Julie’s Five Things: A Black Ballpoint Pen

( Part One)

Julie waited three days before calling the phone number on the flyer. She spent those three days alternately wishing for more gumption and continuing to regret the gumption she had already shown.

She plucked her grey chin hairs. She tried on all the clothes in her closet and tried to imagine what it would be like to take them off for someone she barely knew. She told herself she would be fine. She corrected herself; she would be OK. She glanced at her bedside table and saw post-it number three: Say what you mean.

She told herself she would be terrified but it would probably be worth it.

She took her clothes off and examined her underwear. She would definitely need new underwear.

Julie’s eyes skipped over post-it number five. Call L, it read. She considered it and discarded the thought, as she did several times every day.

She put her jeans and t-shirt back on and went to the hall telephone, where the flyer sat, waiting.

The group organizer’s name was Shar.

“Short for Charlotte?” Julie asked.

“Well, that would be Ch-ar, wouldn’t it,” laughed Shar. She had a loud laugh. Julie had to hold the phone a few inches from her ear.

“Right, so…” Julie said.

“So, so, so,” said Shar, “yes. So. We meet once a week. We meet on Fridays because none of us has anything to do on Fridays. At the coffee shop at the corner of 10th Avenue and… oh now what’s the cross street. Do you know the shop? It’s a Shotz Coffee. 10th and … shoot.”

“Feather Street?” Julie offered.

“FEATHER STREET,” Shar shouted. “YES. Thank you.”

“You’re — ”

“Anyway, come! You should come. You sound like you need a group. You need some peer support. Right? Is that why –”

Julie paused before answering. Partly she wanted to see if Shar would keep yelling. Partly she didn’t know if it was true that she needed some peer support. There was a small, niggling part of her that wanted to pick each word from Shar’s sentence and analyze it. Julie guessed that was the scared part.

She moved the phone closer to her mouth.

“Some writers,” she said. “I need some writers.”

“Well, we got those!” Shar said. “Eight PM. Bring something to read.”

Bring something to read, Julie thought. She thought about calling Shar back and asking what exactly. A magazine? Was there a waiting room? No, it was a coffee shop. Then she realized; something to read to the group. Something she, Julie, had written.


For the first hour, Julie sat at her kitchen table. She had a brand-new spiral-bound notebook in front of her; red, for luck. A glass of water sat next to the book. Her right hand clutched a black, ballpoint pen. There were several identical pens on the other side of the water glass. The kitchen clock ticked and ticked.

“Biography or autobiography?” Julie asked the empty room.

“Mystery? Romance? Spy?”

The kitchen clock ticked and ticked.

Julie took a drink of water and immediately had to pee.

“No way,” she said to her bladder. “That was too fast. There’s no way the water moved that fast. We sit here until one page is done.”

Julie wrote,

The kitchen clock ticked and ticked. No one knew there was blood in the cupboard. No one but him.

She wrote it again, and again, quickly, madly, until the page was full. Then she went to the bathroom and let loose what felt like a pint of pee.

For the second hour, Julie took her notebook and her pens and moved to the living room. She sat on the floor, leaning against the couch. The notebook was too floppy on her knees, so she had to bend over and write on the wood floor.

Julie flipped to the second page and wrote,

His name was Samuel and he had come to the city to kill. The first house that caught his eye had a wide-open front door and smelled deliciously of bacon. He rang the doorbell and when Martha came to answer it, he stabbed her, right through the screen.

Julie shivered. She sat up straight and tried to remember if she had closed her front door. Of course, if this Martha person had a screen door, then her door wasn’t wide open, or was it? That part was hardly clear. And was this man a hired killer? Was he coming to kill someone specific? Was it her blood in the cupboard?

Julie took her pen and held it over the first sentence. She stared at the sentence, which seemed out of place, somehow. It looked like it had been written by a child. The loops were too big and what was that word? she couldn’t recognize it. Oh — stabbed. Her penmanship was terrible, always had been, but who could blame her? She had only written grocery lists for the past thirty years.

Most people had computers now, anyway. She would have to get a better computer, if she hoped to communicate with real writers. What use was handwriting, when everyone used computers. For that matter, why had she wasted almost ten dollars on a notebook and pens? That was ten dollars she could have put towards a new computer. Or a book about how to use the computer she already had.

What was the use. What was the goddamn use.

Julie looked at her sentences again. She flipped to the first page and had to laugh at the rise and fall of her handwriting, how the pen carved into the paper with such desperation. She could see her own anger, right there on the page. She could see her resistance to being disciplined, as though she was both teacher and student. She guessed she was both, after all.

Julie left the sentence alone. She had read somewhere that you shouldn’t edit as you go. She closed her notebook. It was two days until the writing group and she would have something to share if it killed her.

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