Alphabet Nonsense

Once upon a time,

The letter A took a walk.

She saw the letter B

And boy, she had a shock.

**

B was round where A was not,

And A was quite appalled.

But the letter B laughed at her,

And said “Try being small!”

**

When A became a she realized

That she had some roundness, too.

She sought out B and asked him if

He’d be her friend, real and true.

**

So A and B had lots of fun

And paired up for many words,

Like abbey, abort and able,

Abolish, abet and absurd.

**

They were friends for many years,

And they met some other letters,

And they learned never to think

Of themselves as anyone’s betters.

**

A and B liked C and D,

And many others as well,

They were a band of twenty-six,

The spellers and the spelled.

**

But A and B have special status,

They’re nobler than the others,

For the alphabet is named after

Their great-great-Latin-grandfathers.

1. Mr. and Mrs. Adams [5]

Mr. Adams walked briskly up to Acorn, walking around the building so he could enter from the front instead of walk through the dank halls that led upstairs from the parking lot. When the semester was underway, he didn’t mind going through the back door; there were often students standing around it and smoking and usually he’d know a couple and would exchange pleasantries as well as a covert and rare cigarette with them.

Even so, it was always nice to enter from the main entrance to Acorn – the impressive double doors were thrown open, and all the carvings and metalwork on them was visible to those who passed. The doors had been donated to the university when a rich family who lived on the outskirts of Hartscreek had decided to tear down the private chapel they had on their property and build a large pool to replace it. Mr. Adams was always curious as to who put the idea in those people’s heads to give the university the doors instead of trashing them. Whoever it was, Mr. Adams was thankful. The doors seemed to him to be just right for the kind of building that Acorn was; imposing, ivy climbing up the walls and a couple of gargoyles leering from the eaves.

His office was on the top floor. He joked with his wife that he didn’t join her morning walks because he had enough exercise just climbing the stairs up and down from his office all day long. The building had an elevator, but it was only used by the cleaning staff and any students or faculty with disabilities. Everyone else was expected to walk. Mr. Adams supposed that one day his knees would pain him enough that he wouldn’t feel guilty applying to get a key for it, but meanwhile he took the stairs two at a time up to his office, hardly puffing at all.

When he got up to the third floor, he walked down the hallway and entered the last door on the left. His name was there on a little plaque, and as he unlocked the door for the first time since summer term ended, he breathed in the slightly musty air and felt right at home. He’d had this room ever since he’d been given tenure, and over the years it had become a sort of embodiment of his tastes. Two walls were lined with bookshelves, crammed with what he called the tools of his trade – everything from books by his favorite authors to literary magazines to anthologies. His desk held the old computer (which he never used) that the university provided him with as well as two cupfuls of pens and a stack of notepads and notebooks almost toppling over. There were also framed pictures of Mrs. Adams, Susan, and a family photo of Susan, Marty and Claire.

Mr. Adams sat down at the desk, laying his briefcase, which held his laptop, daily planner and another bulk of notebooks and pens. He sighed and took the picture of his daughter and her family and gazed at it.

“Marty,” he murmured to himself. “When are we going to hear from you again, my boy? And when can I see my little Claire again?”

Shaking himself, he put the photo back down and pulled out his laptop, ready to get to work on the various syllabi he had yet to complete.

Dora’s Birthday [Part II]

Part I

When Dora’s parents pulled the car into the driveway, Dora’s mother said “Oh, no!” in a strangled voice before ripping off her seat belt and running out of the car. There was a big ambulance sitting in front of the house, and two men in blue zippie-up clothing – kind of like Dora’s pajamas when she was very small – were rolling a big bed with wheels on it towards the back of the ambulance, which had its red lights swirling around and around, but the siren was off. Then Dora saw her grandfather run out the door after the men. Dora’s mother ran to him, and then they both got into the back of the ambulance with the men.
Dora’s father started the car up, and began following the ambulance, which now had its siren on.
“Daddy, what’s going on?” Dora asked from the backseat.
“Well, sweetie, I’m not sure. I think something happened to Grandma, and that’s why the ambulance was there. We’ll follow the ambulance to the hospital and we’ll see your mother and Grandpa there and they’ll tell us what’s going on.” Dora’s father sounded very worried. Dora knew he sounded worried because he sounded like this when Dora had tried to make herself some toast alone and had ended up burning her finger badly. She’d been taken to the hospital then, and the doctors gave her some sticky lotion to put on the burn until it healed. Her father had sounded exactly the same then as he did now.
“But Daddy, Grandma will be okay, right?”
“I hope so, sweetie.”

