The Magic Pencil
I had a magic pencil. It could do my homework all by itself. It could take care of itself too. The pencil was given as a birthday present by Ayah when I was in standard 3A3, in Sekolah Kebangsaan Gombak Setia for my 9th birthday. Ayah was not a magician by profession, he worked in an office. I grumbled as I had been living in this cruel an unsure world for 9 years and all I got was a wooden pencil, that I could buy myself for 60 cents at the shop. I got another present shortly after expressing my life opinion, a slap at the back of my head.
“Son, this is a magic pencil. It will help you in doing the homework”, father said.
Teacher always gave 3A3 class many homework, especially in Mathematics. It was a class near the toilet. It was the last class. I like the class, because it took me a short walk to the toilet, unlike the A class far out there. At that time Mathematics called as Ilmu Hisab, and I always get red marks for my Ilmu Hisab in the report card. I was glad the Malaysian Education System did not have any grade below E until now. I thought the pencil would be a great help for my Maths homework. At least I did not copy, okay?
Ayah said when I did not have anything that I could think of to write about, I could use the pencil and the wooden stationery would give me many ideas out of my head. Once my English teacher asked us to write on a topic, my favourite tv programme. It was so difficult for me because I did not have a tv, let alone a favourite tv programme. I was afraid to tell that to my teacher, so I browsed through the newspaper tv section and found a programme, the Garfield series, so I used my special magical pencil to write on that cartoon series. I was a happy boy when teacher gave me an A for the short essay. Ayah said the pencil could work by itself, I just had to hold it and it would move and scribble on my exercise book. I loved the pencil, because it had helped me in writing many essays, karangans in bahasa and all the Ilmu Hisab work. I never told anybody about the pencil, because I did not want anybody to take advantage of the pencil. I could similarise it to a magic wand of Harry Potter’s where it could work wonders. Once I used the pencil to write a letter, from a friend to another, asking for an apology, and also a puppy love letter my friend had asked me to write.
Ayah said it could take care of itself, and I did not believe it. The pencil would not be finished. You would think it was a mechanical pencil, but actually it was a wooden pencil. It was the kind of pencil that you would buy for 50 cents a piece, and throw it away, or kind of lost it. Many of my friends would not use a full pencil at all times, the pencil would be taken by friends, lost , broken or anything that would make us to buy another one. My friends would buy pencils and they would not use it fully. Many times I saw them buying at the nearby shop, because they kept on losing or misplacing them. Kids, I might say. Ayah said that we should take care of pencils. The primitives had used charcoal or lead to write and draw on the cave walls and we would learn something about history. Graphite was used as pencil to write history, and it was accidentally discovered after a thunder struck a tree and revealed the black stuff underneath it. Then, shepherds used graphite to mark their sheep until one day they wrapped it with a piece of cloth. Then, it was developed to be put into a long stick, and eventually turned to be like what we are using these days.
I was walking home one day, when suddenly the pencil slipped out through the zipper of my bag and dropped into the drain. I realized it because luckily I glanced back I saw it accidentally slipped out from the bag. It rolled into the small drain, but the water current was very strong. I tried to grab it , but it was raining, and my friends did not allow me to keep trying. I cried all the way home.
Ayah comforted me when I told him the incident, if I did not get it back in any way, I just hoped that it would not get into wrong hands. Ayah said the pencil had its guardians, the wizards would prevent the gargoyles and all the evil tinies to get the pencil. Ayah said the gargoyles were very naughty creatures, as small as the Smurfs, but as bad as the foxes and monkeys. The gargoyles were the cross between the two animals. At night, I prayed to God for the pencil’s safety and I was thankful Ayah did not get mad at me.
The next morning, when I was on my way to school, I saw something familiar stuck between the rubbish in the drain. It was my pencil, my special pencil ! I stopped and grabbed the pencil. It was very dirty , muddy and the tip was broken, luckily it was not broken into half. I washed it when I arrived at school and kept it until I got back home.
