Thievery: William Faulkner’s Typewriter
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. Today we have Isla Telford with a Faulkner-inspired story.
‘Well, now, Mr Stevenson sir, you have a beautiful machine here. You are a lucky man, I hope you know that. How in the hell do you manage to take it with you on tour? These things are beasts.’
Mr Stevenson sniffed and shrugged. ‘I need it so I bring it. Can’t write this album on anything else.’ He sat down cross legged on the edge of the cleared circle, elbows on bare knees, chin resting on his hands. ‘So, you get much work?’
Jay unpacked the trolley. He laid a white sheet out over the floor and put a deep plastic tray in the centre of it. He tipped gasoline into the tray and topped it up with oil. He put two small trays next to the machine, then laid out his brushes, pliers, screwdrivers, benders, cloths and wire. He unlocked a smaller box. A tiny pfft of dry air escaped. Inside was fine grade glass-paper.
He stood up, stepped back, hands on hips, and admired the order he’d created. He caught Mr Stevenson’s eye, still crossed legged on the floor like a child in Hebrew school.
‘Feeling strong, fella?’ Jay winked and nodded to the Underwood.
Together the two men lifted the typewriter and lowered it into the gasoline-filled tray. Mr Stevenson shivered and started searching the room for more clothes to put on. Jay settled on his knees and took a deep breath in anticipation. He began to dismantle the machine. As he worked, he talked.
‘We got some loyal contracts still, sir. There’s a division of M15 based here in NYC and between you and me they use Russian rules – paper, files, change the type-rolls regular, lock and key. They don’t go in for these old machines, of course, they have electric Smiths. Still need an overhaul and repair works doing.’
Jay soaked a white cotton cloth in the gasoline mixture and ran it over the inside of the Underwood’s chassis. Mr Stevenson sat back down in the silk hammock. Jay didn’t look up from his work. He was glad of the strong petrol odour. It felt clean amongst this man’s filth.
‘Police, the same. DCI Unit keeps stuff offline, off computers, filed away.’
Jay lifted the key segment clean out of the base, wiped it over with the gasoline-soaked cloth and blew through the keys.
‘Then we got people pick something up at thrift shops, flea markets, can’t leave them behind, take them home, bring them to us. We got one shop now in Greenwich deals with restored machines, telling us they do a trade with kids in their twenties, tired of touch-screens, want to press a button for once in their lives, want to make a mark.’
Jay touched the lever down and pushed the chassis across the machine. The heavy sound of the ratchet ended in a dull ping. Jay sat back on his heels and sighed. ‘That sound is beautiful, ain’t it?’
‘Then,’ he said, removing screws from the sides of the machine and laying them in the box in height order, ‘we got people like you, get themselves something with a little bit of value and want to keep it nice.’ Jay put the lid on the box that held the screws and looked up. ‘I gotta ask, Mr Stevenson, what d’ya hafta pay for her? Professional interest, and I am sorry to ask.’
Mr Stevenson screwed up his nose, felt around inside the hammock, found his cigarettes and offered one to Jay.
‘Quarter? About £250,000. Dollars, not pounds. Back when dollars was less, like.’
‘And has she been pretty good to you so far? Sir, I have to ask you to take the lit cigarette away from the machine and the fuel.’
Mr Stevenson rolled out of the hammock and opened the balcony doors. Crisp chill and mulch and traffic.
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. Today we have one of my favourite Scottish-folklore-inspired writer, Suzy Kelly.
Six hours into her 80th birthday, and six hours before she died, Sister Mary Frances experienced her first orgasm. She awoke in the half-light, confused and open-mouthed, and with a thundering heart. After a few moments, her breathing still laboured and her muscles still tensed. Even her breasts betrayed her as they ached in time with the pulsing of her pelvic floor.
On becoming more aware, she looked up to the small wooden figure judging her from the Cross above her bed. The carved Saviour, splayed open in his own agony, sent down waves of shame. For the Lord knew hers was not the sanctioned ecstasy of Bernini’s Saint Teresa. This was something more carnal; even though it had come to her unbidden and against her will.
