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One Pen

There's a kid in your class who has a brand new pencil case full of different coloured pens, pencils, highlighters, markers, crayons -- every kind of writing implement imaginable. He dresses well, has a great home life, and you know that if he loses one of his pens his mother will buy him a new one that same day.

There's another kid who has only one pen. It's a beautiful pen that his grandmother gave him before his parents moved their family away from her. A fountain pen that he fills carefully from a pot of ink and wipes lovingly with a cloth. The cloth, despite its ink stains, is of better quality than the material of his shirt. He is small, undernourished and keeps mostly to himself. In class, he answers briefly when spoken to and doesn't volunteer any more than he's asked to.

The new ritual in the classroom is for the first boy to take the second boy's pen and hold it out of his reach until he begs for it. Every day. He tells the other students that the second boy only has the pen because he thinks he's better than everyone else, that he thinks ordinary pens aren't good enough for him. One by one, the other students join in on the game. They hate the boy with the fancy pen. Their pens, though plentiful and easy to replace, are no longer the kind of pens they want. They want the special pen. The second boy appeals to the teacher to stop it, and the teacher tells the boys to stop, but when they don't, he tells the second boy that there's really nothing he can do unless something more serious happens. It's just a game. Boys will be boys.

One day there are enough of them that the game of keep-away gets out of hand. The special pen is broken. In tears, the second boy punches the first boy in the nose. There is a crack and much blood.

Outraged, the parents of the first boy demand punishment for the second boy. They are righteous and loud in their condemnation of his cowardly attack on their beloved son. Their son was only trying to make this ungrateful boy feel welcome in the class, including him in games, but the delinquent didn't appreciate their efforts. Uncivilised. Just look at his clothes.

The second boy goes home. He has no pen, which doesn't matter so much now that he has no school to go to. His parents can't afford to send him to private school, so he stays at home, nursing his resentment, fueled by the injustice.

The first boy heals. He had an excellent doctor, so there's not even a lump on his nose. He returns to school in a week, and goes on as before, with his lovely full pencil case. Nothing has changed for him. He will soon find something else that he doesn't need to covet, and someone else he doesn't need to abuse.

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