Writer’s block. Allison can’t seem to concentrate on the paper that’s due tomorrow. Time is ticking away and she doesn’t even have a story topic yet. But when she stumbles upon something in a desk in the attic, the writing becomes a lot easier. What does she find? How does it help her?
In The Attic
I couldn’t think of a single story worth writing – or even worth considering, for that matter. Lying in bed, starring up at the ceiling, I tried to concentrate. I zoned out, entranced by the teal blue wall in my bedroom. A story – something creative. It had to be about a character that had to make a decision. What kind of decision! I moaned and sighed heavily. Rolling over, I planted my face in the pillows. Why can’t I think of anything! Frustration clouded my mind. I have one day to write this paper and I don’t even have a topic yet. The vibration of my phone distracted me momentarily. It was a text from Elaine.
Fingers flying across the small keypad, I responded, “Hey sweetie. How’s yer story comin along?”
Her answer came within seconds. “Pretty good. 2 pgs down, 1 to go! Wbu?”
Chuckling, I shook my head. She never had trouble coming up with ideas. “Not so good. I’m stuck. Idk wat 2 write about.”
“Awh, dnt worry honey. U’ll think of something.” I smiled as I read her text. I hope so.
Three more hours wasted. I sat idly at the kitchen table, waiting for my spaghetti noodles to cook. Where is the time going? I should have a topic by now! Elaine probably had her paper completely written by now. Leaving the noodles to cook, I wandered through the house. Passing the office, I saw mom sitting at the computer, as usual, and saw Stephanie and Derek, my sister and brother, through the window. They were swimming in the neighbor’s pool. Lucky. Sighing enviously, I continued blindly walking through the house. Entering my room, I slumped onto the bed. The closet door was open and I looked inside. Ugh, what a mess. Shoes and other small objects cluttered the floor. Suitcases hid under the shirts, skirts, jackets, sweaters, and dresses that lined the closet. And that ladder… The ladder–leading to the attic. Maybe I can get an inspiration up there. It certainly can’t hurt. Reaching the top of the ladder, I hoisted myself up. Heat descended upon me and I found it hard to breathe, but I pressed on. Orange, red, and white bins were stacked up along attic and I stopped to peek inside a few, exploring the contents and forgetting the real reason I was there. Looking up, I saw an old, antique desk. Walking over, I sat down in the little chair and began pulling out the drawers, smiling at the old family artifact. I glimpsed inside each one, but the small drawer on the bottom right hand side was locked. Curiosity peeked, I began searching for the key.
Lifting up papers and flipping through books, I examined each space. At last, I pulled out a copy of The Sun Also Rises, and with it something hard plummeted to the ground, landing on my toes. Cringing slightly, I set the book down and bent over to see what had fallen. It was a small, shiny object on the floor. The key! Snatching it up, I held it up to the light. It’s so old. In awe, I pushed it into the little hole. A perfect fit. Turning the key, anticipation built up as I unlocked the drawer and carefully opened it. A long, wine red velvet case lay inside the drawer, containing an old pencil. Little gold vines encircled the pencil, working their way up to its small eraser. Why was that worth protecting? Realizing I didn’t even know who locked it away, I made my mind up to ask Dad that night at dinner. I stuffed it into my blue cardigan pocket and crawled back down the ladder. My spaghetti noodles had probably overcooked by now.
“So, what’s the last paper for your summer writing class about?” My mom asked, scooping a small pile of potatoes on everyone’s plate.
“Well,” I stuttered. She wouldn’t like the answer. “I, uh…I’m actually not exactly sure…” Looking at her face, I added a delayed “yet” to the end of my sentence.
“Isn’t it due tomorrow, though?” She asked, worry clear on her face.
“Yeah, but, I’ve done it before. I can do it again,” I replied with a reassuring smile. Changing the subject, I turned to my dad. “Hey, I found an old desk up in the attic today. Was it yours?”
“I think it was your great grandfather’s. So, shouldn’t you have been busy writing?” he asked, eyebrows raised and smiling slightly.
