"The Mathematician's Pen"
He had a favorite pen. Black ink. Smooth wooden barrel. Brass clip decorated with tiny birds. He liked to believe they were cardinals, but the engraving was not very precise. One of the birds appeared to have three wings and the other only one. Both of them had bodies that weren’t completely birdlike, as though the person responsible for the engraving had only possessed a passing knowledge of avian physiology. In spite of that the mathematician loved the pen, how it felt in his hand, how the wood caught light and bent it into pleasing amplitudes. With undeniable pleasure he recalled the buying of the pen. It was a perfect summer day. You couldn’t ask for better weather. Hot, but not too hot. A steady breeze from the west that bore the faint tang of sea salt. The mathematician ate a light breakfast of eggs and toast and spiced tea with milk and sugar. He indulged in a long and leisurely walk through the woods behind his house, not going anywhere in particular, just winding around trees and gazing up at the endless blue sky. The leaves of the trees spoke in a June rustle. The wind whispered its own secrets. The mathematician left the woods and walked into the village and had lunch at a small restaurant by the library. Salad. More tea, iced. He spent an hour in the library, reading magazines and newspapers and then checking out a book on ancient Greek myth. He went to the grocery store down the street from the library. He bought canned soup, a bar of bath soap, a loaf of bread, a small box of chocolate cookies. The pen he found hanging on a cardboard display next to the rack of candy bars and gum. There were about twenty others similar to the pen, but none had wood the color of fine chocolate. The young woman at the register said the pens were on sale, today only. Her eyes were green and went well with the wooden barrel of the pen. Her nails were painted and bitten at the tips. The mathematician wondered what caused such an attractive girl to eat not only her nails but unpleasantly flavored polish and would have asked but the young woman’s smile, perfect as this perfect day, stopped him in his tracks.