James is trying as hard as he possibly can to get the keys to fit in the corona typewriter he’s building up. Every time he tries to fit the keys in the way his Dad showed him, they just won’t fit. The QUERTY keys are all knocking together too tightly and somehow nothing looks quite right, but he can’t put his finger on what it is.
He’s now frustrated, undeniably angry and really fed up. It’s only been a week since his Dad pulled him out of school to do an apprenticeship at his factory. As he was “rubbish at school” and wasting his time there”, so his Dad had announced to the headteacher. And to everyone’s surprise, James was just allowed to leave, at 13. But now he can’t even do this basic job properly.
His Dad is going to be mad again, and will spend all of dinner, making snide comments under his breath about James’s incompetence and say things like “why couldn’t he have inherited my head for business”. “Why do I have to have a son that has no talents”. James is already seeing this play out in his mind’s eye and feeling sad to the core.
He almost jumps out of his skin, when his Dad claps him on the back hard and bellows, “son, what are you doing, daydreaming again? “
“I’m not”, James stammers
“I’m thinking of how to fix this corona, it just won’t work for me”.
“Here we go again”, says James Dad mockingly “Let me have a look”.
James’ Dad pushes him along the workbench and sits down in front of the typewriter himself. He is the owner of the leading Typewriter factories in the UK and knows all there is to know about typewriters. In his factory, they create 7 different kinds of typewriter. This Corona is by far one of the most elegant of their range.
“Well, I never. I have never seen anything like it”, says James Dad
“In all my years of working with Corona, they have never sent over a misshapen base. It looks almost like it has been made by hand and not machine”
“Let me check if there is a serial number on it” he mutters under his breath”.
He lifts it up to look at the underside. “Just as I thought”, he said. This has no serial number. It must be some kind of a fake.” James Dad says very perplexedly.
James is suddenly feeling very relieved. It’s not his fault after all.
“So what shall I do with it?”, Asks James
“Do you think I could take it home and use it?” He slides in, quietly. Secretly praying that his Dad says yes.
He’s always wanted a typewriter, ever since he was young, but his Dad has always said no on account of his “lack of interest in school” was his favorite way of saying no. Then he always followed it up with;
“What do you want a typewriter for if you don’t like writing and you can’t even spell. Makes no sense to me. Will be just something else for your mother to dust. No”.
James really really wanted to write stories, as long as he could remember. His head was jam-packed full of them, but on account of his poor writing and terrible spelling, he just kept them in his head.
If I had this typewriter, he thought, I could type them all out and maybe I could be a writer one day.
“Son, are you dreaming again?
“I have no idea why I am saying this”, James dad continued, “but yes, take it home. You’ve asked so many times now, so I guess it’s important for you.”
“We leave in one hour. I have to have a call with the bank now. So be out front. And tell no one of the Corona typewriter. What you saw, what I said or that you have taken it home. I don’t know how this happened, but I want to monitor the situation.”
James really had no clue what his dad was talking about, all he knew, was that the corona red was finally his. The most beautiful typewriter in the world.
He could barely contain his excitement.
James could not eat his dinner fast enough. Even though it was pork chops, which he really detested. Normally it took him an hour to eat it while moving it around the plate. But today he wolfed it down, so he could be excused to play with his new beloved treasure.
The bright red of it was so enchanting he thought. Somehow he knew that it was a powerful tool of creation. He could see his books in front of him already. He already had names for some of them and the stories in his head.
James and the Giant Peach, James and the rambunctious butterfly, James and the slippery Lizard…….
He would take them to Mr. Wordsworths bookshop on the corner of Tate and Lyle Street once he’s typed them up. He was imagining them in the window. Then my parents, won’t think I’m rubbish at everything if my books are in Wordsworths.
He sat at his desk in front of the Corona. She really deserves a name he thought. I feel like she has a personality of her own. I’m going to call her Lily. Like Lily of the Valley.
He put the paper in, lined it up, ready to type and paused. Mmm, this is a momentous moment, he thought. What should I type first?
He pondered, then decided. James and the Giant Peach is my favorite story I created so I’m going to start with that one. Best get my dictionary too and then it’s action time.
