In the fall of my 7th grade year, I asked my parents if I could have a typewriter for my birthday. Sure, other kids my age were asking their parents for CB radios, or stereos, or the latest LP record of the Jackson 5. But my parents believed that all of these things were luxuries and preferred to give me, oh, a crescent wrench perhaps, or maybe a set of Ginsu Steak Knives, which my mother would later confiscate because she feared I might cut off a hand. So asking for a typewriter was like asking for the moon.
Still, dad came through. "Here's your damn typewriter," he told me. (Mom never bothered, and still doesn't, with wrapping gifts. I just lifted it out of the box.) It was a Smith-Corona manual.
I went to work right away: writing stories about dead planets, and dead people on them; stories about extraterrestrials with seven eyes, two stomachs and a gizzard; stories about kids who cut their hands off at the wrists by misusing Ginsu Steak Knives (having them cut off their second hand was very difficult and forced me to use my imagination by creating a literary assortment of belts and pulleys attached to bedposts).
Best of all, Ms. McGee adored my typewritten stories. I was the only kid in class who turned in his work neatly typed instead of written in a cursive hand that could have doubled as Ictheosaurus tracks. She wrote "A" in bright red lipstick across the top of the page and "See me after class out back of the lard cans behind the kitchen". My imagination ran wild.
I typed with two fingers, just like Dan-O on Hawaii 5-0, and I spent my weekends creating wild, wondrous tales. And every night dad would peek into my room around 1 a.m., his eyes bleary from lack of sleep, and he would ask, "Any chance you might stop that infernal racket and go to sleep? Do you know what time it is? Some of us have to work in the morning!"
I didn't have the heart to tell him I was working . . . and no, I couldn't stop. I just turned out the light and typed in the dark.