A Is for Authority
by Luc Reid
The letter SH paused in the anteroom of A’s antebellum mansion. She felt cold in the antiseptic air among alabaster statues of aardvarks and A. A. Milne as the butler’s shoes went trap, trap, fading into the interior. SH fingered the reassuringly comfortable handle of her shiv, tucked into a sheath under her shawl. It had been a hard life so far, with no place in the alphabet to live, seldom even recognized as a unit, a shadow of a letter. No more.
The letter A finally appeared, alone, her almond-shaped eyes surveying SH airily. “And what do you want?” she asked. “I thought you were off shirking your responsibilities with Æ and schwa and your other little friends. Surely the homes of respectable letters are not your proper place?” She smiled, a smile absent of any affection. She knew how much SH hated the word “surely.”
“I’m here for my share of the alphabet!” SH shouted. She always shouted: she couldn’t help herself. “I’m a phoneme, I begin words. I want what’s mine!”
“Talk to your parents,” A said absently, brushing an ant off her arm. “I’m sure Lady S will be happy to give up some of her words.”
SH shoved A into an alcove and pressed the point of the shiv against A’s abdomen. “Everyone knows you’re the head of the alphabet,” she said shakily. “All I need is a chance. Give me my shot.”
“You ass,” said A. “There’s no room for you in my alphabet.”
“Shithead,” said SH, pressing the shiv harder. “I’ll make room.”
“At your leisure, Alfred,” A said, arching an eyebrow, and SH froze at the sound of a throat clearing behind her. She turned her head. A’s butler stood in the archway, an antique arquebus angled at SH’s appendix.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to absent the area,” Alfred said crisply.
SH thought about using the shiv anyway, taking A with her, but A suddenly grabbed and twisted SH’s arm, aborting any possibility of attack and forcing the shiv to fall to the floor.
“Au revoir,” A announced.
SH shuffled out the door and toward the front gate, defeated. In the distance she could hear A’s attack dogs. She shivered.