One of Mike’s first admonitions was to begin writing our story assignments on a typewriter. He wanted us to get into the habit of typing stories as fast as possible to get the feel of working on deadline. Because of my responsibilities at home—children, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, trying to keep Richard happy—I endeavored to finish my homework when Richard was at work, but mostly, I couldn’t get to it until after the dishes were cleared away and the boys were tucked in bed.
I had a cute blue portable Underwood-Olivetti typewriter from my college days and many nights I would type my assignments at the kitchen table. One night, at about 11 p.m., Richard came quietly into the kitchen. I didn’t see or hear him—my back was to the hallway door and my focus was completely on the assignment I needed to finish for the next day’s class. When Richard tapped me hard on the shoulder, he frightened me so that I felt as if my heart would burst. When I looked at him, after regaining some composure, Richard’s face was one of sheer fury.
“I’ve had enough,” he growled.
“What are you talking about?”
“Goddamn it, I can’t sleep with you pounding on that typewriter!” he said, putting his face close to mine. His anger had widened the black corneas of his eyes to the point that I could no longer see their periwinkle blue color.
My husband had never acted like this and I felt so intimidated that I timidly asked him what he wanted me to do; frankly, I thought he was going to hit me in the face. Richard’s response startled me so that I remained silent. “You can do your goddamn homework in the garage.”
The next morning, I found my typewriter sitting abjectly on a board between two sawhorses in the garage next to boxes filled with junk.
I persisted with my journalism class, working doggedly and quietly, my companions the black widow spiders whose kingdom spread through the boxes in the garage. Every night when I went out to my dungeon to do my homework, I carried a can of bug spray and a flashlight to inspect the area around my workspace.
Sensing a new dynamic in my marriage, I did not tell my feisty mother who would have given me hell for letting Richard get away with such a thing. Maybe I should have done that in the beginning—setting the boundaries of what he could not cross—but I didn’t have the guts. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, so I never said anything about working in the garage and neither did Richard, although his temperament changed from a man who seemed to love and appreciate me to one who became increasingly quiet—either he brooded or he flew off the handle at some infinitesimal problem.
At the end of my first semester at Pierce College, I was so enthralled with the program that I wanted to continue taking more classes. I had earned the highest grade in the class and my journalism instructor asked me to join the staff of the college newspaper, The Round-up.
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