Many years ago I happened to be at an auction house that had a variety of antiques of all kinds going up on the block. I was there with a friend whose family had several pieces for sale. One of the star pieces for sale at the event was a fountain pen once used by Samuel Clemens (i.e. Mark Twain). The provenance stated it had been used during the period he wrote “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and I was spellbound by the artifact.
Here, sitting before me, just a glass pane away was the tool used by this amazing writer. The very device used by the writer that changed how we write, the voice of books that changed American and the world’s literature. A man who never met a boast he couldn’t top or a story he couldn’t stretch to the very limits of possibility.
It was like a magic totem or fetish to me. Of all the items there and all the interesting histories, that item, that pen was all I could see. It was the personification of being a writer. It was a link to genius and a talisman that I was certain would propel me to get off my ass and write like I always dreamed of writing. The price was . . . equally awe inspiring so I just stared and drank in every aspect of it I could before they got annoyed with me and asked me to stop drooling on the display case.
I remember that pen though. It’s been close to 30 years and I still remember that pen like I had just seen it a moment ago. I do not covet ownership of it. I don’t wish I had the money to get it. Instead I enjoy the idea it is out there somewhere. Like some mystical beast loose in the world. I think of it as better to be out there, the mere sight of it inspiring people to dream . . . to write . . . to create wonderful things in ways no one ever imagined before.