Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo

Standing in the checkout line at the local grocery are two 22 year olds. They were married at 18. Young, the people said, but in love and not stupid (at least not that stupid) and both of them have a maturity that comes from years of self-reliance. As they step up to the register, their toddler hangs from the counter. He won’t remember this and, over time, what happened will evolve into a simple story that’s easily retold. But there the boy hangs with his shaggy blonde hair, looking up at his parents as their food is being bagged.

“Fuck,” the boy says and repeats it three more times before his parents catch on and quickly tell him to stop. They’re embarrassed. The wife blames the husband for having loose lips. He laughs. She is not amused.

My father has told this story to many different people and each retelling starts with, “One of Steve’s first words was the F word.” So just after learning to say “mom” and “dad” I graduated into cussing, and I’ve had a fondness for it ever since.

In elementary school I became incensed at an older boy for doing something that I can’t recall. What I do remember was that I yelled at him, screaming until my voice cracked, “You’re an effer! You’re an effing effer!”

The words had been forbidden, so, though angry, I didn’t go for the gold.

“Did you just call me a heifer? I’m a cow?” the boy replied.

My blood simmered with rage. I imagined those videos of lava flows, with the black hard crust forming over veins of glowing red. The pressure builds and explodes in a gory vandalism of order. I screamed the forbidden words and felt the release and ran off to cool in the autumn air.

As a teen, I walked about five blocks to my middle school and during the brief journey, my mind wandered in and out of daydreams. Words often became stuck in my synaptic web until I found myself repeating them silently. The urge to let the consonants and vowels escape my throat rose until it overwhelmed. Just before stepping into school I once whispered to myself, “Frick, frack–” and I paused because what was next, though just a vowel away, was a sin to speak. “Fruck,” I said quickly, then, as I opened my locker and bent down to get my books, I whispered it again, but this time I dropped the r.

In high school I wrote my first short story featuring a cop named Darren whose family is kidnapped by the mob and he must retrieve them. At a particularly melodramatic moment, Darren fires his weapon while screaming, “Screeeew you!!” But it didn’t have flare. It seemed tamed, censored, and bland. I remembered that moment on the playground when, in anger, I let loose with that taboo word and it felt true and even holy in a way only understood in the height of an epiphanic emotional release. So, feeling risqué I replaced the S word with something that Samuel L. Jackson would be proud of.

Words are nothing more than sounds to which we’ve ascribed meaning. There are no “bad” words; inappropriate at times, sure, but not bad. I use them and I think you should, too, both in writing and in speech. I mean, few things feel better than the perfect cuss at the perfect time. I’ve heard people say things like, “Swearing shows a poor command for the English language,” to which I’d reply, “That’s bullshit.”


Steven E. Athay is an aspiring story designer and connoisseur of all things awesome. Follow him on Twitter at @steveneathay, or read his blog Afflatus.

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