Sandra's Stationery Set

Sixteen-year-old Sally was the eldest child in the Erton family, the poorest people in the village. It was a well-known fact - things did become suspicious when all your possessions were second-hand. However, the Ertons had no choice. Mr and Mrs Erton worked as farmers, which was not the best possible occupation during a drought. Sally also helped irregularly, while juggling school and looking after her younger siblings. As a result, they had to save money in order to raise the family of five. It would have been good if Samuel and Sandra could help on the farm, however, one-year-old children did seem a little young to be picking up hoes and shovels.

In order to help her family when she grew up, Sally worked hard at school. Like many other people that had the title 'Nerd', she was a target for bullies, however, that did not stop her achieving first place constantly. In fact, she was the only person in the century-long history of the school that had achieved the top rank in all subjects for four years in a row. Of course, she was hardworking and smart. However, I much prefer calling the other people lazy and stupid. Again, like many other people that hold the title 'Nerd', she was a well-known and liked student by all the teachers in the school. Consequently, she easily obtained a job, despite her social status.

However, the job was not a very good one. Although Sally worked in the local stationery shop, where she knew everything about every one of the items on sale, she worked for an ill-tempered manager that paid her less than all his other workers. However, she did not mind - after all, pay was pay.

People say that one good turn deserves another. Well, Sally was a good person, I suppose, and I suppose that she was eventually rewarded. Whatever she was like, though, she definitely cared for the environment. Yes, being an environmentalist was definitely an extremely rewarding experience for her...

Anyway, it all began on a hot, stuffy afternoon, while Sally and the other employees were cleaning up the shelves...

"Sally, take that pack and throw it away. It's taking up space on our shelf, while we could restock with much better stationery." Sally immediately recognised the voice of the manager, who stood outside his office, watching as his employees tidied up, restocked, cleaned and slaved around the shop. If that was not bad enough, he was also licking an ice-cream cone, almost as if he was showing off his wealth.

"It's the last one left, Sir. It should sell out quite quickly."

"Look at it. It's plain. It's colourful, but it's plain. Why would anyone want a set of stationery looking like that?!" barked the manager. "I don't know why I stocked it in the first place. It's been on sixty percent off for a week, and no one bothered to touch it."

"Can I have it, Sir?"

"Have? Girl, can't you see that it's on sixty percent off? You'll still have to pay me four dollars."

"But you're throwing it away, Sir."

"Who said?" shouted the manager. Knowing that prevention was much, much better than cure, Sally obediently walked over and put four dollars on the counter. She quickly finished her job, and ran back home with her new stationery set.

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Remember how I said everything owned by Sally was second-hand? Well, I forgot one important thing that was not. That was me, the humble and dusty laptop sitting on her desk. Actually, thinking about it, I could be considered second-hand. After all, I was made from spare parts of other laptops that did not need them. After piling me together, the cheap person decided to do a little 'draw' for a cheap fifty cents. Sally was the 'lucky one'. It was a rip-off, but so what? I work alright. A little slow, but I work. Well, maybe it did matter, because I constantly saw people looking at me strangely. Advanced technology might not have been such a good thing.

I had always been terribly lonely. Of course, I could hold some good long conversations with Sally's stationery, but I rarely saw them - they only stay on the desk for a few hours of the day, after which they would be put back into the bag. I suppose, then, you can imagine my pleasant surprise when Sally brought her new stationery set home. Okay, so the gang was a little plain, but then appearance really did not matter much, compared to personality (or stationery-ality).

Unlike many other people, who could not bear to use new stationery, Sally was different. For the first new nights, she did everything she could with her new stationery. This may sound a little ridiculous, but it did involve playing with them too. However, the most notable thing was the amount of English homework she did with the pen. Within the month, the stationery began to gain knowledge of and admire her writing ability.

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The thing I really hated about the climate here was that it was stuffy and hot, even in mid-autumn. In addition, it was also noon, just when the sun was overhead and showing off its power, radiance and heat to the rest of the world. Sally had gone to school, and the stationery and I were occupied by our usual conversations. Even after half a year, I was still fascinated by all the stories of the past lives of the stationery set.

"Oh yes, my pages were all parts of eucalyptus trees, before being cut down and all," said Nora, the pink notebook, dreamily. "Before that...I'm not quite sure..." She stared out the window.

"Pink is sissy. And sissies can't remember anything," drawled Norbert. "I came from...wait a minute...Hey, but I do remember three things from my past life. That's two more than you!"

