A first draft, I haven’t even looked at this for errors. Just needed to get this written and out of my head. Comments to improve are welcome.

The Sweeper


The bristles scraped the asphalt, gathering up the spoken refuse of the day. The Sweeper bent with his dustpan, scooping up the dropped consonants and abandoned vowels. He tipped the pile into his wheelie bin, his back creaking as he straightened up.

He paused briefly, closing his eyes on the tiredness that threatened to overwhelm him. Steadying himself between the bin and the broom, he inhaled deeply and steeled himself to face the rest.

The high street stretched out in front of him, its end lost in the horizon. He knew that it didn’t really look like that, but over the years he had to develop some interesting skills to save himself time and complete his job every night. With the advent of electricity, he couldn’t work from dusk until dawn anymore, sweeping up the dropped letters of the day. And now with the Internet, he had even less time and more to collect and dispose of. All those twits and eye-ems made his working life close to a misery. He had barely an hour to clear the country and redistribute the lost letters.

It had been easier long ago, he mused, lost in memory to amuse himself as he swept, rather than wept. He had only really started working when those Elizabethan writers started writing, dropping letters to fit their meters. It had been fairly simple then, with an equal distribution of vowels and consonants; they just recycled into the next day’s allocation. Any extra Rs, he sent northwards, to create the Scottish burr. He grinned at the flash of brilliance behind that idea.

But then everyone started to drop Hs and Ts, the occasional Ds, and various others dropped out due to the usual mishaps during conversation: sneezing, a little cough, laughing. By sheer chance, East Londoners (?) took care of all the extra Hs, as they migrated to that area naturally and ha-attached themselves to nearly he-every word that started with a vowel. The Sweeper blessed the Hs for that; they were his favourite letter because of their instinct for self-preservation and survival instinct. Not all the letters were as interested in fulfilling their purpose, and they fell to the floor in suicidal heaps.

As the population grew, more and more consonants were displaced, and the Sweeper had built up quite a back-catalogue, more than the current demands at the same could accommodate. He was desperate to clear the discarded letters; his supervisor was coming soon for his bicentennial observation and review, and the Sweeper knew that this would prevent his next pay-rise. Staying up late into the daylight hours, he juggled and reordered, stacking and filing all the letters, trying to squash them into a more acceptable stockpile. And inadvertently solved his own problems by creating the Welsh language, clearing the backlog completely.

He swept along, chuckling to himself at the memory of his supervisor’s face when he realised the long-term benefits of this discovery. But even a new language was not enough to cope with the density of letters dropped daily by a swelling population. Computers were both a blessing and a curse; the coded languages used to programme cleared any leftover letters, but social networking and dropping standards of spelling (even with spell checkers) created more problems.

More people stayed up during his working hours, forcing him to reduce his sweeping time under an increased workload. He learned to bend space, but time still evaded his skills. He could tumble all the letters from side streets and small villages into a single high street. He could join all the high streets across the country into one long avenue. The broom and bin adapted to sweep and contain the night’s refuse in one trip, so the Sweeper didn’t have to stop at the letter-fill.

The bristles of his broom scraped the road. The Sweeper kept a rhythm going, the scraping of the broom in counterpoint to the creaking of his joints. He could feel his age finally catching up with him, and he knew that retirement was not far away from him.

The Sweeper continued his creaking and scraping way along the high street of his creation. The roads unfolded as passed, unfurling like petals on a flower, resuming their rightful place in geography.

Unseen by the Sweeper, a single dropped X floated delicately to the ground behind him.