“Because you haven’t lived.”

– a friend on why writing was not coming easily for me

Thursday, as I walked the aisles, a kid asked an odd question: had I any lead? He raised his mechanical pencil and, by way of explanation, clicked it vainly.

I walked to my cart. When I returned, I held before him the same pencil, down to its bright, green plastic barrel — a Pentel Twist-Erase Click 0.7, PD 277. He reached for it, but I opened it and instead gave him two leads. He opened his, too, smiling.

I asked him, as the class finished its freewrite, if he had found that the eraser retracted into the barrel as he rubbed it against the paper, but he didn’t know. There hadn’t been much to erase.

I’m writing this post with a black version of the same pencil — my home version, perhaps no older than my student’s. I hope I don’t lose it. I want to find out if its eraser, once you have to start twisting it out, retracts with use, too. If it doesn’t, then my school one may be an aberration and I’ve found my pencil.


Photo “Palimpsest” by waterboard. Used by permission.


  1. I never ever write with a pencil, except when I figure my taxes, and sometimes not even then. Somehow I break pencil points right off. Also not fluid. I do crosswords and sudoku in ink, which sometimes presents problems. :)

  2. See, first I loved pencils until I learned that the upper grades got to use pens. I returned to pencils as an adult once the mechanical pencil became cheap enough and my income became great enough for me to purchase them easily. Not much changed until the invention of the gel pen. Now I like both.

    If anyone is still reading this, I should complete the story by mentioning that I tried a $100 stylus a month ago. I worked with it for four hours and then returned it. I’ll try it again in a few years once it replaces my watch, wallet, ear hair remover, and computer.

  3. So a cartridge fountain pen? I loved them in high school. I loved how the blue ink (still never do black) got all over my fingers even though it was a cartridge pen. I still love to hear and feel a fountain pen’s scratch.

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