Chapter 1: The Pen

    First patented by a leather tanner in 1888, the ballpoint pen was a revolutionary evolution of the metal quill. The best selling pen in the United States is the Papermate 2100b disposable ballpoint pen which remained largely unchanged since the French company BIC introduced it in 1979. Twenty-eight million Papermate 2100b disposable ballpoint pens had been manufactured in BIC's western Michigan manufacturing plant when the it closed in 1994 due to high taxation and a long drawn out union dispute leaving over four hundred African-American men without employment.

    In the small city of Brenton Harbor, Michigan, after the nearby BIC plant closed, the total unemployment in the city rose to nearly 15%. The last box of Papermate 2100bs was taped up and carried out of the manufacturing facility during the last union walkout by a maintenance technician, Bernard Cane, as a kind of compensation for lost wages. Two years later, at the dawn of Sunday morning, he stood on a steep bank of the St. Johns River using a dead tree branch to fish. The cardboard box's integrity had diminished substantially  but still kept itself together all-be-it more empty than ever. Bernard rifled through the box carrying all that was left in his life: a half drunk bottle of whisky, fishing line, two disposable BIC lighters, a pocket knife, a slightly used BIC Papermate 2100b disposable ballpoint pen, and a well read bible.  

    The doors to the Holy St. Johns' Baptist Church flew open, and the church parishioners poured into the street laughing and conversing on the grassy lawn. Bernard walked out from church through the grass, put on his plaid jacket, and shifted the old cardboard box to under his left arm to check his watch. A fat man came up to behind Bernard, and the man put his hand on Bernard's shoulder. 
    "What are you doing here Barry? Don't you know there is no salvation for you here?"
    Bernard turned around to see that the fat man was an old family friend who was now much grayer since he'd last seen him. "Yeah, I know it, but I'm gunning for a temporary damnation in the coldest hellfire. How've you been, Sal?"
    "Oh better than you from the looks of it, I drove up for union business across the river in the big town and thought I should visit with old friends."
    "Like I said, what brings you here?"
    "I also went to see your mother, and you know she would love to visit her only son." 
    Bernard groaned and dropped his head. "I know. I know."
    "Say Barry, what is in that box you got there? Looks like it has seen better days."
    "Yeah, haven't we all. Here." Bernard reached into the box and produced a bottle of whisky.
    "I always knew you were a good friend. Same old Barry."
    "Uhuh, you can keep it."

    A small boy, about eight years old, stood in the street in his Sunday clothes crying deep tears holding a tangled mesh of red cloth, wooden dowels, and string. As a delivery van slowed to a stop yards in front of the boy, a girl and another child cleared the road, yet the crying boy didn't budge with his devastated look about his face. Bernard approached the boy, guided him by the shoulder to the side of the road, and waved the van on. 
    "Hey, hey now. What- What's your name?" Bernard said kneeling down to the boy's eye level.
    "Bill." Said the boy sniffling.
    "What happened here, Billy?" Bernard said pointing to the string and sticks draped over boy's arm.
    "Bill!" The boy corrected. "My new kite is brokened!" The boy started to bawl again.
    "Wait, wait now. There's really no reason to be so upset. Let me see that." Bill handed Bernard the tattered kite. "You say this was a kite?"
    "Yes! My brother gived it to me."
    "Hmmm." Bernard twisted the sticks around and flattened the red cloth upon the grass. "Well, let's see here." He examined the kite's condition for a few seconds and contorted his face in thought. He retrieved his cardboard box and pulled from it the fishing line, his pocket knife, and the BIC 2100b disposable ballpoint pen. After untangling the kite's strings, he could see the trouble, so he cut three equal lengths of fishing line from his reel, and fastened it to the pen using it for a structural support. During the last few years, supporting himself by fishing along the river, he had become quite adept at tying small, tight, efficient knots. The boy's face lit up with a wide smile as he saw that the kite that his brother had given him had reappeared from the tangle. Bill eagerly snatched the fixed kite and ran off towards the other kids playing beside the wooden church. 

    "Barry, you were always good a fixing things." Sal said handing back the whisky bottle.
    "The only thing that I couldn't fix was a broken heart." Bernard said as he tried to put his belongings back into the cardboard box, but the tattered cardboard finally gave in, and the box fell apart. 

    In the sky high above the St. Johns' baptist church, Bill's red kite soared in the arctic wind's surging current. When Bill had seen how strongly the wind tugged at his grip from the approaching storm, he had the sudden realization that he could tie the string of his red kite to the red collar of a local neighborhood cat. Bill imagined the cat flying through the air like Superman, but first he had to go catch the cat before his mother would be calling him home for dinner, so Bill tied the kite off to a lower branch of the tree in the church's abandoned backyard. The wind gusted strongly pulling the string taught against the strong tree branch, and after a few minutes, the kite's string finally snapped allowing the kite to escape even higher into the darkening clouds above.

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