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'He thought it had only been put thereto finish off th' alphabet, like, thoughampus-and (&) would ha' done as well.' (George Eliot: Adam Bede)

And had in fact, for generations --the plump, open armed '&' waving goodbyefrom the end of the old-world alphabetlike an innkeeper framed in doorway candlelight,farewells swelled with hopes of come again.

Then the old world burned downbecause we sensed, beyond the candle's glow,the road led to a dead end. Notraveler returned, even the unverifiedodd reports of happy returns petered out.

So we renovated the alphabet, signing itoff with a streamlined 'z' as sharpand final as lightning: no sensein posting notice of further connectionsthat didn't exist, or passing off maps as places.

Trouble was, nobody felt at homein the revamped compound. Bookings fell off,postcards of views of blank walls piled unsoldin the unvisited gift shop, the samepaperbacks stalled on the revolving racks.

It was a paradise of sorts, a golden ageof nullity, no relativesbreaking the costly silence. No wonder Eliot'sbefuddled Jacob Storey felt his pageof Z's was somehow 'not right,' that

'it was a letter you never wanted hardly.'He knew, as one newly released from the unlitcell of his long-unlettered ignorance,what you did want hardly: you wanted,needed -- as hardly as Hetty Sorrel,

abandoned at the dock -- someone to stand by.You were the murderess of your baby,silenced with a 'z.' You needed a hand,the open-armed return of all your relations.You wanted, harder than death, ampersand

© Reibetanz John