Title: The Closed-Caption Revelation
Characters: The Fowler-Coopers
Chapter Summary: Aditi's word-of-the-day app lifts up the family's vocabulary. Well, that was the plan anyway.
Word Count: 1,618 words
Sometimes, Aditi woke up before her alarm clock, and when she did, she liked to check the latest entry in her word of the day app. She'd downloaded it without her parents' permission, and if they had noticed, they hadn't said anything. She figured it must be okay.
Today's word of the day was "lamia," which was "a mythical monster, with the head and torso of a woman and a bottom like the tail of a snake, said to prey on human beings." In a hushed voice, she repeated the word several times to herself before deciding that she didn't like it. It sounded "tongue-y" and felt weird in her mouth. Upon further reflection, however, she thought Robert might like it. He always liked supernatural stuff, and a woman-like serpent was right up his alley. Unlike Aditi, however, he wasn't an early riser; Amy usually had to fight to get him up in the morning, but Aditi figured she could get him up for this.
She rubbed one eye, and then jumped out of bed with her tablet in hand. She focused her bleary, early-morning eyes on the security camera outside of Robert's door, and a second later she was in his room. To her surprise, he was wide awake and hunched over a notebook, scribbling away.
"Good morning," she said, taking several steps forward and stopping just beyond the foot of his bed.
"Mrphrm, DeeDee," he murmured without looking up.
"Guess what the word of the day is?" she asked. She couldn't wait to tell him.
He shrugged. "Asshole."
The provocative word seemed to come from nowhere, but ricocheted off the walls and clanged through the air, finally piercing Aditi's eardrums. Her mind was completely wiped clean of her original purpose for even entering his room at all, and she stood, paralyzed, in utter shock.
"That's a curse word," she said, softly stunned.
Robert lifted an eraser from his nightstand and started erasing just as furiously as he'd been writing before. "I know it is." He brushed eraser dust all over his bed.
"Then why did you say it?" Aditi asked.
"Why not say it?" he replied, turning up his lip with cavalier bravado. "It's just a word."
"But it's a bad word."
Aditi thought a moment. "Says Grandma," she answered. "She said that you shouldn't say curse words because they're rude. And people who are rude get no food. At least not at her house."
"Well we aren't at her house, are we?"
"No," Aditi said, "but even in the Montessori handbook it says,"—she cleared her throat—"'I will speak without using profanity, slurs, or hurtful words. I will interact with others in a respectful and appropriate way.' Billy Morrison didn't, and he got in trouble for saying…" She paused, waffling between saying the offending epithet and finding an alternative. She whispered as she spoke. "The F-word."
At that, Robert looked up, making steely eye contact with his sister. It was time to get down to brass tacks. "Aditi, you like words, right?"
"And you need to know words to communicate, right?"
"Yeah, but I—"
"Well, then you need to know bad words. When we get big, people are going to be using bad words all the time. But guess what? You're not even going to know what they are talking about and everybody's going to think you're dumb."
"They aren't going to think I'm dumb."
"Yes they are. But they are going to know I'm smart, because I know all the words, even the bad ones."
This was very surprising news to Aditi. "How do you know bad words?"
"Because I pay attention, DeeDee." He reached under his mattress and pulled out a pink sheet of paper and handed it to his sister.
"What is this?" she said, reaching for the page.
"Remember that web show we watched that bleeped out all the curse words because Mom has the wifi on kiddie block?"
"Well, if you had been paying attention, all the curse words were still in the closed captioning. I wrote them all down when Mom wasn't looking."
"Oh," Aditi said. With clear reluctance, she perused the profane list in her hands. Something, however, didn't seem quite right. "'Bitch' isn't a curse word," Aditi said.
"Yes it is," Robert said.
"No it isn't."
"Then why was it was bleeped out?"
"I don't know, but I was watching the Westminster Dog Show with Daddy last night. A bitch is female dog. Do you know what a male dog is called?"
Robert squirmed as he struggled to answer. "Of course," he lied.
"Then what is it?" she asked.
"I dunno," he whispered.
"A dog!" she blurted.
"That can't be right," Robert mumbled.