"Just because you're blue. I'm going to sulk now." She waddled over to a corner of the desk and bent over. The rest of the stationery set laughed. It was not a smart idea, because at that instant, Nora waddled back over to hit us all on the 'head' (???). When we finally shut up, she waddled back to sulk again.

"You can actually remember what you were in your past life." I looked out the window unhappily. "I can't. I just remember I came from random unused parts of other laptops."

Byron the Pen came over to console me. "It might not always be a good thing to know what you were. I wish I were you."

Penny the Pencil joined us. "It's true. I remember that in many of my lives, I was just sharpened and sharpened and sharpened, and when I was too short, they threw me away and left me to decompose." She sniffed. Pencils did not have noses, but she sniffed alright.

"And I was the victim of an evil little boy. His English was terrible, but he kept writing stories with me! ARGH! It was terrible! I feel like a criminal, letting all these pieces of junk come onto the world. W-w-wait a minute...more is coming back to me. There was this little girl that was the same...and this other boy...and this other boy...ARGH, I FEEL LIKE A CRIMINAL!" Byron wailed. He began crying, however that was possible. Suddenly he stopped, and I wondered whether I dreamed of the whole thing or not. "I wish people would have more respect for languages. How hard is it to learn the basic rules of grammar in any one given language? I don't ask for much, just BASIC..." He began wailing again.

"So true, so true..." The whole stationery set shook their heads unhappily. Call us 'WEIRDOS!' all you like, but we are stationery.

Byron was finally silenced when Penny cut in and threatened to draw on him. "But actually, Sally's English is really good. She has the potential to become a good writer. But have you seen all those story ideas she scribbled into Nora? They're all terrible. That girl lacks a lot of imagination and creativity. She's too…dead…" We all nodded mechanically. Up...down...up...down...boring, but at least we would not be drawn on.

Hearing that, Nora stopped sulking and turned around. "I totally agree. However, I suppose that if we made some minor changes to her story ideas, they could go on."

The others all began nodding more vigorously. It was infectious - even I found myself bobbing my head up and down.

"Yeah, she's a good girl, but she's so unlucky..." Penny's voice trailed off.

Sharon the Sharpener looked doubtful. "I'm not sure...I mean, a part of me once belonged to Perry Grine (I was his favourite pen), that famous author a few centuries ago, in some remote village. He was initially very nice to me too, but after he achieved fame and fortune, he just dumped me. And I was a pretty pen back then, with intricate carvings and a controlled ink flow." Our nodding slowed down again. No one liked to listen to Sharon's descriptions of herself.

"I'm sure that happens to everyone," said the highlighter, Florence. "We'll all be dumped at some stage. But hey, at least we brought some joy to this depressed, sad and gloomy world." The rest of the stationery set nodded in agreement.

"Thank goodness that Sally has a bad memory." Byron looked at the clock. "Whoa, two-thirty already! Nora, open up. Let's start work." Obediently, Nora flipped to the last page where Sally had all her story ideas. Byron and Penny quickly jumped on, and wrote as quickly as they could.

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"Hey, check this out, guys!" I called to the stationery set, who were all asleep. They had been writing for hours on end, and were very exhausted. However, this was important.

"Let us get some more rest...you left me open too long yesterday. Now the white-out's all dry." Whitney yawned, and closed her eyes again. Seeing as the boldest of the stationery had opened her golden mouth, they all followed suit and fell back down to sleep again. However, a powerful bright light cast on them by me changed their minds. Unwillingly, they hopped over to the screen, and I opened a window for them.

"What's this?" asked Red Mark, the red texta. He and his fourteen brothers (all textas of different colours, if you were interested, and all named Mark) peered at the strange colours on the screen. They were soon all pushed aside by the other stationery, who could not see the screen because of them.

"Ooh, I know!" exclaimed Casey the Pencilcase. "It's one of those online newspapers, right?"

"Smart, kiddo. Anyway, look at this." With the cursor, I highlighted a paragraph, which the stationery read with interest. Soon, the slits of the barely-opened eyes grew so wide I was afraid that their eyeballs would roll out.

"Wow, Sally's story is in the newspaper! Sally's in the newspaper! She won some writing competition! THERE WAS PRIZE MONEY! SALLY WON...what, only twenty dollars..." The group began whispering amongst themselves. I doubt it was of excitement. Actually, it depends on what you define excitement as. Knowing them, it would be more like complaining about how badly Sally received.

