Porkpie Hat – The Story

An old woman sits down at a desk with a battered typewriter, the same one she has used since she was a young girl. The desk she sits at is made from the wood of coffins and the boards of a sunken ship. She sits down in front of the typewriter, and begins to record the story of her life.

Over the years, all the keys have become worn and broken, so each of them has been mended or replaced by whatever material she has been able to gather. Some of the letters are made of diamond and gold salvaged from the melted rings of dead husbands and lovers. Some are fragments of bone and teeth. Others are covered in velvet and fur.

Glittering in the light of the antique desk lamp, there are bits and pieces of broken glass from goblets and mirrors. The serifs are fashioned from the barbed wire of her uncle’s prairie farm, and tiny scraps of wood rescued from a stolen rowboat and a girlhood toboggan.

The ribbon is one that held back her sister’s hair the night she died in childbirth. The ribbon’s ink is the black blood of an albino crow killed at exactly midnight on the night of a full moon. There are sheaves of corn and wildflowers growing up between the keys.

She begins to write her life story in an alphabet she herself has invented. To a Dutchman, it looks vaguely Arabic; to a Belgian, possibly Cyrillic. There are letters fat and dark and shiny as beetle shells and blackberries. There are letters that resemble sparrow’s feet and crescent moons. It is a language sulphurous and subtle, a language suitable for describing such things as the wicked wisdom of fairytale foxes, the awful thrumming of the engine that turns the tide, the wild song in a young girl’s soul, the bitter lightness of an old woman’s laugh.

If it were possible to read these words aloud, they would sound like the singing of angels and opera house ghosts, like a gallows-wood bow being drawn across a hanged man’s fiddle, like a witch coughing up eggshells in the middle of a spell.

An old woman sits down at a desk made from the planks of a sunken ship, and types the story of her life. The words gather on the white of the page like summer bugs drawn to a lantern’s light. They buzz and hum and tremble against the page. When her story is complete, she leans forward and releases a single puff of air. The page turns black as carbon. The bugs scatter into the night beyond the window, each of them pulsing with an inner light.