"Well it is," she said, and turned back to the list. "'Dick' isn't a curse word either. A boy in the other class is named Dick. Well his real name is Richard, but everyone calls him Dick for some reason. I don't know why."
"Well 'fag' is a curse word," Robert said, sitting up, "and everyone knows the F-word is the worst curse word of all."
"Fag is the word they used in England for cigarette. It was my word of the day a few weeks ago."
"Ugh," Robert groaned.
Aditi started laughing.
"What's so funny?" he said.
Aditi didn't answer, though, and just fell into a giggle fit.
"Why are you laughing?!" Robert asked.
Aditi caught her breath just long enough to speak. "Because you don't even know what any of these words mean." She collapsed to the bed, clutching her stomach with laughter.
"STOP LAUGHING AT ME, DEEDEE!" Robert yelled, snatching the piece of paper from her hand and ripping it into pieces.
The dull whir of a motor could be heard, and Amy appeared a moment later.
"What are you guys doing awake?" she asked.
Robert and Aditi stared at each other. Then Aditi held up her tablet.
"I was showing Robert the word of the day," she said.
"And what might that be?" Amy asked. She squinted at the screen before her. "Lamia," she said, then mumbled the definition to herself. "Huh. I didn't know that."
"And I know how to say it in Spanish," Aditi said.
"Lamia," she said. "I looked it up."
"I guess some translations are easier than others," Amy said with a grin. "You know, your father and I used to have a word of the day years ago. Perhaps we can begin the custom again as a family. Robert, do you think that sounds fun?"
"No," he said, still smarting over his earlier defeat.
"Why not?" Amy asked, almost amused at how adamant he was.
He crossed his arms, balling his face into a frown. "I hate words."
"You hate words?" she said, approaching where he was. "What do you mean by—"
Just then she stubbed her bare toe on the right leg of the Robert's bed, sending a sharp and intense pain through her toe, up her leg and all through her body. The throbbing digit left her hopping on one foot.
"Felonious… flattery," she said, stifling the urge to use more colorful language.
Aditi looked at her mother curiously. "I know what flattery is," she said, "but what does 'felonious' mean?"
Wincing and gritting her teeth, Amy just barely managed an answer. "How about we make that our word of the day?"
Aditi's face glowed at the prospect. "Awesome!" she cried and, swinging her arms, bolted from the room. Amy could only hope that her daughter had gone off to get ready for school.
Amy turned back to her son. "Alright, Robert," she said while rubbing her toe. "Time to go and brush your teeth." She turned to leave when she saw him sweeping his hand across the bed. "Why is there torn paper everywhere?"
"I told you," he said. "I hate words."
Amy shook her head. "Well, I get that up. You have to get started on brushing your teeth. We're already running late for school."
He didn't move.
Amy was growing impatient, and her toe was starting to throb. "Let's go!"
Wordlessly, he slinked out of bed, padded over the door and walked out into the hall.
When he was gone, Amy stuck her head out behind him, confirming that Aditi and Robert were indeed in the bathroom (15 bunny hops away by some estimations). When she was sure they were, she shut the door, leaned back against the cool wood, and then took a deep breath, eager to release the expletive bubbling in her throat.
"Owwwww," she said, slowly and deeply exhaling each letter. "That really hurt."
To her surprise, the passage of time seemed to have weakened her capacity for a bit of R-rated release. Proper cursing was almost impossible with two kids running around the house, and she was starting to wonder if she'd loss her ability to let a blue word rip every now and then.
Disappointed, she sat on the edge of the bed and began picking up the slipshod confetti scattered across the bed. As she collected bits of paper in left palm, she casually noticed groups of letters: shi, basta, erfuc, aggo, ocksu. A theme slowly emerged, and Amy didn't like it.
"Dammit, Robert," she said under her breath. "What the hell are you doing with a list of curse words?!"
Fired up and armed with pink proof, she leapt from the bed and started towards the door when something hit her. A large smile crossed her face:
She still had it.
Strutting like the grown-ass woman she was, she left his room while walking on the toe that, incidentally, felt much, much better.
END NOTE: Thanks for reading, and leave a review. I'd love to hear from you!