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Rated: E · Short Story · Ghost · #1646526
A struggling writer finds a special item at a flea market.

The sound of a metallic tap echoed in the room. Thirty-nine-year-old Ed Lewis sat hunched over a vintage Underwood typewriter. Ed had dreams of being a published writer. When he departed this world, he wanted to leave behind something that proved he had existed. He did have an article in print for a high-school newspaper but that was eons ago. There were other reasons. For one, he loved to write and wanted to share with the world his creations, for how could they entertain while filed away in some cabinet?

By sound, it appeared as if busy fingers were at work. Unfortunately, the Underwood was missing about five keys and only served as a decoration piece. Ed couldn't resist the item when he found it at a yard sale two years ago. He was positive that someone used it for good and that perhaps some published stories came and went through its platen.  Maybe one day he'd restore it.

Ed glanced over at a legal pad. Very little was written on the tablet and the few lines that were had been crossed out. However, a few doodle drawings were visible. When the uplifting song of a bird caught him off guard, he directed his attention out the window. The outdoors were buzzing with activity.  A few children played catch in one yard, a neighbor fussed with the hedges in another and a tabby cat stalked a butterfly next door. The sun streamed in through the opening in the curtains and Ed could not focus on the job at hand. He sighed, pushed back his chair and stood up.

He entered the den and found his wife, Sandi, on the couch engrossed in a 1970's game show on a television from the same era.

“Hi, hon. Get anything written?”  she asked.

“Just my name a few times.  It’s like my mind has put up a wall and nothing inspiring can get through. Every now and then something seeps in through the cracks but I can’t turn it into anything worthwhile.  Maybe I should just give up this dream."

"You can't give up on a dream you've had for over twenty years.  I won't let you."

She smiles and winks at him.  He smiles back

"I'm going to go out for a walk.  Be back shortly.”

She nodded and watched him leave the room.

An hour later, Ed found himself at the entrance to an old drive-in. Every weekend, the business offered a flea market by day and a movie combo by night. Other people’s trash was Ed's weakness and he couldn't pass this opportunity up and so he ventured in.

Ed strolled by table after table. Every few tables, he’d pick up a book here and a movie there but nothing really spoke to him. As he approached the last table, an old man sat behind it in a worn out lawn chair. A German Shepherd who was just as gray as the man slept underneath the chair. A beat up Chevy van with scattered rust spots about its body sat parked behind the two. The back doors of the van were open and one hung from its hinge. Empty cardboard boxes cluttered the inside. Ed made eye contact with the man and smiled at him. The old man nodded and raised a very shaky hand and managed to wave.

Ed’s eyes dropped to the table and the stuff displayed there. The table contained much of what he had already seen today : old power tools, discolored dishware, car parts, and clothes. As his eyes scanned, something in a case off by itself caught his attention. Ed had seen a case like this before. He reached down and picked up the shiny pen case, an oddity among such rusty things. He wiped the dust off, opened the case and found a pristine silver pen inside. He removed the pen from its safe haven in order to get a better look. Ed turned the barrel, took out a tablet from his back pocket and tested the instrument out. To his amazement, the pen worked.

“Sure you want to sell this?”

The old man squinted and edged up in his seat. “Uh huh. Don’t have much use for it anymore. Best to let someone else have it than to let it rust away.”

“How much?”

“Two dollars.”

“But this isn’t your average disposable pen. It’s worth more than that. I know because my parents bought me one of these many years ago and I took it to school and someone stole it.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I‘ll tell you what, you can have it free of charge. I have a feeling you‘ll give it a good home.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t. You said two dollars and that’s what I’ll give you for it.”

Ed reached behind him and pulled his wallet out of his pocket. He looked into the folds and saw a few ones, a five and a twenty.  He removed the twenty and handed it across to the man. The man had a difficult time standing. The dog stirred as well and even he had a hard time moving around.

“This is all I have.”

“I’ll get your change.”  he turned toward the van.

“No, keep it. This is worth it.”

“That wouldn’t be -”


The old man surrendered and nodded, “I appreciate it.”

“I’m Ed Lewis by the way.”

Ed extended his hand across the table. The man accepted with a frail grip.

“I’m Leo, nice to meet you. This is Arlo.” Leo looked down at his dog.

“Nice to meet you Leo and Arlo.“

Arlo closed his eyes and grunted.

“He’s not being rude, he’s old and tired.”

“Are you here every week?”

“Whenever I feel up to it. I‘m old and tired, too.”

Ed managed a smile but could see the distress etched across the man’s face.

“Well maybe I’ll come by next week and stop if you‘re here. Thanks for the pen.”

“It’ll be good to you. It was to me.”

Ed wanted to ask what he meant by that comment but he didn't want to pry.  Maybe next week.

“Well good bye Leo and Arlo.”

Leo waved to his new friend and then eased back into his seat again.

Later that night, Ed once again found himself at the writing desk. His new acquisition rested on the legal pad before him. Ed picked up the pen and admired it for a moment. Nothing hit him over the head creative wise so he got up, switched off the light and walked out of the room.

The next day, Ed was at his desk bright and early. Only this time, he was actually writing. In fact, his brain was spitting out thoughts faster than his hand could get them written down. A smile stretched across his face. He was in a place he hadn’t been in awhile and it felt wonderful.

The next weekend, Ed headed to the flea market. When he came to the spot where Leo’s table stood, he found another seller in the spot. He approached the woman.

“Hi. I’m looking for Leo. I bought something off of him last week and I thought I’d stop by and say hello.”

The woman smiled, “You must be Ed Lewis.”

Ed was surprised that this stranger knew his name.

“He told me all about you after you left last week. I was at the table next to him. He was so thrilled that you bought the pen. He told me to remember your name because you were going to become a famous writer very soon.”

Ed laughed and then remembered he never told Leo about his writing dream.

“But I don’t understand.”

“Leo was also a writer. Although he hadn’t published anything in twenty years, he did make a nice living at it. He even won a few awards and they almost made a movie out of one book. He stopped writing after he lost his wife. He said she was his muse.”

Ed lowered his head.

“The pen was a gift to him from her. He hated to part with it but figured it wouldn’t help to take it with him. Leo always said he was no Ernest Hemingway but I read all of his books and I’d have to say he was pretty darn close.”

Ed smiled. “Can you tell me Leo’s last name?”


“I’ll have to try and find his books and then the next time I see him, I’ll have to have a few words with him.”

“Well I hate to tell you this but the day after you purchased the pen Leo and Arlo both passed away in their sleep. They apparently went together and I‘m hoping they are now with Leo‘s wife.”

Ed was shocked by this news and yet he couldn't help but think that maybe there was a reason he came to this flea market a week ago. Perhaps he was meant to find the pen. Leo wanted someone who would put it to good use and that was exactly what he was going to do with it. Leo would be disappointed in him if he didn’t.
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