By John Thomas Tuft
It contains every book ever written. Within its walls lie the birth of every story. When the sun hits the windows at just the right angle you can see the shadows of every word, the biggest and the best to the least and most forgotten. In the pictures that line the walls you can spot the words to every song ever sung. There is hatred and violence. There is the sweetest of all love. There is the boring and the boastful. From yelling and screaming to sobs of fear and joy. All the quests and all the mysteries. It is all in a ridiculously small building to be handling that fearsome responsibility, containing all that weight. But there it sits, in the town of Waxhaw, North Carolina. It is in Union County, down the road a piece from Charlotte. Therein resides the Museum of the Alphabet.
Just be sure to bring the right equipment because the best thing to do at the Museum of the Alphabet is to go spelunking, with some mining thrown in for good measure. Those letters are not going to arrange themselves, or necessarily give a good accounting on their own. Friggatriskaidekaphobia can be avoided but that aibohphobia isn’t going to cure itself. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophopbia is not going to spell itself, either. And did you know that the longest uses 189,819 letters and can take three hours to say, although its true name can be reduced to five letters? That pick-axe, rope and miner’s helmet are looking good right about now, don’t you think! The Museum of the Alphabet is not for the faint of heart. Alchemy, blood, sweat and tears…and dare I say, pure magic…are needed at the Museum.
It is dedicated to the art of turning sounds into meanings into symbols. And so much more, as anyone who has manipulated an alphabet can attest to. But if you do take on the challenge of going, be sure to make time to talk to Beaufortiq Cranstyxz, at least that’s how his name is spelled with the English alphabet. After all, there are many, many alphabets. You may have to search a bit, but it is worth the effort. Beaufortiq has a tiny office back beyond the storage for rogue and misplaced or overused letters, down a dingy hallway past the employee lunchroom decorated with pictures of punctuation and artwork dedicated to the mysterious missing vowels of ancient Hebrew. Fair warning to you — Beaufortiq likes to talk about the infernal local mystery of what was Andrew Jackson’s true birthplace. Seems his mother was traveling back from the Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church where she had buried her husband in 1767 and went into labor. Best guesses are the blessed event occurred either at the George McCarnie cabin or the Crawford Plantation over to South Carolina. Every sad or hopeful quest needs letters to spell the words to capture the spirit of the…mystery.
When you enter the littered office, the eye is drawn to the brass plaque on Beaufortiq Cranstyxz’s desk. There etched in scroll are the letters: What is truth? Beaufortiq looks up. His bald dome has tufts of white hair sprouting over his ears, which hold the thick glasses he needs now for his explorations. Corralling and cataloguing all the variations of the alphabets is not for the faint of heart. Depending on what his impression of you is, he will offer sweet tea, tepid coffee, or a fine writer’s scotch. Once you are seated on the old chair with the stuffing sticking out like the hair on Beaufortiq’s bald dome, he will peer at you through those thick lenses and wait. Spaces and silence are a part every alphabet, also.
Look around at all the pictures of some random doodles on the wall and the huge aquarium of dirt on the slanted table where Beaufortiq raises doodlebugs. Drain your glass and try to look BC, as his friends call him, in the eye. And if you dare, ask this scion of the alphabet about his plaque. He will take your glass and put it in the overflowing sink. “When you are not afraid,” he says in that squeaky voice of his, “not afraid to question it all, question everything that you have staked your life on…” He will pause, and if there’s any scotch left in your glass, BC may finish it. “When you learn that you have to grieve in order to reach gold, not glory.” He’s not much for visitors, so it is soon time to go. On the way out he hands you a small package to take with you.
Wait until you reach home before opening it. It is your very own set of letters. Regardless of what alphabet you prefer. Turn it into a creed or a screed at your own risk. Whatever you choose, Beaufortiq Cranstyxz has put his magic in them. Arrange them one way, they spell: sad hope. Put them together just so, and they spell: humility.
Words are magic, and writers are wizards.