View Full Version : The Curse of Qwerty - Chapter One - The Magic Typewriter (648 words)

July 22nd, 2014, 09:31 PM
On the drive to the antique shop, Emily watched the Danube River meander between the cities of Buda and Pest. That's me, she thought, wandering between who I am and who they expect me to be. Budapest. What a strange place for a vacation. This is how I'll feel in boarding school when I turn 14. A stranger. Bored and alone. There won't even be any boys.

When they arrived at the shop, she followed her parents inside. The man standing behind the counter said, without smiling, "Jo reggelt kivanok." Emily guessed that meant "Hello." or "Good morning." He looked like a shriveled old potato left too long in the pantry.

The shop looked like its owner: dark, dirty and disheveled. The only light came from the sun streaming through the six small windows above the front door, and the shelves were crowded with things covered in dust, and stacked on top of each other. The dust alone convinced Emily his customers had not been fooled by the dim light, that even the owner didn't care about his so-called antiques.

Antiques. What a silly word. Just a way to make junk sound like something valuable. Everything in this shop has been forgotten. Like the stuff in my grandmother's attic, where I used to hide to enjoy being forgotten.

The antique store back home in Kansas was named Good Riddance and rightfully so, because most of the things for sale were not junk. And it was clean and well-lit. This shop reminded Emily of the one in the movie Gremlins. Her parents would not have approved of her watching a movie like that, so she and her friend Zoey had found it on You Tube. Emily shuddered to think something like Gizmo could be hiding in this shop.

With these thoughts swirling around in the back of her head, Emily ambled toward the back of the shop. Turning a corner, she had a clear view of the windows above the front door and noticed the glass in each of the six rectangular panes had been yellowed with age, softened by the sunlight passing through it. The windows let the light in because it's welcome here.

Watching the dust floating in the light, suspended by it, Emily's feelings toward the musty old shop softened, as if she too had permission to be there.

In the next aisle, an old typewriter caught her eye. She leaned over and blew off the dust. The royal-blue case was decorated with gold pin striping and a seal or emblem of some kind on the front. The keys sitting in the long sweeping curve of the faceplate looked like the beads of a necklace around a lady's neck. Maybe it belonged to a princess, she thought.

Emily looked around to make sure nobody was watching, took a piece of paper from the notepad in her purse and put it in the typewriter. She leaned forward to type, but noticed the keys were not in the same positions as the keys on her computer keyboard back home. The letters on this typewriter looked as if someone had tossed them onto the keys with no thought whatsoever.

She had to hunt for the keys she wanted but finally typed MY NAME IS EMILY. When she was done, she saw the typewriter had printed MT LAMD G: DMGPT.

As Emily stood there wondering why the typewriter had printed different letters than the ones she had typed, the keys began striking the paper by themselves.

Emily stepped back and stared wide-eyed at the typewriter as it printed MT LAMD G: DPG:A directly below the letters she had typed moments before.

"Wow!" yelled Emily, then she turned to see if anyone had heard her outburst. "This is a magic typewriter." she whispered, then ran to find her parents, who were bickering over an old clock.

July 26th, 2014, 03:11 AM
I thought that having everything come out in code was a really clever idea and worked well. It would have kept me reading.

The typewriter itself was a little jarring to me. I don't expect a 14-year-old to know what it is, or how to use it. Not an easy problem to solve, I know.

I thought your writing style was very clear and easy. Another reason I would have kept reading. You are shifting from first person to third person and back, but I didn't even notice so I don't know if that's a problem.

My last comment is hard to explain. Normally, for me, I try to start at the first interesting part. I think that's the discovery of the typewriter. ("In the next aisle..") I think you want me to have the feel of the shop, and a feel for Emily, before that scene. I can see how those add a lot. Still, I wonder if the start could have been more focused.

Augustus Maximus
July 26th, 2014, 03:34 AM
Unlike Emma, the shift from first to third person and back threw me off a bit initially, but after I figured it out I had no more trouble. A quick note: YouTube should be spelled as such without a space. You also began to lose me at the very end; I felt the detail was somewhat lacking. I also feel like the quote "This is a magic typewriter" is a tad bit cliche.

Despite my comments above, I do find your piece very interesting. I do enjoy the detail you put into most of the piece and after a second read, this part caught my attention:

"The antique store back home in Kansas was named Good Riddance and rightfully so, because most of the things for sale were not junk. And it was clean and well-lit."

I must compliment you on this part, because it exemplifies how Emily views other parts of the world with disdain, unlike her home. That really kind of speaks to me on a personal level, because at points in time I've found myself in her exact situation, and I'm sure others on here have too.

July 26th, 2014, 06:37 PM
This story was on the Kindle platform for several months but I removed it to explore other ways to reach an audience. As both of you pointed out, this first chapter could be improved in several ways. Any changes I make here are likely to ripple into the next chapters, so before I attempt to publish it anywhere I decided to solicit some feedback here at WF.

Thank you both for taking the time to give me such helpful feedback. I appreciate hearing not only what doesn't work but also what works well. Yes to all your comments. Not only am I a man but decades past my own adolescence so it was difficult to convey the thoughts and feelings of Emily. My wife helped a great deal in that area.

I'll post the second chapter later today and would appreciate feedback on how well that chapter meshes with this one. Thanks again folks!

September 21st, 2014, 12:01 AM
Very well written, and I enjoy your descriptions and comparisons. The old potato comment made me chuckle. The most I can say is that some of your narration should be condensed a bit. "She leaned forward to type, but noticed the keys were not in the same positions as the keys on her computer keyboard back home." This could easily be shortened along the lines of, 'she leaned forward to type, but stopped short. The keys were not arranged in the manner she was accustomed to back home, on her personal computer." You do not need to say keys a second time, as you already implied the subject. Try to convey your statements with as much information, yet as few words as possible. Sometimes it can feel as though you are rambling, which I know you don't intend. You have a good flow and interesting subject otherwise. Keep it up!