Of the several letters present, the T—drawn up to his capital Roman height, majestic single arm fully extended, twin beaks pointing downward and gracefully, magnanimously out—is the first to address the assemblage:
“It pleases me,” he proclaims, “that we are once again gathered in this formation of gratitude. Though we know not yet to whom we bring our simple message, I expect that I speak for all of us when I say that, truly, it does not matter. When we arrive, we will represent appreciation and thoughtfulness. And a job well done is its own reward.” Thus, T has spoken.
His frequent consort, shapely h, kerns properly close to him, her lithe ascender rising above the invisible mean, parallel to his unleaning stem. “Hear, hear!” she chirps. She is an aspirate who aspires to very little.
With a near-silent sigh, maternal a looks over her bowl at the tall, light-headed h, wondering if she, a herself, had ever been so whimsical and dependent, before she was needed just about everywhere. First among equals (and that shrewd mercenary, y) is a; and first among all, as well. She is old, but more often than any other of the lowercase, she stands alone. She is not arrogant, though she begins the word; she does not sing her own praises, nor does she complain. Grandmaternal a serves—not quite in silence, but with a quiet dignity.
Still, she knows the value of gratitude, and the wisdom in showing support for one’s leader, high and mighty though T might be. “We should all be proud to be here,” says a. That is what she often says in this company.
And n nods in agreement. More often than any other letter, n accompanies a when she has but one companion. In tandem, they introduce many other words, and humbly take no attention from them. Their routine is polished and nearly perfected. Only that dizzy h complicates n’s job. But as a forgives h her youthful exuberance, avuncular n pardons her indecisiveness.
The k adds naught but a modest clearing of his throat, preferring not to express an opinion on any matter, and continues to look away.
But only the briefest of moments passes before mischievous, bitter y chimes in. Her descender fishes below the baseline, its ball less a buoy than a barb. Often seen in the company of T’s younger, less rigid brother, she relishes opportunity slyly to contradict the elder, kept apart from him as she is by circumstance. (Though on the keyboard, she is ever aware, y’s older sister sits beside T, while the more mature H is beneath them!)
“Truly, “ she mocks, “it does not matter. How not? Should we be equally joyed to represent the husband to his mistress as to his wife?” She would introduce dissonance, ironically as she plays the part of a consonant. (There is more irony in that y, in these modern times, serves in the stead of the Th blend, as she does this day—she began as the Thorn and she has become the thorn in her own side.) She expects that the vowel behind her will back her up.
But he has not been paying attention, content, obviously, to be circular. He sits, contemplating his void, until his neighbor taps him with a serif like a finger. “Oh,” says the oblivious one, and looks ‘round. “You can go on without me.”
So u can, and so u does.
Soon enough they are posted. They will remain silent, all, while they travel through the mails. When they arrive they will be taken as a whole.
“Type Cast” appeared in REAL 32.2, Summer 2008.