Ellen Brinson peered over her half glasses at the messy typewritten page. The ‘e’ on the
old Corona was so occluded it looked like a giant dot. She quickly read through the last few
paragraphs she’d just pounded out. She had a screaming headache.
Where the Hell was this stuff coming from? It was true she’d always wanted to write.
Her MLS in library science was all about Ellen’s belief that she couldn’t write, so being around
books was the next best thing. But, this, this stuff she was typing — she’d never done the things,
never even known anyone like the people in this story.
It didn’t matter. Six more weeks and her unemployment was going to run out. The stress
of not having a job for two years, of trying to find something else she could do to earn a living
and getting nowhere, the sheer desperation, was about to drive her crazy. This book was the
only hope she had right now, and she clung to it.
Rubbing her eyes, Ellen stretched and the old afghan that covered her lap slipped to the
floor. This damn dump was so drafty; she was always cold. Pushing her chair back, she moved
to the other side of the room where a row of cabinets and a miniature stove and fridge
masqueraded as a kitchen. She poured a cup of hot water from the kettle warming on the stove
and dunked a tea bag in it. Then, she reached under the sink and found a pint of vodka,
splashing a liberal shot into the tea mug.
The mug cradled in both hands, she plopped down on the rumpled bed that dominated
the small room, and leaned back against the wall. Sometimes she felt like she was someone
else. Maybe that explained what happened at the typewriter. Or maybe she was just going
nuts. That was probably it.
Ellen took a big gulp of the spiked tea, her mind running in circles like a hamster on a
wheel. She had to do something, even if it was wrong. She got up and crossed to the rickety
wooden table that held her typewriter. She grabbed the messy pages of the manuscript that
had been pouring out of her for the past three weeks. Automatic writing, wasn’t that what they
called it? Ellen read a paragraph at random:
Serena slid a glance at the senator next to her. With a twitch of her shoulders, she hit him with a
blast of décolletage, and then sent her tongue on an exploratory tour of her mouth. She could feel the man
heat up like a kitchen stove.
Another sideways glance confirmed that the front of his pants now looked suspiciously like a
tent. Turning her head to look directly at him, she lasered him with the 100 Watt Sex Bomb Smile.
Tossing her head back, she trailed her long, red fingernails down her arched, white neck toward her
bosom. Then she rose and wiggled her way across the room, giggling to herself.
My God, what crap! Where had it come from? All the same, it was so trashy that maybe
it had some potential for being published. It reminded her of the stuff written by Isabel Ritter
–no, Isabel Rider.
Rider – she got a visual of the author astride a naked man, bucking in unabashed lust.
Ellen laughed out loud, then as quickly sobered as the gravity of her situation struck her.
She ran her fingers through her curly hair. What could she do with this stuff? She
needed to send it out to somebody, but who?
And, why would they read it? She was nobody, unpublished. She didn’t even have a
friend at a publishing house. She knew a few writers, but they were mostly historians. They
would be appalled if she asked them to pass this trash on to their agent.
She read through the pages again. What the Hell. It’s worth a try. Taking in a deep
breath, Ellen jumped off the sagging bed, pulled her parka on over her sweats, and tugged on
some mukluks. Slamming the door to her flat, she descended five floors of walk-up, her
mukluks slapping against each step.
A late spring snow was lazily drifting down as she pushed through the front door of her
building, cursing as a splinter poked her hand. She hated this dump. She was beginning to hate
New York. Ellen had come here with such high hopes, sure she would discover the glamor and
excitement that beckoned in so many novels. Instead, the reality was that New York was no fun
In spite of her disappointment, the farmhouse in Iowa where she’d grown up still didn’t
look good to her. That was something. Her mother would make her life a living Hell if she had to
go back home, broke. Only her father had believed in her dream, and he’d been dead five years
“Watch where you’re going!” A guy in a plaid wool jacket bumped her as he passed on
the busy sidewalk. She turned into the Strand book store, and headed straight for romantic
Typewriter from Hell