Why the Things You Use Every Day Might Kill You #11: The Spoked Wheel That Turns Paper through a Dot Matrix Printer
by Dolan Morgan
Remember your dot matrix printer? You once used it all the time – or someone in your family did, at least. That old printer was your friend. Grumpy at times, but always there. Now, it’s been a while since you used the thing, hasn’t it? And where is it anyway? Maybe it’s in the attic? Maybe the basement? Or even the local landfill? Were you nice enough to donate it to the poor or elderly – who have long since given up trying to eat it for sustenance or medication and sent it to the attic, basement or landfill? Let’s take a look at each of these scenarios to understand exactly how your dot matrix printer presents an ongoing danger to your body and your life.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE BASEMENT?
If your dot matrix printer is languishing in the basement now, alongside all the remnants of your forgotten ambitions – the mucous left behind by your dreams – then the spoked wheel already knows all it needs to know about you. It knows what you dedicated your life to, what you gave up friendships and lovers for, and what you finally abandoned under the pressure of your own unbreakable habits and flaws. It knows who you wish you were and why you aren’t that person.
How long will it be before that spoked wheel hops from its axle, rolls up the cracks in the concrete walls, breaks out the tiny storm window, heads toward the center of town, buys a top hat and cane and returns donning his new duds with a business card to match? How long is it before that? You have no idea, but you have to wonder. To do anything else is to bring it on even faster.
So sit in the basement staring at the spoked wheel wondering when it will finally take what it knows about who you are not and uses it in order to trick you, in order to enact an elaborate and intricate charade meant to humiliate, rob and eventually kill you with the only bait you cannot resist – your pride. You and the spoked wheel both know that your pride is a wiggly little worm that’s second only to yourself in cowardice, and it will stick it on a long hook of all the attempts you’ve made to become a better person until it has drawn you into the big fish’s mouth. Did you know that fish don’t know when to stop eating? In the big fish’s case, this trait is only magnified by its size (which is unimaginable) and it will no doubt eat you until the spoked wheel says stop.
Now, ask yourself whether spoked wheels say stop.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE ATTIC?
If your dot matrix printer is resting in the attic, somehow mixed in with the things that make up the routine of your life – Easter decorations, Thanksgiving, Passover, Ramadan, July 4th, MacoShark – then the spoked wheel has already inured itself into the cycle. Maybe you didn’t notice it hanging on the tree last year? Maybe you didn’t see it basting the turkey? Did you see it in the creamy part of the chocolate egg? Did you see it burst into colorful lights in the sky? Did you see it swimming in the shallow waters feeding on smaller fish?
No, of course you didn’t. Up the stairs and down the stairs, that’s all you know. Carry the next day down, the last day up. Use and store, store and use. This is the motion of your life – when you move at all. Most of the time you sit still at the table planning for the next time you will enter the attic. The spoked wheel moves freely around your house while you are transfixed by these repetitions. It would like to pay its own bills and cook its own food, but it is trapped in the stupid routine you’ve gotten yourself into. The attic is a nexus for monotony and its gravity is profound. Yet the spoked wheel knows that the cycle is on its side and in its favor.
By remaining stationary, by remaining an incidental and unused item in a sea of fluctuating junk, it can absorb the force of time and float along the tide of all the dumb things you do such that it finally gathers enough momentum to just start spinning up there, really spinning, until all of the things you do happen faster and faster and the walls of your house expand outward and everything you do and own gains so much mass as to defy the everyday laws you are used to and you are finally forced to admit after all that you are exploding not receding.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE LANDFILL?
It’s simple: the spoked wheel detaches from the dot matrix printer, smashes the machine to pieces, wears the plastic shards like hair or a headdress and scuttles into the world. It enters the job market. It pairs with another wheel. Together they shove their spokes into the holes of some massive and unfurling future and drag it forward, letting some larger apparatus make marks all over it. When the thing is done, if it can ever really finish, the spoked wheels sigh and think the stupid little dots (whether blessings or faults) have something, anything, to do with them.
Dolan Morgan lives and writes in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he is an editor at The Atlas Review. His work has been featured in The Believer, Pank, Field, Contrary, Armchair/Shotgun, TRNSFR and many others. Find more at www.dolanmorgan.com.