The Old Remington: Part One

This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 1050 words.

Martin had always wanted to write a novel. He imagined his name on the cover, and thought ‘Martin Harwood’ would look good, especially after the words ‘The new bestseller from…’.

He had a solid idea for the story too. It would be about the frustrations of a forty-something man from the big city, a man whose life hadn’t quite worked out as he planned it. More or less his own story of course, but he would change the name of the main character, that was a given. Still, there were a few obstacles to overcome. For one thing, he didn’t own a computer. He had thought about typing the whole thing onto his mobile phone, but he soon gave up on that plan. He could save up and buy a computer, perhaps even a second-hand one, but he had been out of work for so long, cash was tight. Besides, he had always imagined himself clattering away on a typewriter, like real writers used to. Cold coffee in a mug by his side, and an ashtray filled to overflowing with cigarette butts at his elbow. That was another problem. Martin didn’t smoke.

Anything to get out of the flat, he had taken to wandering aimlessly around the back streets of the run down district he now called home. He did it at the same time every day, usually just as the street market traders were packing away, and less people crowded the narrow alleyways. It was good to have some routine in your day, a reason to get washed and dressed. He crossed over to head home, past the small shops that stayed open after the market closed. Something made him stop outside the window of one of them. It was an old typewriter, standing in its zip-up case. Nice and neat; a portable with a cream-coloured metal frame, the keys shining as if they had never struck a sheet of paper. He felt drawn into the cluttered shop, finding himself surrounded by ancient cameras, telescopes on stands, and binoculars hanging by their straps, from hooks in the ceiling.

Everything he had seen so far led him to expect the appearance of some elderly, shabby man behind the counter. But when the curtains leading to the room behind parted, he was surprised to be greeted by a very smart man, in an immaculate three-piece suit. His hair was slicked back, and he wore a fresh flower in the buttonhole of the jacket. Martin looked him up and down. To say this character was out of place in such a shop was an understatement. “What can I help you with sir?” The voice sounded younger than the man speaking, and the accent was European, perhaps Dutch. “The portable typewriter in the window, could I look at it please?” Martin tried to sound disinterested, no need to let the bloke think he was too keen. The shopkeeper moved to the window, his action smooth, as if gliding on ice. “Ah you have a good eye, sir, if I may say so. That’s a classic, the Remington Ten Forty, the writer’s friend”. As he handed it to Martin, he winked, as if they were sharing a secret.

It was surprisingly heavy, for such a small machine. Martin thought it might even be designed for a child, but everything was there. He pressed down on the space bar, watching the carriage move smoothly until a sharp ‘ding’ sounded the end of its travel. He unfolded the carriage return, and slid it back. It was as smooth as the shopkeeper’s walk, like it was running over oil. Even the keys looked untouched. Black letters on a cream background, not a wear or smudge visible. The man gave him some time, waiting patiently as Martin zipped up the case, and lifted the whole thing by the carrying handle. “The ribbon is new, and I will include a spare. You can still buy them of course, but if you have any trouble, just come and see me”. He was talking as if Martin had already bought the thing, and the price hadn’t been mentioned once.

Trying to use some haggling psychology, Martin put it back on the counter. “Do you have any others I can look at? I’m about to start work on my new book, and may need something more substantial”. The man grinned, enjoying the game. “Sadly not, sir. But I assure you this is all you need. Some of the greatest works of literature have been written on machines just like this one”. Martin hoped he would mention a price, but he didn’t, leaving him to begin. “So how much are you asking for it then?” Moving a hand to rest under his chin, the man stared at the typewriter for a ridiculously long time. “I couldn’t let it go for less than forty, I really couldn’t”. Martin fought hard to conceal his surprise. He had expected it to be twice that, but he wasn’t about to just agree to the first price. He nodded pointlessly for a moment, before countering. “I was thinking more like twenty-five. It’s old, but hardly an antique”. The reply came back so quickly, it made Martin jump. “Say thirty, and we have a deal”. With that, the man extended a hand, and they shook on it.

“I have to go to the cash machine in Rolt Street, is that OK?” Martin hoped the man wouldn’t suddenly pretend to have another customer for it. “Of course sir, I will be here waiting”. The balance on the cash machine showed he had less than a hundred in the current account. That would mean transferring some of his fast-diminishing savings next week. He took the three ten pound notes from the drawer of the machine, and hurried back to the shop. He was surprised to see the man standing in the doorway, the typewriter zipped up in its case, ready to go. Martin handed over the cash, and received another huge grin. “Good luck with the book, sir”. With that, he shut the door and turned the sign behind the glass to ‘Sorry, we are closed”‘.

Martin got all the way back to his front door, before he realised he hadn’t asked for a receipt.

45 thoughts on “The Old Remington: Part One

  1. Hi Pete – my grandmother lived above a typewriter shop after my grandfather died. I was always fascinated looking at the old machines in the window.

    Does this one write a great novel for you?

    πŸ™‚

    Besties from Florida

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I bought my first typewriter in 1965 to head off the college. An Olympia. Very snazzy. Until then I had used my mother’s Underwood she had bought in 1938 for college. Never had a Remington. Love the story so far and look forward to the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. My first typewriter was a 1930s Adler, given to me through my Mum’s job, when they upgraded. It was 1960, and I was just 8. It was huge, like a car engine! I loved it so much. I later had an modern Olivetti, and in 1972, one just like this Remington portable. My last typewriter before buying a laptop was a Brother Electronic, with a snazzy ‘digital window’, showing the line you were typing on a screen. πŸ™‚
      Glad you like the new serial.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My late neighbor moved to Hartford to work in the Royal Typewriter factory here. I will always have very dear feelings for typewriters in general and often do imagine they keep track of everything ever written on them.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed reading this Pete. Talking of names perhaps Martin Harwood is good. I read once that some writers use names beginning with Hs, Ls etc. so they’re in the middle of the shelf (eye-level) in bookshops. Don’t know how true this is!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “The shopkeeper moved to the window, his action smooth, as if gliding on ice.”

    Martin “…unfolded the carriage return, and slid it back. It was as smooth as the shopkeeper’s walk, like it was running over oil.”

    I enjoyed this comparison very much, Pete. This is the sort of thing that makes your writing so very pleasurable to read.

    As for typewriters, I grew up using an old cast iron Underwood (the keys often stuck together when typing). By comparison, the Remington looks quite modern. Of course, you wrote: “It’s old, but hardly an antique.”

    When I saw the title of your serial in my email’s inbox, I thought you’d written a western. Remington is well known for its firearms.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed that writing, David. I confess I was worried about the Remington name with American readers, so I used the photo of the actual typewriter to clear that up. It dates from around 1968, so perhaps fifty years old.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read any King in years. (Decades) And I have never heard of The Combat Dealers at all. I hope my ideas don’t clash with any of their themes.
      Happy to hear you like the thought of another serial. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No no, I hadn’t read his stuff for ages either, though I loved his early books. Just a feel of mystery he manages to put into a normal situation came through in your post. Also Combat Dealers! I can’t believe you don’t watch it , track it down and give it a go there’s 4 or 5 series I think so they’ll probably be on Netflix somewhere, We love it and there’s a lot of WW2 history and amazement in it so you might too.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Bruce Crompton is an ex para who runs his own business collecting and dealing in militarily, he’s a bit of a del-boy but knows his history. He provides authentic military vehicles for movies too – Fury is the one I can remember. Honest Pete, it’s really worth a watch.

            Liked by 1 person

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