November 18th, 2009


Anger has been wrapping its gummy tentacles around me lately, stroking and pinching and squeezing my soft bones, tempting my patience. It was just a fresh random typewriter, a Smith-Corona, brown and cream, strangely resting on the sidewalk. It had a dream-like quality sitting so comfortably and haphazardly placed, at a slight angle to the curb. I looked left and up and to the side, making sure there were no eyes. Gingerly, I placed it under the green dumpster, nearby. Tucking it out of sight with a few foot taps. And carried on toward the corniche for my morning laps.

I returned and dumped my head upside down, eyes peering where I had hidden my lost and found.  It was no longer there. Turning around, my face surely appearing distressed, I found the usual few men sitting in chairs, just behind a fence. I ran up to them, like a child who had lost her dog, where oh where has my typewriter gone? They waved me over with a few smirks and one man stood, as the Chief Clerk.  He came toward me and spoke in Egyptian, it’s right over there, his long-ashed cigarette pointed. I turned around and saw the typewriter, golden and glowing, on a table under a tin shelter. That’s mine! I yelled. I put it under the dumpster, it’s mine! No, no, I swear by your eyes, the tall one said. It is mine, for I saved it from a man who tried to make away with it. I paid him twenty thousand pounds. I swear by your eyes. No, that’s not what happened! Yes, now give me twenty thousand pounds, and you can have it! But it’s mine! And I walked away, with my head down. Perhaps I could inspire pity in them. No one yelled.

I walked toward home and the tentacles pinched and grew ever tighter while my arms flailed and punched the air. These men they didn’t care, they just wanted to be paid. I didn’t like it, not at all! They held the typewriter for ransom – found it under a dumpster, and now wanted to sell it. Typical typical! I said to myself. Nothing mattered more than those tender paper bills. The face is always a man, telling me, at BHV, yes, this DVD player plays any DVD! (Not a one). At Liban Post, that package will make it to the U.S. in 10 days! (6 months after my mom’s birthday, nothing). A friend of a friend, renting my apartment for the summer: I will leave it better than when you left it! (1 million LL in electricity later…).  T-mobile! T-mobile! “Automatically debiting” from my bank account, months after cancellation! (non-human human voice: We-are-sorry. We-cannot-do-anything…). And there have been more, many more men who’ve crawled under my skin, but I let all this go, it could be worse, much worse!

But now, they were dangling the prize for a price. And it was time for some face to face.  I steamed on my way up, and back and forth on my apartment’s parquet and all the way back down the elevator, and down the hill back to those typewriter thieves. I would go back and settle a deal. He wanted 20 thousand? I would give him half.

I clutched a yellow bill – a 10 thousand in my hand. And stopped in my tracks at the sight of one of the men hunched over and pressing the typewriter’s buttons, and dinging its carriage. Another came along and said, We saved it from the garbage men! Here’s 10 thousand, I said. OK, and they handed it over. The Chief said, look, this button here is the only one that needs to be fixed. Don’t let anyone trick you and tell you it needs more…it’s just this button. Shukrun! I yelled and lugged her home.

I placed her on my dining table and pressed and slipped into it a piece of paper. I clicked and clicked and no response. I turned it around and found it was a bit advanced. Not a normal click-click writer. It was electronic and it needed a wire.


The moral of the story?

5 Responses to “Happenstance”

  1. lens says:

    When I left Beirut for London in 2005 I left in kind of a mess and a hurry, and to make a long story short, the apartment flooded in my absence and had to be emptied. I came back after my course the next year to find that my favorite bookshelf (the one that’s covered with all the little fairy lights now), had been removed from the apartment and had disappeared. I was bitterly sad over it – not only was it a present, not only did I adore it, it was also a bookshelf from 1962 from the ACS library where I had first learned to love reading. Child me had probably trailed grubby hands along that very same bookcase searching for a Nancy Drew or Roald Dahl I hadn’t yet managed to consume.
    By pure coincidence, I ended up finding an apartment in the same building that I lived in before – only now on the flood-free (but certainly not problem-free!) 6th floor. Walking home one day, I saw something familiar in the lobby of the Aramex building. I slipped inside, circled behind it, and sure enough on the back in the same familiar faded sharpie it said: American Community School Library 1962. I was ecstatic. The natour had apparently found it in the dumpster the year before and rescued it in the hopes of making a few thou off of it. I gladly paid him 20,000, then paid my natour an additional 10 thou to lug it up six flights of stairs, and it was probably the best 20 bucks I ever spent in my life, to get back something that was originally mine.
    I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes you have to pay to get what’s yours.
    I loved this blog post btw – so fluid and lucid, despite your anger.

  2. CJ Higgins says:

    We could probably get a cord and mail it to you if you want it bad enough…Just need a model #. I really liked this short story. If you hadn’t been angry you probably would have investigated the typewriter and saw the cord missing and therefore left it at the curb….When you saw it sitting there were you imagining “This is what I am going to write my first novel on”? So many of the great authors have an old typewriter they prefer to peck away their stories on. Keep up the good work, I am enjoying it…Love CJ

  3. Katie says:

    It’s a beautiful typewriter and well worth your anger, the ransom, and the procurement of the cord. YOU are a bit advanced, my dear.

  4. Henry says:

    I loved your piece. There is something very delicious about the way you write. So vivid.

  5. Rita says:

    Well….what did this teach you ?! Leik testehle ! You really do make the mundane a exciting event !

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