“Pen-and-Ink: Part 2” by Marlene Lee 

Part 1 of the story is here.

          The only language Jim knew for asking someone about themselves was pen-and-ink, so he sat and studied his son’s face.  Today it was a new face.  He thought about how everyone has a slightly new face every day. Just watch someone who’s been away for a week.  You’ll see all kinds of subtle differences when they get back.  

          Cade mechanically stirred cream into his coffee.  There was discoloration under the eyes.  Stunned, stilled, he sat as wordless as his father.  Finally, “Amy broke up with me.”

          Jim removed the cap of the fountain pen, then put it back again.  “The City needs a First Lady,” he said to his son.

          “That’s a good one,” Cade said sadly.

          Jim folded his hands on the table, at loose ends.  

          “Go ahead and draw me, Dad.”  Gratefully, Jim uncapped the fountain pen and began the kind of conversation he knew how to engage in: the back-and-forth between scrutiny and art.  His pen moved swiftly, stippling in the growth of beard, dark values seeping into white paper.

          “She doesn’t think we have enough in common,” Cade said.  “Or that’s what she says.”

           Jim’s pen moved rapidly, quick forays into space, drop-dead attacks into the lush paper.  “She doesn’t know you,” he said, “or she’d be satisfied with you.”  The portrait began to look like Cade.

           Several businessmen in dark suits waved to the Mayor from where they stood at the coffee urn.

           “She’s made her decision,” Cade said bitterly.  Slowly turning his cup this way and that, he said, “Did you ever try to get Mom back?”  

           “Oh, yeah,” said Jim.  “I failed, as you can see.”  

           “Mom hates failure.”

           “Sure,” said Jim.  It had taken him years to encompass the marriage and divorce  in one word: sure.

           Hiram, who fell into a shallow sleep this time every morning, stirred like a pet having a dream.  He’d once asked Jim why he’d gotten married in the first place.  

           It was Jacqueline’s beauty.  Her high facial bones.  Perfect hands and feet.  Laughter, all melody.  And she loved him back.  He couldn’t believe how she valued his quiet ways.  Even now, opening his sketch book, seeing the blank paper, waiting for the hot strike, the spark of art, he remembered the love and pleasure he’d known when he went to bed with his wife.

            Cade looked out the window and back again.  “How do you live with failure?”

           “You learn,” said Jim.


           Jim shrugged.  “Day by day,” he said.  “Pen-and-ink.”

           “You could sell those drawings,” Hiram said, twitching into full wakefulness.  “They’re good enough to bring in money.”

           “They’re not for sale,” said Jim.  

           “I heard somewhere that Van Gogh never sold a single painting,” said Hiram, “and now they sell for millions.”

           Jim half-listened.

           “You need a retail outlet,” Hiram continued.  When there was no response he leaned forward.  “What’ve you got against retail?”

           Cade shot Hiram an irritated glance but Jim said blandly, “I’m no good at selling.”

           “You sell pliers and wrenches, don’t you?”

           “Well, I like the smell of hardware,” Jim said.  

           “You have God-given talent,” Hiram said, losing interest in a man so different from himself.

           “These drawings are for God,” Jim said.  

           Hiram straightened sharply.  “Jesus saves.”

           “Art saves,” said Jim.  

           “That’s not standard Sunday School,” said Hiram.

           “Non-standard,” agreed Jim, and stopped talking.   (To be continued….)

Copyright © 2022 Marlene Lee

All Rights Reserved

Marlene graduated from the Brooklyn College MFA program in 2010.  Her short stories, essays, and poems have appeared in Calyx; The Christian Science Monitor; Descant; Indiana Review; Other Voices; Maverick Press/Armadillo; Orange County Illustratedroger: an art and literary magazine; and Southern Humanities Review. She’s published five books with Holland House Books.  Her author page can be seen at www.marleneLee.wordpress.com.

Featured Image: Laura Chouette, Unsplash

Editor: Barbara Harris Leonhard

Amazon Best-Selling Author

Three-Penny Memories: A Poetic Memoir, (EIF-Experiments in Fiction, 2022)

Pushcart Nominee, 2022

Send Submissions to meelosmom@gmail.com

Facebook: Barbara Harris Leonhard /barbara.leonhard

Twitter: @BarbaraLeonhar4

Instagram: @meelosmom123

Linked In: ExtraordinarySunshineWeaver


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6 Comentarios Agrega el tuyo

  1. Thank you, Marlene, for your fascinating story, part 2. I loved part 1, and now I am waiting with bated breath for part 3.


    Le gusta a 1 persona

  2. jonicaggiano dice:

    I love your style of writing, it is engaging and feels very real and impactful and the same time. Great part 2, have an amazing weekend. Thank you, Joni

    Le gusta a 1 persona

  3. 13rrance dice:

    The character of Jim is quite interesting with is view of drawing. I’m getting quite fond of him.

    A great sunday to you. Miriam

    Le gusta a 1 persona

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