1965-05-12 - Futhark, Not That Cool
Summary: Halgrim needs a repair. Elmo needs to know what Futhark means.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
halgrim elmo 


There's a dingy little housewares-and-repair shop on the Lower East Side, called Rosario's. Inside the shop on this glorious May day is Elmo, resting his head in the cradle of his arms on the workbench, dozing.


Dingy or not, it's not a downtown shop charging almost as much to fix a typewriter as replace it new, and this is why Soren sent Halgrim here to have his fixed. Lecturers don't hand write out their papers and syllabuses anymore.

Halgrim ducks in from the busy street outside, typewriter travel case in one hand and leather work bag slung over his other shoulder, and glances about. He approaches the sleeping Elmo with care, unsure of the social expectations in such a case. Does he wake him? Leave a hand written note?


Elmo seems closely attuned to the sound of the door opening, and stirs with a groan. "Yeah, pal, whaddaya need?" He's got a New York Jewish accent strong enough to strip the seasoning from a cast-iron pan. He rubs his face and looks at Halgrim. Then frowns and looks at him closer. "What're you, a lumberjack?"


Halgrim huffs a laugh. "No, not really." His accent is Scandanavian in the extreme, with the upwards lilt of a Swede or Nord to it, though clearly he's learned (or trying quite hard) to bring it closer to US expectations. He holds up the typewriter case. "My typewriter's been acting up for a while, and now I can't get it to advance the paper at all. A few of the keys aren't realiable anymore either. I was wondering if you could have a look at it."


Elmo perks up, some of his exhaustion shedding, although he's still got dark circles around his eyes. "A typewriter! I don't usually work with 'em. They're pretty simple, though. Open 'er up." He pats the workbench invitingly. "So where ya from?" Immediately with the nosy questions, like all New Yorkers.


"Sweden," Halgrim says, and sets the case down with an exaggerated caution. He's been in the city long enough to be comfortable with such interrogations, it seems. He flips up the lid, but doesn't take the typewritter out, leaving that to Elmo. It's a hard blue Smith Corona, and for something that has plainly seen heavy use it's been well-cared for; there's just only so much you can do when you're taking an electric type-writer to distant locales on the regular. Halgrim adds, "Uppsala, in particular."


Elmo hauls the typewriter out and sets it on the workbench surface with a gentle thump. "Aww, ain't she pretty," he says, apparently sincerely. He pats the hard shell. "Gonna have a look at you, mameleh." To…the typewriter? Then he's getting the housing off with a tool that probably wasn't meant for it, but works fine. "I dunno Uppsala from a hole in the ground, buddy. What brings ya to New York?" The same thing almost everyone has asked Halgrim, probably. Meanwhile he's disassembling the typewriter with alarming speed and ease for someone who claims he doesn't work with them.


"It's a small city, by New York's standards," Halgrim admits. "I doubt anyone not from Sweden or Normway, or possibly Denmark, would know it." He rubs the back of his neck, and says, "And I'm here for work," which is close enough to the truth that it sounds like it. "The United States has some particularly fine museums and universities." He settles himself against an open spot on the wall and crosses his arms. "And how about yourself? Are you from New York?"


"What gave it away," Elmo says with a kind of self-mocking humor. "Yeah, born here." He pulls a soft cloth out and starts polishing the arms of the keys, eyeing them critically, as if they were gems he's inspecting for flaws. "I think your key problem is that these guys are just worn out. They've been through a lot. See here, where the metal's kind of dipped in like that?" He shows Halgrim, without any sense that maybe Halgrim isn't interested. "That's wear. It probably works sometimes and then not other times? Metal expansion or contraction causes that."


Halgrim leans in to peer at what Elmo shows him, and sighs. "I guess I can't say I'm too surprised. I take this with me into the field when there's a chance we'll be near an establishment with electricity. It helps a great deal, to be able to type up your notes closer to when you took them down." He straightens. "Is it possible to replace only the pieces which are worn down?"


Elmo rummages around in the typewriter's guts. "Oh, sure. But I don't have 'em, gonna have to order 'em. Maybe you don't wanna wait that long, I dunno. Okay, looks like the roller's worn out, too. You've put this girl through hell, huh?" He looks up, interested. "You a surveyor or somethin'?" What other profession goes out in the field?


"Archaeologist," Halgrim says. "Though I suppose what I do is close enough to a surveyor's work to produce the same results on my equipment." He nods at the typewriter. "I can wait—there's always the library, if I need something typed up right away." He pauses, seems to hesitate. "Unless you think it will cost significantly more than replacing it?"


That really catches Elmo's attention. "No kiddin'," he says, impressed. "That's badass. You read ancient languages and stuff like that?" He only has a vague idea of what archeology is. Then he shakes his head. "Nah, no way. Cost of parts plus ten bucks. …I might not need parts," he mutters, mostly to himself, eyeing the thinned arm of the key. "I could machine a new arm. Put the head on it, who'll know the difference? …Man, no, I got way too much going on for that." Regretfully he puts it back down.


