Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Pencil in the Rye

Hello? Hello? Are any of you still here? I think I may be jeopardizing my standing in the Worst Blogger Ever contest by posting, but screw it! I've missed you all terribly! Sorry for dropping off the face of the Internet the last couple of months. But I'm back (for now; let's not get too crazy with the promises), and—even more exciting—I've brought pencils with me.

But these aren't just any pencils. They are, like, the pencil equivalent of Jeff from Today's Special. Except they aren't mannequins, don't accessorize with vests and magical hats, and aren't friends with scooter-riding mice. They COME TO LIFE, is what I'm getting at.

Like this, only a pencil. And with less dancing.

[Image courtesy of, which has way more info on Today's Special for those of you who are not mid-'80s Nickelodeon aficionados but would love to learn more about magical bevested mannequins. Possible disappointment alert: This mannequin does not make out with Andrew McCarthy.]

But where was I? Oh yeah, pencils. Our first inanimate objects were brought to life not by a magical newsboy cap, but by guest author Sarah.

Sarah says: In my school district, they gave you your permanent record when you finished high school, and my old writing competency tests were in there. I wrote this one when I was 8, in 1986.

The Pencil Story

Once there was a pencil who lived in a box. "I would die to get out of this box!" he said. He hated the box and all the other pencils too.

One day a kid with messy hair and grubby fingers picked him up. The boy took him to school. In his desk was a little red pencil "hi" she said. She looked just like him only red!

They had lots of fun together then the weekend came, they decided to run away. The red pencil said "Am I glad to get out of that dump." They went and moved under a low shelf. That was the greatest. They said "let's stick together forever"

Sarah says: I was given the minimum passing score for this story, which is totally unfair because once you look past the bad punctuation, it's basically the Catcher in the Rye of 120-word test essays—except for the uplifting ending where the pencils quit their jobs and live off the grid. Of course, this story does raise some disturbing questions (that no one ever asked because there were no mental health workers in my school. Plus, if you were quiet and did your work, no one ever wondered why your essay was not only written from the viewpoint of an opposite-sex protagonist, but also replete with phallic imagery...). But maybe it doesn't mean anything. Maybe a pencil is just a pencil, and I didn't hate everyone in my class...

Sada says: It's okay, Sarah. I'm glad you got out of that dump. I hope you've moved on to a "low shelf" of your own. I hear that's the greatest.

But don't think you're alone in channeling your preadolescent anxiety through phallic imagery. Part of the reason it took so long to post this (a small part, to be fair, but a part nonetheless) is that after reading Sarah's story, I had the craziest pencils-coming-to-life deja vu and was 99.9% sure that my sister, Genie, had written about the same thing. And? I was right.

Unfortunately, it took me three months to find it.

Pencil Tales offers a bit of a pencil potpourri, if you will (not literally—that probably wouldn't smell very good). It's also partially dedicated to our elementary school gym teacher, Mr. Powell, "who is a special friend, and has taught me many things I'll never forget." Is it just me, or is that a little weird? Especially in light of the whole pencils-being-shaped-like-manbits thing? Or do I just have lingering ill feelings toward Mr. Powell for forcing me to play newcomb?


Some people think pencils are just used to write with. Well, I'll tell you something, they're not. When you leave school at the end of the day, what do you think us pencils do? We climb out of those little slits in the desk.

Sada says: Freud would have a field day with this.

Well, it was a typical day. I was in my owner's desk, tired because he had used me so much today. The custodians were doing their usual nighttime watch to make sure no one's in the school that's not supposed to be in the school.

Sada says: That's right, the custodians had to clean toilets, sprinkle sawdust on our vomit, and then? They didn't even get to sleep at night! They had discourage intruders from breaking in and stealing high-cost items like the gym parachute or our green-screen Apple IIs. God knows someone had to make sure we could still play Lemonade Stand in the morning!

When I saw the flashlight fade away, I popped the two paint tabs off my eyes. Paint tabs are little tabs of paint that I used to cover my eyes and other things [Sada says: ?!] with, so no one sees my eyes. After I pulled them off, I blinked about 20 times. My eyes adjusted to the light. I pushed 2 other paint tabs off the spots where my arms are, then my legs. I got ready and squeezed out of the slit.

I got up to explore. I was on the chair. I jumped off, and landed standing up. I ran to our usual meeting spot. PiLinda, Paul, Pete, and Petunia were already there.

Sada says: I guess there's a writing utensil law mandating that all pencil names start with the letter P. Hence the extremely catchy "PiLinda."

"Hey, Peggy." Pete greeted me. None of us were related because we got shipped to this school by different pencil companies.

Sada says: Whoa, was that just an allusion to PENCIL SEX? I was unaware that you could breed pencils. They didn't show that kind of stuff on Mr. Rogers.

In related news, I just did a Google image search for "pencils having sex" and came up with nothing. The Internet is useless.

