Bewildering Stories

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by Thomas Cummings

Suddenly the man at booth twenty-three realizes V is the most unique and fascinating sound in the English language. Although he speaks only English, a moment of reflection convinces him V must be the pinnacle of any language. He presses his lower lip between the edges of his front teeth and makes the sound. Vvvvv. Vvvvv.

The revelation had come from nowhere mere seconds ago. He'd noticed the hands on the clock behind the counter pointing to eleven and one, forming the shape of V, and looked down to find that the grease smearing the protective plastic encasing the menu blurred every word, every letter, all except for the Vs in service and seven and several.

Now, compared to that soft, effortless sound, the chatter and babble of the other voices in the diner turn base and rude. The sounds box his ears. He hears only the brutish clack of tongues, the uncouth slap of lips. He cringes at the shrieking and whistling and hissing and popping and snorting. He loathes the snapping consonants, the guttural vowels.

Sweat needles his skin. He cannot bear the noise. In rebellion he hums the one, pure syllable, allowing it to his fill head and push away the grunting of apes. Vvvvv. The divine virtue of vvvvv.

When the waitress comes he tries to illustrate all the amazing qualities found in this deceptively simple sound. Vvvvv. Vvvvv. He revels at the slight constriction of his lower lip, how it folds back just a little to meet the edge of the central and lateral incisors; he thrills to the sensation of friction as the voiced air vibrates between the compressed slot of bone and flesh. Vvvvv. Vvvvv.

He believes if fate ever fortunes him with offspring, he will christen them with names that shine only with V, that vibrate with as many Vs as possible. He will make up names if none exist that are sufficient. What a wonderful vocabulary could be fashioned from V, one not far from, he envisions, the voices of seraphim.

He wants to write down the letter - but, alas! if only he had thought to carry pen and paper! The connection between the sound and symbol is not arbitrary, he is sure. If he were only able to write the letter he would plumb its mysteries. Such would be the noblest effort in which anyone could ever endeavor.

Looking at his hands, he realizes he doesn't need pen and paper. He can make the fabulous sign of V with his own body. Pressing ring finger and pinky against palm on both hands, and anchoring them with thumb, he angles the indexes and middles out. Vvvvvv, he says. There is a connection. He knows it, instinctively. Nothing has ever seemed truer.

He brings the index finger of each hand together, touching them, tip to tip. Vvvvv, he says. Vvvv-

His brow creases. He stares at the angles of his fingers: tip to knuckle, to tip ... to knuckle ... to tip ...

Double? he says. His hands tremble.

Double -

Tongue writhing into a hump at the back of the throat, gagging him as his lips twist into a wormy coil:



Copyright © 2002 by Thomas Cummings