by Tabitha Bevan, Age 11, USA
The fiction prompt for September was “pencil.”
To Grasp a Pencil
The scrawny eight-year-old sat in front of me in her wheelchair and continued to stare down at the floor. She had arthritis, a disease that left her body stiff and therefore caused her pain whenever she moved. As a physical therapist, I needed to help her.
“What’s your name?” I asked the girl.
“Hazel,” piped a small voice.
“Very nice to meet you, Miss Hazel. My name is Dr. Keski, and I’ll be your therapist.” Hazel nodded but did not meet my eyes. I turned to her mother.
“Mrs. Ethen, you are free to leave. You can come back around four. I’ll just be doing a couple tests, finding out what challenges she has––”
“Pencil,” interrupted the girl, “I want to hold a pencil.”
“Great, we can work on that,” I exclaimed. The mother hugged her daughter one last time and proceeded back to the waiting room with notably clenched fists. The room dropped into an eerie silence, a silence in which one could hear a petal from a wilting flower fall to the grass. I decided to break this quiet.
“So, why do you want to hold a pencil?” I questioned her. Hazel slowly lifted her head.
“Because I want to be a writer. With a pencil…I think I could dazzle the world.” Her use of big words bewildered me.
“I can definitely help you with that. But first, we’ll need to learn a few basic skills, like how to walk––”
“No. I want to hold a pencil.” Strings of determination weaved their way into her voice.
“Maybe a little later––”
“No, now.” It was clear Hazel wouldn’t settle for anything else.
“Alright then,” I finally agreed. Three hours were spent teaching Hazel different techniques to grip a pencil and trying to decipher which ones hurt her joints the least. Each grunt she made out of pain registered agony in my own body. Finally, the session was over and the girl was wheeled out by her mother. I flopped down in my recliner and took a deep breath. I realized I was exhausted. But I also realized that now I wanted more than anything for Hazel to be able to grasp a pencil and write.
The next week, Hazel returned to my office ready to get back to work on her pencil. This time, I wanted to try something different. I held a pencil between my fingers and reached for Hazel’s hand, positioning it on top of mine. Then on the piece of paper in front of us, I guided our fingers across the page, forming letters. Finally, I lifted our overlapping hands off the paper, and read the words we had written.
Someday, a girl who never gives up will be able to grasp a pencil in her hands and truly dazzle the world.
“I will help you dazzle the world with a pencil,” I said.
Hazel turned to me and whispered, “Thank you.”
Tabitha writes, “I have had a passion for writing ever since I was young, my favourite genres being poetry and short stories.”