"Hi, what's up? I'm beat. Today my owner bit me. I felt so slimy," I said.

"The feeling is mutual." everyone agreed. They were all older than I, and had many more teeth marks.

I leaned against a piece of paper. I was beat.

Sada says: It's hard out here for a pencil.

Your days are numbered, buddy.

PiLinda's paint tabs were almost all the way back on(she's sleeping).

"PiLinda!!"I called. Her paint tabs pop off and fly half way across the room. She looked surprised, embarassed, and tired at the same time.

"I'm sorry." I tried to look sorry, but I cracked up, not on purpose, but it just all came out at once. Paul and Petunia joined me. Pete looked as serious as ever. We tried to get serious. It worked, kind of.

PiLinda ran away.

"See what you did?" Pete yelled as he followed PiLinda.

I ran after Pete and easily caught up.

"I said I was sorry, and I am." I was getting mad at Pete. I think that PiLinda has an awful bad temper. PiLinda and I are best friends. I met her when I came from a pencil company. I know PiLinda well. I ran past Pete. I almost caught up with PiLinda, but as soon as she saw me she sped up.

Sada says: So basically, a bunch of pissed-off pencils are sprinting around a darkened classroom? Just checking.

Also, it has not escaped my attention that these two are named Peggy and Pete.

You want to hire me to do your pencil portrait now, I know it.

PiLinda was out of breath, so she stopped.

"I'm really sorry."I say.

"That's ok." she says. "I just have been through a lot lately. My mother disappeared and my father's gone too, but, please, try not to tell anybody."

Sada says: You see what happens when you lose a pencil? YOU TEAR A FAMILY APART.

Just then Pete walked up, looking REAL mad.

"Are you all right, PiLinda?" he asked her.

"Yeah, but I really need to talk to Peggy. It's important, but I would appreciate it if you went back and told everybody else we're ok."

Pete nodded, and started jogging back.

Jogging pencil clip art FTW!
(Not that this in any way makes up for the lack of pencils sexing it up.)
(Also, I can't for the life of me figure out why the pencil has fangs. Twilight, must you ruin everything?)

When he was out of sight, PiLinda started again, "Everyone has been ignoring me lately. I feel as if I belong somewhere else..." She caught her breath. "I miss my parents, and lately, I'm so sleepy and mad...but I feel so awful."

"Don't worry." I said and started to cry. "My parents died before I got shipped here." I sniffled.

Sada says: Angst: a universal theme in pencil lit.

"Oh-my-goodness." PiLinda said sadly. "I'm sorry. I didn't know that. I'm really sorry. I am."

"I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want any special treatment." I admitted.

"That's ok, I like you just the way you are, Peggy. Pencil Pals Forever?" she asked and started to giggle about how dorky that sounded.

"Yeah," I laughed. "Pencil Pals Forever."

Sada says: Aaaaaand that's nearly the same ending as the first story, with the disaffected pencils swearing their allegiance to one another. Pencils... so predictable!

If you weren't already in pencil paradise, this story is followed up with some pencil poetry. I'll scan this so you can fully appreciate the genius. It's an acrostic poem, in which the first letter of each line spells the word "PENCILS" (the "L" line is my favorite, btw), but also? Those letters are themselves MADE OF PENCIL.


Perfect writing utensils
Erasers at the bottom
Needs to be sharpened when it gets dull
Constructed out of wood
In them is lead
Like pens
Sharp pencils are best

Sada says: In them is actually graphite, but I guess I shouldn't quibble with a fifth grader.

In the book's final installment, Genie gets post-apocalyptic on our asses.


If I had the last pencil in the world I would write...

Sada says: The next section is handwritten in pencil. I know that seems like a no-brainer in a book called Pencil Tales, but the rest of it was typed. Perhaps to better impart the seriousness of this message scrawled by the world's lone pencil.

November 14, 2059

I know that in a few hundred years someone will find this and wonder what a pencil was. Pencils were things used for writing. They are made of wood and lead. (I am using a pencil to write this right now. Trees have wood in them. I have heard from my grandmother (who lived in the 90's) When she was a little girl, at her school (and in the whole state) was celebrating "Earth Day."

Sada says: Grammar and punctuation have degenerated by 2059. Also, trees have wood in them!

Earth Day was a time to think about our Earth, how to save it. At my grandmother's school they gave out seedlings to everyone. The purpose was to have 500 children plant them to provide more oxygen for us + more wood, etc. Earth Day also encouraged people to recycle. Obviously, no one did, or there would be a much better Earth today. This pencil is about to brea (k)


Sada says: The final bit was in pen (which we all know is like pencil) because the last pencil in the world couldn't stand to write another word about the farce that was Earth Day. And apparently the last pencil sharpener in the world bit the dust first.

Here's my question: What kind of damage would we need to do in the next 49 years in order for a fifth grader to wind up with possession of the world's last pencil? Man, we better start recycling!

