cuss words

Though I don't make it a public practice, I'm really quite good at cursing. The reason I hold back is because I've learned that there are some skills you shouldn't show off. No one is impressed. And if you come across an individual who finds the talent intriguing, it's the sort of interest you might get when admitting to having a tongue ring. Their main point of concern is thinking about where your mouth has been.

Why do I mention the absence of cusses? Because I've been reflecting on my writing voice and notice that I still can't use a good swear word
. I can't bring myself to do it because I've watched in horror as my mom strangled herself on a few of them. And like hers did, my public vulgarities tend to get stuck on the roof of my mouth. If they make it onto a page at all, it's a drooling, sticky mess. But you can still give me plenty of credit for enthusiasm, even if the actual delivery falls flat. Believe me, the skill is there.

dd to that ability, a fact: My father was a sailor.

I was born to curse.

But I've been put off by my mother's choked attempts. When given both opportunity and motive to deliver a verbal branding, she'd chill the heated and reckless words. At her angriest, I imagine a sailor's vocabulary did a hot dash up her throat only to a cram on the tip of her tongue. There, she'd strip the Adults Only rating, then free the sanitized version to rush from her lips like a too-big bite of watermelon

Though mom's vocabulary during these fits was suitable for a saint, her body language suggested a fury on the level of a Cat 5 hurricane. Even in the chilly Northeast, I seemed to repeatedly provide the right atmospheric conditions for those storms to develop.

Conducting chemistry experiments was how I liked to spend my time after school. I'd lock myself in the bathroom and pull out every tube and bottle under the sink, choosing a liquid of each texture and color. I'd mix them one by one and intensely study the bubbles, fizzes, and pops. If my work took too long to complete, mom, suspicious and concerned, broke head first into my laboratory. The sight of the sink's oozing mess seemed to directly result in a lowering of barometric pressure and the light drizzle of profanity.

"Dog_gone It!"

I once got too enthused about the curve in a pair of cuticle scissors and how it neatly fit onto the line of my brow. In response to my trimming, my mother was able to gather herself into a pretty decent sized squall.

"Give me those scissors! Look what you've done, you GOSH [stop] DARN kid!"
That was a pretty good bluster considering her earlier attempts resulted in nothing more threatening than, "OH!" (pause for the weather report) "go fly a kite!"

There was a time I made her so mad that she wound herself up like a Kansas wind storm. This happened when I found unexpected success in striking a damp and stubborn match, then tossed the incriminating evidence in the trash. As my mother heaved pots of water into the basket, her expression tornadoed into an unrecognizable rearrangement of features. Roiling clouds of emotion expanded and crackled in the space between us. Moisture gathered around my eyes and I wondered how hard she'd swing when adrenaline finished its pump through her popping veins. I stood frozen while she searched for speech, and when it was located, her tone suffocated me more than the pantry's whirling smoke. The woman had wrung herself into what I thought was a hopelessly tangled knot. I stood balled in tight fear and waited for the whipping sound of fast unraveling, or maybe even a thunderclap release of fury, but she suddenly stopped billowing and gave up. Instead of reaching out and wringing my neck, she opted for a higher road and pulled herself into a posture more proper. I still wasn't sure I should trust her hands, but after flying up high in a LordHaveMercy maneuver, they landed safely, one on each slim hip.

"I cannot bloody be-lieve you've done this!"

What you would have said to yourself, were you standing there with us in the middle of a storming ghetto kitchen, is that she was quite properly and royally pissed. That was the first time I considered the effects of trying on a more White and British voice.

1 comment:

  1. love the imagery!! Did you share this with your lovely, refined, mother?