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Trembling Fingers

The typewriter mocked her from across the room where it lay covered in dust. It had been many a moon ago when she’d last used it. There was something about typewriters that a keyboard just couldn’t do. Pressing her fingers upon those worn out keys had been a source of euphoria. It soon turned to apprehension, hatred, fear and then neglect. Now, she wished she had never bought the thing in the first place.

It was hideous, the huge thing and she tried to think of what made her buy it. It lay ugly and heavy upon her worn out desk. It should have easily fit in with the rest of her things, most antique and some worn out. She kept inheriting tidbits from dead relatives. Ones she’d never bet before and others who had sent money hidden inside cards; she still had some of them tucked away safely in a safe. They were more precious than some of the most valuable pieces that were sent her way. Money was tight at the time of high school graduation. She remembered what an emotional wreck she was, looking at all those cards with the money inside. She never got to use it, not for college anyway.

It had been an adventurous trip to the black market that had sprung up in one of the districts close to the port. Her co-workers had dragged her out promising a lively trip and perhaps, a good buy. If not, they could at least have fun in the cove nearby. So, she’d trudged along. An hour of aimless roaming and there it was. It looked like any used thing; old and worn out by the previous owner or owners depending on its history. But it stood out from among the rubble. It wasn’t fair to call the other things rubble because they were probably more valuable than the typewriter, but there was this glow to it; a little like the hidden objects in the video games she played with her brothers as a child. As it may be, the nostalgia of that run-down childhood got her paying money for the enormous thing. Now, it sat ugly and burlesque against the setting of her room. Why had she put it there? Why not in the study, or the newly cleaned out attic? Whatever the answer, she didn’t have the heart to remove it. So there they were a mismatched pair at odds with each other.

One summer afternoon, she lay down in the lawn on an old picnic blanket – another knickknack from her childhood visits to grandmamma – drowsy and worn out from the voracious cleaning of the house. Some demon had possessed her to empty the cupboards, wash the curtains and sheet and linens and cushions, wax the floors, polish the furniture, air the house, the attic, the mattresses, polish all the dishes and the silverware, and arrange every object into an orderly fashion. In the course of one morning she achieved what she could not bear to do for two years. The house – no longer in disarray – was a thing of beauty from the inside, but still needed work on the outside. That was work for another day.

Gradually, the soft breeze and the darkening of the sky lulled her into a hazy sleep. The sky was darkening overhead and rain would no doubt follow but unconsciousness pulled at her being like a lover’s caress, soft and careful until she gave in to the call of her dreams. The dreams had a vintage quality to them, like an old fashioned photograph with an oval frame, a date scrawled on the back of the cardboard. People long dead appeared, but there was no sorrow. In the dreams she was a child once more, running through the same lawn on which she slept, chased by others of her age and family. It was a gentle, careless vision of a life past, of memories buried deep in case they kindled grief, or worse: joy which made her yearn for something more than a muted life of a high school teacher.

Music drifted through the dream, the images passing with a greater speed. They grew from bright to brighter until a flash assaulted the back of her eyes, like a photograph taken hastily. She flinched and woke up with a sudden jolt. At first, she was confused and still teetering on the edge of those dreams, and then a strange fear settled into her. She removed herself from the picnic blanket in a crouch, grateful for not mowing the lawn. The sky had completely darkened with clouds, and the distant rumbling of thunder cold be heard. The door to the house was open.

She warily crept inside and toward the kitchen before she stopped herself short.

Idiot she chided herself everything was a weapon and there was no time to grab a kitchen knife.

Barely breathing, she kept inching upstairs. She was almost on the first landing when she heard the back door swing shut. For a moment, the breath left her. She did know how long she remained frozen there, vase in hand looking a doe caught in the headlights. All at once, adrenaline filled her body and in a burst of energy she ran across the house and to the backyard. There was a man lugging away a heavy box. A limp in his step, he clearly had difficulty walking away. She couldn’t make out his age, but she ran after him.

“Hey!” she hollered, “Hey, you! Stop right there!”

The man began to walk even faster, his destination the road next to her house. She ran after him, barefoot and…furious? There was no fear, only anger and indignation. How could someone steal from a young geography teacher like that? Luckily for her, the intruder was intercepted just as he climbed up the slightly steep slope of the road. It was old man Harding’s nephew who had caught him. His brand new Chevy truck gleamed vulgarly behind him as he confronted the man. He was trying to explain something to him, and turned around when caught up.

“Ma’am, I didn’t mean no harm,” he insisted, “I just wanted to see the typewriter again. I swear I was gonna put it right back into your dainty little room, I swear, ma’am.”

Befuddled, she took him in and recognition hit her.

“You’re the man who tried to buy me out at the market!” And he had, but he had given up on trying hustling it away from the hawk-eyed vendor who was selling the thing.

“Yeah, that was me,” he furiously nodded, “see this belonged to my old English teacher. She’d sit there typing God knows what and peering at us over those horrid spectacles of hers. I just wanted to take another look and maybe-” he broke furiously blushing from his neck up, “I thought I’d service it. A young thing like you ain’t going to know how to do that on you own.”

She arched an eyebrow at him. “So you’re saying you wanted to fix this old thing up? Well, why didn’t you just ask? You can have it for all you want, I’ve got no use for it, no sir.”

His eyes lightened up and he looked at her hopefully, but not too much.

“You’d really do that?” at her nod, he began thanking her profusely. Throughout the conversation, Harding’s nephew stood, bemusedly taking in the scene. He left too, after watching the other man drive away with the typewriter.

Shaking her head and done with all the action, she went back inside just as it started to pour. All through the night it rained cats and dogs, and she couldn’t sleep. She blamed the afternoon nap, but every time she opened her eyes, she would look at the empty place on her desk where the typewriter had once stood. It had a presence when it was there, and a morose absence filled the space from where it had taken.

The next morning, she woke up to a surprise on her front porch. It was the same box as yesterday. Mildly irritated at the continued intrusion she opened it. The typewriter sat, gleaming and serviced inside of it. She was suddenly filled with an unknown emotion that filled her being. A note lay on top of it:

“Ma’am,

I ain’t got no use of this thing either and it looked more at home in your place than it did at my office. Use it well.”

She extracted the typewriter, which didn’t feel as heavy as it had and put it back on her desk. Rather than jutting out of the desk, it looked right at home. Clarity hit her and removed the cobwebs from her senses. Energy pulsed through her and she pulled back her chair to sit down. Some exotic sense of hers came alive and she pulled on her reading glasses.

This time, her hands did not tremble as she typed the first line:

“The typewriter mocked her from across the room where it lay covered in dust.”

8 Comments

  1. I must admit this is the finest writing I have ever read of you Menahil. It was among the most gripping writings I have ever read and I have to say that I purely enjoyed reading it. The storyline was amazing and the way you ended it, is more than just highly commendable .
    Hoping that I get to read similar lit content from you in the future as well! Cheers! 🔥👏⚡🙌😄

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