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American Historical Fiction Kids

The Bad Word-(one profane word in content)

1962 Ohio, United States suburbs

Jilly Day lived in Bedford, Ohio. Today she learned where Ohio was because her teacher, Miss Gruss, showed her first-graders on the colorful map on the classroom wall. Ohio was orange. 

Now Jilly was home from school, out of her St. Pius X green plaid uniform. She was sporting her favorite Bert and Ernie pullover, blue jeans and sneakers. In her front yard, she tossed her softball in the air-sometimes catching it, most of the time chasing it down. 

An only child, the blond haired, green eyed six year old spent most of her time alone. There were no children on the street. In fact, there weren't a lot of houses either. Mommy called it a new develop, develop, development. Mommy promised children would eventually move in, once the houses were built. 

Earlier, Jilly sat on the curb watching the house makers across the street. They were making the outside of the house a pretty blue. Her new house was also blue, but not as pretty. Shortly afterwards, they cleaned up their tools and left for the day.

Once they left, she saw some big boys with a black spray can go inside the garage. She could hear the hiss of the spray. When they came out, they were looking around, laughing really hard and running away from the house. 

Bored with playing catch, Jilly looked over her shoulder. Mommy was in the house, Daddy was still at work. He worked at - Jilly took a deep breath to get the whole title out-NASA's Glenn Research Center. Daddy was a scientist. Jilly didn't want to be a scientist. She wanted to be a mommy like her mommy. Her mommy had a baby in her tummy. Jilly was going to be a big sister! But it was taking a long time for that to happen. 

Right now, what she really, really, REALLY wanted was to cross the street to see what the boys had done but Mommy said she was not allowed to cross the street.  

Jilly sighed and tossed her ball again. She missed the catch, the ball bounced on the curb and ricochet into the street. Oh no! She stared at the ball, gently rolling down the street. 

She looked over her shoulder again. No Mommy. She plucked up the courage to go into the street. Picking up the ball, rather than going back to her side of the street, she dared to cross the rest of the way. 

She took tiny steps toward the pretty blue house, listening for her mother's voice. Still nothing. She entered the garage and saw what the boys had done. There was a drawing of two circles and a long letter U between. Jilly had no idea what it was but next to it was a four letter word. Miss Gruss taught the children how to sound out words. Jilly made an F sound. She wasn't sure if the U was a long or short vowel. She thought a moment. Long letters usually had two vowels. This did not so she pronounced a short u. F-u-. It was then she realized this new word had the same letters as duck. So she pronounced the new word to rhyme with duck. F-U-C-K. Jilly was very proud of herself but what did it mean? She had never heard that word before. 

She wondered if Mommy knew. She would ask her but then Mommy would know she had been a bad girl, crossing the street. She'd ask Daddy but he would be upset too. She might not be his Jilly Bean if he got too mad. So she kept her discovery to herself even as she heard Mommy callng her. It was time to come in and get cleaned up for dinner. Even without looking both ways, Jilly darted across the street, back in her own yard, puffing from exertion. Luckily, Mommy was oblivious to it all. 

Jilly soon realized she was not good at keeping secrets. It was too hard. She washed her hands and thought of her discovery. She set the table and thought of her discovery. She watched her favorite cartoon, the Flintstones, and thought of her discovery. Finally she went into the kitchen, where Mommy was making liver and onions, Daddy's favorite. "Mommy?"

Mommy didn't look up but acknowledged her. "Yes, Jilly?"

"Mommy, what does fuck mean?"

Like Jilly, Mommy, living the sheltered life of an all-girls Catholic education and a wedding day not far after graduation, was almost as naive as Jilly. She looked down at her daughter with a confused expression. "I have no idea, honey. Where did you see that word?" 

Jilly looked down at her pink toed socks. 

"Jilly?" Her mother cajoled.

"I didn't mean to, Mommy but my ball went in the street, " she cried.

"Jilly, Mommy told you...honey, you should have called me to get it for you." Mommy was exasperated. "And where did you see that word? On the street?" 

Uh oh, trouble, part two. "In the garage of the pretty blue house," she all but whispered.

"Speak up, Jilly."

"In the garage of the pretty blue house. " By now Jilly was in tears. Mommy looked so disappointed in her.

"You went across the street and into the garage? Oh Jilly, do you know how dangerous that was? You don't know any of those men working over there." Mommy stooped down, her yellow maternity dress swirling around both of them. She looked in her daughter's teary, reddened eyes. "Jilly, Mommy's not mad at you, sweetheart. I just worry about you. Now come with me and show me what you saw."

Hand in hand, they went to the pretty blue house's garage. As described, there was the drawing of two circles with the long U in between. Jilly watched Mommy turn a dark shade of pink all the way to the roots of her blonde scalp. Then she looked at the four letter word blankly. With the drawing, which she did recognize, she was relatively sure it wasn't a word she wanted her daughter using but she had no idea what fuck meant. 

“*Mommy! I hear Daddy's car!" Jilly said excitedly. "Let's ask him." Daddy knew everything.

Mommy and Jilly stepped out of the garage. Daddy pulled his beige Bel Air Wagon into the driveway. He was rolling up his window but Jilly could still hear him singing, “Roses are red, my love. Violets are blue.” Jilly liked to listen to Daddy sing but she noticed Daddy didn't look at all like he did in the morning. His gray suit jacket was draped over his shoulder. His skinny tie was loosened. His sleeves were rolled up his forearms. He looked tired. 

"Daddy!" Jilly called, thrilled to see her hero. Daddy was surprised to see them at the new house, but still broke into a broad grin. "There's my girls!" He looped his arm around his expectant wife while he scooped Jilly up in his other arm. Jilly nuzzled his neck. He still smelled of Brut cologne. 

"So what brings my ladies over here?" Mommy explained the situation as they entered the garage. "Daddy, what does fuck mean?" Jilly asked. This time it was Daddy who blushed. Even the tops of his ears were red.

Daddy mouthed something to Mommy, asking her if she knew what it meant. She answered with pure innocence on her face. Daddy chuckled and shook his head in amazement. He knew his wife lived a sheltered life but not this innocent. "Jilly, Daddy wants you to never, ever say that word again. That is a very bad word. Little girls don't talk like that.”

Jilly was abashed. She didn't mean to say a bad word. But she still had to ask about the spray-painted drawing. Daddy ran his hand threw his buzzcut. "Oh Jilly Bean, let's not talk about the picture either.”

Daddy lead his family back across the street. It was later when she heard Mommy in the other room gasp and say, "Well, I never!" And Daddy chuckle and say, "Hopefully, never again.”

May 15, 2024 12:06

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1 comment

Kristi Gott
23:05 May 22, 2024

The clever concept of going back to 1962 for the misunderstood word reminds me of my own childhood. Growing up we never heard of those words. They only became used often and part of the culture in decades later. This is a very good story and I like the way it answers the prompt with this concept. Well done!


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