He started pressing the keys, slowly. He had to make sure he made no mistakes; as if he did he could not erase them. This was actually a lot of pressure to be under for his first book so he thought. It’s a big responsibility for a 13-year-old.
He managed to type two sentences. He did not think he had made a mistake, but he did not really know. Now he was already exhausted and falling asleep. Probably I’m just too excited so he thought. But he could barely keep his eyes open.
James woke and remembered immediately that he had Lily, his beautiful corona typewriter. He could not remember the last time he had felt such joy.
He looked at the clock, it was only 5.30am and his Dad did not leave for work until 8 am, so he had heaps of time to type on Lily.
He jumped out of bed and sit in front of her. Immediately he saw that she had a typed full page of writing in her. How on earth did that get in there he though? How odd. And it was addressed to Mrs. Hubbard. The only Mrs. Hubbard he knew was from the dairy.
He pulled it out and started to read it.
Dear Mrs. Irene Hubbard,
The first day we met behind your parent’s diary was like a dream for me. I saw your long red hair flowing, that had escaped your hat and I just knew that I wanted to kiss you.
I am so happy that we have been married so long and have created three beautiful children. I know I am a moody man sometimes of few words, but I just don’t really know how to express myself well.
Just be sure, that every time I glimpse you I feel proud that you are my wife and I often think back to that day we met with such joy.
You made me such a happy man,
P.s Please don’t talk to me about this letter, you would only embarrass me.
Gosh thought James, that’s a very personal letter. What on earth is it doing in my typewriter? Could his Dad have put it there as a Joke? No he thought, dad is hardly a joker.
Makes no sense at all. How can a letter such as that just fall out of the sky and into my typewriter?
He wondered if he should just take it to Mrs. Hubbard himself, but then she would ask him how he got it, and his Dad had said he could not tell anyone about the typewriter. It was all so very complicated….
And yet very exciting he thought. Where could he leave the letter, where she would find it? He could post it, but then he would need a stamp, and they cost money he did not have.
Ahh, the town bench under the oak tree, where the ladies chatter and old Mr. Dawson always reads his morning paper. If I get there before him and leave it where he normally sits, he will see it and hopefully give it to Mrs. Hubbard.
I’d best get an envelope and run it out now before everyone else wakes up and asks me where I am going.
“Hello Mr. Dawson, how can I help you?” Says Mrs. Hubbard looking decidedly glum.
I found this letter on the park bench just as I got there this morning, and as you are the only Mrs. Hubbard in town, I thought it must be for you. I thought I’d drop it off and buy a pint of milk at the same time.
“Who do you think it’s from Mrs. Hubbard?” Mr. Dawson, inquired, not even trying to hide his curiosity.
“Well, it’s sealed Mr. Dawson, so I guess it’s a private matter. Please do take a bottle of milk on the house for your trouble” she said, as she pushed him out of the door.
Jame, of course, was watching all this, from afar, so intrigued was he by the letter from Lily his typewriter and how the scenes were playing out. He felt like a real-life detective. He was so excited to see what Mrs. Dawson would do.
She was a “terribly moody women”, so his mother said. “She has a face like a smacked cows arse”. His mum said some terribly strange things sometimes. But he had to agree, she was not a pleasant looking woman.
Mrs. Dawson opened the letter up slowly and pulled it out of the envelope. She read it intently and then burst into tears. She cried and cried and cried, and James stood there in his secret hiding place behind the red post box stunned. What had he done? He had made her cry. Oh noo.
And he thought the letter was so beautiful too. He really understood nothing at all in life. He could not even deliver a letter, without making someone upset.
He wondered what to do. He turned to look at her again, and he realized that her face was now beaming. A bright light smiling and lighting up the dairy. Wow, he thought. She really is happy. That really was a happy letter then.
He felt joy ripple through him. Finally, he had done something right and made someone happy.
I knew that typewriter was magic so he thought. I am going to have a lot more fun with Lily. I can’t wait to get started on my stories again.
Art: Zoe Langman
James and the Giant Peach is actually written by one of my favorite authors Roald Dahl.