This is a story written for Desdmona's Typewriter contest. It has been slightly modified
"I'm okay. C'mon Jan, it was your standard California earthquake. Well of course it's all over the news, it's an official natural disaster. There is no need for you to drop everything and fly home. Just imagine that conversation with your agent, your editor, and the publisher - exactly. Look, I'm fine, the house is fine, and the rest of the houses in the neighborhood are fine - really. No, I haven't been out to the garage yet. Yes, you're probably right; I wouldn't be surprised at all if some stuff fell off the shelves in your office. The way you..."
Geez, there's nothing more relentless then a wife half a continent away on yet another book signing tour. Once the kids were grown up and out, my wife Janet redirected her "focus of concern" on to me. Suddenly, I was barely able to care for myself. Although, even I could appreciate her concern this time - a 6.3 earthquake with a nearby epicenter was nothing to laugh about.
"Of course I'll be careful. Why don't you call back after whatever you have going on today is finished? I know it's a signing. Okay call me about six, my time. I'll have a complete report. Great, love you too."
I finished my morning coffee, and walked through the side yard to the garage. A quick check revealed all was well. No pipes were leaking, nothing had fallen from the shelves, and everything looked okay. I exited the garage and turned left, pushing open the gate into Jan's little hideaway.
"Yes, step right this way good readers. This is a rare treat indeed; you are entering authoress Janet Matheson's World of Romance Garden. Did you know that she rarely lets her husband in here?" I wasn't talking to anyone but myself - just a bit of an inside joke.
In truth, Jan's transition from high school teacher to highly successful romance novelist had been anything but smooth. After twenty years of teaching English and Creative Writing she was burned out and ready for a change. She applied and was accepted to a very prestigious Masters level Creative Writing course. It wasn't that I didn't support her. I did.
The challenge was that the University was three states to the east of us. She would have to live there during the week and fly back on weekends and holidays to visit. It meant that I had to re-arrange my work schedule to be more available to our kids' while she took this year-long course.
You want a challenge for one of those reality survivor shows? Try managing the lives of a fifteen-year-old daughter and fourteen year old son. Events in the kid's lives, school/homework situations, sports practices, even the shopping was all delegated to me. In this crucible of dealing with life, the kids and I forged a relationship and closeness that endures to this day. Sometimes I think that Jan is a tiny bit jealous of how close the kids and I are.
It wasn't that Jan and I were estranged or anything like that. It's just that at the time we never seemed to do much with each other - except sex. It was weird, very enjoyable, but still weird. While many elements of our basic marriage were suffering greatly, our sex life was incredible. When we talked by phone she would inquire about things, I'd give her a status report, and we'd be on to the next issue. It was almost like she was living two separate lives.
When she flew in for the weekend or school holidays she overwhelmed the kids with questions and concerns. As for me, as for us, I know that I'm exaggerating, but it seemed that anytime Jan and I had a private moment, we were having sex.
Great sex, too. During our "Golden Age of Sex" Jan became an accomplished fellatrix (her term, she was uncomfortable with saying cocksucker), and we experimented with great variety and enthusiasm. I swear I would get hard while driving to the airport to pick her up. I don't know how we made it safely home sometimes. My opinion was that if this was the price of her focusing on creative writing, I sure as hell wasn't going to complain about the method of payment. Which was why, when she graduated, I gave her a bright red 1939 Royal Quiet De Luxe Portable typewriter. According to those in the know, this was one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite typewriters. Jan was absolutely blown away. I jokingly told her that just because Papa Hemingway had his mistresses and lovers that didn't mean that she, Mama Matheson, could have hers.
The typewriter was immediately declared off-limits to all family members, including me. It was for her exclusive use. Three years and countless reams of paper later, Jan had her first romance novel published. Seventeen variations on the same theme later, Jan was making a nice six figure annual income.
After the success of her first book, I had suggested converting an unused garage apartment into a writing room. The "English cottage" writing garden was added after book number six. And the whole thing enclosed and carefully shielded from the outside world after number eleven. About the only way I'm allowed inside anymore is if I bring her something chocolate.
I closed the gate behind me and walked along the gravel path (Jan's Early Warning Approach System). Everything seemed as it should. I ducked beneath the overgrown Bougainvillea that framed her view of the garden. She'd left the shades down so I was unable to see inside. I unlocked the French doors and opened them. I was greeted by the sight of bright white paper dumped across the floor like snow drifts.
Jan hated filing cabinets. Her preferred system (and I'm using that term lightly) of storage was stacks of Kinko's boxes. The contents of the boxes, which had been placed one atop the other, were everywhere. Good luck, Jan; no way was I going to touch any of this.
At least "Red" was okay. Red was Jan's name for the typewriter. Red was sitting on the antique writing desk that I had bought for Jan after book number three. Red's sole purpose in life was for the typing of story manuscripts.
Red's partner in creativity was "Reddy Freddy." "Reddy Freddy" (I gave him that name) was a big, fat, bright red lacquer Waterman fountain pen that went everywhere that Jan went. She had gotten the pen toward the end of her Masters' course. Red and Reddy Freddy were Jan's tools of the trade.
As sure as Red never moved from her writing desk, Jan didn't go anywhere without Reddy Freddy and a leather portfolio filled with bright white, high rag content, letter-size paper. She wrote constantly throughout the day: poems, bits of dialogue, scenes and impressions. And, dated journal entries.
Jan started journaling right about the time she was completing her writing course. The weekend I gave her Red, Jan and I spent getting to know one another again. Lots of sex, but also, and more importantly, lots of conversations. Deep, intimate conversations. It was surprising how far we'd grown apart. I hadn't realized how hard the year had been on Jan until I observed her crying in private one night.
I'd awoken that night to find the bed empty. I glanced at the bathroom, no Jan there; the door was wide open. I got up and walked quietly down the hall. There was a light on in the dining room.
Jan, wrapped in a silk robe, was sitting at the dining room table writing as she sniffled and sobbed. It was the first time I had seen Reddy Freddy in action. I watched silently from the hallway as page after page was filled and turned face down. After a while, she stopped writing, placed the red pen on the top paper and stood. She gathered her tear-sodden tissues and walked into the kitchen. I approached the table and looked down at the pen and paper. I couldn't help but pick up the bright red pen and examine it. Pen inspected, I naturally read the words that flowed across the page: