She said, “You should write about this.”
“Huh?” I said. “I looked over from my seat at the kitchen table, where I had been scribbling away on my pad while drinking coffee.”
She held the pencil out to me, twirling it back and forth with its sharpened point, proud of her quick work with the battery-operated small plastic pencil sharpener she’d bought at the dollar store that day. In front of her on the table, sitting next to her mug of tea, was the folded pages of the newspaper open to the daily crossword puzzle.
“I don’t get it,” I said.
“You’re always writing stories, right?”
“So why not the psychology of the sharpened pencil?”
“Ma, I still don’t get it.”
“What’s there not to get? And besides, has that ever stopped you before? I don’t get even half but maybe more honestly like 20 percent of what you write about anyway.”
“That’s a first,” I said.
“What about that piece with the mosquito?”
“What about it?”
“That’s what I’m saying. W-T-F?”
“What the fuck?”
“Yeah, I know what it means, Ma, but what are you saying?”
“I’m saying that you should write a story that has for its main protagonist a sharpened pencil. It makes as much sense as anything else you’ve ever written.”
“But what would happen?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “The pencil could be a smart pencil.”
“They already have those,” I said. “Pencils or pens with computer chips.”
“Whatever,” she said. “I mean a pencil with a brain. Or maybe the pencil is like the writer’s unconscious. And it could be trying to help the woman solve the necessary clues of her crossword before her son in another one of his so-called psychotic episodes approaches from behind her chair with a carving knife.” She paused to look down at the crossword. “Like this clue here,” she said. “What is the six-letter word that ends the story?”
I took this opportunity when she looked down to go over to the counter for a carving knife. ”MURDER,” I said from behind her chair.
“Gerald!” she gasped and simultaneously reached for her heart. “You startled me. What are you doing?”
I bent over to whisper into her ear, “Murder. That’s what you’re looking for.”
“What?! Sit back down. Don’t be childish!”
“M-U-R-D-E-R,” I spelled out for her, just to be clear, and tapped the knife against the crossword. “The six-letter word that ends the story.”