HE’D ONLY EVER SEEN THEM ON THE TELLY BEFORE

But as soon as Billy crawled through the bushes into the den behind the cenotaph, he knew what it was. And by the time Barry and Daniel had followed, Billy was already pressing down the lettered keys. Tap tap... Tap tap... Wow, said Barry, as Billy pulled at the silver lever, sending the roller sliding to the left... DING!... Buh... Ih... Luh Luh... Yuh... DING!... Barry squatted close beside Billy, a look on the older boy’s face somewhere between joy and grim intent, his right hand now pushing Billy down onto his backside... Buh... Ah... Ruh... Yuh DING!... This tit for tat escalated quickly, and within half a minute saw Billy and Barry scuffling on the sandy soil, the cast shadow of the crucifix a grey X across the wriggling bodies of the two boys, Barry now on top holding down the arms of his younger cousin, until a swift rise of Billy’s knee into his cousin’s spine toppled Barry with an oof... BASTID! yelped Barry, now kicking out at Billy, who stepping back, stumbled over both typewriter and Daniel, who had taken the opportunity to tap tap in ignorant marvel while his older cousins fought. AAAARRRRHUH! AAAARRRR! screamed Daniel, thin drips rolling down his cheeks, the sun’s glint under the armpit of the cross giving his tears the sheen of a slug-trail... BAS-TIDS!... And so it was decided. The treasure would be carried home as a shared find, much to the simmering anger of Billy, with each of the three cousins having a single hand upon the typewriter as they trooped across the Courthouse grass to Billy’s home, where their gathered relatives were doing what they normally did at this point of the week, which was to have a dinner of beans on toast, drink tea and talk about their lives, telling and retelling their stories, with parts added or changed for the want of a better tale, actuality distorted over two sugars and a splash of milk... Ena was just finishing a tale about him, whose name had now devolved into that emphasised pronoun, a tale that saw its narrative sidestep the yelling of a cruel and threatening crudity, when in walked Billy, Barry and Daniel, a six-legged swarm of whining and tugging and IT’S MINE!/NO IT’S NOT IT’S/IT IS!/NO IT’S/I FOUND IT FIRST!/NO YOU DIDN’T IT’S/LIAR! to which Jean and Julie and Ena and Belinda rose as one from the table HEY!/HEY HEY!/PACK IT IN! seeing Ena wrench the typewriter from the three boys, placing it with a KUNK on the scratched dinner table in front of George, whose Adam’s apple rose then sank as he took in and swallowed another tea-dunked bourbon in one... WHAT THE BLOODY HELL’S GOING ON? Ena demanded, a restraining hand on a shoulder each of both Billy and Barry, with a quiver-lipped Daniel shivering between them like a fly-bothered pony, wiping an exclamation mark of snot onto the back of his hand and staring down into the lino... AND WHERE THE HELL DID YOU GET THIS FROM? sang Julie, pointing to the typewriter that sat beneath the blemished nose of George... I found it behind the cenotaph, said Billy... I FOUND IT TOO! yelled Barry, pushing Billy in the back... AAAARRRRHUH! AAAARRRR! IT’S MINE TOO NANNAN! whined Daniel... And with this, the push and shove crackled to life yet again, whereupon Ena and her daughters saw fit to separate the three cousins into three separate rooms while the boys calmed down. This left George alone with the focus of all this strife, who turned the machine around, and tentatively brought a hand to the keys... Ghee... Ghee... DING!... Meanwhile, a decision had to be made. And reminded of a story that involved a wise man and baby, Ena despatched George to solve the unsolvable by dividing the typewriter three ways, the hatchet delivering the roller to Barry, who saw it as a policeman’s truncheon for two consecutive Saturdays then threw it into the River Rother, the keys going to Daniel, who saw them as two fistfuls of monster claws, which ended up in the dustbin after three days because the Q cut a little slit between his thumb and forefinger, then finally, the machine’s hollowed-out body, emptied of clacking keys and a dinging roller, was given to Billy, who used it for nothing.

 

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5. My Uncle explains how it works

 
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