By Donald D. Shore
They say to be a writer is easy. Just sit down
in front of your typewriter
I always passed it off as something a writer says
to sound cool and edgy.
And besides, I’ve never even owned a typewriter. That is, until a short while
ago, when Jolene gave me one for my birthday.
A dull black, dust stained relic, with the word
ROYAL embossed in gold
letters atop the carriage. We found it in a thrift store one day as we were
roaming around town, inside a little place we had never noticed before. Jolene
was off down one of the limitless aisles of clothing racks inside the musty old
building searching for vintage t-shirts she could sell online, and I was bored,
looking through items stored inside a glass cigar case. My eyes stopped on it,
old and battered, surrounded on either side by junk jewelry like a mountain of
black volcanic rock jutting up from an ocean of fake glitz.
“Neat.” Jolene was behind me. I hadn’t
noticed her until she spoke, my
eyes transfixed on the laminated keys.
“Yeah,” I agreed, but it was more
than ‘neat’ to me. Something about those
glass keys, the yellowed sheet of paper rolled into the tumbler, fascinated me.
I didn’t even see the clerk until he said,
“Would you like to look at it?”
I pulled my eyes off the typewriter and saw him
standing behind the
counter, rolls of jelly crammed into a tight fitting XXL shirt, wisps of thin
curly hair spiraling out from the sides of his head, and eyes magnified by the
Coke-bottle lenses in his glasses.
“It’s vintage,” he said. “Antique.”
“Does it work?” Jolene asked, always
the sensible one, always quick to the
“Of course, it works.”
The clerk slid the back of the case open and grunted
as he stooped down to
lift the typewriter out of the case with both of his chubby hands. He set it
gently on the glass counter.
“Comes with its original case, too,”
he said, looking at me instead of
I stared at it, enraptured, and let my fingers
taste the smooth coolness
of the keys. I applied the slightest pressure, barely a touch, and the stamper
snapped like the jaws of a fearsome beast, engraving an ‘a’ on the yellowed
sheet of paper.
“You like it?” Jolene whispered close
to my ear, though she sounded a
thousand miles away.
“Yeah,” I said, sweat forming on my
upper lip. A tag hung off the side of
the carriage, and my heart sank into depression. “It’s neat,” I said, putting
strength into my words that wasn’t really there, “but not two-hundred dollars
That was the end of it, or so I thought, as we
left the thrift store.
Jolene hadn’t been able to find anything to sell, and after the disappointment
of losing out on my first typewriter, I was ready to go, to forget all about
I saw the typewriter again on my twenty-third
birthday. Jolene took me out
to eat at my favorite restaurant, Rosie’s Mexican Cantina. It’s not the most
expensive place in town, but for two struggling college students, it’s like the
Ritz. We had our favorites, hers the Mexican lasagna, me, the enchiladas, and
of course several rounds of margaritas.
Jolene. I don’t think she ever looked prettier
than that night. I don’t
think I ever loved her more than I did beneath those red-tinted lights of the
“I’ve got something else for you,”
she said, as we made our way drunkenly
back into the apartment we shared.
I saw it right away. Sitting on my desk like some
ancient idol, shining
dully beneath the lamp, was the typewriter from the thrift store. The ROYAL.
“How could you?” I said, turning to
her. I couldn’t imagine how she had
saved up two-hundred dollars.
Jolene smiled. She put her arms around me. I still
remember the soft odor
of strawberry margarita on her breath.
“You like it?” she said.
I nodded. “I love it.”
She kissed me. Her soft lips enveloping everything
I had ever dreamed
“I have one more gift for you.”
I couldn’t imagine what she could do to
top the typewriter. Then she
smiled, and I knew.
are you going to write
about?” she asked me, as we lay in bed together, the soft light of the moon
seeping in through the window blinds like longswords pressed against us.
I stared at the ceiling, her soft hair against
my cheek, my arm wrapped
around her, my hand against her smooth skin. It was one of those perfect
moments, so few and far between in life, where you have everything you want or
need. My girl by my side, my love…
It was then I knew life would never be the same.
Those moments can’t last.
They never do. I turned to her, our eyes close together, and kissed her.
“You’re not going to tell me?”
“If I told you,” I said, “I’d
have to kill you.”
The clatter of the keys pounded through the night.
