The forces of darkness and ballpoint pens

THE forces of darkness have taken over my home.

Normally I could handle it. Blood on the walls, pentangles on the floor, wailings in the night, sharp objects flying through the air.

But the forces of darkness are not playing fair (which is, I suppose, why they’re the forces of darkness).

They are stealing the ballpoint pens. I can handle this, too. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that no matter how many ballpoint pens you buy they are biologically digested by the air in your house within half a day of you bringing them home.

I have done studies. Either it’s the forces of darkness or there’s a whole new land somewhere out in the Pacific that is made entirely of ballpoint pens. It stands to reason.

Last week I fought back. I bought two boxes of them. About 50 in each. I stood in the lounge room doorway, I opened the boxes, I grabbed handfuls of pens and I scattered them like corn across the carpet.

This is a dangerous thing to do. Ask any workplace health and safety officer. You could break an ankle, or even your neck, by skidding across the room on a raft of ballpoint pens. Indeed, you’d think the forces of darkness would be content with that.

But no, those whom the gods (even the dark ones) would destroy, they first make mad.

So while you’re asleep, having left the lounge room awash with ballpoint pens, they creep in and steal them. Every one. When the phone rings, and your daughter wants to tell you the address she’s run off to with her boyfriend of three days, all you’ll be able to find will be a pencil stub that so badly needs sharpening that only one very precise angle will write.

You’ll want to cry, of course, which is what the forces of darkness want. But be strong! Don’t let them break you!

Tell yourself instead that, really, all your pens have somehow been absorbed by the fabric of life, and they are making their way by a kind of natural osmosis down to the ocean, where they will float out to sea, join up and create a new land.

That’s what I did. I managed to convince myself that it was nothing to do with an intrinsic evil lurking under the sofa… it was something very ordinary, like your wife stealing them (except that she, too, always complains there is none, no matter how many you buy).

I told myself that despite so many ballpoint pens having been lost since they were invented in 1938 (by Hungarian-born journalist László Bíró and his brother George) it was perfectly reasonable that the entire surface of the planet wasn’t plastered with them.

I found a rational explanation (they are turned into flutes by tiny people who don’t know how to write) and was happy. And then…

… the forces of darkness brought them back!

All of them. Every ballpoint pen I ever owned turned up one morning… in my pockets, on the telephone table, in that pot above the microwave where everything you ever owned in your life always turns up eventually, in the toothbrush mug… pens everywhere.

And still I coped. I crossed myself and muttered the Lords Prayer and kept a clove of garlic and a bible close by.

And then the forces of darkness play their trump card.

Because no matter how many pens you lose, and no matter how long they’re gone, and no matter how long it is before they finally turn up again, and how many of them there are when they do –

every last one of them will be red!