“Yeah, I was having writer’s block, though,” I stated. “So, there was a pencil in a velvet case in one of the drawers, but the drawer was locked and the pencil was the only thing inside. Do you know why was it so important?”
Distracted as he poured us each a glass of iced tea, he brushed the topic off. “I have no idea.”
Shrugging my shoulders, I moved on. Oh well.
Later that night, I sat at the small desk in my room. I was getting a little worried now. This paper was due tomorrow at two and I hadn’t even started yet. What was I doing all day? Annoyed with myself, I tried to concentrate, but my mind died again. Of course. Throwing my head back, I slid down onto the floor from my bed. Okay, I have to write ideas down, at least. Determination set in and I opened my desk drawer to grab a pencil. None were there, however. I looked in all the other drawers, but couldn’t find one. Annoyed, I whispered his name, “Derek.”Always drawing a superhero or bad guy, he lost practically every pencil he owned and helped himself to mine. Remembering that the old pencil was still in my pocket, I pulled it out and began writing down some ideas. They were flowing now. So quickly. And they weren’t stupid. They were really good. Well, all you need is a little determination. I smiled, satisfied. My little list of options was good. Almost too good. Choosing might be difficult! But that wasn’t a problem. Ah, I can finally start writing.
The digital clock flashed and I looked over at the time. 2:29am. The time had certainly flown by. I had two pages now and the story was pretty good. I was getting tired, though. I longed to rest my head on a cool pillow, hugging another and just drift off into a peaceful sleep. But I was almost done. Just a few more minutes. My eyes drooped and I decided to rest my head for just a second. But the second turned into an hour and I woke up at 3:30am. Sleepily crawling into bed, I disregarded the fact that I hadn’t brushed my teeth, put my retainer in, taken my vitamins, washed my face, or even set my alarm clock. I just need sleep.
The next morning my mind was flying. I woke up late—11:30am—giving me a sense of urgency. Grabbing the two pages I had hand written the night before, I looked for my pencil. Where is it! “Derek!” I shouted.
“Derek! Come here!” I demanded. I needed a pencil and since he took mine, he was going to replace it. “Derek!”
“I’m right here!” he said, casually strolling into the room. “What do you want?”
“I need a pencil. Hurry, I have to finish this paper. Go get one for me.”
“Why should I?” he argued, crossing his arms and raising his eyebrows. “I’ll make you a deal…”
My temper was close to the breaking point. Through choppy breathes I ordered, “Get me a pencil. Right. Now.” I stared into his blue eyes with a straight face.
Rolling his eyes, he walked away slowly, a trace of a pout evident. Returning five minutes later, he handed one of his mechanical pencils. Could you have taken any longer? I read through what I had written so far. This is pretty good. I congratulated myself. But now I was stuck. What would happen next? My mind had died again. Ugh, I should have finished this last night! The minutes were ticking away and the few ideas I had were unrealistic. Half an hour later I called for Derek again.
“What do you want now?”
“Derek, listen. You know that pencil you took off my desk this morning. I need it back.”
“Just do it, please?” I asked, too tired and rushed to explain.
Pulling the curtains over the windows, I tried to create the same environment. Something about yesterday helped the writing process move along a lot quicker. Whether it was the pencil or late night writing, I had to get it back and finish this paper.
The words were flowing again. I smiled and continued scribbling on the page. Gripping the decorative pencil in my hand, sentences came without hesitation. Line after line appeared on the page until I had to get a new sheet of paper. I looked over at the clock. One thirty. There – done! Now I just have to type it up. While typing the paper onto a word document, I fixed a few grammatical errors and spelling. Finished. Sitting in class, I thought about the paper. It had to be the pencil. Thinking about its past, my mind wandered to the desk. Great grandfather’s, huh? My mind raced back to when I was little—only five or six. Grandmother had invited us down to have dinner with them. Playing hide and seek with Stephanie, I snuck into Grandfather’s office. He was writing. Was it with that pencil? Mrs. Gaier’s question pulled me out of the memory. “Would you read this paper, Allison?”
“Sure,” I responded. I’ll find out about that pencil later.