“First Drafts Should Be Handwritten,” He Advises by Cat Dixon

“First Drafts Should Be Handwritten,” He Advises

Cat Dixon

The backspace button is stuck again probably from the latest soda spill.
The keyboard eats my letters—hungry for the taste of commas and apostrophes,
famished from the snap of the spacebar and the flicker of the cursor. The bang
of the printer as it comes to life—its mouth full of ink and its tray dusty
with remnants of card stock—jolts me from this free-writing. See, this computer
zaps the word “there” into “here.” Nothing is ever sent or received—
the mailbox lost in an eternal pending folder. The network connection lost.
The router’s on Mars, the modem’s in my neighbor’s mouth—that neighbor
who insisted he had to drive across the city during snowstorms
to search for stranded motorists as if no one owned
a cell phone. He carried a shovel, jumper cables, a notebook, and a pick-axe
in his backseat. See, the self-driving car will be
a reality thanks to people working at computers.

When the car screeches off the road due to ice, a distress signal will be sent.
The neighbor can finally stay home. I think I will miss the free
road—the empty threat that I could jump the curb or race down the one-way
street going the wrong direction. I like options. When the options menu
pops up on the computer, I try to understand why this mouse
must highlight everything. Some strange setting I have yet to discover.
I can never determine which option is best so I leave it be, hit restart
over and over, and that’s the burn, the cut cord, the short circuit. I can
never find a clean sheet of paper in the tray, or erase the words I’ve spoken
instead of typed, or stop Gmail from predicting my words with auto-fill
as I type a message to him—I’m too lazy and will allow AI to finish.

About the Author

Cat Dixon is the author of EVA and TOO HEAVY TO CARRY (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and her chapbook, THE BOOK OF LEVINSON, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. She teaches creative writing at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. She has poems (co-written with Trent Walters) in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press, 2018).