60. Squiggly letters

Squiggly letters were the writer’s trademark. At first glance you’d have trouble reading anything at all, so lush and loopy they danced across the page. But once you encoded her elegant calligraphy, an unexpected new world opened up.

The first to discover this was Vanya, who’d stumbled upon the lone copy of the writer’s novella in a Glaswegian cul-de-sac bookshop. The year was 1940 and Vanya had fled his native Poland a year earlier. A librarian back in Danzig he now scoured Glasgow for unique books he could discuss in the Sunday edition of the local newspaper.

This particular cover didn’t hold much promise. Boring brown felt clumsily clung to the edges of the novella, barely holding it together. The only thing that kept Vanya from discarding it immediately was the puzzling fact that neither a title nor an author was mentioned.

Initially confused by the typography – the letters seemed neither handwritten nor printed but a curious hybrid – he gradually fell madly in love with it. The story, though passable, wasn’t what gripped him. It was the assuredness of the writing, the sense of purpose that each letter, every squiggle seemed to possess. A ‘the’ wasn’t just a ‘the’ as each of the many times the word occurred it had a different appearance, suggesting nuances a regular font could never produce.

With his fingers poised over the typewriter he realized it would be impossible to do the genius of the novel justice in his column. The hammers would just batter the page with standardized, meaningless ink.

Vanya had never before contemplated that the invention of the printing press could in centuries past have smothered countless writers’ unique voices. It saddened him deeply that the world might never know their art.



Did you enjoy this story? Then why not try the 101 stories in 300 words or less in YOU’RE GETTING SLEEPY, THE HYPNOTIST’S APPRENTICE YAWNED.

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5 thoughts on “60. Squiggly letters

  1. tistheczn says:

    I love this line–“The hammers would just batter the page with standardized, meaningless ink.” I handwrite almost all of my stories and posts before I type them.

  2. X says:

    I look forward to your daily flash fiction. Your fiction is so varied, original and well-written. Bravo yet again!

  3. Short stories are always hit or miss for me. I have a love-hate relationship with them. But this one was unique. I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. A superb story, elegantly written. And you’re right – there is nothing quite like a hand-written page.

  5. Suzanne says:

    There is something about this story that will make it stick in my mind a long time. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it is that your words create such strong visual images.

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