(Okay, always wanted to do one of these, so here goes.)
On a weekend road trip, far away from home, you stumble upon a garage sale in a neighborhood you’re passing through. Astonished, you find an object among the belongings for sale that you recognize. Tell us about it.
I’m lost again. I used to think that maybe my Tom-Tom had it in for me. Now, I’m sure of it.
“Take a left at the next intersection” led me here, to a neighborhood with old houses and large, sprawling front yards. Spanish moss hangs from the limbs of gnarled oaks and magnolias, and it’s actually kind of nice out here, but I’m lost, so the beauty sits far back in my mind.
I hate being lost. I especially hate being lost in Monroe, Louisiana, about six hours from home.
I should’ve used the phone’s GPS.
I’m looking for a place to turn around when I see the garage sale. Not my thing, although I am looking for a neat side table. Of course, if I find one, it has to be able to fit in the back seat of my Mustang–the trunk’s jammed full with my suitcase and gun stuff. I was heading to a gun range outside of Monroe for a shooting match when Tom-Tom decided to screw with me.
I park next to the curb. I need to get some air, walk around a bit and chill out. Hey, never know, maybe this garage sale will have some sort of rare, easy to haul item. Amazing Fantasy number 15, the first appearance of Spider-Man, would be awesome.
Doubtful, though. Judging from the stuff scattered around the concrete driveway–milk crates filled with Cat Stevens and Moody Blues albums, plastic folding tables piled with wool suits and polyester slacks–I’ll be more likely to find a Pet Rock.
Still, beats being in the car, wanting to beat the Tom-Tom.
There’s another table closer to the garage’s entrance. The interior of the garage is where they’re selling the riding lawnmower and three Murray push mowers. There’s no furniture for sale. Not even any paperback books. This sucks.
I check out the table. Beat-to-crap Emerson VCR. A Walkman with no headphones. And something that makes me back up a step.
A sky blue manual typewriter. A Webster XL-500, according to the plate stuck to its front, above the milky white keys.
My grandmother’s typewriter.
Can’t be. It disappeared a couple of years ago, from a shelf in my office closet, around the same time my ex-husband left. He’s always denied taking it, but as I told him–okay, yelled at him–typewriters don’t sprout legs and walk away.
This is a different one. I’m sure the Brother company made a ton in the 60s.
I step closer, actually touch one of the keys. The M. I tap it. The key shoots up and taps the platen. The carriage clicks to the left. I hit the S, then the Y key.
The Y key sticks going down.
Same as mine used to.
This can’t be my old typewriter.
I loved that thing. My grandmother gave it to me when I was eleven. She showed me how to set my fingers on the keys. Once, when my brother wanted to use it for a school project, I locked the carriage and told him he’d broken it. He cried. I still feel bad about it, and I don’t know why I said that, other than I was kind of afraid he would do something to it, and also because I was a dumb kid. Hell, though, it was a tough little machine.
I even brought it with me during the hurricane evacuations, Rita and Ike.
I look the typewriter over. Case included, according to the index card taped on the table in front of it. My case went missing too.
Commended by Parents Magazine sticker still on the top right. Peeled up a bit on the lower left side, though, during a failed attempt to move it.
I turn the platen knob. Splotches of white on the platen itself. That would be Liquid Paper, what you used before the Delete key.
This is my machine.
But it can’t be.
The index card says three replacement ribbons, still in their packagings, are included in the sale price of $20. I had three replacement ribbons, still in their packagings, tucked on top of the typewriter inside its case. I bought them from the local Office Max, before it shut down.
I look for the owner. He’s near the head of the driveway, talking with some old lady who’s holding the Cat Stevens album.
I approach him. He takes a dollar for the record. A rip-off, I think.
I ask him about the typewriter. He says he bought it in Orange, at a pawn shop last year, while he was in town for a car show. That’s his ’72 Chevelle over there. My car’s parked behind it.
Orange is about twenty minutes from my house. I name the pawn shop. The owner raises his eyebrows and says that’s the one.
That son of a bitch.
I buy the typewriter. I zip it into its cardboard case, knowing that three-quarters of the way around, the zipper is going to stick.
What do you know.