The proverbial theorem of putting an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of typewriters (it’s an old postulation), ad infinitum, where they would reproduce all the great works of literature - never intrigued me. Phui, who can wait around? Always wondered why not suppose they would create some of their own? No doubt they could best me. I feel like a monkey (no offense to my wonderful nieces and nephews) when I look at all the stuff on the word processor’s…whatever you call it...tool bar options. If I sat for a long time and played on my computer, I’d figure a bit of it out. Our teenage daughter has over the years. I don’t have a lot of time to goof around on this thing. I’d be in big trouble if I screwed something up because Darling uses the home computer for work. She is somewhat of a professional processor, in that she prepares official-type documents. As it happens, things do go funny once in a while with a PC, and if, coincidently, I happen to be on it at the time, I am immediately suspect and all hell breaks loose. Spell check, bullets, fonts, B, I, and U, symbols, etc., I can handle, but don’t ask me to do a table, or columns, or even margins/tabs. I’ve intended to take a course at the community college but, if I need fancy things, I call Kid or Darling into the office. They act incredulous that I don’t know how to do - whatever it is, are annoyed (I have interrupted what they were doing), call me lame, and, impatiently, boot me from the desk chair long enough to do the action. Shades of my dad, I guess. People would ask him why he didn’t wear a watch. “I can always ask some son-of-a-bitch,” he would say. (No offense to my wonderful family.) There are all these buttons on the keyboard. What is Pause Break? What does F Lock do for you? It’s a great tool, our PC. Indubitably, would be of even greater use if I knew a few more manipulations. Help?
When I was growing up, our family had a Royal typewriter with a rugose, matte-black finish. For years it sat on our family’s large wooden desk, then, was moved to my older brother’s room in high school. The name was on the front, like Steinway on a piano. The imperious letters grew taller in the middle, the right leg of the “R” underscoring the rest. The crown piece had an opening that looked like a parted curtain. Beneath, thin steel arms with letters lay in curved formation, saluting with a snap as you struck a key, tangling in midair if you went carelessly fast. Round keys with white letters on black back ground, a clear piece of plastic shielding each, held in place by a chrome pinky ring, the return arm and other shiny pieces, begging to be touched with purpose. It was rarely used. After my brother went off to college, and my father died, we sold the farm to an attorney who wanted to get back to the land, as we had some fifteen years earlier. Long enough for a man to become ill, healthy, and die, a woman to weary, or boys to grow up. The typewriter, along with the tractors, pickups, tools, and my father’s clothes, were dispersed among neighbors.
I’d like to have a Royal, even if just to admire. I could use it for a poem once in a while, or a thank you note. Crinkling onion skin, bluish, oily carbon papers, spools of black/red ribbon, even White Out for a modern touch, sitting near. I realize now why writers of yore had separate studios out back, or down the street. It isn’t that they needed quiet. If they were banging on the keys of a typewriter, slamming the carriage return, tearing out paper from the roller platen, who else could think? It would wake up Darling in the morning.
Kid is exactly the age I was when my father died. Seventeen. She held the hand of her other grandfather as he slowly died. Put a cat down. Moved twice. Slipped between barbed wires of a fence her grandmother helped build to scatter her ashes in a pasture. She has gripped her life with two hands and hoisted it like a sail.