A story not to be taken too seriously by Erik Reischl

This morning , 10.33am. A normal situation. I’m practising. A new finger setting occurs to me. Quickly I grab the pencil and ...

Eh, where is it? I know it was there yesterday, on the music stand. That’s strange ... oh well, it’ll be behind the music ... What, it’s not there either? Slowly I begin to to get agitiated. I need this pencil, now! The fingering is good! Brilliant, completely brilliant! Oh well, I’ll just have to get another pencil. But there’s none to be found, not on my desk or in any of the corners of the room. How come? Last week I bought a whole set of five. I begin to rush around, turn the whole appartment upside-down, and after a few minutes have to resign myself to the fact that, firstly there’s no pencil to be found and secondly I’ve forgotten the fingering I wanted to note down! And it was such a brainwave. The new finger setting would have solved all the problems I’d had with the part I couldn’t get right. I start to play around with the notes in the hope I’ll remember the fingering. It’s useless! How can I be so hopelessly naďve? Of course I can’t remember it.

I begin to ponder. Right now I’ve reached the age of 28. How often do I buy pencils? I’d say, maybe once a month. Ah, no, not more than every two months – let’s not exaggerate. Not single pencils. Packs of five. How long have I been doing that? Maybe since I was 16. Even earlier of course, but after that age I can calculate a constant growth rate. So over a period of 13 years I have bought packs of five pencils, 6 times a year. I must have bought nearly 400 pencils in my life. Four hundred! On the other hand: how many pencils have I thrown away at the end of their life? I mean the short bits that remain after endless sharpening, usually with an intact eraser on the end(if there was one) because one is too lazy to erase the original markings before one writes in the new ones. The answer to this question is: I can’t remember one single incident where I threw away a pencil. Since however, at the present moment in this household the stately number of exactly zero pencils is to be found, the conclusive question remains, "Where have all the pencils got to?"

Now I must explain that I am a confirmed atheist and confront all other inexplicable phenomena with a healthy, scientific mind. I don’t believe in a life after death, nor in God or a heaven or hell. In other words, there is no afterlife. Well, at least not for people ... it may be quite different for pencils. Do these malicious little beasts have a soul? Yes, that must be it. A pencil has it’s very own personality. When it doesn’t get used for some time it gets depressed and commits suicide. So somewhere there must be a special afterlife where all pencils go, some of them nearly used up and others which have been lost under tragic circumstances. There is no other possible explanation. At night, when they’re not under observation, they simply vaporise. And it’s totally insignificant as to the remaining length of this writing instrument. The case in question is a good example, my pencil still had the impressive length of 7.63cm. Yes, that’s where he’ll be, in his afterlife. My dark red laquered standard HB pencil. With an eraser. At least he could have left that behind. Is he happy now? What a feeling it must be to meet up with all his comrades from the department store shelves. They all have stories to tell, each will have experienced so much. What amazing things can happen to pencils. To be able to note down brain waves, maybe a scientific equation that could later win the author a Nobel prize. In contrast the finger settings of a pianist are of little importance. But for me, it was important, dammit!

As my fingers slowly begin to move across the keys, for some time my thoughts revolve around with the pencil-afterlife. I can’t concentrate. Sentences come to mind, such as, "My pencil, why did you leave me?" The pencil will surely never be found. Just as the fingering that had revealed itself has been lost forever in the confused contorsions of my mind. It’ll be Christmas soon. Maybe I’ll wish for a packet of pencils.

(c) 2001 Erik Reischl, Translation Elisabeth Ann Krüger