Soon they were pulling into the hospital parking lot. Dora’s father parked the car, and Dora leaped out of the backseat after him. They walked towards the big double doors of the emergency room [Dora knew that’s what it was because that’s where she’d gone when her finger had been burned.] The doors opened automatically and they walked in.
“Mommy!” Dora called out, and ran to her mother who was hunched over in a chair, half leaning over Grandpa and talking to him softly. She caught Dora up in her arms and settled her on her lap. Dora’s father sat down on her Grandpa’s other side, and asked quietly what was happening.
“She had a stroke,” Grandpa said. He sounded so tired. Dora never thought of her Grandpa as an old man, not like the other old men she would see on the street sometimes. But now she thought he did look old. She turned and buried her face in her mother’s hair. She was scared. Everyone was acting so sad and tired. It was her birthday. Everyone, herself included, should be happy today!
“What’s a stroke, Mommy?” She whispered in her mother’s ear. Her mother pulled her backwards a bit so she could look at her face. Dora was sucking her thumb, something she almost never did anymore, not now that she was a big girl and going to school and everything.
“Well, honey-pie, you remember how we read in your encyclopedia about how the brain works?” Dora’s mother answered. Dora remembered. She had gotten a nice big set of children’s encyclopedias for her last birthday and she’d been reading them with her mother and father and lately also alone a bit. The books were illustrated and she remembered the picture of the brain, all wormy and pink. She nodded to her mother.
“Well,” her mother continued. “A stroke is when a big clump of blood blocks some parts of the brain off. That throws the whole balance of the brain off and then some parts of it stop working for a minute or two. That’s what happened to Grandma.”
“But Mommy,” Dora spoke quietly, her thumb still half in her mouth. “Grandma will be fine, right? And we’ll go back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and have cake and I’ll blow out the candles, right?”
“I don’t think so, baby,” her mother replied. “Grandma’s going to have to stay here for a while and I want to be here with Grandpa once she wakes up and the doctors see how bad the damage is from the stroke.”
It was all too much – first she’d gotten ouches on her birthday, then no dessert at school, and now even this was ruined. No cake on her birthday. Dora burst into tears.

The Unremarkable Man on the Route 46 Bus

An unremarkable man, wearing an unremarkable pair of jeans and unremarkable long sleeved shirt, stepped onto the Route 46 bus as it juddered to a halt at the Route 46 bus-stop. He flashed his monthly bus-pass at the driver who waved him into the interior of the bus (without looking at the man’s unremarkable picture and name on the bus-pass). The man walked unobtrusively into the bus, which was quite a feat as it was an early Monday morning and the bus was packed full of early Monday morning commuters, dressed in suits or geared up for the gym.

There were, of course, no seats available on the bus, and so the man had no choice but to hold onto one of the rails and stand, in an unremarkable fashion, as the bus began trundling out of the station with much clanking, banging and groaning.

It was good that two other passengers had gotten on at the same stop as the man had, or the people on the bus would have been very confused as to the reason the bus driver had stopped. No passengers had gotten off, and nobody had actually noticed the unremarkable man got on the bus at all, so it was good that the old man and his small granddaughter had been waiting at that particular Route 46 bus-stop as well. When people looked over as the unremarkable man, their gazes slid off him and they would focus on their neighbor’s magazine or the sunlight outside or the Route 46 map that hung right above the man.

The unremarkable man, used to this sort of treatment, didn’t even try to dominate the space he stood in. Instead, he let the space float around him and he let people’s eyes slide away from him, and he focused on his first project of the morning: the little girl who had gotten on with the old man at that particular Route 46 bus-stop. The girl was almost as unremarkable as the man, he thought; she was quiet, focused only on the ragged teddy-bear in her arms, and seemed not to notice her grandfather’s wheezing and coughing as he unfolded a newspaper and ignored her. The girl’s hair was an unremarkable brown, not shiny or bouncy or curly, but simply lying limply and often obscuring her face as it swung back and forth with the motion of the bus. The girl’s face, half hidden by the unremarkable hair, was plain and expressionless as she stared at the teddy-bear on her lap and twisted his ears in an absentminded way.

The unremarkable man was usually drawn to flashy characters – women in orange spandex suits fiddling with their sunglasses and purses, clowns on their ways to birthday parties looking grumpy and hot in their makeup and outfits, suited men and women who seemed only to be waiting for their next cigarette and who shouted on their cellphones. Today, though, the unremarkable man decided he was interested in an unremarkable girl. He focused his thoughts on her, and her eyes snapped up to look into his. And there it was, for a split second.

…grandaddy is so boring he’s reading the newspaper again and mr. snuffles is bored because i’m bored too and why does grandaddy have to take me to kindergarten anyway i mean he isn’t as funny as mommy is on the bus and anyway he doesn’t talk to mr. snuffles like mommy or daddy do and i’m hungry but grandaddy said that buying ice-cream early in the morning would make my teeth rotten but i don’t care because i like dr. leslie that dentist who mommy took me to because she gave me a sticker and a lolly-pop and said i was a good little girl and that my teeth would never be rotten if i kept coming to see her and mommy laughed and patted my hair and said we’ll keep coming back to see dr. leslie and miriam is going to bring me a brownie her mom made today to kindergarten and maybe mommy will pick me up and grandaddy won’t be with her anyd then i won’t have to sleep at his house tonight and i’ll be able to go home and watch barnie with mommy and then go to bed with my yellow blankets and mr. snuffles will be happy because mommy will sing us a lullaby

The unremarkable man broke his eye-contact with the girl, who promptly turned away and continued to twist Mr. Snuffle’s worn-out ears. The man almost gasped. His brow was dripping with sweat. For a moment, everyone on the bus almost noticed him standing there. Then the moment passed, and the man calmed himself, smiling in such a manner which in anyone less unremarkable would seem to be amused. I’VE GOTTEN LAZY, thought the unremarkable man. I’LL HAVE TO FIND SOME MORE LIKE THAT GIRL. SUCH VIVIDNESS COULD LAST FOR WEEKS. WHO KNOWS? MAYBE OTHERS LIKE HER WILL MAKE ME REAL AGAIN.