Andrew Wilson had been staring at the blank sheet of paper for the last five minutes. He tapped out a handful of words on his 1955 Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter that he had bought from a pawn shop in Phoenix for $10 bucks more than twenty years ago. Since then, the typewriter traveled the country with him and helped write hundreds of short stories, twenty-seven novels including a few best sellers, and a motion picture script or two.
Andrew sighed as he picked up a fresh sheet of paper and fed the Royal. Twisting the platen’s knob, he gave the page a one inch margin and prepared to get to work. He had a new novel to write and he was already behind schedule. Staring at the blank page, he couldn’t think of anything to write. He searched his office for inspiration. The room was sparse except for a pair of desks facing opposite walls – one with the Royal typewriter he used for the initial draft of his manuscripts, and the other with the computer and multifunction laser printer he used for everything else. The wall opposite the door held a bookshelf with a few mementos, reference materials, some of his favorite books, and the complete collection of his personal works – except for the most recent which had only been sent to his publisher last week. Finally, framed documents, diplomas, and certificates covered the wall space to either side of the room’s door and windows. The room was devoid of distractions and as a result there wasn’t a lot to be inspired about in his office. His gaze returned to the blank sheet of paper in the Royal.
He tapped out the first line of the new novel. When the words ran out, Andy returned to the beginning and re-read the line in a futile attempt to recapture the thread he had been following. It was useless. He just didn’t like where it was going. He ripped the sheet of paper from the Royal; it screamed in protest at the abuse. Once again, he took his frustration out on the paper as he crumpled and tossed it over his shoulder.
Andrew felt a headache coming on. He held his head in his hands and took several deep breaths as he attempted to clear his mind. The silence of the room was filled with the slow rhythmic cadence of his breathing. There was something else there. Something he had not noticed before. Then he heard it again. The quiet of the room was shattered by the soft whisper of paper rubbing together.
Andrew looked over his shoulder and saw nothing but the wads of paper scattered all over the floor. The office door was locked and the windows were closed, so it wasn’t the wind he heard rustling the paper. Deciding that it probably was a wad falling off one of the small piles directly behind him, he turned his attention back to the matter at hand. He picked up another blank sheet of paper and fed the Royal. Staring at the blank page, he still had no idea how to begin the story that would become his twenty-eighth novel. His throat suddenly felt dry and clicked when he tried swallowing. He picked up his glass of water and drained it. He needed to get some more.
Getting up, Andy kicked the wads of paper out of his way as he went to the door, unlocked it, and left the room with glass in hand. In the kitchen, he filled it from the tap, drank it down quickly, and refilled it. Deciding he was hungry, Andrew pulled a few things from the fridge and quickly assembled a sandwich on a plate. He took a bite, and returned to his office with sandwich and glass of water in hand.
Andrew opened the door and nearly dropped his sandwich and water glass, when he discovered the wads of paper organized into three small mounds around the room. He had kicked paper out of his way when he left the room, but he was certain he hadn’t kicked them into neat little piles. Quickly scanning the room, he checked it for one of his kids. The office was empty. Walking over to his desk, he set the sandwich and water down and saw all four of his children outside the window playing with Leopold. The only member of his family currently out of view was Judy. She would not have cleaned his office, while he was in the kitchen. It wasn’t something she did very often, but he usually didn’t leave dozens of discarded ideas all over his office floor either.
Andy grabbed the trash can from the corner and scooped the mounds of paper into it. With the wads collected, he carried the can to his desk, and sat down. One by one, he removed the discarded sheets, flattened them, and reexamined the ideas he had scrawled upon them. He hated the idea on the first sheet, crumpled it again, returned it to its place on the floor behind his chair, and moved on to the next one. When the last wad of paper had been removed from the trash can, reevaluated, and discarded, Andrew set the garbage bin on the floor beside his desk. He couldn’t believe it, not a single one of those ideas were worthy of resurrection. He sighed heavily and turned his attention to his trusty Royal. The blank page stared back.
The soft whisper of paper rustling together caught his attention. He turned and looked over his shoulder. Instead of finding a scattered mess, all of the wads of paper had somehow been collected and arranged into a single pile in the center of the room. “That’s odd,” Andrew said aloud. There was no way he could have created such a uniform pile just by tossing wads of paper over his shoulder. Spinning around in his chair, Andy searched the room again. It was still empty.
“Brian? Is that you?” he asked.
“Jenny? You know you’re not allowed in daddy’s office while I’m working,” Andy said, rising from his chair. It wasn’t the first time his children snuck into his office, wanting to watch him work. He checked all of the usual places for them. They weren’t under the desks, nor crouched in the corners between the wall and the bookshelf. They weren’t there. Andy went to the door and look out into the hallway. He listened for the telltale sound of his children, but the house was silent.
Andrew closed and locked the door. As he returned to the Royal, he kicked the pile of paper, scattering the wads in all directions. Peering through the window, Andy saw all four of his children laughing and playing with Leopold. Judy had returned to her sculpture and was currently twisting a piece metal. The sculpture was to be installed in a park downtown. Andy sat down at the typewriter and turned his attention to the blank page.
Setting his finger on home row, Andy steadied himself to type the first thing that entered his mind. The sound of crumpled paper moving distracted him once again. He looked over his shoulder, but found an empty room. His gaze fell to floor where the paper scattered all over the floor.
Shaking his head, Andrew turned his attention back to the Royal. No sooner had his fingers touch the keys, when he heard the muffled sound of paper again. His head snapped around, expecting to catch a glimpse of a mouse or some other rodent scurrying around in the paper. Andy didn’t see a mouse, but the paper certainly wasn’t in the same position it had been just a few minutes earlier.
“Just great,” Andrew said to himself. “Judy won’t be happy to learn that we’ve got mice. I’m going to have to get traps.” He closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose, and took a deep breath.