The Typewriter

The Typewriter

A Story by Jennifer Neal

From then on it was pretty much just me and the typewriter. I would spend hours in my room typing away and I had story after story after story.




            Sometimes complete strangers can come into your life and change things for you.  You never expect them.  They just show up.  I never knew the significance of one such stranger until much later in life. 

            I grew up in a fairly rough neighborhood in Detroit.  My parents did their best to prevent my sister and me from experiencing a lot of the problems that the area was having by sending us to a parochial school.  I had many friends on my block that didn't go to my school so it was good that we lived close to each other.  We would gather at the park at the end of the block on weekends and play baseball or swing on the swings until the streetlights came on and it was time to go home.  Those were the days of begging mom for change for the ice cream man, walking to the penny candy store and splurging with only fifty cents between us and not really caring about anything except the home run that was hit during the game that day. 

            I was a straight A student at my school and  when I wasn't off playing with my friends I spent most of my time in my room reading and making up stories.  My dolls not only had names, but personalities and a life that fit each of them perfectly.  For the most part, I lived in my head and I had no problem with that at all.  Life was going great for me.

            One day, the gang and I were sitting on Chris’s front porch when we noticed an old man walking down the street towards us.  None of us had ever seen him before and we started to get a little worried when he started up the walk towards Chris's house.  His mother, with her super mother instincts, appeared instantly at the screen door and said lowly, "Hmm.  What does this man want?"

            "Hi, kids."  The man said to us.

            We muttered quiet "hi's" and Ms. Sims was out the door with her hand on her hip.  "Can I help you, sir?"

            You never could be too careful in Detroit.  This was just the standard procedure for a stranger approaching your child and his friends.

            "Hi, ma'am.  I just moved into the neighborhood.  I'm Carl James." 

He extended his hand out and she shook it.  "Do any of you kids like to write or draw?"

            My ears perked up at this.  I loved to write. 

"I do!"  I said.  Being a typical nine year old I started to tell him all about all of the stories I wrote and that when I grew up I was going to be a famous author.

            "That's wonderful!"  He said.

            My friend Jermaine spoke up. 

"I draw sometimes." 

None of us ever knew this because Jermaine was the quietest of us all.

            "Who are you again?"  Ms. Sims said.  She still seemed very suspicious.

            "Oh, I'm sorry.  Like I said, I just moved here and I'm starting a local newsletter and I wanted to do a section where kids can contribute things like stories or drawings.  Just a little something to let the community know all about our talented kids."

            "Oh!"  Said Ms. Sims.  "That's wonderful!" 

Ms. Sims was a substitute teacher so I was pretty sure she had a lot of experience with talented kids.

            "If you have any scary stories or drawings that would be great since Halloween is right around the corner."  Mr. James said.

            Scary stories?  Scary stories were my specialty. 

"Let me run home and get some!"  I said. 

Jermaine was already heading to his house which was right next door to Chris.  I lived across the street so I had a little bit of a run.

            I burst through the door and shouted to my mother as I ran upstairs to find my folder where I kept all of my writings. 

"Mom, this man wants to put one of my stories in a newsletter!  I'm going to be famous!"

            "What?"  She asked in confusion. 

            I came down with my folder and explained to her what had happened.  She looked puzzled for a minute and then told me she wanted to "meet this man."  (Another example of the typical Detroit mother.)

            My mother and I walked across the street to the Sims' house and I was so excited that I couldn't stop running ahead of her.

            "Wait for me before you do anything!"  She yelled.  

I could already see Mr. James looking at a bunch of papers that Jermaine had handed him.

            "Here!  I have a lot of scary stories!"  I thrust my folder into his hands. 

            "Great!"  He noticed my mother.  "This must be your mom."  He extended his hand to her.

            "Hi.  I'm Carl James." 

Then he proceeded to tell her about his newsletter idea. 

            The three adults chatted for a bit and we kids got pretty bored so we started throwing the baseball around in the front yard.  As they all chatted I could see Mr. James scanning my writings. 

            After awhile he approached us.  "Alright, Jermaine.  I'm going to use this one of the monster.  And Jennifer, I think I'm going to use the one about the monster in the closet if that is ok."

            Was it ok?  Of course it was ok!  Jermaine and I nodded our heads in excitement.

            "I'm going to take these but don't worry I will give them back.  I will also let you guys know exactly when they'll be in the paper, ok?"

            "Ok!"  I felt my heart leap.  I was going to be like R.L. Stine and Ann M. Martin, my two favorite authors.  I was going to be published!  I couldn't wait to get home and call my grandmother and tell her.


            We saw Mr. James again about a week later.  He gave us back our papers and told us that the newsletter would be out a week before October so keep an eye out for it.  When it finally showed up on the doorstep, I called up all of my relatives and told them.  I even brought it into school and my teacher gave me extra credit for it.  I knew that I was well on my way to becoming a famous author.  Nothing could stop me now!

            I spent most of my free time writing after that.  I started to play baseball less and less much to the dismay of my friends.  Everywhere I went I had a notebook with me.  I jotted down every little thought I had and turned it into a story of some sort. 

            Not long after that, my mother and I were outside raking the leaves when we saw Mr. James approaching carrying grocery bags.

            "How's the writer doing?"  He asked me.

            "I'm doing great!  I've been writing a lot of stories lately!" 

