A well worn tool

A man aged around 60 with a face like burnt leather begins to sharpen his favourite pencil. Wearing a previously white apron that had now turned a curious shade of creamy brown, he wipes the black, sticky substance from his hands onto his knee. The block of wood is lined up in the vice and all is in place. Except for the markings.

The markings must be precise, for then the cut is easy. Simple. A bad mark would set the foundations for a bad cut. He squints at the top side of the wood and envisions the area where the mark will be made, brushes off some excess sawdust and fumbles and pats his apron pocket.

The tool in question, his favourite pencil, is in fact located behind his ear. If he wasn’t himself, he’d know this straight away, as it contrasted perfectly against his silver, short hair. A quick flick of his hand and he is reunited with his old friend.

The feel is natural. Ridges have formed in the exact shape of his fingertips where the wood has eroded under the pressure of his hold. The pencil has made many marks before, and so it was sure to make another now. It has been bitten, dropped, worn, sharpened, carved as well as drawn with. The colour has faded to bare wood with just a few, spaced-out specs of red and black dotted around.

He forces a knife against the blunt piece of lead that protrudes from the body. With each stroke and slice, the blade takes away a part of the pencil and in turn, reveals a new part. This is one of the many day-to-day moments which pleases Henry in his workshop, and he tries to savour every moment.

The new point of the led against the battered, redundant body of the pencil, brings a sense of renewal to Henry’s morning.

A quick check on the block with his fingers, and the pencil is lowered onto the edge to make the first mark.


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