The writer had come to the Inn for a number of reasons, some more reasonable than others. His wife was receiving electroshock therapy a few miles away. In fact, from the back of the inn, which overlooked a sprawling golf course, he could nearly see the hospital where she was an inpatient. But his room didn’t face the green lawns and the distant blue mountains. Instead, he requested a third-floor room overlooking the front entrance and the chaos of the circular carpark, which was initially built for horse carriages and had quickly become overrun by motorcars from which bellhops unloaded the embarrassment of luggage needed by deep-South debutants and Northern heiresses on holiday.

He told himself this would give him inspiration for a new book — he so desperately needed a new book. For nothing else, to stop his publisher’s harassing letters. And then there was his reputation and lastly his own need to believe in himself as a writer. A Man of Letters. The voice within him that doubted he’d ever write again grew louder each day. He shoved the heavy maple desk in front of the window, slid a crisp blank page into the typewriter, and opened a beer.

There were rumors that the writer’s wife had written his best work. He had always cared too much what others said, what others thought of him. And he so wanted to prove them wrong, but the empty bottles colonized the trash can while the crisp page remained dauntingly blank. In a fury, sometime after midnight (the mountains seemed to pull darkness in like a cloak), he pushed the cursed typewriter out the window. It hit the carpark below with a satisfying symphony of clangs and crashes. He imagined the offending keys scattered across the pavers like runes cast by a fortune teller.

But instead of descending the Otis elevator to see for himself if the wreckage revealed any hints of his next great novel, he let the haze of alcohol ferry him into a dreamless sleep.

In the morning he worked out, despite the cacophony in his skull, that he would need to replace the typewriter. He breakfasted on aspirin and the hair of the dog and then walked to town. It was only two miles, maybe, to the childhood home of one of his literary heroes and he’d had the idea — inspired, he thought — to go around and ask to borrow that author’s typewriter. The hero, after all, had long left the small mountain town for the bright lights of New York. But to have the typewriter upon which he’d done his most famous work …

The author’s mother didn’t see it that way, though. She was an angular crone with a sharp face and a sharper voice. “You reek of drink,” was all she said before slamming the door. While the walk had helped him to sweat out the previous night’s excess, it had done little for his presentation. He was damp, red-faced, and in no shape to mingle with ladies.

A businessman with a kindly face had overheard from a rocking chair on the porch. “She runs a tight ship,” he said. “Go down Main Street — you’ll find other accommodations. Try the Inn at 100 Main Street. I often stay there myself.”

But, of course, the writer wasn’t looking for a room. He thanked the businessman, nonetheless, and turned down a narrow, shady street in search of a bar but instead found a junk shop. It was cool in there and smelled of leather-bound books and linseed oil. The jumble of rolltop desks, stiff-backed Victorian chairs, Tiffany lamps, and estate jewelry calmed him. Old things revealed their stories in hushed and unhurried ways. He imagined if he sat on the velvet chaise and closed his eyes for a half hour, the vision he sought would come to him. Like a butterfly, he thought, that refused to be caught, but alighted willingly on one who sat still.

He sat, and mopped his forehead with his handkerchief, and gazed around him at all the things. All those anecdotes from the lives of others who he’d never meet. Probably wouldn’t care for them if he did meet them. But he’d happily help himself to their secrets and sob stories. Anything to draw in a reader.

Dust fluttered in the gloom of the shop — the only thing in motion — until a kindly man stepped out of a closet or office or storage room in the back. “Excuse me!” he said cheerily. “I didn’t hear you come in! Anything I can help you find?”

The writer shook his head but then remembered — “Any chance you’ve got a typewriter?”

“Oh yes.” The shopkeeper moved a hutch out of the way, and a box of patterned China dishes. “This one’s special.” He lifted a Remington from a shelf a blew a cloud of dust from it.

“How so?”

“Belonged to Ernest Hemingway. You’ve heard of him?”

Sure, he had. The upstart. Just a few years younger, but lauded for his spare style, for the freshness of his writing, for his vigor and punch. He wanted to despise Hemingway, but when he searched his soul he knew, it wasn’t that he wished for Hemingway to lose that brash, electric talent. It’s just that he wanted a bit for himself. And anyway, they were friends. Rather, had been. He’d introduced the younger writer to his publisher and their popular works were released just a year apart.

“Hemingway left it behind at a hotel somewhere and a buddy of mine got his hands on it.” The shopkeeper dropped his voice to a whisper. “Might have written his last novel on it — wouldn’t that be something?”

He thought of his own broken typewriter on the inn’s pavers, and the bellhop sent to sweep up the mess. Maybe the bellhop was an aspiring writer himself and kept a souvenir — a bit of inky ribbon or the Q key — in case it contained some creative spark from a once-great author.

Of course, it didn’t. Not anymore than Hemingway’s typewriter contained the energetic traces of The Sun Also Rises. The typewriter was just a tool through which the inspiration flowed.

Only the inspiration hadn’t been flowing. What flowed was the beer, the doubt, and the existential dread.

“This isn’t Hemingway’s typewriter,” he told the shopkeeper. Hemingway traveled with an Underwood Standard Portable. This Remington, from a decade earlier, was Kelly green — too bright and whimsical for Ernest. A man who ran with the bulls (or at least claimed to) did not type his stories on a cute green Remington.

Still, he felt something within himself prick up. An itch in his fingertips cajoled him to the give the keys a tap. He could not hear the voice of an idea and yet there was some inner knowing that the voice was approaching. He thought of how sound traveled in the mountains. Not in straight lines, like in the flatlands — his own native St. Paul — but roundabout and often interrupted. Caught in hollers and then hurled free from the precipices.

“I’ll take it,” the writer said, and handed the shopkeeper a few bills from his wallet. Too much (even if it had belonged to Hemingway). But he didn’t care. The case closed nicely, and the handle was a welcome weight in his palm. There was the two-mile walk back to the inn — plenty of time for the voice of the idea to catch him.

If he was leisurely about it, the narrative might tell itself to him as he walked. But if he hurried, he might make it to his desk in time to catch the first words — the droplets that harkened the flood — of the story.