by Walter A. Willis

(from CONFUSION #7)

I GOT A FANZINE the other day in which the editor had scrawled: "How about something from your talented pen?" Now, I hate to disappoint people like this, but I'm afraid I've lost my talented pen. I have other pens of course, but none of them has half the talent that that one had. It was the most talented pen you ever saw. For one thing, it could write in any colour you liked. Just choose your colour and that pen would write in it, provided of course you used the right ink. Furthermore it was one of those you could empty by pushing a little button at the top. If you ever got into a fight you could just draw your pen and let the enemy have it, a deadly deluge of ink all over his face. Talk about the pen being mightier than the sword? Why, you could leave your adversary blue-black! Another thing about this pen was that it had more things to unscrew than any single article you ever saw. This was a tremendous asset to someone like me, who has spent the best years of his life absentmindedly unscrewing things and taking them apart. (Once I went on a long bus ride through very dull country. I had to walk home, and the Company is still wondering what ever became of that bus.) Not only did the cap of this pen screw off in the usual way, but the cap itself had a little cap you could screw off, and then you could unscrew the clip. Nor did even that exhaust the resources of this wonderful pen. The barrel unscrewed in two so that the morbidly curious could peep at that obscene looking sac that grows inside fountain pens, and on top of that there was the cap over the plunger. I spent many happy hours screwing that pen. There should be more pens like it. Every young man should have some such innocent occupation to distract him from the temptations of this wicked world. I venture to say that if everyone spent their time unscrewing fountain pens the world wouldn't be in the state it's in today. It would be a lot inkier.

But enough of Willis the Thinker. As I was saying, I lost my pen and had to fall back on the typewriter. A very painful thing to do, let me tell you. It made quite an impression on the typer too, and for a while it would only write Laney-type articles. Sometimes I think the experience must have warped it. If there are any faneds in the audience tonight who want me to write them some really good materiel I suggest they send me a portable typewriter. After all, the more enterprising faneds send their writers stencils. Why not do the thing properly? Why stop at stencils? What's the use of stencils without something to type on them with? I should like to see all faneds sending their contributors typewriters. Especially me.

I would like a nice portable typewriter. A talented one if possible, but I don't really mind as long as it's nice and light. I could write a good many more articles and columns and things if I had a lighter typer. You see, the one I have weighs roughly six tons without the paper in it, and I can't rest it on my knees. At least I suppose I could, but then I might want to walk again. This typer was built in an age when things were made to last, probably Ancient Egypt. When they'd got themselves limbered up good building the pyramids they turned to and built this typer. I'll bet that when this planet is nothing but an asteroid belt circling a dying sun, one of those asteroids will be this very typer. I am pretty sure that when it was first made it had little chisels at the ends of the keys.

Incidentally, it has a carriage exactly a yard long.

I remember once I pressed the TAB key.

I will never do that again.


However, if anyone here is interested in a spaceship drive, let them come over and press this TAB key. Just as long as they let me get well away first. I don't like to talk about it much, but when you press that TAB key, things happen. There is a roaring noise like an express train thundering over your eardrum, the carriage whirs past at roughly three times the speed of light, and then the entire structure of the universe shakes as the irresistable force meets its old friend the immovable object. I don't like to raise anyone's hopes unduly, but those earth tremors that were thought to mean a Russian bomb test occurred just about the time I pressed the TAB key on my typer.

Well, as you know, all typers with built-in interstellar drives are inclined to be on the heavy side, so I keep this machine on the big table over by the window. But it's cold out there, and the chair is hard. Usually I find myself deciding that the article isn't gelling nearly as well as my blood and that I'd better take them both over to the fire. That's the end of the article for the evening.

Then one day I had a brilliant idea. Anyone looking at me at the time would have seen a little balloon floating over my head with "!" in it. I would make a little bedtable for the typer -- just a piece of wood with two shorter pieces for legs. I would be able to sit on the sofa in front of the fire with the typer over my knees and hammer away happily at it. I might even put the hammer down now and then and do some typing. It was a wonderful idea. Only six hours sooner said than done. Now, I thought to myself, having no other espers to think @, I will be able to write. Fandom will ring with the name of Willis. Fandom will be deluged with high grade Willistuff, fine hotblooded materiel full of life and warmth, deep, penetrating, profound and subtle, yet withal touched with sympathy and warm human interest, and lit with a saving grace of humour. I sat down on the sofa and placed the trestle over my knees. It was perfect, steady as Redd Boggs, and yet I had plenty of room to move about. There was even room on the trestle for fanzines and ashtrays and other of the columnist's simple needs. I was just ready to start when I realised that the typer was still away over there on the table. Silly of me, ha ha, but of course it was just a matter of putting the typer on the trestle and carrying it back. I lift the typer onto the trestle. I stagger back to the sofa. Comes the grey dawn of disillusionment. This typer is really heavy. I can not sit down with it. Our sofa is one of those deep ones. People have to be pulled out of it with ropes. I knew quite well that if I tried to sit down holding that typer I should finish up either in the foundations of the house or that the momentum of the enormous mass would spread me in a thin layer over the back of the sofa. And that would never do -- Madeleine had the sofa cleaned the other day. The outlook was grim. But was Willis daunted?


Nevertheless I tried again. The thing to do was obviously to lift the typer onto the trestle while it was in position. I moved a chair over to the sofa, put the typer on it, and put the trestle over my knees again. Then I tried to lift the typer onto it. Alas for the vain hopes of mankind. I just could not lift that typer. I had to reach up over the arms of the sofa, a position in which I could get no leverage. If I sat too far up I would knock over the trestle and find myself holding the typer with no place to put it, crying weakly for help. So here I am back at the window, feeling like a frozine editor getting into training for Tuktoyuktuk, and appealing to fandom for a portable typewriter. In return I can offer one solidly constructed bedtable, only slightly soiled with blood, tears and sweat.

Data entry by Judy Bemis