I was expecting a panoply of farts and poo talk, so I took the paper he handed me and started to read it out loud. The story was titled "How The Kraken Learned to Hate Bad Words." It starred a sailor named "Sdrowdab" ("Bad Words" spelled backwards) who gets into some hijinks on the high seas with the infamous Kraken. The Kraken and Sdrowdab get into a tussle, at which point ol' Sdrowdab unleashes some language that would make a sailor blush:
'"Fuck Fuck Fucky Fuck!" yelled Sdrowdab. "You're one slimy ass Kraken! Oh, Fuckity Fuck Fuck!"'
|"Profanity offends my finer sensibilities," said Geoffrey Q. Kraken. "I'll take a double espresso, sir."|
"Ah, yes, what you said about inappropriate? Um, well..." And then I searched for a delicate way to put it. "Your teacher might be a bit...surprised. Shocked, even."
He burst into tears and snatched the paper from my hands.
"I knew it!" he screamed. "I'm gonna recycle this!"
Middle Son got very excited and managed to get his hands on the paper. He has just learned to read and is very proud of his skills. So he sounded out the word: "Fuck-tee? Fuck-tee? Fuck-tee!" He looked to me for approval.
Littlest Son said "Fuck-tee! Fuck-tee!" and laughed with great gusto.
"That's kind of a...bad word," I said.
Eldest Son burst into tears again and displayed his uvula.
"Wait, wait!" I said. "It's not like you have to scrap this story. How about you change the 'F' word to 'Fart'?"
"You know that will ruin it!" he wailed.
Well, he was right. Sometimes the F bomb just can't be replaced with a tame little replacement like "Fartity Pants" or "Farty Fart." Would Go the F to Sleep have become a bestseller? I don't think so. "Aw, sugar!" a coworker said recently. I cringed. Let's call a shit a shit, after all.
I asked him, "Where did you hear this word?" (Had he been reading mother's blog?) He shrugged his shoulders.
"You know, Eldest Son," I said. "It's just a word. Words can't hurt us. We shouldn't be afraid of words. Did you know that some people have banned books because they have bad words or thoughts in them that people don't like? I think you ought to bring that story in. Just be prepared. Your teacher's eyebrows will go up."
Why was I saying this? I don't know. I didn't want him to feel censored.
It was no use. He tore the story into little bits and ran off crying, saying things like "I wrote a banned story. I wrote a story that's gonna get banned." I gathered the bits and saved them. The pencil marks had faded from his grubby, angsty clutch. I could barely read the end, where the Kraken, deeply offended by the slew of bad language from the potty-mouthed sailor Sdrowdab, sinks beneath the waves "never ever to be seen again."
Fuckity fuck fuck, it was a pretty good story! But he made me promise not to tell a soul about it.
I lied very sweetly.