Thursday 10 April 2014

Short fiction - The Man with the Typewriter

Hello again. Another day, some more time and another writing prompt. This time I've been over at Studio 30+ and it has been an age since I've written and linked there. I always get the prompt update emails and read quite a few, but this week time and inspiration have lovingly conspired and I am back with another story. The prompt this week is canned laughter. Thanks for reading and see what you think. 

The Man with the Typewriter

There was something in the way she had looked at him as she passed. Like he was a beautiful honeycomb, wondrous but untouchable. Turning, he knew she’d be gone by now, and she was: just the empty path dotted with leaves and shadows and the past. Jeff brought his feet together and raised and lowered his heels in the arriving evening chill. How long had he been sitting there, mulling over someone else’s words, another’s life? Too long.
He looked up towards the sky through the trees, growing violet as the late summer’s day eased into night. What would he do with his evening? What could he do, except contemplate what she had written, what she had offered? 
A faint shadow landed on him and didn’t move. Jeff looked forward, unstartled to see the woman from before standing there, like it was the only place in the world she should be. 
“Jeff Miller?” The most silent of whispers. 
He nodded.
“I thought it was you. I read your books. I know they are banned and all, but my father gave them to me and I –” She glanced both ways at the empty path – “hide them under the floorboards. I think they are wonderful. I wasn’t sure you actually existed, if you were alive. Still.” She added the last word and made it sound like the miracle it was.
“What is your name?” Jeff asked, and patted the bench beside him, offering her a seat, giving himself the chance of a real conversation. 
She shook her head. “I can’t. I am on my way to work. I remembered your face from a poster when I was a girl. I am so pleased to have met you and been able to thank you for your work. But I must go. I mustn’t be late.”
“Stay safe,” he offered, as she turned on her heels and made her way back into the past. 
For the past was ever present: in the letter he’d read that morning, his books, this woman who actually still read. He breathed in and out purposefully, remembering things from the day, trying to anchor himself to something other than his thoughts.
Before the sirens sounded to return home, he got up and left the park. The streets were almost empty and he preferred them this way now. For he didn’t trust people, they were different, abiding and numb. 
Back in his room, in the basement, he lit candles and settled into a chair. On his lap, his old, trusted typewriter. At his side, a stale glass of water. He would save it until later, but it was always better to use the taps before dark. He couldn’t remember why. 
I will come, he typed slowly, methodically. I don’t know how yet, but I cannot exist in this world. I should have left with you, but I thought, naively, foolishly, that what I was doing, my words, they could push back the tidal wave. Now I am resigned to this tiny room, obscurity and the generous turning of the cheek of my landlord. Today I met someone who could read and not only that, read my books. Darling, it wasn’t enough, for we couldn’t talk. All those words and all I can do now is say it was for nothing. I am now an imposter in this life, an extra piece of the puzzle, canned laughter, an autocue, a fake. It is heart-breaking. I must leave, and finally - A tear dropped in between the keys. I will see you again. My always love and bitter regret, Jeff. 
His fingers hovered. There was always more, but it would have to wait until the words could be spoken. He laid the typewriter on the floor next to his feet and leant back, linking his fingers across his belly and closing his eyes. His world hadn’t been what it should have been for a long time and he sighed. 
       Tomorrow he would call on the postman. He smiled: they didn’t believe in real post. Paper was limited and not many could read, let alone write. He may have been a dreamer, a young fool, but now he had more weapons than all of them out there. Words. He was ready to plan his escape. 

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  1. Oh, my. Such a dystopian world you have created. It reminds me a bit of the work of Karen Russell. I can only magine the anguish of being a writer in a world where nobody reads.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I know, what an empty, closed world it would be.

  2. I fell in love with the first paragraph, Laura and continued reading in a flash. You have woven a breathing world in few paragraphs. Love the profound simplicity in the line: "He breathed in and out purposefully, remembering things from the day, trying to anchor himself to something other than his thoughts."

    1. That means a lot to me coming from you. Thanks so much!

  3. I hope such a world never exists... Thank you for linking in this week! (last week?)


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