The Secret UV Pen

you can do magic

I

t doesn’t work,” Roy said loftily from the front seat.

Peaches was indignant.

“Yes it does!” she shouted from behind us. “My friend was drawing mustaches on people with his and you could totally see them when you shined the light on them.”

Roy lined his head up with the back of his seat so as to conceal his movements from his sister, then slowly shook his head in stubborn dissension.

It is book fair time at the elementary school and while there are books there, sure, there are plenty of other items that seem—for the week at least—to be essential to the happiness of eleven and under set. Things like erasers that look like iPhones, pencil sharpeners rendered in the image of dogs and many, many Justin Bieber posters.

For Peaches this spring, that item is a UV pen that purports to empower its lucky owner with the ability to write invisible

messages with one end and illuminate them with the other. She says that she has always and forever wanted this pen, which she has specifically asked for in the past but which has never, ever been purchased for her.

This sounds familiar as I can be kind of a hard-ass about book fair. If you want to buy a book—and wait, let me explain this to you in the same explicit language that I use with my fourth grader—if you have selected a book that is meaningful to you and you can show me proof of life for that title in the book fair flyer along with its actual price point then, yes, you may have that book or books. Otherwise, no, Roy, I will not give you $30 so that you may “buy some stuff at the book fair.”

It has been a trying three weeks for Peaches. She was not angry at Roy for doubting the efficacy of the magic pen (well, maybe a little), she is angry because her ankle is broken. Her cast keeps her from jumping and running with her friends. Her spirits are low and so I find myself going all soft on this thing about the magic pen.

But in the way of every consumer-driven concern, a sort of critical mass sometimes builds up around one or another of these book fair trinkets. Some eraser or Justin Bieber bookmark becomes the thing that everyone wants, like Tickle Me Elmo during that dark Christmas of 1996, for what are our children but the consumers that we ourselves have wrought? This just so happened to be the unhappy state of affairs surrounding the UV pen: a shortage!

Someone precious on the inside of book fair business intervened on Peaches’ behalf. A pen was intercepted and passed on. The magic pen was secreted home in her backpack, fussed over and tried out. It made her awfully glad.

And you know what else? It works, too.