If you read these words, then you are cursed.
You may be blessed, maybe even doubly blessed, but definitely,
definitely, you are cursed.
Now, don't stop reading. Don't stop reading because you're
afraid. These words, these observations of a simple and miserable
man, won't curse you.
You were cursed before you got here.
The writer found himself in front of a junk shop on the periphery
of his city's downtown, a mid-sized and decaying city, the decay
starting along Main Street and fanning through the shopping districts
and neighborhoods like waves of a seismograph.
The junk shop was along a shabby avenue of two-story storefronts,
an avenue lined with dead trees and rusted and ignored parking meters.
The window of the junk shop was scratched and foggy, and the cracked
and wide sidewalk that ran in front of the shop was littered with
bits of blowing trash and rotting leaves.
The writer entered the junk shop, pushing open the door that
was once painted red, but the paint had peeled in chunks and strips,
giving the door a mangy and ancient sort of look.
A cowbell attached to the door rang as the writer entered
The shop was moderately famous, as was the shopkeeper.
The Old Man, the writer was told, go and see the Old Man.
The writer was one of limited success. He had stories printed
here and there, and praise was given him, as one would pat the head
of a dog that had performed a trick or obeyed a command.
The writer wanted more praise, more success. The writer wanted
his name to be a household word; he wanted his name mentioned in
the same breath as all the dead and great writers. The writer wanted
children to be forced to read his words in classrooms.
He was frustrated by the lack of real fame; his ambition
was like a curse that he wore like a chain. He wanted to be famous.
He wanted his works to be immortal.
The writer decided that immortality couldn't be accomplished
typing one's words via a computer.
After all, Edgar Allen Poe didn't have a spellchecker.
So, he set out to buy a typewriter, as if a typewriter would
put magic in his words, as if the aesthetic sluggishness of writing
with an old and manual typewriter would allow him to reach some
sort of spiritual and higher plane, like a Buddhist monk who endures
hardships to reach some sort of nirvana.
The interior of the shop was bleak, very bleak. The writer
felt like he stepped inside some old black and white movie as the
store was void of almost any color. The floor in front of the black
counter was concrete and badly in need of sweeping, and the merchandise
was stacked behind the counter, stacked in a way to suggest that
all the ancient appliances for sale would come tumbling down if
the door was slammed shut.
The writer took in the shop, took in the pile of ancient
appliances behind the counter, a pile ceiling-high with no telling
how far back it stretched. And the pile was all aged chrome and
black trim. Blenders and toasters and irons and television sets
with rotary knobs all were mangled in the haphazard pile.
The only splash of color in the store was a half-empty bottle of
Cutty Sark on the counter, the yellow label shining like a canary
in a mineshaft.
The writer nervously sipped his steaming cup of Starbucks
and peered around the pile of dusty appliances in search of the
In search of the Old Man.
The writer heard a shuffling of feet and then a phlegmy cough
and the sound of spittle hitting the floor. The writer heard a "fuck"
and then a "shit" and finally, finally, the sound of slow
footsteps approached the counter from the recesses of the shop.
And the shopkeeper was indeed very, very old. His appearance
caused the writer to take a step back, as if a member of the walking
dead was approaching him.
The Old Man was no more than 5'3", and his head was
bald and pale and littered with liver spots and moles. His naked
eyes were ringed in red and void of any color. He was wearing an
untucked flannel shirt and baggy khaki pants and he laughed loudly
when he took in the writer with his wire-rimmed glasses, his green
sweater, his cup of Starbucks and his long coat with an upturned
"Ah, I should've fucking known, first customer of the
day and I've got a fuckface standing in front of me." The Old
Man coughed again and spit onto the floor, and took a long swig
out of the bottle of Cutty Sark.
"Umm," the writer could write verbal jarring in
his stories, but in real life he was always short on words.
"I'm looking for a typewriter, an old Royal, and I heard
you were the man to see
"Oh great." The Old Man wiped his mouth with the
back of his sleeve. "I should've fucking known, another goddamn
writer, another whiny fuckface writer
Yeah, I've got typewriters,
got a shitload of them, but they all either drop the letter G or
else the numbers don't work, and you can't find ribbons for them
you piece of shit
but I suppose you want a magic
typewriter, don't you?"
The writer was confused. First off, he wasn't quite sure
how to take the verbal abuse the Old Man was giving him, it almost
seemed appropriate and deservingthe way the Old Man spoke.
And how did he know he was a writer?
"Well, I don't want a magic typewriter, just a typewriter
"Listen, fuckface, I know your kind. You don't get to
be my age and not know a thing or two about fools like you. How
and where you write and what you write with don't make a damn lick
of difference, but I'll sell you a typewriter, sure, no problem
And the Old Man retreated back into some corner of his shop.
The writer stood in front of the counter, nervously rocking on his
heels and sipping his coffee in furtive gulps.
The Old Man returned with a black and bulky Royal typewriter,
the kind the writer used to pretend to type on at his grandmother's
house when he was a child.
The Old Man slammed the typewriter on the counter and a cloud
of dust erupted in protest.
"Here you go, fuckface, here you fucking go. Try it
out and see what happens."
