04 September 2013

the ball in the typewriter

10 August, 2013

An oldish Englishman who had stopped by the kiosk a few weeks ago has returned.

"How are you doing this morning," I ask.

"Oh not so well - not so well."

I just nod, not knowing what to say. His grey hair is messed up and his eyes have a far-away sorrow. Talcum powder is showing around the creases in his neck. He is mulling over what to say next.

"It's like... the ball in the typewriter."

"The ball in the typewriter?"

"Yes, remember the electric typewriter, with the ball that has all the letters."

"Yes I do remember those."

The Englishman speaks softly, protractedly:  "It's like taking the ball out of the typewriter and rolling it around.  Or it's like taking a whole lot of them and tossing them like toys..."

I nod again, imagining all the letters on the typewriter ball rolling around, and the mystery of all those unwritten words.

"Are you a writer?," I ask.

"A writer, no," he sighs, "I'm a... I'm a digger."

"Oh," I say, and then ask him if he's familiar with the group of people from the 1600s in England who were called The Diggers, who would dig up common land so they could grow things, trade with each other, and avoid the corrupt monetary system of the time.  (The Diggers and subsequent groups had been an inspiration behind the DIY trade aspect of Give and Take.)

"Oh... yes..." he says.

"And there was another similar group called 'The Levellers'," I say.

"Yes - The Levellers.  Yes,"  he says, and then he goes into a reverie recounting some pieces of history I can only vaguely follow, partly because he is very soft-spoken, and partly because these pieces are possibly still being put together in his own mind:

  • "The Dutchies, a tract of land"
  • "a place to make gates when it was raining"
  • "a druid stone circle, with one stone in the middle, that's all Jimmy Corrigan needed"
  • "The Queen, sitting and eating her muffins"
  • "the land was divided up and sold by The Dutchies"
  • "they didn't need to make the gates anymore"

"These are the things they don't tell you," he says after a while.

"Sounds like a good story," I say.

"Well, the same thing happens in Physics," he says, "they tell you one thing..."

At this moment a gust of wind blows and knocks down some of the cards from the shelves.  The Englishman bends down to pick them off the ground.  I thank him.

"I enjoyed that image of the typewriter ball with all its unwritten mystery," I say.

"Rolling around on the surface," he says, "spelling out something from the occult."  

And then he leaves, walking back into the library.