OK, Kenneth.”
He smiled inside at his barb and shot a look at her. Beth looked back with a slight turn up on each side of her lips—a victory smile? Or smiling AT him? Yuck.
“So, neither one of you wants it?”
Both stared at each other, a showdown.
“Very well, if either one of you wants it, you will have to bring your parents in and we will resolve it that way.”
Their heads pivoted up.
“No. No parents. HecanhaveitshecanhaveitIdontwantitgiveittohimgiveittoher’”
“Very well. It is a nice pencil and it will be mine.”
Kenny and Beth’s heads pivoted again, this time toward each other: wide-eyed surprise and shared loss.
“You can go now. We’ll see you tomorrow, me and my new pencil.”
The next day, there it was. On her desk. Propped up in the rice-filled bowl holding her pens and pencils.
Once or twice when Mrs. Gallucci turned to write on the board, the two glanced across the aisles with a resigned look and a shrug. But there the pencil was. A neon sign or light saber could not have shone brighter. Towering above the others, almost twice as high and thick, the balloons emblazoned on it seemed to want to carry it away.
Which they apparently did the next week. Once Mrs. Gallucci noticed, in-class interrogations ensued, parents were called, the assistant principal grilled all suspects, which meant Kenny. Adamant denials were the order of the day. Admonitions, warnings and glares. And then, with time, the pencil vanished from everyone’s lives and memory.
Until their fifth anniversary, when he opened her present to him. Inside, tied to it, was the note, “OUR pencil.”

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