The Spaghetti Machine

My fatherís infatuation with spools, levers, cranks and switches continued to grow with the size of his family. One unforgettable anniversary, he bought my mother a spaghetti-making machine as a token of his love. It had a shining chrome finish and beautiful, evenly spaced, slim, vertical blades. It looked like a small Las Vegas, slot machine, but without the slots.

Personally, I have no problem understanding why my father found this machine irresistible. The mere cause and effect of putting a wad of dough into one end and watching thin strips of pasta coming out of the other could compel the interest of even the least mechanically inclined.

But I could also understand my motherís antipathy to it. A spaghetti-making machine is not a romantic gift. Standing over a manually operated mechanism that manufactures a food product in which one has absolutely no interest does nothing to inspire rhapsodies of ardor.

The spaghetti machine disappeared.

In time, it was replaced by an absolutely fabulous engraving tool. This was a variation on a theme of Thomas Jeffersonís invention for making duplicates of his correspondence in the days before carbon copies existed. It consisted of a metal platform from which two robot-like arms extended. Each arm held an engraving tool. Vises, rulers, and finger-like prongs were also components of this machine. Its purpose was to etch names, symbols, quotations or messages onto the metal surfaces of jewelry boxes, plaques, I.D. bracelets and lockets.

I loved that machine.

Granted it never worked properly, but if it had worked, what wonderful things it could have done!

And what wonderful books we could have bound with the book press that Samuel Reuben eventually brought home. It is an unimaginably heavy iron implement whose great, grinding main screw is flanked by enormous brass knobs.

My husband stole it from my parentsí house a few years ago, and it is positioned in our hallway so that anyone who wants to go into or out of our office has to trip over it. It doesnít do anything at present; it just is. However, I live in the hopes that when I am old and gray, one of my books will fall apart and I will glue it together, spin down the knobs on that main screw, and leave it there until it dries.

Then and only then will my fatherís book press be engaged in the activity that it was put on earth to do.

Shelly Reuben is an Edgar-nominated author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit

Copyright © 2008, Shelly Reuben.

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