FICTION

AUGUST 2019

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Tremendous

by John Saul

T
I am a star and this is my story. To be precise I’m an asteroid, 12818 Tomhanks. Call me Tom. It’s hard for a star, you almost never meet anyone. No one knows how to relate to you.


C
I’m a typewriter artist, Cora. I have been volunteered to meet Tom Hanks. It’s hard, hard to relate to such a star. I’ve sat in a dark room with strangers and packets of crisps watching Sleepless in Seattle, Forrest Gump and Bridge of Spies. I missed Philadelphia despite wanting to see it. No matter how close up I’ve seen him, the pores and the hairs, the teeth, he is still very distant.

 

T
I’m named after an actor out there. After him, Tom, because America trusts him like no other. Without that trust I might have been Brad, Denzel, Meryl or Scarlett but let’s stick with him. So, you guys, here I am. You know what I think? It is a rocky, airless world.

 

C

I was volunteered because too many of the actual volunteers were unsuitable for space travel, as we know it today. I was selected because I had something in common with Tom, that is, typewriters, and I was better at overviews than most people. Take space travel, for example. The volunteers weren’t taken because they couldn’t imagine far beyond their noses and what their eyes told them. I accepted being volunteered because I had no trouble imagining waiting on the launch pad and shooting up into the sky.
 

After all, I said, mice travel transatlantic routes on Airbus jets, as do flies, even spiders. They climb into the instrument panels, warm from the electronics, and put their feet up. I said that, and was met by grins. Good, friendly grins. I pitched further in, saying I could call by on Tom and give him another typewriter and snatch messages from him as I flew by. So show me your rocket, I said.
 

T
I type anything important on paper and then I make a paper dart of it and then throw it through the airless space hoping it will be received further along the asteroid belt or better still break out of it and head into the great unknown.

C
I, Cora, was recruited after being spotted perching with my typewriter on an alcove on Waterloo Bridge drawing the Houses of Parliament. I qualify partly because Tom and myself share this love of typewriters. It is not an equal love. I love using them, drawing with them, and for instance prefer a lighter model or one with extra keys. Tom on the other hand is more taken with their looks.

 

T
My nearest neighbour I do know a little about. 4487 Pocahontas is pleasant company, and we’ve had good discussions about goings-on in history. I also know the Tidewater region of Virginia so we share that too. But I would like to shoot over to 128036 Rafaelnadal and have a good round of tennis or two. Pocahontas has a whole range of fine attributes but not only has she no racquet, she doesn’t play. Be careful what you wish for, she says too, and she should know, she’s been through tough times. She says it’s too far across the asteroid belt 
for anyone to shoot over and I could end up as a meteorite. I’ve a brighter future staying put.

 

C
I often work from a bridge. Waterloo, Barnes, Kew. If it isn’t too cold I stay on, drawing by the light of my pit helmet. If I look up, and I know where to look, I can spot the area where 12818 Tomhanks lies, there in the asteroid belt. Lies is not the right word. Not floats either. Hangs, drifts, shines.

 

T
The message saying Cora would be looking for me took some time to reach me. Exactly how long I can’t say. I hear she has maybe five machines and I am closer to a 
hundred. I was given some. The IBM Selectric I Typewriter (1960s)I was given. I was told, in a language I can’t follow, and neither could Pocahontas, it was used by LDiC in CMIYC. I’m hoping Cora is good at deciphering.

 

C
Although reputedly amiable and congenial with his fans he is still a star. He has no special interest in meeting a member of the public. Thanks to our common interest I am slightly more than a member of the public. I like Tom but I don’t fancy him.

 

T
Don’t push me on this, but if you really want to know, I have an Olympia Model SM8 German Typewriter (1960s), a 1950s Royal Apollo 10 (made in Japan),and then the Royal Apollo 10electric model from 1969, so useful, without it we would not have got to the moon, us to the moon! Naturally after the business of the moon everyone looked beyond, wanting to know 4what was round the corner. The Apollo 10 electric is noisy but types fine. Here goes. Dear Cora. Do you know I also have a Vintage LC Smith Corona Typewriter (1946-1947)? I take it everywhere!


C
Everywhere? Where is that? Where do you go?

 

T
Here and there. Cora?

 

C
As a member of the public, as slightly more than a member of the public, I have a question. Dear Tom, Yes, Cora? Tom, can you walk with me in the daylight?

 

T
I never had that question before. Well sure. I’d better prepare you in advance. Where I am isn’t daylight as you 
know it, it’s more a constant blitz of light. 12818 Tomhanks is the kind that spins a lot, flash dark flash dark, you know. But don’t start me on the mechanics, unless it’s to do with a model of mine.
 

C
A walk is fine.
 

T

I can tell you what else is in my collection. A Royal Quiet De Luxe (1955)—Royal Quiet De Luxe and it is all of those! A Hermes 3000 Portable (1963, Swiss made), a Smith-Corona silent, that’s my favourite.


C

Great. If the conversation runs out I’d be happy to try your machines. The Olympia SM8 German Typewriter (1960s), 1950s Royal Apollo 10 made in Japan, the Royal Apollo 10 electric model from 1969, without which we would not have got to the moon, the IBM Selectric I , as used by LDiC in CMIYC(I did see that movie, is Leonardo up there too?), Robin’s Egg Blue Royal Quiet De Luxe and the Hermes 3000 Portable.
 

T
Mine isn’t blue.

 

C
I could still try it.

 

T
You do that. I have a Sholes & Glidden I hardly dare use, you should feel the rise on the keys. We could do a swap. I’ll give yours a go. I hear you have a 1960s orange SilverReed 100. AnErika.

 

C
A Princess 300 and a Brother Deluxe.

 

T
I’ll be happy clattering on those all day long. And still be talking away. That’s the other thing I love. Talk talk talk.

 

C
I’ve heard. Sleepless in Seattle, Forrest Gump and Bridge of Spies. I missed Philadelphia.

 

T
Sounds like you got through a load of popcorn.

 

C
Crisps.

 

T
You mean chips.

 

C
No, chips are french fries.

 

T
French fries are french fries. That’s a fact.

 

C
I’m so annoyed I missed Philadelphia.


T
It was mainly that that got me up here. But it hasn’t changed me much, I’m still a talker. Yap yap. Anything. Pocahontas. Anything but explaining myself.


C
Come on. Do some explaining. What is it you like so much about typewriters?

 

T

Well Cora, the sound of typing is one reason—another is the sheer physical pleasure. It feels as good as it sounds.
 

C
How exactly?


T
Well. The muscles in your hands control the volume and cadence of the aural assault so that the room echoes with the staccato beat of your synapses.

 

C
What are synapses? I’m not sure if I have any.

T
Sure you do. From Pocahontas to 12141 Chushayashi to Bettybiegeland 12410 Donald Duck we all do, even Willyfowler and Caravaggio. And I’m guessing you may havemore than most do. How are you on portraits?

 

C
Quite good. The money helps.

 

T

Now we’re talking. I feel we’re on that walk. We’re walking, relating, I’m glad we are.

C
We are. It’s been tremendous.

 

T
Exactly what I like to hear. Where’s my Smith-Corona? What a tremendous time we’re having, Cora. Yes. We are.

THE END

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John Saul made the contribution from England to Dalkey Archive's Best European Fiction 2018 and had work in Best British Short Stories 2016. He lives in London and is a member of the European Literature Network. He has a website at www.johnsaul.co.uk

Fiction by John Saul:

"Tremendous" August 2019