In the middle of the night in a WWII-vintage basic training company orderly room, a skinny, bespectacled teenager bangs away at a manual Army typewriter. The rat-a-clack-clack of the keys is not official business. It’s fiction and, as might be expected given the gender and age of the typist, is both adventurous and salacious.
Another basic trainee stands by, poised to grab the page the moment it is finished. The typing stops and the waiting reader takes possession of the page as the writer cranks it out, inserts a fresh sheet, and resumes typing.
The release of this new page creates a stirring among the half-dozen or so other young trainees seated in chairs along the walls, intently reading a page just handed them, or passing off a page to the next guy in line, or waiting empty-handed and eager for another page to come their way.
The young typist awakes briefly from his typing trance and realizes he and the others are wrapped in a warmly enveloping cocoon of his weaving. The magic of that surreal moment convinced that young typist that he must become a writer.
That young typist was me, age 17, at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in 1967. That mystical night was followed by an assignment in Germany that led to a lost romance, followed by a year-long adventure in South Vietnam, then two marriages and careers in journalism and technology.
And now the question is: can I create that magic again?