The writer approached the counter and set his coffee cup
down. He pushed up the sleeves of his coat and started typing without
any paper. The typewriter was indeed sluggish, he had to wait for
the hammer to strike the ribbon before he could type another letter,
he would be forced to type at a much slower pace than he would on
But the great writers wrote slowly. Kipling would stare out
of his of his window for an hour between paragraphs, turning the
words over in his mind as he stared at the colonial and humid Indian
Yes, the typewriter would help him, the writer decided. The
typewriter would make him slow down and think about his words. He
would have to type slowly and carefully, as the typewriter had no
delete or insert key, no built in thesaurus, no word counter. It
would be just him and the keys and his words.
Magic words, he hoped and assumed.
"Cool, I'll take it," the writer said as he pushed
down his sleeves and sipped from his cup of Starbucks. "How
"Your dumb fuckface ass would probably give me a hundred
bucks for this piece of shit. Your dumb fuckface ass would probably
pull out his credit card and let me swipe it for whatever I want
You fucking writers are pathetic, pathetic and selfish. I mean,
come on, you assume the words you write are worthy of someone's
precious and fleeting time?"
The writer shrugged, and sipped his coffee and the Old Man
was right, he decided. A writer has to be selfish and egotistical
to expect people to read his or her words.
"Tell you what..." The Old Man unscrewed the top
off of the bottle of Cutty Sark and took a fast and long swig. He
wiped his mouth with a flannel sleeve. "I'll tell you what,
I'll sell you this typewriter for twenty bucks, this typewriter
that I picked up out of somebody's trash for free about thirty years
ago, but I'll tell you how to be a great fucking writer for another
fifty, how does that sound? Seventy bucks and you walk out of here
as the next O Henry or Raymond Carver or H.P. Lovecraft or whoever
the hell you think you oughta be."
The writer set his cup of coffee back on the counter and
reached into the back pocket of his khaki pants. He pulled out his
old and faded leather wallet and counted out three twenties and
"Sure," the writer said, so willing to throw money
in any direction that could help his writing, even from such a crude
and dubious source as the shopkeeper.
"Yeah, I knew you would. You're all fuckfaces and would
sell your souls if you had the fucking chance to be on the New York
Times bestseller list, but a deal's a deal and you're gonna walk
out of here a changed man, a changed man with a busted-up piece
of shit typewriter that you're never gonna use," and the Old
Man grabbed the writer's coffee cup and poured in a large shot of
the Cutty Sark.
"Scotch and coffee don't mix, but you gotta start somewhere.
You gotta live a little and quit hiding behind that fucking cup
The writer drank his coffee and made a face and drank some
more, the scotch sending warmth from his stomach and across his
"Okay, what can you tell me?" the writer asked,
feeling somewhat emboldened by the scotch.
"It's easy," and the old man coughed as he reached
for a half-smoked cigar from the breast pocket of his flannel shirt.
"Ya ever listen to the radio?"
The writer nodded.
"And not your fucking wanna-be-an-elitist public radio
either, fuckface, but you know, music, Top 40 stuff, ya ever listen
The writer shrugged his shoulders and nodded.
"It sucks, doesn't it?" the Old Man asked with
his teeth clenched around the unlit and thick cigar. "The music
they play is crap but people eat it up, and you wanna know why?"
The writer nodded, not sure where the Old Man was going.
"Cuz those musicians, they know the spell, they have
the spell, it's like an incantation in the music, an incantation
in the words and music that make people worship those no-talent
fools who prance around on stages and on television screens. They
know the spell when some kid who can play the hell out of any instrument
doesn't, and that kid will become a frustrated fuckface like you,
all because he doesn't know the spell."
The writer was hooked.
"The same goes for writers. You ever wonder how some
hack can type some nonsense drivel and write a novel about nothing,
and still sell over a million copies?"
The writer had wondered about that all the time.
"It's cuz they know the spell of the worlds, they know
how to write with rhythm, they know how to write with magic and
rhythm, they know the formula, and for your fifty bucks, I'm gonna
give it to you."
And the antique dealer went into the back end of the shop
and returned with a dirty and stained writing tablet. He took a
swig of Cutty Sark and lit his cigar and scrawled a paragraph with
the nub of an old and eraser-less pencil.
"Here ya go, fuckface. This is all you need to know."
The writer read the paragraph, his eyes opening wider and
wider with each digested word.
Startled, the writer looked up at the old man, he looked
at the old man as if he were some sort of ancient god that had just
dropped out of the sky, or a demon that had risen from the bottom
of the earth.
How do you know all this?"
The antique dealer laughed, his laughter swirling with the
smoke of his exhaled cigar.
"You ever wonder what my name was?" the shopkeeper
asked the writer.
The writer shrugged his shoulders and nodded.
The old man uttered his name, the old man uttered his name
and his face and body disappeared in a cloud of cigar smoke as he
wandered back into the caverns of his shop.
The writer stood open-mouthed and startled. The old man had
the name of a writer he had read in school, a writer long dead but
immortal in his words.
The writer put the piece of paper in his pocket and walked
out of the shop without the typewriter, and without the cup of Starbucks.
He didn't need to hide behind a cup of coffee anymore.