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"Fuck You"

A Family Story

By Jla Starr JohnsonPublished 3 months ago 5 min read

“Psssssttt. How many bad words do you know?” Izaak’s six-year-old voice whispers during reading time. “You don’t have to say it out loud. Just show, with your fingers,” he points to his left hand.

Mom wouldn’t approve of this conversation. But, I set my book aside and form a fist anyway. I start to count. Our restrained giggles grow and the reactions on our faces become sillier with the more fingers I put up.

“Twelve?!” Izaak gasps. His jaw sinks and he glares in amazement. “How many do you know?” he swivels his head to face Jelani.

“Fifteen,” Jelani smirks.

“Well, I know thirty-five,” Izaak brags.

“No way! Thirty-five swear words don’t even exist,” Jelani dismisses.

“They do so! In other languages!” Izaak argues.

“Oh, oh! I know fifteen then,” I add.

“Yeah, right. First, you said twelve. Now, it’s fifteen?” Izaak scoffs. “I bet if I asked you to list them all, you couldn’t. You probably couldn’t even name five.”

“Ssshhhh…. There is no talking allowed during reading time,” Ms. Harris leans over our table, places a hand on her hip and a finger at her lip.

“Yes, Ms. Harris. Sorry Ms. Harris,” Izaak pleads. Jelani and I repeat after him.

“Okay, that’s enough!” Ms. Harris spits. “Just read your books for a few more minutes, will you?” she shoos our group table, twists around and struts back to her desk.

I open my book and skim through three more pages before the bell of the day rings and I leave school determined to list as many swear words as I could.

When I get home, I march upstairs to my room and shut the door. I plop on my bed, swing the top drawer of my nightstand open and pull out my diary.

“Fuuucckkk, biiiitchhh, ssshhiiittttt,” I enunciate to myself as I write each word down. I list a few more. But then I hear keys jingle from a distance. Click. The door unlocks. Mom is home. I listen to her grunt as she throws her coat on the front hook. She stomps up the stairs, knocks on my door and creeks it open.

“Hello,” she says, inviting herself in. “How was school today? What did you do?”

“Good. Nothing,” I spit.

“Were you just doing something?” she questions.

“No. Why?”

“You seem out of breath.”

“No. I’m not. I promise,” I stutter.

“Okay, well, I will call you when dinner is ready,” Mom gets up, inches backwards and escorts herself out of my room. I complete my homework and beat a level in Super Mario Bros on my pink Nintendo DS. I even spend a couple hours playing basketball with the neighbour’s son in our cul-de-sac.

I completely forget about what I had jot down earlier.

Mom calls me inside for dinner. She cooked green beans, mashed potatoes and fish sticks. After we’re finished eating, I head upstairs to get ready for bed. After I shower, brush my teeth and slip on my PJs, I slide into my sheets and wait for Mom. She always makes me read spelling books aloud to her before bed. The best part about it is that I get to choose the book. I open up the bottom drawer of my nightstand and pull out What Is a Noun? by Brian P. Cleary.

But, something felt off tonight. Mom was taking longer than usual to join me to bed.

An epiphany strikes and I unlatch the top drawer of my nightstand. My diary. It’s gone. Hopefully, I left it in my other dresser. But, I’m too lazy to check. And before I even get the chance to think about it, I hear Mom’s footsteps. I don’t have time. If she saw me looking in that dresser, which she knows I’m usually never in, she’d think it was suspicious.

She creeks my door open. I try not to act guarded.

“Hi Mom, tonight I picked out…”

“I found this thing today,” she cuts me off. “I think I gave it to you as a diary a while back,” she feels as though she’s cleverly leaning into it.

I knew immediately. I was caught.

“Yeah, and?” I respond.

“What does this mean?” Mom shoots up her fat, freckled middle finger, right in my face. She pulls my diary out from behind her back with the other hand.

“I don’t know!” I wail.

“Yes, you do!” she shouts.

“No, I don’t!”

“Yes, you do! What does this mean?” she repeats, hounding me. She whistles and spews out the sides of her mouth.

“Fuck you!” I sob.

“Huh?” She asks.

“Fuck you!” I weep louder.

“Why would you write this down?”

“I don’t know,” I shrug.

“You don’t say these words at school, do you?”


“I was going to say. You’re not being rude to your teachers, are you?”

“No!” I insist.

“So why did you feel the need to write these down then?”

“To remember them?”

Mom leans back and crosses her arms. The corners of her mouth begin to lift as she’s slightly impressed.

“Where did you learn these words from?” Mom’s voice instantly switches from angry to inquisitive.

“From school. Kids use them all the time, at recess and stuff.”

Mom’s raises her brows and drops her chin as I continue.

“And on T.V.”

She seems less shocked about that one.

“You can know those words, but you shouldn’t use them. Or repeat them,” Mom instructs. “I don’t want anyone thinking my daughter is a dirty girl.”

“Okay,” I cringe at her word choice.

“So, what are we going to read tonight?” Mom asks.

“What’s a Noun?” I cheer.

“Fuck! Bitch! Shit!” Mom grins.

“What?” I blush.

“Fuck, bitch, shit!” she repeats. “Get it? They’re all nouns.”

“Um… Yeah. I was going to say did you say that because…”

“I’m only kidding!” Mom grins and gives me a big bear hug. “Okay now start reading because you’ve got to get to bed. A mink,” Mom points to the first word on the page and waits for me to read the read of the sentence out loud.

When I finish reading, Mom tucks me into bed and gives me a goodnight kiss.

The next morning, I wake up for school. The first thing I do is dive into my nightstand for my diary. I open it and turn to the page where I wrote down all the bad words. I’m surprised. It’s still there. I thought Mom would have got rid of it.

I rip the page out and swear to never keep a written record of bad words I know for Mom to find again.

CONTENT WARNINGLaughterWitJokesFamily

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