NEXT TIME: What is quite possibly the storytelling-est picture of all time. It contains an exercise montage. And a third grader with cleavage.


carey said...

yay, you're back!!

Sherilin Riley said...

you posted again! i followed you right after your last post & then you never posted again until now. i thought you were a phantom.

Becki said...

So glad you're back!

Cory said...

I loved the pencils stories, especially the ones from your sister. Classic.

Brandon said...

The best part of writing a blog is searching google images to jazz it up after all the heavy lifting is done. Who knew there was an image of a vampire pencil speed-walking its way to heart-health out there? Thanks to your tireless research, now we do.

That Kind of Girl said...

Worth. The. Wait.

Hells yeah, pencil angst.

ALso, literally two days ago I was telling my co-worker (also a huge fan of your blog), "Dude, I'm going to email Sada and demand she dictate a post to me over the phone to end the silence!" Glad it didn't come to that.

Andrea Jean said...

Dude, you made my day with the Today's Special reference. Sometimes I think that show existed only in my dreams.

Jen said...

Your Pete & Peggy pencils HAD ME ROLLING. Every time I look at them, I snort.

Sada said...

Carey and Becki: Thanks!!

Sherilin: I'm real! I've just been really busy. I'll try to be a better blogger.

Cory: Yes, anthropormorphic pencils are definitely classic. Er... yeah.

Brandon: Vampire pencils are surprisingly sporty. They also play soccer and hockey, bowl, surf, and go backpacking. I guess with the rise of personal computers, they have a lot more leisure time.

TKOG: So you're saying that a phone-dictated post is a viable option? Interesting. I will take this under advisement.

Andrea Jean: Oh, thank God! As I was writing it, I was like, "What am I doing? Does anyone else even know who Jeff IS? And why was Sam a puppet when Jodie and Jeff were real people? The hell, Today's Special?"

Jen: I have negative and a half graphic design skills, but I felt like they HAD to be pencilfied.

nikki said...

Aww...just like you promised me on Twitter!

Glad you're back and you chose a great post to come back with!

genieruth said...

Wow, I was such a terrible writer. Sigh. I <3 today's special. And I <3 u.

Bree said...

So happy that you posted again!

zanne said...

This was hilarious! Especially loved the pictures. I really need to stop reading your blog at work, though, since it's hard to not laugh out loud at these stories!

p.s. So glad you are back! I still haven't updated my blog...

Nicole said...

Wooh, you're back! Awesome post. I love the thought of these angsty pencils jogging around the classroom at night!

Amiee said...

Loved your sister's story especially, had my laughing at work!

Anonymous said...

i used to pretend all my pencils at school had different names, personalities, etc and they would fight over who would get to do which problems for me. they were each good in a different subject, but i made them take turns. i thought it was just because i was so shy i didn't have many friends in school, but looks like i was more normal than i thought.

kc race said...

That was totally worth waiting for!

PS: HOLY CRAP TODAY'S SPECIAL! I totally forgot about that.

Beta said...

Nice pencil.... :)

Red Boots said...

What a great post :)

Katherine said...

I was so scared the blog was dead! It's great to see you back.

Also, while I never documented them in writing, my pencils had plenty of adventures while I was young (though not quite so young that I'd like to reveal how old I was.)

Two of them got married.

I am so, so glad I wasn't the only one.


Michelle said...

Pencil angst. YES. My life is complete.

Brista said...

Come back! For real this time!

Michelle said...

Just wanted to say, I've been reading through this blog again and it is still absolutely amazing. You win a pony. And a pencil!

Sada said...

Awww, thank you!! I'm worried my pony might get repoed if I can't get it together and get this blog rolling again.

Amanda @ It's Blogworthy said...

Who knew? I mean really, who knew. About all this. About pencils having pencil sex and running around in a dark classroom; that you could find three separate works about pencils; that there aren't pictures of pencils having sex on the internet. Totally awesome.

Anonymous said...

Sada, I discovered your blog about a week ago and read it from start to finish. Now I'm having withdrawal symptoms. I know it's been four years, but I'm desperate to know about the exercise montage!

Here is an offer you can certainly refuse, but I'll make it anyway - I used to work as a transcriber. If you've still got arm trouble and can't type up lengthy stories, I will transcribe stuff for you from scans! C'mon, do it for posterity...

Sada said...

(Not) Jenny: You are so sweet! I'm glad people still occasionally stumble across this neglected little site. I dearly miss blogging, but lack of arm power + lack of time (+ lack of ability to write a short blog entry) have really made it impossible for me to post with any regularity. If I'm ever able to NOT work a 40-hour-a-week job again (god, I miss those days!), I may indeed call on your transcription skills. Until then, I will try my hardest to post that third-grade cleave.

Anonymous said...

That'd be awesome! :-)

Kristen said...

It's been over five years, but this is still my favorite blog. I would be so happy if it ever came back, but I understand you have limitations that are keeping that from happening. I just wanted you to know your work is still appreciated!