Paging through the dictionary is like looking through a microscope. Every word breaks down into parts with unique properties — prefix, suffix, root. Eliza gleans not only the natural laws that govern the letters but their individual behaviors. R, M, and D are strong, unbending and faithful. The sometimes silent B and G and the slippery K follow strident codes of conduct. Even the redoubtable H, which can make P sound like F and turn ROOM into RHEUM, obeys etymology. Consonants are the camels of language, proudly carrying their lingual load.
Vowels, however, are a different species, the fish that flash and glisten in the watery depths. Vowels are elastic and inconstant, fickle and unfaithful. E can sound like I or U. –IBLE and –ABLE are impossible to discern. There is no combination the vowels haven’t tried, exhaustive and incestuous in their couplings. E will just as soon pair with A, I, or O, leading the dance or being led. Eliza prefers the vowels’ unpredictability and, of all vowels, favors Y. Y defies categorization, the only letter that can be two things at once.
Before the bee, Eliza had been a consonant, slow and unsurprising. With her bee success, she has entered vowelhood. Eliza begins to look at life in alphabetical terms. School is consonantal in its unchanging schedule. God, full of possibility, is a vowel. Death: the ultimate consonant.