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Tune Litter

A very short story.

Tune Litter.

One day, there was a little boy called Peter. He was walking home from school on his own, like he always did, because he didn’t have any friends. As he walked he saw something in the gutter. Normally he didn’t stop and pick up litter, one because he has this thing about getting his hands dirty, and two, because the other kids teased him enough as it was without giving them anything to encourage it.

But this thing in the gutter was shiny. It was so shiny it almost dazzled him and it might be a penny or even a pound coin that someone had lost. Granny used to encourage him to pick up the lost pennies and save them in a jar—but he hadn’t done that in a long time. So he checked both ways to make sure there were no cars coming, and he stepped off the curb to pick it up. It came up a lot easier than he expected, but wasn’t what he’d hope it would be.

It wasn’t a coin at all. It was a letter H. “Who’d want to drop a letter?” Peter asked himself.
Then he could almost hear Granny telling him that people dropped their H’s all the time. Especially when playing cricket. He’d heard them shout ‘owzat!’ when someone got bowled out. Grandad liked watching the cricket in the afternoons in the summer.

Peter had wondered where all the dropped letters went to. It seemed a shame to leave it alone in the gutter, lost and forgotten. Without an H, he’d live in an ’ouse not a house. So he slid it into his backpack, wiped his hands on his black school trousers and carried on.

A little further down the road he stopped. There was a strange sound coming from his backpack. He opened it and listened. It was coming from the H. It had to be. Almost sounded like it was singing but that was silly. Letters don’t sing. He knew that. But maybe this was tune litter and did sing.

Then from the pile of leaves by his feet he heard another noise. Just like the one coming from his backpack. He kicked the leaves and this time something red glinted from the verge. It was another letter. He picked it up and looked at it. A big red P for Peter.

He knew people dropped P’s—well his little sister did because she called him Etr. And there was the other way P’s got left lying around, but Mummy said that was disgusting and if he so much as thought about it, he wouldn’t sit down for a week. Peter knew Mummy loved him too much for that, but he wasn’t going to risk it just in case.

He put the P in the backpack with the H. Peter listened before he closed the bag. The letters were definitely making a tune of some kind. Each one a different note, but it didn’t clash, like some of the music his older brother played.

A little further down the road, Peter spotted something else. This was something yellow, sticking out from the rose bush. He didn’t want to pick it up, because he might stab himself on the thorns. But it too was humming a note and he knew it would be far happier with its friends in his bag.

Slowly he reached in, and pulled out the letter. It was a G. Auntie Flo dropped those all the time. She’d say flippin’ not flipping. Daddy said they should call her Auntie ’Lo, but he never did. He slid the letter into his backpack and the tune became happier.

As he walked he found more and more letters. Each one dirty and discarded and just thrown away. There was the F and the S and the D and the C. All cuss words carelessly used and tossed around without thinking.  All the hateful words that get used to describe people someone doesn’t like, like I or B or T or J. 

All the words he never dared use because they were naughty words.

There was even an M where someone had been mean about their mummy and just dropped her casually by the side of the road. Something Peter would never do.

When Peter got home, he hugged Mummy and gave her a kiss. She gave him a kiss back, and then gave him a drink and a biscuit. He could smell dinner cooking. It didn’t matter how busy Mummy was during the day, she always had time for a hug and to make him dinner. And to tidy his room and make his bed when he forgot, which he did sometimes, because he was only nine.

Then he went up to his bedroom and laid all the letters he’d found on the floor. They were still singing or humming, and although the sound was happier together than alone, it still sounded sad.
He looked at the letters and put them in order.

A. B. C. D. F. G. H. I. J. K. M. N. P. Q. R. S. T. U. W. X. Y. Z.

It didn’t look right.

Peter counted them. One, two, three… He got all the way up to twenty-two.

He was sure that wasn’t right.

“Mummy, how many letters in the alphabet?” he asked.

“Twenty-six,” she called back.

And he only had twenty-two. What was missing? Peter looked again. He pulled out the paper Grandad gave him to draw on and the crayons Daddy had given him and carefully wrote down the missing letters.


Hmmm. Peter wrote them again, this time next to each other. E. L. O. V.

It almost spelled love.

Peter smiled. It did. He changed the order of the letters. LOVE.

Where were the missing letters? That had to be why the letters were sad, because it was love that made you happy.

The love that your mummy and daddy had for you. They loved you even when you did bad things and said things that you shouldn't. 

Just like Jesus did. And people threw His name away all the time.

He looked at the letters. He couldn’t make Jesus or God. Because the letters were missing. That, he told himself, is because God is Love. They sung about that in Sunday School and in church.

He had to find the missing letters. To make the tune litter he’d found happy. But where would he find Love?

Peter smiled. He knew exactly where he’d find love. 

He ran downstairs to the kitchen to where Mummy stood by the stove, stirring something yummy in a saucepan. Right there, by her feet was a shiny letter L. He picked it up and put it into his pocket. Three more to find.

He went upstairs to his older brother’s room. He wasn’t in, but peeking out from under the bed was a shiny orange V. Under his little sisters dolls cot he found a sparkly pink E. That just left the O.

But as hard as he looked Peter couldn’t find an O anywhere. And he didn’t have time to look any further because Daddy was home and it was dinner time.

At dinner Mummy looked at him. “Are you all right, Peter? You look sad.”

Peter told her about the letters and about how the tune they made was sad because love was missing. He’d hunted everywhere, but he was still missing the O. The one letter that would make everything complete.

Then he looked at Daddy. Peeking out of Daddy’s shirt pocket was something round and yellow.
Daddy smiled at him.

Peter climbed off his chair and ran to Daddy. He reached up and pulled the O from Daddy’s pocket. Then he ran upstairs and put the O with all the other letters.

Almost at once their tune changed and became happy. That’s what they needed. They needed love and to be together in a family.

© Clare Revell 2014


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