Halgrim shrugs. "In as much as Furthark is ancient. I suppose that qualifies, though it's not the same as saying I could read hieroglyphs—which, I can't, Egypt isn't my area of study." He listens to Elmo give the news, relief plain on his face. "Ah, excellent. I'll admit, I was reluctant to bring it in, no matter how roughly it performed, for fear I'd be told it had to be scrapped. How long do you need it, do you think?"


"Buddy, I can fix anything," Elmo says. Bragging just a little. "You don't gotta get rid of a single piece of equipment if you bring it to me." He wobbles a hand on the question of how long he needs it. "A week, on the outside? Probably just a couple days. I'd guess a lotta typewriters break down in this town, there's gotta be parts floating around. But as a repair guy I hafta give you the worst case estimate." He flashes a grin at Halgrim, expecting him to share in the joke. "Okay, what's Futhark? I'll knock a buck off the bill if you tell me."


Halgrim raises his eyebrows. It's not every day your profession gets you a discount, and who doesn't like to talk about their specialties. He opens his leather bag and rummages around in it until he produces a leather-bound notebook which is as worn as the typewriter. As he flips through the pages, he says, "It's the rune forms the early Germanic peoples wrote with. This includes Scadanavians, mind you. There are a few different forms, because the shapes and how they used them changed as they themselves did—ah, here." He moves the notebook's frayed, silken marker to a page and hold it out to Elmo. One side of the page is a complex diagram, possibly of a digsite, and the opposing page, which Halgrim points to, is a sketch of angular runes on a stone tablet. "We found these in Denmark, in what we assume was a burial mound. Probably, sixth century or so."


Elmo leans over, fascinated by the diagrams. "That's awesome. Those are letters?" His fingers twitch like he wants to grab the book, but he doesn't. "What does it say?"


"Mmmm, let's see…" Halgrim flips to the next page, which is a series of notes in Swedish, each next to some of the runes. "I believe we decided it said 'Sigrunn made this', or something to that effect. Similar to how we teach children an art in school and have them make something for their parents, perhaps. Or she might simply have been proud of her work. It's hard to say, of course we don't know that Sigrunn was the one buried, or if she knew her—all of that remains a mystery." He shrugs, unperturbed by the lack of certainty involved.


Elmo laughs, glancing up at Halgrim. "You're messin' with me. That's what it says? But it looks so …I dunno, way more complicated. Like it should say something about the One Ring. Maybe anything looks important when it's carved in stone. Easy way to impress people." He's joking. Kind of.


"Almost certainly. One runestone literally says 'I, Harald, carved this', for example." Halgrim smiles, and continues, "Anything we don't understand looks more complex than it is," and shuts the notebook. "Though, I imagine you're on to something regarding impressing others. There are hundreds of runestones all over Sweden, and most of them seem to have been erected simply to make a statement. And some of them have very intricate descriptions and art carved into them, all for the purpose of announcing a momentous family event. And others are simpler still—Harald Bluetooth erected one announcing his wife to be the jewel of all Denmark, for example." He laughs. "I suppose when you're a king you can do that sort of thing."


"Just like that big tower that says STARK on it downtown." Elmo nods, half grinning. "Same thing, right? Means 'I got more money than you, and you can go to hell.' So you type up a lot of notes about some guy carved 'I carved a rock' on a rock. That sounded way cooler before you told me what it meant." Again, joking, with a glint of mischief in his eyes. "Hey, by the way, my name's Elmo. I'm in charge of repairs here. That also sounds way cooler than what it means, which is that there's me and the owner, who doesn't repair stuff." He doesn't offer to shake hands.


"Precisely," Halgrim says. "Of course, we study it so we can remember, as it's quite easy to forget our history, even when we write it down on large rocks. And for some it becomes a religious undertaking, if the subjects in question are relevant to them in that way." His mouth twists in a wry smile. "Maybe one day a far future historian will find a photograph of Mr. Stark's building and wonder what the word means." He dips his head and says, "Halgrim. It's a pleasure to meet you, Elmo."


Elmo says, reflectively, "And nobody will be left to tell him it means 'rich blowhard'." When he learns Halgrim's name, he shakes his head in mock disgust. "Even your name is cool. How do you get away with it?" He pulls out a recipt slip, writes up the repair on it, and tears off the carbon copy to give to Halgrim. "Phone number? I'll call you when it's done." He looks uncertain. It's abrupt, after his chatter. "Uh, just for, you know. The typewriter. I ain't gonna…ask out your daughter or nothin'."


Halgrim seems pleasently amused by the notion of having a 'cool' name, and even more entertained by the reassurances for his nonexistant daughter. He writes his phone number down—two, in fact. "This second one is my work number, in case I'm there, which I am more often than not."


Elmo nods wryly. "Same here, pal. Same here." And he sends Halgrim on his way with the promise of at least a call in two days, if not the repaired typewriter.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License