“Typewriter for a Superior Alphabet” by Robert Kaye

Elias Morgenthau
President, Ellipses Typewriters
10 Foundry Way

Dr. Patrick McKay, PhD
c/o McKay Transformational Linguistics Institute

re: The prototype

Dear Dr. McKay,

I regret to inform you that we have misapprehended the difficulties in implementing the typewriter for your revolutionary new alphabet. You make a compelling argument that a representation of language drawing on all five senses will surely vanquish the paltry system of twenty-six letters, nine numbers and various punctuation marks found on the modern keyboard. I believe the proper fulfillment of your design will create a typographic piano capable of rendering obsolete the lexicographic kazoo dubbed “word processing.” But, alas, the labyrinthine complexity of your system underlies both its strengths and its impossibilities. I am left devastated by the implications for your life’s work, and my own.

Our firm has designed and manufactured typewriters for over a hundred years, but I fear I am the last Morgenthau to serve as its custodian. My forbearers built the first instrument capable of typing musical notation and devised an elegant system for producing more than twenty-seven hundred Mandarin characters. Reversing the declining fortunes of the printed word requires bold strokes and unstinting dedication, but I find myself stinted.

Consider the implications of your use of feces. The vulgate term “batshit crazy” is indeed rendered multi-dimensional by the application of actual guano, but the materials constitute a miasmic stench, even in their desiccated form. The addition of moisture for adherence to the page results in spatter that impinges upon neighboring characters and introduces unforeseen health hazards. Are you aware, for instance, that raccoon scat contains a parasitic agent that turns the human brain to the cranial equivalent of Swiss cheese?

It might have been possible to work out the kinks if you could have made even one progress payment. Even without remuneration, I have kept my people working overtime, funding them from my own pocket to get the ball rolling. Perhaps the ball rolls even now, just as the earth turns without our perception of its movement.

I assure you that our efforts have resulted in considerable progress. Metals, cobwebs and blood presented no challenge. The inclusion of radioactive elements introduced potential health hazards to technicians and testers before we acquired lead-lined suits. Gasses remain problematic. I fully understand the desire to utilize illuminated neon letters, even if the method of applying the electrical charge to the stricken character awaits perfection. This proves especially difficult when adjacent characters are typed in flammable materials, but I take it on faith that specific nuances of expression will indeed require both argon and gasoline. We pursued the use of cloud, fog and rainbow with considerable vigor, as their essential nature to poetry is obvious, but vapors and pure light dissipate like our time on earth, refusing to leave their mark.

My unimaginative progeny have applied financial, medical and legal duress and I must now cease and desist. As stipulated in the contract, we will hand over all works in progress currently housed in the mothballed high school football stadium rented when it became evident that our own premises were too constrained to house the device. The exchange of materials can proceed upon payment of the outstanding balance and your assumption of the facilities lease or transport of its contents. My accountant (and eldest son) informs me that the full amount is required, as our establishment faces insolvency. Like art, grace and tradition, I yield to the realities of progress.

I wish you good speed with your pioneering endeavor. To represent continued hope, I have signed my name with blueberry, macerated cigarette butt and a dollop of magnesium, although I’m not at all sure I have yet mastered the translation to your superior alphabet.

Yours, with warm regards and fondest regrets,

Elias Morgenthau
Ellipsis Typewriters

More fiction at Used Furniture.


  1. Lucinda Kempe says:


    The digression to guano brought this to a wonderful satirical pitch. Enjoyed.


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