“Fannie, I need your help,” my mother said in a panic over the telephone.
“Mom what’s wrong?” I asked concerned.
“I turned on the garronculator this morning and it gave me an error message of some sort. I couldn’t find my glasses, but it looks like I was supposed to press the letter F and a number,” she said, “I press lower case F and several numbers, decided I was doing it wrong so I put on the caps lock and tried it again. You father came in about that time, he didn’t have his glasses on either but said he could fix it. Now all we get is a black screen with a white blinking rectangle.”
“Did you turn it off and back on?”
“No, but Eleanor dropped by and did that,” she said, “it didn’t fix it. She said she was running late for her date and I should call you.”
“Now that begs the question,” I said, “why would Eleanor be at your house when she has a date?”
“We wanted to meet the young man she’s dating,” she said, “so I called her first thinking she might bring him by on their way out so we could meet him.”
“I see she out foxed you on that one,” I said laughing.
“Well if you and Lenora Jane hadn’t coached her, we wouldn’t be having these problems meeting the men she’s dating.”
Laughing I said, “Sure Mom, because I’m sure she never saw the way you two grilled Steve and Richard.”
“I can’t imagine what you’re talking about,” she said as her voice trailed off.
“Getting back to the garronculator, I made rescue disks after the last episode,” I said, “I can be over in half an hour.
Richard walked into the kitchen as I hung up.
“You’re going over to your parents at this time of night?” he asked.
“Yup, you want to come with me?”
“I want to know why before I answer that question,” he said.
“They fried the garronculator today and El couldn’t fix it.”
“Have a good time, I’ll see you when you get home,” he said smiling.
“What’re you gonna do?”
“I’m going to watch ‘Khartoum’,” he said grabbing the popcorn popper from the cupboard.
“Well have fun with Gordon-pasha,” I said.
“More fun than you’ll have,” Richard said smiling, “if you’re really good, I save you some popcorn.”
Twenty-five minutes later I drove through University Place and parked in my parent’s driveway. A neatly manicured yard surrounded a small white house with blue trim. I rang the doorbell.
My mother answered the door in her blue summer housecoat and matching slippers, her hair tied up in a matching scarf. The smell of ditto fluid poured from the door.
“Oh my god Mom,” I said waiving my hand in front of my face, “what on earth are you and dad trying to do, blow up the neighborhood?”
Staring at me, her eyebrows nearly touching the scarf, my mother said, “What happened to your hair?”
“Richard used my hair comb to clean the drain so I got another crew cut,” I said smiling my green eyes dancing, “I can already tell you love it.”
“So that’s what Suzy didn’t want to tell me.”
“What I want to know is why I smell ditto fluid?”
“Verla and I have a big meeting tomorrow morning,” she said opening the door wide enough to let me in. “Since I can’t always depend on modern technology, I broke out the the typewriter and your father set up the old mimeograph so we could have our handouts.”
Sitting at the foot of the antique oak dining room table sat a small mint-green Smith Corona manual typewriter. On the left hand side sat the matching hard cover, on the right hand side a razor blade and blank stencils. Next to the table sat an institutional gray cart supporting a highly polished mimeograph with a stencil attached to the drum and paper loaded into the feeder.
“I had no idea they still made that stuff,” I said amazed.
“Oh yeah,” she said, “your father has an old army buddy who worked for A.B. Dick Company until he retired. We can get just about anything we need through him.”
“You do know they have businesses that can make photo copies for you?”
Ignoring me she said, “it’s for our geneology meeting, we thought the ladies would get a kick out of the dittos.”
“Oh they’ll get a kick out of it all right and a contact high,” I said opening the dining room window.
“So do you want to give it a crank for old time sake?” my mother said winking, small strands of gray hair escaping from the scarf framing her face.
“You’d think I’d say no after all the years you tortured us with it, but I’m dying to give it a go,” I said grasping the offset handle. Turning the handle drew paper into the machine, with the drum making the familiar mechanical clicking noise and sloshing of fluid, the paper popped out the other side covered with puffy purple lettering. “Wow, does that bring back memories.”
“So do you think you can fix the garronculator this time?” she asked.
“I’ll give it a go,” I said heading toward the den. “Where’s dad?”
“Oh, he’s out in the garage tinkering with something.”
Sitting in the corner of the den on a surplus World War II era gray steel desk sat a tired Dell computer, the monitor flashing out an S.O.S.
Reaching into my bag, I pulled out an old 3.5 inch floppy and put it into the drive. Turning off the PC I waited a moment sending a silent prayer out to the universe. Pressing the power button I held my breath. I could hear the fan coming up to speed and the floppy drive rev up.
I opened the CD drive and put in the rescue software. I had no idea how long I was holding my breath until the Dell recognized the CD.
I could hear the familiar mechanized clicking of the mimeograph down the hall as I reformatted my parent’s computer. Two hours slipped by before the familiar Windows music poured from the tiny speakers on either side of the monitor.
The sound of the mimeograph was replaced by the tapping of the typewriter and an occasional colorful euphemism followed by the sound of scraping.
“I heard that,” I called down the hall.
“I’m sure you just imagine it,” my mother said laughing.
One hour later, all the settings restored I rejoined my mother in the dining room.
“The garronculator is up and running again,” I said.
“Oh good, your father will be so happy. I don’t think he could’ve face you if it didn’t work.”
“Oh that explains the tinkering in the garage,” I said grinning. “So have you ever considered replacing your computer with something newer and more user friendly?”
“Computers are too expensive,” she said, “besides, we have you girls to come over and fix it for us anytime anything goes wrong.”
“Uh huh,” I said nodding my head. “Well in that case, I’ll keep these handy,” I said slipping the disks back into my bag. “Since I’m leaving now, you can tell Dad its okay to come back into the house,” I said giving her a hug before I left.
Our house was dark except for the flickering of the television in the living room. The smell of hot popcorn filled the air. I turned on a light. Richard stood in the kitchen holding a bowl filled to the brim with hot salted buttery popcorn.
“So your mom called to let me know how she felt about your hair,” Richard said laughing. “She also mentioned you were able to fix the garronculator, I figured you earned the popcorn.”
“That and a stiff glass of water would be great,” I said laughing.
Richard looked at me. “Are you all right? What’s wrong with our eyes, they’re all dilated.”
“I don’t suppose my mom mentioned she was making dittos while I fixed the computer.”
“Dittos?” he asked, “like ditto dittos?”
“Yes, dittos, right down to the puffy purple letter dittos,” I said.
“They still make supplies for ditto machines?”
“My dad has an old army buddy.”
“That explains a lot,” said Richard nodding his head. “You actually do smell like a ditto,” Richard said sniffing the air.
“Gee thanks,” I said, “So I was thinking about talking to my sisters about getting them a Mac for Christmas so we could retire the garronculator.”
“I’ll ditto that motion,” Richard said laughing.