Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ella Minnow Pea (copy)

Twenty-one miles off the coast of South Carolina swims an independent island called Nollop. It is named for its most famous inhabitant, Nevin Nollop, who developed the popular pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (Pangram is a sentence assembled by using all the letters of the alphabet.) In the midst of the island’s square, stands a monument with each letter represented by its own tile in the illustrious sentence.

In this small nation, devotion to the word is a tradition. The governing bodies encourage citizens to pursue language, but technological is forgotten. Nollopians do not watch television or chatter on phones or type on computers. They have a daily newspaper, an enormous library and keep in close communication with their neighbors through letters.

On the morning of July 17, little Alice Butterworth was crossing the town square when she came upon shattered bits of tile. Looking up she notice one of the tiles from the cenotaph missing and realized she was staring at the remains of the letter “Z” from the word “lazy”. Dutiful Alice rushed the pieces to the office of High Island Council and a meeting was called.

The emergency meeting generated many a spectator and within seconds opinions were filling the air. So much so, Most Senior Gordon Willingham called for a closed session.

The Nollopians mulled around the outside windows while councilmen debated the little tile’s fate. Tempers flared and some stormed off only to be called back. Finally, after three hours, Willingham stepped out on the courthouse steps to convey the decision. “From this day forward the letter “Z” will no longer be employed. Those in violation of the new Anti-Z law will suffer dire consequences. First offense is a public reprimand. Second offense is a choice between corporal punishment by flogging or public humiliation through a day in the headstocks. Third offense calls for banishment from the island forever.”

We have been under this rule for less than a month and the newspaper has ceased to print and the library has closed. There have been 27 first offenses, 3 second offenses and young Master Creevy has been shipped to the States. We cringe knowing the “Q” fell off the monument this morning.

Ella Minnow Pea by Memphis playwright, Mark Dunn, is told completely through letters. Readers better mind their “p’s” and “q’s” as letters begin to drop like flies.