Collectors came to him from around the city, mostly men, often retired, fussy and strange, a little contrary, who liked the smell of solvents and enjoyed talking shop and seemed to believe an unwritten life was stubbornly buried away in the dusty machines they brought in for restoration.His business had become more sociable as a growing tribe of holdouts banded together.Like a lot of writers, as Drummond had discovered, the kid believed a resident genie was housed inside his machine. He had a steady stream of customers, some loyally held over from the old days, some new.Drummond was a good mechanic, and word spread among an emerging breed of hobbyist.Drummond opened the shop every morning at seven so he and his boy could eat breakfast while the first drop-offs were coming in. There were two stools and two lamps at the workbench for the rare times when the son felt like joining his father, cleaning keys, but generally after breakfast the boy spent the rest of the day sitting behind Drummond in an old Naugahyde recliner, laughing to himself and saying prayers, or wandering out to the sidewalk to smoke a cigarette.The boy liked cereal and sat at the workbench in back, slurping his milk, while Drummond occasionally hustled out to the curb to help a secretary haul a cumbersome I. That he step outside to smoke was the only major request Drummond ever made of his son.There were aging lefties who made carbons of their correspondence or owned mimeographs and hand-cranked the ink drums and dittoed urgent newsletters that smelled of freshly laundered cotton for their dwindling coteries.Now and then, too, customers walked in off the street, a stream of curious shoppers who simply wanted to touch the machines, tapping the keys and slapping back the carriage when the bell rang out, leaving a couple of sentences behind. While he worked, he could hear his son laughing to himself.“What’s so funny?
“Next week’s your birthday,” Drummond said.“Next week.” The boy finished his cereal, plunking the spoon against the empty bowl.Using so much muscle made a crescent moon of every comma, a pinprick of every period.