Guest post: The Man Who Rescued Typewriters, by Bill Meissner

by | May 5, 2020 | Uncategorized | 3 comments

–After finding a Coronamatic electric typewriter with 4 nonfunctioning letter keys. The machine was still able to type the words “typing with missing keys”

They call his name. They always do.

Whenever he’s in a thrift store or a salvage outlet, he can hear their muffled voices murmuring from a high shelf or from beneath a table.

Today he spots it in the back of a store: a scuffed, gray case, indistinct as a dark and starless night sky. Most people would not even know what it was—an obsolete hair dryer, they’d guess, a record player, perhaps, an ancient reel-to reel tape recorder. Something to be tossed in the trash or left on a curb with a sign marked “Free.”

But he knows better. He clicks the latch, opens it, and gazes at a two-toned aqua-blue Smith-Corona Galaxie, a Galaxie as bright and lovely as anything he has ever seen.

He places the typewriter on the passenger’s seat next to him for the ride home. As he passes beneath shafts of angled afternoon sunlight, the chrome carriage return lever tosses him a glimmering smile.
In his apartment, the Galaxie joins the legions of twenty-one other typewriters he’s collected, all waiting in the corners of the room for his touch. He loves them all, his Olympias and Royals and Remingtons and Underwoods—because they’re all anxious to type the stories that have never been told, the poems left unsaid.

Today the newfound Galaxie pulls his hands toward its keyboard. At that moment, the words enter his fingertips, and he begins to type.

At first, of course, there are errors and typos. The world is filled with flaws, mistakes, strikeovers, he knows. But then he allows the subtle current of the sentences to take him. He begins to ride on them, like riding a raft on a small, winding stream gliding steadily toward a river, a river that leads to an ocean, an ocean that evaporates into a billowing cloud in the sky and then releases itself back to the earth again as gentle rain.

The words taste like velvet chocolate, like fine Merlot. He feels the texture of the words: some of them are sharp and jagged, some smooth like polished agates. They sound like a rapidly-ticking clock, or a steadily-moving train. The words fill him, just as they are filling the whole room with light. They give him vision, like a blind person whose opaque corneas can suddenly see a sunrise burst from the horizon.

Soon he’s a skilled pianist playing a concerto with graceful scales and arpeggios, a flowing 26-letter symphony. The words rise up—not just from deep within the typewriter’s mainspring, he thinks, but deeper, from the center of himself, from the center of the earth. The sentences make him billow with emotion. He suddenly understands the joy and fear of a free-falling sky-dive from a plane, volcanoes and earthquakes of anger, swirling doubts of gusting winds, tears of rainfall released onto parched land. Suddenly he feels, through the keys, the whole world—with its love and pain and beauty—entering his body, and for those few moments, he carries it all. He sees the words “I carry it all” appear on the page.

Two hours later, he’s about to type the final paragraph, to finish his thoughts. He exhales a long, gasping breath.

But for some reason he can’t pull his fingers from the keys.

It’s as though they’re being held there, hypnotized, and the keys are memorizing his fingerprints one by one. Not just memorizing, them, but falling in love with them. And his fingertips are doing the same with the keys.

So he snaps out one more sentence, then another.

It’s amazing, to keep typing, to write all evening and into the night. Suddenly he feels like he doesn’t need to rest, that he could keep typing for a long time, without hunger or sleep or exhaustion.
Finally he understands: he’s in the heaven of typewriters, a place where he could write forever, and never grow older. A place where every word makes sense, where every word is beautiful, and true, and says everything it needs to say.

* * * * * *

Teacher/author Bill Meissner is the author of five books of poetry and three books of fiction, including SPIRITS IN THE GRASS, a novel which won the Midwest Book Award. His most recent book of poetry is THE MAPMAKER’S DREAM (2019, Finishing Line Press). He loves old typewriters, and has a collection of ‘approximately’ 21 of them, including a recent rescue machine which had four non-functioning letter keys but still typed the words “typing with missing keys” when he tested it. He lives and types in Minnesota.


  1. Bill M

    A nice typewriter and typing can be quite addictive.
    Nice story.

  2. Ted

    Yep, that sounds familiar (:


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