F for Effort

Charlotte Safavi is a writer living in Alexandria.
Charlotte Safavi is a writer living in Alexandria. (Courtesy of the author)
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By Charlotte Safavi
Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Mom, may I please print something?" asks R.J., my 8-year-old son, in his sweetest, most innocent voice.

I have my hand stuck up a bird feeling for giblets.

"Sure," I reply.

I hear the hum of the printer and yank the giblets out. A little while later, the chicken roasts in the oven and a kettle simmers on the stove. While "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen plays on the oldies station, R.J. walks into the kitchen, his eyebrows knitted intently as he cradles a sheaf of paper.

"I see a little silhouetto of a man," I sing. "Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the . . ."

The kettle shrieks, and I whisk it off the burner.

"Mom," R.J. says, "you know that bad word, the F-word."

"Fandango!" I say, accidentally scalding myself with a few drops of hot water that miss the teapot.

"Not that one," he says, rolling his eyes. "The F-word."

"Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening," I think as I run cold water over my hand.

"Well, it's an Anglo-Saxon word," he says. "There was even a man called John You-Know-What. Besides, it means mating!" He pauses for effect, waving the sheaf at me. "How can a word like that be bad?"

"Can Mommy see that?" I ask in a high voice laced with anxiety, taking the paper, still smelling of ink, out of his hands.

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