(Part) of what I wrote on the plane back to Moline.
There once was a pen. It was fairly innoculous, with black ink and a comfortable grip, but otherwise very dull. It sat with several others in a small cup on a large, ornate desk in a rather plainly furnished room at the top of a boarding house in the north of England.
It was a rather dreary day in February when Grahm Barker picked up this pen and began writing a letter.
As he wrote, he would pause momentarily and gaze out his window at the rain that rippled down the glass. It went on like this for hours. The patter of the rain mixed with the scratching of the pen and created a thoroughly melancholic atmosphere in which Grahm Barker found himself thoroughly entrenched.
Perhaps, he would later reflect, this mood rubbed off into his letter, and this was the reason that Mr. Henry Davies of The Greater Northwestern Bank was so apt to reject his loan request.
Upon reciept of this letter, Grahm Barker looked around his room and did a fair amount of calculating. One week later, his pen found its new house on the bureau far less interesting, but the money Grahm had received from the sale of his grandfather’s desk ensured they (both Grahm and his writing implements) would have a home for another week.
As the days wore on, Grahm’s pen found its ink reserves dwindling at about the same rate as Grahm’s savings. Letter after letter was sent and received, each bearing the same regrettable and respectable response. Grahm found himself becoming more and more desperate.
As a young boy, he had spent his summers at his Auntie’s resort. He would entertain himself on the rocky beaches, running in the surf and having adventures. As he grew older, he found himself less interesting in having adventures and more interested in recording the adventures of the dashing gentlemen who would pat his head and give him pennies for carrying their bags. He would remember their stories and embellish, adding pirates and gypsies and great acts of daring, wishing he might be taken away on some great adventure some day as he stared off into the great grey expanse of the sea.
Eventually, his aunt grew old and passed on (as such things are bound to happen in life) and so the seaside inn was boarded up and the dashing gentlemen moved up the coast to the next hotel.
For weeks, Grahm had found himself dreaming of those summers, and on February 5th he awoke to the sound of the postman slamming the gate on his way to the porch. This slam would signify yet another letter of rejection from yet another bank, and it was another slam of a larger wooden door that would symbolize Grahm’s next move.
At 1:50 PM Grahm found himself boarding the last afternoon train with the last of him pocket money, and at 6:47, he found himself deposited on the front steps of his Auntie’s boarded up resort with nothing but his trunk, and umbrella and a package of peanuts, which he had found on the train.
It was terribly cold, and his umbrella seemed useless against the rain . It was, perhaps, partly due to the mist that blew off of the winter sea, that mingled with the rain that gave it a salty taste, but Grahm did not stop to enjoy it, but instead stared morosely at the inn and realized that this was (you’ll forgive the expression) his last resort.
With a furtive glance at the abandoned path behind him, he dragged his trunk up the wide front steps and pushed it up against the rotting boards that blocked the entrance. There was a small gap high up in the narrow boards, and he thrust his umbrella in as far as it would go and pulled down sharply. The weathered wood held for a moment and then bowed out and snapped away from the door frame with a sharp crack.
One by one (with his umbrella much worse for the wear), he knocked off the boards until the door was revealed.
He paused for a moment–the once bright door had faded to peeling gray, and the cheery floral wreath his Auntie had hung lay shriveled and black in the threshold. Thankfully, time had beaten away most of the door’s frame and so jimmying the lock was quite simple, and Grahm found himself inside without much effort.
He dragged his trunk to the foot of the winding staircase and then set about carefully restoring the boards to as to fool any passerby that might wonder about the now uncovered door.
It was dark inside, and the fading evening light that managed to trickle through the boards was thick with dust, and did little to help illuminate the expanse of the entryway and reception.
The floor creaked ominously under his weight, and Grahm wished it was light enough to see the top of the high ceilings –perhaps the shingles had blown off and rain had rotted the floor–he began to tread cautiously as he made his way to the desk.
It had been topped with marble, but the thick layer of dust made it impossible to determine if it was still there. Grahm felt his way behind the desk and in the last light of the day was able to make out the cubbyholes for each room that now were filled with a smattering of bird’s nests and cobwebs in equal amounts.
He stretched and thought better of navigating rotten stairs by moonlight, and instead made his bed on the desk. Grateful to his landlady, who had kindly insisted he bring with him several quilts, he wrapped them around himself as best he could and curled up with one last look at the blackness above him. In the dark, he could barely make out the outlines of the great crystal chandeliers that once lit the room. In the morning, he would see about shining them up and fixing up a bed for himself, but for now he just relished in the solitary thought—
It was good to be home.