I showed the pencil to Ayah and we sharpened the tip, and I put the pencil on the table before going to bed. The next morning I was surprised when I saw the pencil was as good as new. Ayah’s words was true after all !
After the UPSR exam, I got an offer to MJSC school. On the registration day, ayah mentioned that the pencil could not take care of itself anymore, as it would be away from home. It would turn normal if I went back home and put it in the magic wooden case beside my bed at home. I could not believe what I heard. I had lost my parents, my home and I would lost my magic friend. A week after that, I sharpened the pencil, and the next morning it did not grow back to its normal length. I was sad, frustrated and afraid that it would be gone in no time. So, every time I went home, I brought the pencil back.
When I was in Form I, I got nothing much to do. I joined the EMC, because my English was quite good. I joined the scouts and I was elected as the secretary. Being a secretary, I was chasing paperwork and doing all those weekly activity reports. Perhaps it was because my friends knew writing was no burden for me. I started using the computer a lot, and my skill in handwriting deteriorated. Ayah told me that even though I had the computer, I still had to practice handwriting. It was a classic way of recording things. Ayah forbade me from relying too much on computers and phone to call him. Ayah also insisted on me writing letters on paper and posting the letters home. He wanted me to know that he could not hold on emails when he wanted to remember me. He liked the smell of letter papers, the smell and the thrill of wondering what was inside while tearing off the envelope. I kept it as a point to write occasionally, and I enjoyed writing the letters. When I sent out the letters, it would be on foolscap papers, A4 papers, scribbles and all those papers that I could get my hands on, all using pencil. I wanted Ayah to see my handwriting, and it had been improving. Ayah
I started to get involved in writing, wrote drama script for my drama team, and my script was staged for the Drama Fest in Language Week southern zone. We beat the PKP schools ! Yay ! My script won as the best drama script along with the best drama costume, but I did not care for the latter. It was my greatest achievement when I was in Form 2. Besides, I wrote poems for the English unit bulletin board and my teacher liked it very much. My teacher always asked for my essay which I had done in the exam to be pasted on the bulletin board. Only the students did not like to read poems pinned on boards. The weekly thing that I loved to write was the English journals, where we would submit our weekly journal to the English teacher. I did not understand why my friends thought journal writing was a burden. Once in a while I would submit my opinions and poems by mail, to Dewan Siswa, the monthly magazine for teens. My friends thought I was raised in a very rich family, the kind of family that was staying in UK, and got back here, or the kind of family with an English descendant. But no, I was a true Malaysian, and I improved my writing quality by using the magic pencil. I did not tell anybody about it. Why should I ?
During an outing, Ayah told me the soul of the pencil had seeped under my fingernails, and into my hands. And the pencil’s soul would be in me all the time and help me when I could not write anything. It was already inside me, it had left the pencil. I felt quite weird, but I was happy at the same time. When it was away from home, the soul needed a better and bigger home. The pencil was too small for the soul. It was better that way, to be inside my heart, as I could use the spirit of the pencil to write using any kind of stationery.
After I finished schooling, I packed my bags and went home. When I was unpacking, I saw something under the bed. It looked like a pencil, a wooden pencil, rusty, the nib was broken, bit muddy and old. I took it and I remembered it was my magic pencil that was lost in the drain when I was small. I wondered, was there two magic pencils ? Did the pencil clone itself into two, did it had a child? I told Ayah what I had found and ayah eyes watered, he told me there was no magic pencil and he made it up. He did that to seed the interest in writing and love for knowledge. He then went up to the attic and he opened a plastic bag full of sharp pencils, about 100 of them. It was the pencil that I had sharpened once or two times, placed them on the wooden box beside my bed, and dad have been replacing it with a new one all the time.
“ I always hold and cherish the moments when we were together. When I miss you, I would open the plastic bag and imagine your little hands holding the pencil and scribbling ABC”. Ayah said.
I cried and headed for my bedroom.
On the way, I stopped and turned into Ayah’s open arms.
“I am sorry, son”
“No, I am sorry Ayah, and thank you for teaching me in a special way.”
Hasbi bin Mohamed Arifin