"And if you want to read the story online..." I opened another window. Of course, no one really needed to read it. It was so familiar...

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By the time Sally was twenty, the Ertons were in financial ruins. Sally had to quit university, and Samuel and Sandra had to leave school. They had to spend their day working at the stationery shop and the farm. Whatever time they had left was spent on chores, and home-tutoring the twins. Sally only had a few minutes a day to write or doodle in Nora and Norbert. In fact, she had left her stationery untouched for a whole month now, and they were beginning to feel abandoned.

Finally, one day, Sally managed to free some time for herself. She sat down on a hay bale, and for the first time in a whole month, she began drawing inside Norbert. She was just adding colour to her picture with the Mark brothers, when Marian came and sat down next to her.

"Hey, look, you have your laptop here. Can I use it?" she asked. Sally nodded slightly, and Marian happily picked me up. She opened a game of Pinball, and began playing. After a while, seeing that Sally was not commenting on her extremely high score, she peered at Norbert to see what Sally was so engrossed with. As soon as she saw, her jaw dropped open, and she began laughing out loud, while dropping me onto the floor. Luckily, I was very strong and did not break.

Immediately, most farmers dropped their tools and ran to the scene, to find a girl rolling on the floor, shrieking. They quickly ran to help her up.

"What's the matter?!" shouted the farm manager in Marian's face. Sally turned to the commotion.

"Don't worry, Mister Black. Marian's laughing, not crying."

Upon hearing that, the farmers left the scene as quickly as they came, except with very irritated expressions. With extreme self-control, Marian pulled herself together again, and took another look at Sally's pictures.

"Your comics are great! The art's good and the joke's funny. Can I see the other ones?" Impatiently, she took Norbert from Sally, and flipped back to the beginning, reading all the comics in the book. "Hey, these are better than the ones in newspapers! Where did you get the idea of having stationery as your main characters?"

"From my own set," said Sally proudly, gesturing towards the whole gang. They smiled, except no one knew. After all, to human eyes, stationery is just stationery.

"You even bothered naming them? Casey the Pencilcase? Rupert the Ruler? Eliza the Rubber? Byron the Biro Pen?" Sally rolled her eyes impatiently as Marian flipped through the pages, carefully reading each comic.

"Marian, can you please go a little faster? I've a lot of comics in there..." Sally continuously poked Marian, knowing that the girl did not like it. However, Marian ignored her, occasionally commenting on the quality of the comics.

"Fine, just keep reading. I suppose it's about time I go work again. You'd better be finished when I come back." Marian nodded.

After a long wait, Marian finished the comics, just in time to go home. "You know, I really think you should publish these. I'll even help you." Just as she turned to leave, she spied Nora. "You've another one! I'll just borrow it for a while." Without seeking permission, she grabbed it and ran home.

"That one doesn't have comics in it!" called Sally, but Marian was already too far away to hear her. Sighing again, she packed up the whole gang (except Nora, who was stolen) and went home.

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Just as Marian promised, she helped publish the comics in the local newspaper, (a paper with the most original name, The Village Times). Business was not so good at first, as very few people wanted to read a comic strip called Sally's Stationery Set. The editor even considered rejecting Sally, however, through her and Marian begging and offering to deliver the papers for free, eventually, people began to like the strip. Soon, Sally Erton, the poorest girl in the village, became a household name. She earned some money, which allowed Samuel and Sandra to go back to school again.

After the success with Sally's Stationery Set, Marian encouraged Sally to write books as well. She had read through Nora, and praised all the story ideas (well, they were obviously good - I mean, we stationery do have brains, and we were also once stationery of famous authors and cartoonists...except me...). Obediently, Sally did. Due to her popularity and status inside the village, her book had no trouble at all, finding its way onto bookshelves around the village. The word spread, and as more and more outsiders came into the village, they also brought some of the books out of this little place. A few years later, Sally had worked herself up to the ranks of other popular authors.

Of course, although we were not noticed and acknowledged for our great work, we were happy nevertheless. We did bring joy to the world, or at least temporarily so.

People say that small things have to be sacrificed for the greater. Usually, I strongly agree with that - I mean, thinking about it, I was made from a sacrifice, too. However, what happened after completely changed my views.

