Holiday Digest: A New Year with a Royal


By Miranda McPhee

“I need your New Year’s story no later than Dec. 30,” said my editor for the umpteenth time. “Then we’ll talk about renewing your contract.” I grimaced down the phone. It was Dec. 20 and I was coming up empty. As a New York transplant with decades of cold and snow to proclaim winter, I had much to learn about celebrating Christmas in the California sunshine, let alone writing about it.

“Just tuck yourself away and get on with it,” she said.

I needed to get away from my busy household, so I threw caution and money to the wind and booked a night on Airbnb that was nearby and cheap, perhaps too cheap.

I retrieved the keys from the lockbox on the front porch, and as I stepped over the threshold into a small boarding house, it was as though someone had switched off the sun. It felt a thousand miles from Laguna Beach. Up a creaky flight of stairs, I found the reason for the rack rate. My room was tucked away at the back, facing into a narrow alley. The decor was positively Dickensian. The walls were dark blue, and the carpet and apologetically polished furniture had seen better days. In the corner stood a 1930s vintage Royal typewriter on a marble-topped round table. I eyed it suspiciously; would it help me or mock me? I felt underdressed and chilled in my T-shirt and flip-flops.

Three hours later, I slammed shut my laptop and fought the urge to escape into the sunlight. How about a walk on Main Beach? No, I had to work. The more I tried, the less came out. The idea of leaving home to help my writing juices flow was starting to feel ridiculous.

On a whim, I tore a piece of paper out of my notepad and tucked it into the Royal. I smiled as the clack of typewriter keys took me back 40 years to the age before computers, the Internet, and even Wite-Out. To a time when I crafted in my head what I wanted to say and carefully typed it with the knowledge that errors meant retyping a whole page. These days, I snatched at a fleeting thought and flung it into a Word document, expecting a whole train of thought to follow unbidden.

The typewriter was obviously used, as the keys were responsive and the carriage returned with an easy ka-ching. I typed “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” 18 times, left the page in the typewriter, and went to bed.

That night I dreamed of writing on the Royal, hearing the soft clack, clack like a comforting metronome. I woke reasonably refreshed, made coffee and extracted my page of typing from the Royal. I opened my laptop, determined but nervous—Dec. 20, and I still had nothing to show. I had to check out by 11 a.m.

I was deep into a number of false starts when my phone rang. Oh no.

“Love it! I love it!” my editor enthused. “It’s the best thing you’ve written. It’s a great way to start the new year.”

“What?” I asked, confused.
She paused. “The story you sent an hour ago.” I clicked on my Sent email box. There was indeed an email from me to her.

“So, you like it?” I stalled for time.

“It’s perfect. Original, heartwarming, relatable. Good job, Susie. We’ll talk next week about renewing your contract, OK?”

“Sure…great! Thank you,” I replied. “Happy New Year.”

Alone again, I opened the email and downloaded the story, “A New Year with a Royal,” and began to read.

Miranda is a writer, pickleball player, granny and active retiree who is spending her 60s exploring new places and going on adventures.

View Our User Comment Policy


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here