11: In the beginning; a single letter.

I’m amused how often Little Miss gives me a citation when I violate the prudish norms of suburbanite socialization.

“Joebie! You said the I-word!”

“What the hell is the ‘I-word’?” I ask, feeling irascible from repeated interruption.

“Now you said the H-word,” she says, folding her arms like an unhappy agent from CPS, with a matching jut of the lower lip.

“Not sure what the ‘I-word’ is, dear heart. Uh, is it ‘idiot’?”

“You said it again! You said the president was the I-word.”

“Oh, well, that’s entirely true. He is the literal embodiment of the ‘I-word’ in action. I mean, if you look up the ‘I-word’ in a picture dictionary, there will be a little puffy orange face looking back at you.”

“But that’s mean.”

“I’d say ‘accurate,’ but that’s a lesson you’ll learn when you study the history of this decade when you’re in college, looking back on the pandemic.”

“Mean.”

“I can’t believe you keep using the M-word!”

“The M-word?” And yet, give Little Miss or any of her little associates a stack of play money and literally the first thing they’ll do is flawlessly “make it rain” like an abusive pimp throwing bills at a stripper and say “Makin’ it raaain,” because that’s apparently not a bad thing for them to emulate, unlike using the occasional bit of tart language. There are a lot of ironies in play in a suburban wonderland.

It’s not that I don’t allow myself the indulgence of occasionally taunting her and her wee compatriots when I’m in a bit of a mood and they’ve tugged at my sleeve a few too many times or bounced a ball against my monitor while I’m struggling to telework in a house with literally nowhere to hide.

“Oh my gosh,” I say. “Y’all keep using da T-word!”

“What’s the T-word?”

Ouch—my delicate ears!”

“No, seriously, Joebie, what’s the T-word!?”

“Definite article. T-word definite article.”

Little Miss gets that jaundiced look she gets when she senses I’m having a go at her.

“You mean ‘the’,” she says, elbows out.

Aaaugh, there it is again!”

“Joebie, I am going to play upstairs.”

“Oh no, please don’t throw me in the briar patch!”

“What?” asks the Little Miss, and she retreats to the little lavender room upstairs and closes the door. I adjust my monitor, plug in my headphones, and return to the task at a hand.