October 5th, 2012

  • brni

The Secret History of the Hello, World mini-issue

In her Locus review of the Hello, World mini-issue, Lois Tilton postulated that Luna Lindsey's Let the Bugs Work Themselves Out might have been the inspiration for the theme.

It was not. Like so many things, the inspiration for the theme arose from a confluence of many disparate things. The tale starts as so many start:

Once upon a time, there lived an old man and an old woman, in a small beige house on a street in a suburb of Philadelphia that was littered with nearly identical small houses. The old man was frequently seen - tending his yard, shoveling snow, trimming hedges. Of everyone in the neighborhood, he was the only one who made a point of saying hi when we moved in to the house across the street from him, and never failed to exchange a friendly word with any who passed by. Of the old woman, we saw little. Sometimes the old man would help her down the walk to the car, or from the car to the house.

And then he was gone, and the house sat empty for nearly a year. The ambulance must have come some time when we were not home, after his fatal heart attack, and carried him away. The old woman, who had Alzheimer's and could not care for herself, was disposed of by her family, placed in a facility where they likely visited just as infrequently as they visited her home.

And the house sat.

One day, the street filled with cars and moving trucks. Several families - the couple's adult children, presumably - boxed up and carried away everything of value. When the trucks pulled away, the house had been cleaned out, and a For Sale sign decorated the front yard, and all the trash, everything that wasn't wanted, that wasn't valuable, was left in a long pile at the edge of the street.

Some of this was old, broken furniture, bags of clothes, the contents of the refrigerator. Also trash was a box of the old man's original drawings - he had been a political cartoonist and word puzzle creator for the Philadelphia Daily News through the 1970s and 80s. And an old, WWII era Underwood typewriter. It was starting to rain, and I saved what I could of what he had been.

That evening, Linda decided to test the typewriter. She inserted a piece of paper, rolled it to about mid-way, and in the center of the page, she typed

hello, world

The keys worked, the carriage return bar did not turn the roller, so it became art. Later, when my sister-in-law's cats threatened to destroy some ceramic insects I had picked up at Eye's Gallery, we had to find new homes for them where the cats couldn't reach. Several found their way to the typewriter, where they sat and contemplated those two seemingly simple words.

After a time, a cicada joined them.