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And Then I Cursed This Motherfucker

And Then I Cursed This Motherfucker

A. E. Osworth

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It was so hot you could lick the air, it sat there like a fat toad, I swear, and everyone smelled like people. People were people-smelling all over the pastry shop but I didn’t mind because I was a Regular and so were most other folks who hadn’t gotten off the tour bus parked outside, and I knew all these Regulars and they knew me and my kid. I was with my kid, by the way, who as far as we know is a girl but she’s been dressing more and more like me, with the men’s clothes and the boots, so who knows. Both of us were reading books, which we mostly do at the pastry shop, with its no-internet and its 1960s art and its bottomless coffee. It’s a heaven-place.

When in walked This Motherfucker. This Motherfucker didn’t look like a Regular or like a tourist. The Regulars mostly look like harried graduate students or French professors who wear socks with sandals. They are writers with glasses halfway down their noses; they are artists with sketchbooks clandestinely mining the crowd for handsome profile faces. They are not usually wearing suits in the heat. They do not look like they have done anything remotely along the lines of “lifting.” But This Motherfucker, he did, he was skiing both those things. And he and His Buddy walked right in and sat down at the table next to ours.

“Okay, okay, I gotta go,” This Motherfucker says into his Air Pods and then he turns to His Buddy. "I'm beating you."

His Buddy raised an eyebrow.

"In the push-up challenge. I'm beating you. You missed a day."

"It's fine. It's just a contest."

This Motherfucker scoffed. "But don't you care about winning?"

His Buddy shrugged and sipped his coffee. In that silent bowl, right at the bottom of it, he noticed my kid. My kid is at that age, springing up, leaning her elbows on adulthood. Once she bought a toy from the toy store and the employee gave her his discount, flirting with her. He didn't realize the toy was for her. And here she is, reading a book that's way too old for her, looking smart and capable and far more grown-up than she ought.

And This Motherfucker, his eyes passed over every inch of her body. I near about cracked the spine on my paperback. It was lewd, obvious in the way that only folks who don't experience consequences can be. The other Regulars, they noticed too. One smirked. I heard a muffled "better watch it."

It was lewd, obvious in the way that only folks who don't experience consequences can be.

And my kid, she noticed because how could she not. She raised her eyes and her eyebrows over that book to glare at him, and then to look at me. With a stern shake of her head she communicated her disapproval of these creatures who call themselves men. She is twelve.

“Excuse me,” I said (not asked). “You need to stop staring at my kid.”

This Motherfucker, he turned his face toward me, with his slightly receding hairline and his upper-lip sweat, and he sneered at me. His face melted from well-to-do into feral beast. “Listen lady,” he said, “I have as much right—”

“They’re not a lady,” my daughter interrupted.

His sneer deepened. “Dyke,” he said, just a syllable shot from his mouth like an ugly saliva pellet into a spittoon and you wouldn’t think we were in New York City at all.

And then my twelve-year-old. My twelve-year-old turned to me and said, “This bitch-ass motherfucker still has it wrong.”

And I was like, “Cool it, you are twelve.” But also that’s probably how everyone knows that’s my twelve-year-old. And then I felt guilty immediately because my twelve-year-old shouldn’t have to be tough; she shouldn’t already know that the only way to disrupt men like these is to slap one’s metaphorical cock on the table. She is twelve. This is not the way the world should work.

And I was like, “Cool it, you are twelve.”

Some of the Regulars, though, they heard and laughed because who does This Motherfucker think he is? And also they knew me. They knew my kid. They knew better. This Motherfucker twitched as everything from a soft giggle from the stay-at-home dad to a jovial horse bray from the playwright in the corner landed on his ears. And like most Motherfuckers like This, he couldn’t stand to be laughed at. His face rounded its way back to me, eyes rolling, turning red-purple as he got ready to yell for management or some such bullshit. “You could just stop fucking watching me, how about that?” he said instead.

“Our tables are four real Imperial inches apart and you’re yelling like a yodeler. Watch your tongue,” I said.

“Tell your shitty kid to watch hers.” He went back to talking to His Buddy.

My kid, who is not shitty, she set her book on the table and leaned her chin into her palm. She batted her eyelashes, all innocent. “What’s it gonna be this time, Renny?” She watched with interest.

“That’s entirely up to him, I suppose.” I thought about it for a minute. And then I cursed This Motherfucker. “Listen here.” I pointed my finger at his face and the whole place turned in, licking lips and smiling crookedly. Something like fear flashed through his features. “You are not to let anything like that slur drip from your lips, and you're not to look at children that way. Watch your eyes and your tongue, lest they get away from you.”

And This Motherfucker. He turned to say something back to me, doubtless as shitty as before. Doubtless because as he tensed his face to say it, he lurched forward and screamed. Gurgled. He began to drool horrendously, and it turned green and sticky on his chin. He grabbed His Buddy by the elbows and he knocked his coffee to the floor, gesturing at his mouth and yipping, moaning like an animal.

“What?” His Buddy seemed panicked. “Are you allergic to something, what?” And This Motherfucker, he opened his mouth and his tongue twisted and lolled, wrenched and ripped from the frenulum holding it in place. And a big, warty toad hopped from between his teeth to the table, to the floor, out the door, and out of sight.

“It didn’t have to be violence,” my kid said. “It didn’t have to be, but you made it violent. If you’d minded your tongue, it wouldn’t have got away.”

This Motherfucker looked at me, pleading in his eyes while His Buddy shouted wordlessly. “She’s right, you know.” I turned my eyes to the door. “Better go catch it.” Both of them, they hopped up from the table, slipping in coffee and ran from the shop. One of the Regulars turned to another and said, "Wonder what his eyes are gonna wind up being." The snickers died down.

“I like the tongue that turned into a dove better,” my kid said. “That one was so pretty; you knew he wasn’t hopeless.”

 

A. E. Osworth is Part-Time Faculty at The New School, where they teach digital storytelling, and Managing Editor of Scholar and Feminist Online, produced by Barnard Center for Research on Women (Barnard College). They also have worked for Autostraddle for the last six years in various roles, including Geekery Editor, and received their MFA in Fiction from The New School. You can keep up with their work on their website and @AEOsworth on Twitter and find more of their writing on Mashable, Argot Magazine and drDoctor. 

Illustrated by Meg Murphy.



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