Throughout her life in Christ, Sister Mary Frances had done as she had been taught. She’d pushed away all sensual, Earthly thoughts by keeping herself active in the community. When she returned to her cell at night, after teaching and tending, she was ready for nothing but sleep. Never once had she reached her body’s greatest heights. So, it was in times like these that she knew she was truly sick. The disease had won.
Still, she consoled herself that the event had not occurred through her own tremoring hands. It was another test of faith, another of the Heavenly Father’s plans, since her forced retirement. However, absolution would come through confession and her trusted Sisters would understand this burden when she shared it with them over breakfast.
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. Today we have the talented and generally delightful Rebecca Smith.
First life lesson. When we were little we used to crush rhododendron flowers, add water and hey presto, rhody perfume. Roses worked better of course, but roses were precious. During the summer the gardens on the estate were open to the public so we would stand on a corner of the path and wait for the slow gait of old couples. They thought my brother and I were the sweetest things they had ever seen with our shorts, muddy white t-shirts and tiny perfume bottles. We sold them for a couple of pence, collecting the coins in an old jar. Mum laughed when we showed her our profits. But she said we couldn’t expand the business. The flowers weren’t ours. Our shop floor didn’t belong to us. And, frankly, we were coercing people to buy. Running a business is tricky.
Second life lesson. A winding, hilly road circled the estate. One day Mum let me take my bike to visit my friend who lived at the farm at the bottom of the hill. I fled down the road like my wings had been unclipped, the wind cold on my legs. Then I saw the car coming. Terrified, I pulled my breaks on so hard my bike stopped dead and I somersaulted over the handle bars. My body skidded to a halt on the tarmac road, a few metres away from the bike. The car slowed and the driver wound its window down. My mum, always close by, heard the scream from the garden and was already half way down the road. She carried me back to the house and called the doctor. I still have scars on my legs and my face. Always, always wear a helmet.
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. Today we have an astrology-inspired elegy from Rebecca Harrison.
Every night, we wrote down the names of the stars which had gone. So we could watch the skies, Nora brushed the star ash from our window – our parents still called it snow. Sunset was ‘curtain close’ and then we weren’t meant to look out. So after we’d gone to bed, we lay awake listening for sleep sounds. The old space books were under our beds, but when we held them up to the window their pages had stopped matching the skies.
When the star ash first started falling, we were in school. It looked like cloud feathers. We didn’t know it wasn’t snow. The teacher shouted us away from the windows but we just heard the silence more: it was space-wide. The windows were behind us. Nora sat in front of me and didn’t turn round even when I nudged her chair. The classroom became cold. I sneaked peeks at the windows. The world was white wings.
In the playground, I ran until my legs were wobbles and everything felt like downhill. Nora grabbed my hand and we fell onto a drift – it was as soft as hushed mist. We lifted our hands in the falling snow but when we stared up through it, we could see the clouds weren’t there. By home time, the streets were wading-deep. The others raced off, but we lingered behind. The snow looked like it was falling on the wrong speed. When we finally got home, we shook it from our hair. Nora said it didn’t smell like ice or cold, and I opened the window to see. Outside, the air smelled like underground sounds.
This month I’m doing a mentoring special to celebrate all the talented and diverse writers I’ve been lucky enough to work with through WoMentoring. Today we have a gorgeous, gory fairytale from Holly Garrow.
There were still stitches on her chest, black thorns twisting over her heart. She ran a finger over the crude threads as she looked at the thin, snowy dress waiting for her and hoped that the stitches wouldn’t show beneath it.
Bring me her heart, her stepmother had said.
And so they had.
Whatever beat in her chest now was different. She could feel it, hear it, all the time; each thump and pulse, the constant thud.
She slipped into the dress and swept her hair over her shoulder, falling like an ink-spill down her chest.
Bring me her heart.
She wondered what her stepmother had done with it. Was it now entombed in a trinket box, drained and dried and dead? Had she tossed it straight into the fire and scattered the ashes in the snow? She couldn’t shake the image of her stepmother sitting at the table, red hands and bloodied chin, sinking her lovely white teeth into her heart.
The doctor opened the door with a single sharp knock. He held out a length of red chiffon and a cream lace mask. She took them without a word and turned to the cracked, rusted mirror in the corner. She tied the silk ribbons of the mask, adjusting it around her dark eyes and draped the veil over her head, turning the world crimson.