The clack of metal
smacking against paper is a foreign and forgotten sound to those of us brought
up in the age of technology. The soft patter of fingertips against plastic is
but a whisper compared to the physical presence of a typewriter.
The neighbors hated it. Hated me. As I worked,
my mind racing for the
perfect word, the perfect phrase to express the rush of feelings I was putting
down for posterity, a loud crash came from upstairs, shaking the ceiling and
throwing off my concentration. I ignored it, shook it off, and it came again a
few minutes later.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Sweat dripped from my nose, wetting the keys beneath
my fingers. I typed
on, clack clack clack, a ka-ching! when I reached the margin, a ratchet, clack
clack clack ka-ching!
BAM! BAM! BAM!
There is nothing more frustrating to a writer,
holding on to each word
with broken fingernails, than to be interrupted as the words flowed. To block
the currents of inspiration with a heavy foot stomping overhead is the act of
My first real night of working, my first taste
of true inspiration, and it
was being obliterated by a cranky old man who wouldn’t know art from a
paint-by-numbers hobby set.
I tore the page from the carriage. Glistening
beneath the light of my desk
lamp, those gold embossed letters spoke to me, and I knew what I had to do. I
knew how the chapter would end.
I stood up, the weight of the ROYAL in my hands,
and carried it to the
The door swung open after I knocked, and the short,
wrinkled excuse for a
human being stared back at me through crooked glasses.
“What do you want?”
I smiled. “Do you know what this is?”
I said, lifting the ROYAL so he
could see it through his cataract filled eyes.
He looked down, his mouth a thin wavering line
beneath a large bulbous
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s
what’s been keeping me up all hours of the night.”
“This,” I said, lifting it higher,
raising it above my head, “is my art!”
I brought the typewriter down, dropping its full
weight against the old
man’s head. He fell backward, his glasses gone, blood streaming into his eyes
from a cut on his forehead. He crumpled to the floor in his living room, his
arms raised as I came forward, the typewriter in my hands.
“Oh, god, please…”
“God doesn’t pity the destructors
of art,” I told him, my voice calm,
relaxed, as blood dripped from the bottom edge of the typewriter planting red
blossoms on his carpet. “God is a purveyor of the arts. The giver of
inspiration. Look at history. The Sistine Chapel. The Last Supper…I mean, you
have to be a fool not to see it.”
His mouth cracked open, his leathery skin soiled
with the blood streaming
from his head, as he reached for me.
I shook my head. The weight of the typewriter
pulled my arms down,
demanding I finish what I had begun, demanding the work
“Please,” he cried.
I silenced him as I brought the ROYAL down once
more on his head. His body
shook with convulsions, then lay still, the look on his face hidden by the
bloodstained typewriter wedged into his face.
I looked down, knowing I had my first chapter.
Knowing it would be a
masterpiece, no matter the sacrifice.
Sometimes Jolene would watch me from the doorway
of our bedroom, arms
crossed beneath the soft nubs of her breasts, dressed only in the over-sized
vintage t-shirt she wore as a nightgown. If she suspected anything, she did well
to hide it. No one knew about the old man upstairs. No one would know, until
his rent check was due. And then, the ROYAL told me, the masterpiece would be
But she watched me, a jealous look in her dark
eyes as my fingers caressed
the blood-flecked keys of my new lover, the way a budding musician works the
keys of grand piano.
Slow at first, little rhythm. Fingers finding
their way. Building. Working
in time. An ecstasy in the staccato pounding of the notes.
Clack clack clack ka-ching! Clack clack clack
Page after page rolled through the carriage. In
those dark lonesome hours
of the night, I was oblivious to everything around me except for the words
pouring out of me, running through my fevered mind, stamped onto the blank page
with a sharp clack, each letter like a knife to the chest.
“You coming to bed soon?” Jolene asked.
Every night it was the same.
Reluctantly, I would answer, “Yes.”
An automatic response, her shadow
hovering over the page as it scrolled through the carriage.
I turned to her. “Just let me—”
but looking into her eyes, those soft
glimpses of infinity, could still catch my breath, and she would lead me to the
But those days were numbered. Even within the
confines of our bedroom, I
felt it call to me. My new passion, growing, unearthed, simmering to a boil
Soon, not even Jolene, with all her beauty, all
the love we shared, could
come between me and my new love. I was writing my masterpiece. I knew this. It
came to me from those keys. The ink stains on my fingertips was the blood of my
soul giving birth to stories untold.
