Unless. Our friends the alphabet letters have histories of their own – and sometimes histories make good stories. The short-short tale “Why the Letter Q Has a Slanted Tail” is maybe dizzier than many I-despise-myself stories, but it also asks the question “Was I always a loser or did something change?” This is a logical query for those who, like the letter Q, believe they used to be acceptable. In Q’s case, the changes were real but neutral. Mean-spirited “friends” convinced Q the alterations were bad.
The inspiration for this story came from a book I read dozens of times as a child: The Aleph-Bet Story Book, by Deborah Pessin, copyright 1946. This hardcover collection of fanciful stories about each of the Hebrew letters (with black-and-white illustrations) fascinated me for many years. With titles like “The Friendship of Gimel and Gamal,” “Lamed Visits Leviathan,” and “Mem Mixes Things Up,” the stories brought the Hebrew alphabet to life in my mind, as if each letter were fully-fleshed and winsome.
The Aleph-Bet Story Book had later printings but is now unfortunately out-of-print. Some copies are available on Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, mostly in the $25 - $30 price range. I hope people will buy them. I believe the stories would still resonate with children, and not only Jewish kids. Christian kids too could absorb and love the letters of the language of the Old Testament.
One thing the letter Q knows to be true: the little line extending from its body is “a neck, not a tail.” Q insists on this unlikely fact throughout the story. Honestly, the little line looks like a tail to me. But if Q says it’s a neck, who am I to argue?