When was the last time you typed on an old manual typewriter? It’s been quite a while for me, and this 1950’s Remington beauty gave me a workout. My hand cramped after only a few sentences, which just goes to show how easy we have it today with computer keyboards.
I do love the typewriter, though, and just looking at it inspires me to write. This photo reminded me of a typical scene from a classic mystery. So, I’m going to write a couple of paragraphs right now — in a flash, just for fun. I don’t know how it will turn out, but here goes:
CHAPTER ONE: IT HAPPENED AT DAWN
I was sitting at the desk listening to the sound of the rain hitting the window pane. I was out of coffee and so was the vending machine. Home was a thousand miles away and I was stuck outside of Cleveland, in a city I’d never heard of. I had a report to finish for the six a.m. broadcast, and one little fact was keeping me from a much-needed dive into bed. I fished through my purse, found a crumpled tea bag, and sloshed it around in a mug full of lukewarm water.
As I drank, I slipped back in time — two years earlier — when Elvin and I stayed at the Hotel George in Paris. We had said our goodbyes to Sammy, our son, who had enlisted for the Korean effort. I hadn’t reacted well to his leaving, and Elvin said France would ease my mind. He reserved the English Suite — a hundred dollars a night. We were there for a week and the tea service was superb. I had to admit, it was a beautiful place for him to tell me he wanted out.
I set down the cup and punched hard on the keys. One page. Two pages. Finally, at a minute to twelve, the phone rang. I got my answer.
Dr. Elvin Wilds, my ex-husband, renowned surgeon, philanthropist, and philanderer, was, indeed, dead.
Funny thing, though. Vera, my secretary, also told me that the cops said Elvin’s last words were an expletive and my name.
And they were coming for me.
How’s that for a bit of cheesy, cliché-ridden flash fiction? (One problem: Now I want to know what happens to this poor lady!)
But, enough of that. The mystery that I’m really working on has nothing to do with an amateur detective and her dead ex-husband. It’s a story called “In Search of the Outlaw Bible.” With all that’s going on in the world, I’m pretty sure there will soon come a day when our nation bans the Bible. How will Christians react to such an act? I began to write a conversation between a mother and son. They live in a town called Riven during a time when no home, library, bookstore, or church has a bible. There are no copies left for anyone to read.
Where is it? That’s the mystery. Why are the people so passionate about finding it? That’s the story I want to write.
Here is an excerpt from that beginning of my story — dialogue only until I flesh out their conversation and get that story moving along.
We spend our time living and laughing and, worst of all, forgetting. When it comes — oh, it’ll hit hard. Decision time. It doesn’t get real — doesn’t strike your soul — until that thing you say you love is trampled on. But not until then. (Joanna, at the Fall Feast, November 2026)
“Mama, when did Grandma Jo get caught?”
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘caught.’ No, her body just couldn’t take it anymore. Down she went. They found her.”
“Where did they find her?”
“Curled up in the cat garden. She had a few pages in one hand. Psalm 119, bless her heart.
“She was reading when they got there?”
“Sleeping. But she was reading at some point. That’s for sure.”
“I wish I had a bible to read. It’s hard keeping it all in my head.”
“There’s nothing to do about that, so stop complaining.”
“But they had bibles when you were a kid, Mama.”
“Yes, they did.”
“Real bibles. Like a book you can hold.”
“So you didn’t have to just hear it. You read it, right?”
“I read it and I heard it. Be thankful that your Daddy and I had those privileges, son.”
“Where did all the bibles go, Mama?”
“You sure are asking a lot of questions this afternoon, Wesley. How was school?”
“It was okay. I’m just wondering because I know it’s the Day.”
“How do you know it’s ‘the Day’?
“The Eli boys and Josh, they’re all taking about it, planning to go. And I heard Uncle Bennie, so you can’t fool me. I want to go, too.”
“Wesley, honey, it is not your time. Daddy and I would have told you sooner if it was. Everybody wants to be the one to find it, I know. Just be patient.
“But, Mama, –”
“Hush, boy. The Day comes every year and it will be your turn when you are ready. It takes a lot more than youth and excitement to survive the Sentinel guns.”
“Yes, Mama. So, anyway, where did all the bibles go?”
“We had to give them away.”
Why did they have to give their bibles away? And where is that outlaw Bible? And what’s the point of looking for something that is against the law to own? Aren’t those Christians just asking for trouble? I want to know, so I better get to writing the story!
FYI, that old typewriter belonged to my Uncle Marshall. His wife gave it to me. We lost Marshall a few months ago, but during his life he was a highly regarded journalist (U.S. Air Force Combat News correspondent during the Vietnam War, news editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel, writer for the L.A. Watts Times). He told me shortly before he died that he thought I was “a very good writer.” You can imagine how precious and encouraging those words are to me.