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Five years had already passed by the time we saw Sally again, when she came back from all her interviews around the country. Of course, she did not just leave her family alone for all this time - she had periodically sent some money back. The Ertons were now the richest people in the village, and Sandra and Samuel already had a place secure in university, despite only being fifteen.

We should be happy and proud of ourselves for creating such a great person, and bringing some joy to the world through her. Do not take me wrongly, I am not saying that we are not proud. However, our outcome was not so good.

When we saw Sally again, she was a pretty thirty-year-old, carrying around her baby son. She had always been a mature person, I suppose, but now...it was almost as if we did not know her. That is the sad thing, really, because we did. It turned out that she had come back to move her family into a better home. They spent the next few days packing up, and in the process, there were many arguments over the next few days between her and her less serious siblings, however, there was one that stood out for the whole stationery set and me. It was not a heated argument, but to me, it was the saddest thing I had ever experienced in all my past lives.

"Sis, how are you going to pack away your stationery set?" asked Sandra. Samuel stacked all the flat things, while Sandra put the rest into Casey.

Sally turned around, a irritated look spread across her face. "What? What stationery set?"

That was probably not the best thing to say to some friends that you had not seen for five years. Just the fact that she did not take her first tools away with her was hurtful enough.

"That set you always wrote in when you had time," replied Samuel, hoping to jog her memory.

"What? Oh, that one. Hm...there's no point taking those away. They're old, dusty and will probably fall to pieces if I touched them."

"HEY!" yelled all of us in unison. It probably did not matter - as if she would hear us.

"You can't! They helped you!" Sandra protested. Samuel nodded vigorously in agreement.

"I know loyalty is a good trait...but really, towards stationery?!" Sally looked incredulous. "Oh well, I suppose I shouldn't just waste them, though." She looked at the floor thoughtfully. Smiles slowly spread across her siblings' faces.

She walked across the room and picked us up. She sorted through us, and took out Penny, Nora, Norbert and Robert. "The rest can just be thrown away, but I shouldn't waste these." Sally left the room.

Why them? Okay, so they did help, but we were part of the gang too! If laptops could cry, I would be drowning the world in tears.

"Laddie, it's not what you think," said Sharon. "Remember, Penny, Nora, Norbert and Robert were all made from trees."

"So?" I asked.

"You're right...I suppose being thrown away and left to decompose is probably better than cremation..." her voice trailed off.

Oh, right...Again, it was a good thing computers could not cry. Sometimes, I wish Sharon was not so clever. Just then, a yell was heard, most probably from Samuel.

"Sam, go stop your sister! She's crazy!" cried Sandra. "I'll go fetch water."

Evidently, Samuel could not, as he was pulling on Sally's arm in the next minute, literally being dragged as she walked back into the room. As if her brother was a flea, she flicked him off and picked up the rest of us.

"You're crazy, sis! They helped you so much! You can't..." Sally carried us out of the room, but Sandra suddenly intercepted and pulled us out of Sally's grasp. Although it was obvious that Sally could have hold on, she let go reluctantly.

"You two are the crazy ones. Who would become so worked up on fifteen-year-old stationery?" She shook her head in disbelief, and left Samuel, Sandra and what was left of the stationery set. "I'm not that bored. I'll go pack. When you deal with the stationery, come back and help, okay?"

The twins looked at each other, and sighed with relief. Unknown to the rest of the world, we did as well. However, it was not a sigh of relief, but one of sadness. We all looked at each other. It's sad, isn't it? The best, most intelligent stationery set in the world, almost separated by the person we helped so much...

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When Sandra and Samuel took the stationery set out again, we were already forty-year-old stationery that had crinkly pages, dirty edges, dry of ink...all unusable. Even if someone touched us, we might fall into billions of pieces. However, we were not afraid of being thrown away. After all, no one threw away museum exhibits...unless a thief broke in here and decided we were not exactly display material.

Yes, you heard right. Here we were, sitting in a museum opened by the Erton Twins. Underneath was a sign, written by Sandra and Samuel.

It is sad, is it not? The first set of stationery that helped Sally Erton take her first step into the world of authors and cartoonist, but almost separated the person they assisted so much. Here are the remains of Sally Erton's Stationery Set.

-Sandra Erton


A/N: I got this idea when I was drawing cartoon pictures of stationery at school...and then, I thought of a kid's book of Toy Story that I read, where Woody says something along the lines of it's not being how long a toy is kept, but how much fun the kid has playing with it. So...here you go.

I hope you enjoyed it.

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