Oh hell. Wouldn't you know I'd go and say that wicked "G" word, right out in public where people, including the PC Police, were around?
To make it worse, I didn't even mean to say the "G" word. I was actually thinking of another "g" word at the time and wanted to double my pleasure, double my fun, and freshen up my mouth at the same time.
My father, were he still around, and not in the good "H" place, would no doubt say that my mouth has always been the freshest he's seen in all his days.
But in a moment of terrible tongue-stumble, I said the verboten "G", instead of the "g" word I meant to ask my colleague for. But no, out comes the most dreaded, the most horrible, the absolute WORST word in the English language—which, of course, I am not allowed to say.
The Cops, the Feds, the Swats were all there in a matter of minutes, terrorizing the English department where I work, not to mention me, who had yet to obtain my refreshed mouth objective of a stick of Doublemint. Not from my co-workers, and not even from the swarm of feds, cops, etc.—and yes I asked, because yes, my father was right.
I don't know if anyone actually called the SWARM (let's just call them that) because no one really had time to. Frankly, I think these guys inhabit the walls or something, just like the cockroaches they look like with all that black body armor, masks, beat-‘em-up sticks, and those implement things we can no longer call by name, let alone own openly without threat of punishment.
"Has this woman ever said the "G" word before?" demanded one of the PCPs of my colleagues—who by this time were looking at me pretty damn funny.
"Er ... well ... " one of them said tentatively, "she has mentioned target practice, but with Patty, you just don't know if she's spitting her gum at a target or spitballs, or Lord knows. Or like in summer when she brings her bright pink, plastic squirtg ... er ... thing to work." (Here she glared at me.) "But no, we've NEVER heard the "G" word."
Which was technically true, because I've used words like .22 (and I ain't sure that qualifies as an actual word), Ruger, Smith & Wesson, or Winchester shotg... Whoops! Damn! Nearly did it again!
"You sure you don't have a stick of gum on you, Officer" sez me with my best approximation of innocence, which is pretty good approximation—always has been, always has had to be.
"NO!" sez the PC copper, "and SHUT UP you! Well, I guess this is all OK—but you all—especially YOU—had better be more careful in the future!" he sez, poking at me with his ... implement of destruction. "And don't be using that 2nd "A" to the "C" word or the "FF" words no more neither" .. . and here he frowned at me as hard as his face could wrinkle, giving me his approximation of the Evil Eye, and looking exactly like a Toad of an unspecified type. I mentally made my diseased Roman Emperor face at him, and in my imagination, slammed his forehead with a spitball made of the "L" word. Eat "L," pal! I thought.
Finally the SWARM left, and the horrible, awful PC Police-state episode ended. We were all exhausted. I thanked my colleagues with all the graciousness at my command, promising, even, to leave my bright pink, plastic squirtg ... thing at home this year (unless it gets as goddam HOT as it did last year, then all bets are off).
And then I thought, the Shot-Heard-Round-the-World is about to be heard.
Again. To hell with words.
April 1, 2000
Patricia Neill is managing editor of a scholarly journal on the life and work of William Blake, the 18th-century artist and poet.
© 2000 by Patricia Neill