Every typewriter has one. Some of us have a couple, and an unlucky handful have more than that. The more you have, the more you worry. Perhaps you didn’t provide enough encouragement or were too unlucky or rigid or overly rousing. We prepare better the next time around. We shine our keys. We flex our bars. We tighten our knobs and grease our rollers and wait for our human to show up.
It was the Saturday before Christmas and I’d told myself they’d saved the best for last. All my friends had already been chosen, Norman and Tully and Carlitos and Bertrand. One by one they’d been carted out by serious sorts of men, men with thickly rimmed glasses and laced shoes and vests that smelled of fresh cigar smoke and stale gun powder. They’d bid me adieu with a solemn nod of their carriage and I’d done my best to keep my margins up, to look confident and proud. Even lopsided Louisette had been picked, just that afternoon. It was half past 2 and we all knew that Tinkering Tom closed up shop around 3 and those of us who remained – myself and Dave and a couple old timers – were starting to lose ink. Louisette even cast me a sad lopsided blink of her backspace, a pity blink, if you will, as she was placed into her case; I comforted myself that at least I wasn’t snatched up by a little boy with sticky fingers. Little boys never do know how to wash the chocolate off their hands.
I knew at once that the human who entered the shop next was a bit off. She had straw-colored hair that looked as if it hadn’t been properly brushed in some time and too-wide eyes, as though they’d been injected with pixie sticks. She’d giggled as she glanced at the shelves – couldn’t she see they were nearly bare? and squealed as she stroked the keys – what sort of sensible grown-up squealed? She was a grown-up, I knew, by the little lines that rippled across her furrowing brow as she browsed, but her expression was that of a child’s. There was something about her that I found quite silly and rather off-putting and entirely infuriating all at once.
Tinkering Tom apologized for the lack of selection. He said there would be more options in January after returns and trades, but the frown on the grown child’s face suggested it couldn’t wait until then. Tinkering Tom suggested Dave. Dave was reliable. Dave was easy. His keys never stuck, perfect for a first-timer! But the grown child shook her straw-covered head and looked to me.
Now I’m a Royale Quiet De Luxe. We don’t go home with just anyone, especially not a novice who squeals and can’t be bothered to brush her hair. I had made my peace that I was being saved for a greater purpose, perhaps the New Year or the Chinese New Year or at least an anti-Valentine’s Day manifest. I dulled my keys, I stuck my space bar, but this human was persistent. She smiled as she turned my knobs (which I’d softened near-limp). And then she whispered in a voice only I could hear, “hi Marvin.”
How did she know? In my shock, I accidentally released my carriage lever and Tinkering Tom rushed to my side to reset it. He apologized again. He said perhaps she’d be better off waiting for another machine. He’d call her when a “less complicated” model arrived. I chose to ignore the implications, and so did she.
As I rode home on her lap, I realized I’d found my greater purpose. My human hadn’t chosen me, she’d come for me. About a month later, she’d tell me why. In the meantime, against all odds, I’d have to get her to brush her hair.