The Red Royal Birthday
My 34th birthday was August 19th and as COVID-19 is still raging, there was not much to do. Aside from a horse, all I wanted was live music and maybe to be on stage with my feet in broken glass. Due to some corporate upheaval in the tech world, our finances have been barred from spending to ensure we have the funds to pay bills until the new company takes over. We're not hurting for cash, but we don't want to take any chances. We've played the Homeless Game before.
My parents sent me a decent amount of dough through CashApp, and I planned on using it to pay off a small portion of debt. However, my husband said, "You told me you wanted a typewriter. Get one."
I watched California Typewriter recently and fell in love with the red Royal typewriters. So Christopher and I searched around the online marketplaces for one. We found the modern red Royals with their shiny plastic and square white keys. Neither of us was satisfied with getting a typewriter in modern packaging off of Amazon that could also be purchased at WalMart.
We like nice things. We like old things.
We like the 1930s.
We came upon a few listings of 1920s and 1930s red Royals on Etsy and Ebay, most of which were out of our price range because they had been restored or were in "mint" condition. Then we found a beat up Royal. It had enough wear that it looked like it had a story to tell. The listing said it still functioned, complete with photo proof. There were no other details. It's red. It's a Royal. It works. The seller's profile only said, "Everything has been carefully selected to bring joy into your life." No reviews. A handful of sales.
In the back of my mind, anxiety was telling me something was wrong, but I decided that if something happened, the bank or Etsy would have my back. I purchased the typewriter. A day and a half passed and I hadn't heard from the seller regarding the item. I decided to send a message just asking for a tracking number when it shipped. The seller immediately said, "Sorry. The payment hasn't gone through and I can't get in touch with Etsy. Don't worry. Everything is legitimate."
Was he reading my mind? Curious, I told him it went through on my end, but if he needed any information from me to let me know. He told me that I shouldn't have to wait and was shipping the typewriter the next day.
Now, August 28th, it has arrived. The box was a bit beat up despite the fragile labels. Thoughts of a broken typewriter in pieces flashed through my mind. I unwrapped the popped bubble wrap and pieces of the black case crumbled in my hands. I carefully set the beast down onto the carpet and opened the case. The case came clean off, as nothing was actually holding it together except for the latch. The handle was gone and the hinges were not attached, as half the back was gone. The side panel of the case was going to be next.
The typewriter was fine. It looked like the picture, but it smelled like pipe tobacco. Every inch of it was covered in a layer of dust and residue of unknown origins. The glass keys on the left side had darkened as if that was the side the writer's ash tray had sat.
"Hello, Typewriter," I thought. I inserted a sheet of paper and began typing a few meaningless things. It worked and the ribbon wasn't entirely dried up!
I looked at the serial number and discovered it was not a Royal P from 1927 as I had thought, but a Royal O from 1933. Regardless, it is still the oldest thing I own. Stories of who could have owned it swam around me. It came from New York and still had a New York shop label on it. A shop that is no longer in existence and hasn't been for a long time. Was this sitting in storage for 90 years? Is it the typewriter of an author who never "made it?" Is it the abandoned typewriter of a famous author?
I reached out to the seller once again to see if he knew anything about its history. He only knew it came from a home on Long Island.
But now I am invested. I need to know.
What stories has it told? What stories will it tell me?