School was forgotten. Silence followed my name
after it was called at
roll. The job I worked at the carwash abandoned. Their calls unanswered. And
Jolene made her rounds to the thrift stores alone.
I had to concentrate. Alone, pounding the keys
of the typewriter, ignoring
the growing stench emanating from upstairs. It was a sacrifice. All the great
writers made sacrifices for their art. It would be the same for my novel. My
great work of art. My ode to life and love and the human condition, explained as
one else had ever been able to
explain it before. Sweat poured from my brow every night, until faint sunlight
cut through the window blinds like razor blades.
“What is this?”
I had fallen asleep at my desk and woke dazed
and weakened, to find Jolene
hovering over me, my manuscript in her hands. Had I bothered to look in the
mirror, I would have seen a face unfamiliar to me, gaunt and thin from a great
loss of weight. I had poured it all into my work, with the help of the
As if in a dream, I watched Jolene flip through
the pages, her radiant
brown eyes gone flat as she picked a line or paragraph, read it, and then
flashed to another.
“This is what you’ve been working
Her voice was hard, accusing. Her eyes flashed
toward me like whips. I
stood up from the chair, my heart thudding against my chest like a ballpeen
hammer. I tore the manuscript from her hands.
“You know I don’t like for you to
read my work until its finished,” I
said, holding onto the pages as if the stack of papers were a child in need of
“Your work?” she demanded. “You
call that your work? You dropped out of
school, quit your job – quit me – for this?”
She snatched at the pages, tearing several sheets
out of the manuscript,
and held them up like an actor reading for an audition.
“He gripped her throat – felt the
soft throbbing vein in her neck.”
I reached for the page and she pulled away.
“The blade slid between her ribs like soft
butter – the sweet blood flowed
down her pail—”
I snatched the page away.
She started on the next.
“Her eyes popped like over-ripe grapes—”
“Stop it,” I said. “Stop! You
She threw the rest of the manuscript at me. The
pages scattered like paper
airplanes drifting across our small apartment.
“You’re right,” she said. “I
don’t understand. I don’t understand what’s
happened to you. You’ve thrown away everything,” she pointed at the manuscript
scattered about the floor, “for this? It reads like a psychopath’s manifesto.
There’s no story – just random scenes of girls being murdered!”
“You just don’t understand it, Jolene!”
I protested. “You never have!”
“Because there’s nothing to understand.”
Her eyes watered and her breath
caught in her throat. “I wish I had never given you that thing.” She was
crying. The little crumbs of eyeliner soaked up her tears. “Either the
typewriter goes, or I go. This place is
beginning to stink and it’s all because of that…that thing!”
Her words stunned me. My eyes shifted from her
to the typewriter. I felt
my insides rip apart.
Then she reached for it, her fingers splayed out
like claws. I beat her to
it. I grabbed the typewriter with both hands. I raised it above my head. She
looked at me, her face blank, terror making its way down her spine. I brought
the weight of the typewriter down on Jolene’s head. There was a heavy crunch as
the metal cracked her skull. Warm blood splattered against my face, my chest,
and my fingers, and she fell, her arms splayed out to her sides, another
sacrifice to the Gods of inspiration.
I don’t know how long she lay there. A couple
of days. Maybe a week. I had
to finish my book. My great work of art. The clack clack clack of the keys
absorbed me, the typewriter pulling the story out of my very soul.
I hear them coming now, even as I stamp out these
last few words. They’re
coming to take me away, to separate me from her, my lover, my typewriter, my
ROYAL. But they’re too late. I’ve finished. I’ve bled over the keys, and now,
as the door comes crashing in –
clack clack clack ka-ching!
Donald D. Shore lives in Huntsville,
Alabama. He has had short stories published in the Western Online, eFiction
and Freedom Fiction.com.
You can follow him at
A. F. Knott is a self-taught collage artist focused on
book layout and book cover design as well networking in conjunction with Hekate
Publishing, one of its missions, bringing together artist and writer. Sometimes
seen selling in New York City's Union Square Park. Work can be found on
exchange of ideas welcome: email@example.com