Our father repaired typewriters, a lost art. Here is a poem recalling his shop in the basement where he let me help him when I was young.
My Father’s Tools
Leaning over typewriter frame, hands ink dark with calluses, my father reaches around type bars and brackets, levers of tempered steel, hooking a spring, placing the smallest screw with magnetized driver. He adjusts to touch, aligning letters until they flow in perfect lines, finger strike to paper.
Broken machines wait on bench with glass jars of spare parts, needle-nosed pliers worn smooth, small torch for soldering type, hooks, benders, crimpers, oil can with long nozzle, cleaning tub with black solvent.
He lets me scrub the type and pivots, bathe them in oil, wipe them dry until they shine like reborn souls. Now the typewriters are gone but I keep his tools, fixing any problem. I show my son how to grasp each one, correct angle, knowing the tool by its function. He adds his layer of fingerprints, imagining machines he will build.
To celebrate the first birthday of my poetry collection, The Poet’s Garage, from Unsolicited Press, here’s a brief podcast of the title poem.
Based on a true story, the poem tells how we learned there was another Terry Tierney, a suspected felon, living in Lincoln, Nebraska when we moved there. My arrival aroused several official computers. The police and the social services department thought I lied about my quiet life as a graduate student supported by my tolerant, librarian wife.
Ironically, when I wasn’t distracted by writing poetry in Lincoln, I was working on my dissertation about William Makepeace Thackeray who casts his various protagonists as doubles of himself. Those doubles have much less contrast with one another than me and my apparent double.
The cover of The Poet’s Garage depicts the poem, complete with pools of grease where lines have spilled, the cardboard box of active verbs, and the files of proper nouns. As in the poem, the poet has eluded arrest, so far.
Thank you to Club Plum Literary Journal for including my story “Greyhound” in their current issue.
Like the character in the story, I logged many miles on buses, assuming I could afford the ticket, especially when it was too cold or wet to hitchhike. As much as I love Jack Kerouac, I always seemed to have less money than Sal Paradise.
The link below includes a soundtrack from Calpurnia, also entitled “Greyhound.” Very cool.
Grateful to Flash Fiction Magazine for publishing my flash fiction story. Although the story is inspired in part by my father-in-law’s history, the scene and characters are pure fiction.
“Ink dries like scabs on his fingertips, sticky on the wheel of his Dodge pickup. He shifts it like a Mustang, winding out the clutch with each gear until the engine screams the next octave. His elation accelerates with the pickup until both are moving too fast for the gravel road. But he knows there’s still time to turn around….”