            "Oh, yeah?  That's wonderful, Jennifer."  He bent down really low to me.  "Hey, I was thinking.  Do you happen to have a typewriter?"

            "No, my mommy has one but she only uses it for my dad's business.  It's pretty expensive.  I don't think she wants me to break it."

            "Well, do you know how to type?"

            "Yes, sir.  We learned how to last year in school."  At my school, we learned to type in the third grade-a skill I am very thankful for to this day.

            "Well, all writers need a typewriter!"  He laughed.  "I'll tell you what.  I happen to have one at my house that I don't really use anymore.  How would you like to have it?"

            My mother stepped in.  "Oh, you don't have to do that." 

            "Oh, please mom!"  I begged her.

            "It's no problem.  I have a new one.  The only thing it needs is new tape." he insisted.

            "Please, mom.  Please!"  I knew I just had to have it.

            She sighed and shook her head but finally agreed.

            "Alright.  Well, I'm just going to head on home and get it for you then.  I'll have to get my car because it's a little too heavy for me to carry so far."  Mr. James lived a block down from us. "I'll be back in around fifteen minutes."

            "You better go clear some room off of your desk."  My mother said.  

            I ran inside and started to put notebooks and things away.  My desk was always cluttered but I could already picture the typewriter on it.  I started to think up three different stories that I could start typing once I got it. 

            By the time I was done, Mr. James' car was parked in my driveway and he was handing my mom what looked like a huge box with a handle.  It looked pretty heavy. 

            "Yeah, just put a new ink tape in it and it should work fine.  Good luck, Jennifer!"  He said.

            "Thank you so much!"  I waved goodbye as he got in his car and drove off.

            "Alright, time to lug this thing inside."  Even my mother was struggling with it. 

            I helped her carry it up the stairs and into my bedroom and she set it down on the desk for me.  I opened the case and just stared at it.  Mr. James had given me a stack of typewriter paper for it, too.

            "Oh, I have this kind of tape."  My mother said.  "I'll go get it."

            I sat down in my chair and brushed my fingers over the keys.  I could almost feel them come alive beneath my fingertips.

            My mother returned and put the tape in for me trying to explain how to do it but I was so excited I couldn't even pay attention.  She showed me how to load the paper in and told me to press all of the letters to make sure it worked right.  I did and the only problem was that the "m" key stuck a little bit.  I didn't mind though.  I just wanted her to leave so I could start writing my stories!

            "Alright, I'm going to make dinner.  Have fun."  She said.

            From then on it was pretty much just me and the typewriter.  I would spend hours in my room typing away and I had story after story after story.  I even made a sign for my bedroom door that said, "Please Be Quiet.  Writer at Work."  My parents rolled their eyes at me and my sister always did everything she could to distract me but I just kept on typing away. 

            I only saw Mr. James one more time after that.  He stopped by and asked how the typewriter was working out and he gave me some more paper in case I needed it.  After that, he just disappeared.  No one ever saw him again.  After only a few months, the local newsletter stopped coming too. 

            As time went on, I started to experience many hardships in my life and I started to use writing and the typewriter as my escape.  I would write about my feelings and anything else that came to mind.  Then I got to the point where I started writing less and less.  Pretty soon the typewriter was back in its case and stored in the back of my closet.

            When I was thirteen, my family and I moved to Florida and I never really thought about the typewriter too much.  I couldn't even remember if I packed it or not.  Every once in awhile it would creep into my head but I would immediately dismiss it.  I still wrote.  I went through periods where I wrote a lot and then sometimes I couldn't write at all. 

            As I grew, so did technology and soon I was typing up my stories on a computer.  I was also developing a serious battle with depression and by the time I was eighteen I had already tried to commit suicide.  It wasn't long before I decided to see a counselor.

            My counselor, Beth, helped me realize that I could heal my problems myself.  She also helped the writer in me realize her potential and I began to enjoy putting my stories down on paper again.  I started to show others my work and as much as I tried to dismiss their comments about how good I was, they were too strong in my mind to be ignored.

            I am now in my twenties and I have my love for life back and my passion for writing is stronger than ever.  I am starting to get my name out there so that I can achieve my dream of being a famous author.

            Not a day goes by that I don't think about that typewriter and that complete stranger, Mr. James, who opened up a huge door for me.  Even though I drifted away from it, it never really left me.  I was still writing even at the lowest points in my life.  I never knew what happened to him and I recently asked my mother.  She didn't even remember him, nor did she remember the typewriter.  I found that pretty funny because I could remember all of the times when she yelled at me to cool it because the sound of the keys was giving her a headache.

            Mr. James also gave me a sense of hope and inspiration.  Someday, I hope to be able to help a young writer just like he helped me.  I want to be able to give someone an opportunity to see what is inside of them.  It just goes to show you that strangers aren't so strange.  Sometimes they hold keys to unlocking our dreams and our goals.  In my case, my key was an old typewriter and I will never forget it for as long as I live.


© 2008 Jennifer Neal

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This really touched me.

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Added on July 8, 2008


Jennifer Neal
Jennifer Neal

Tampa, FL

I started writing at the ripe young age of six and have been doing it non-stop ever since. I write poetry, short stories, articles, and I love to blog! I am currently a staff writer for The Go-To Gi.. more..

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