Ol’ Red was not some space age gel rollerball pen or a snotty, elite pen that came in a fancy wood box. Nor was he some cheap promotional pen, whoring himself out to whoever picked him up at a trade show booth. He was a ball point pen with a cap and old fashioned values: simple, hard working and modest (some pens like to show off their inner plumbing but Red preferred an opaque plastic around his). He and I had an unspoken (obviously) friendship. He was my favorite.
Grading chemistry tests is a hard life for a pen. The first quiz of the year was a bloodbath and it took a toll on Red. Not that he complained – his lines were as smooth and consistent as ever, always the right amount of ink regardless of how angrily I marked the incorrect answer. In that way, Ol’ Red was a calming influence on me and I like to think that he had a sunny disposition towards the students, despite the amount of ink they took from him.
Ol’ Red gave his last drop as I graded the second batch of quizzes. We were making our way through the pile, pleased that the students were doing well. His end came suddenly when he simply stopped, drained. Even this act was typical of Ol’ Red. Some pens drag out the process, failing to write more frequently as time passes but Red just kept showing up to work, giving it his all, until he could write no more. His last contact with paper was a check mark next to a correct calculation.
I still have to grade the rest of the papers. I have a new pen, a new-fangled retractable Paper Mate with some type of Sure-Grip Coating® for easier handling. We are both going through a transition period with each other. Some of the other pens call him Clicky. He’ll probably do ok but he’ll never make me forget Ol’ Red.