“So what is a rude word then, Mum?” Ethel asked.
“Yeah, Mum, I bet you know loads of rude words,” Claire said. “Like, you must know words so rude Daniel wouldn’t even know they were rude.”
“I’d know,” Daniel said, hugging the cat and one of the dolls while watching his favourite tv programme on his phone and eating a yoghurt all at once while also hiding in a den he’d made using a crocheted blanket stretched out between three chairs and kept in place by some precarious towers of heavy looking books.
“Well, maybe you just need to shut up, Daniel,” Claire said. “Maybe you should all shut up and let Mum say what she wants.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, Claire,” Tina said.
“I don’t care,” Claire said. “Anyway, look, Daniel’s put his headphones on. You can say anything now Mum!”
“Just so we know never to say whatever it is!” Ethel added, actually quite eager to hear something so forbidden.
“Or accidentally put it in a poem,” Tina said.
“Or a story.”
“Or the script we’re writing for a radio show that we’re going to broadcast to the whole town!”
“You’re not going to catch me out that easily,” Agnes said. “And anyway, it’s not the word that matters, it’s the intent.”
“That sounds stupid,” Claire said. “Of course it’s the word that matters, Mum. Otherwise it’d just be… noise!”
“I simply mean…” Agnes said, feeling quite defensive. She hated being put on the spot like this. “Like, what about the mayor?”
“What about the mayor?” Tina, Ethel and Claire all asked.
“I mean, the mayor,” Agnes said, looking out of the window as if maybe she could see the mayor out of the window even though the mayor was shut up in the mayor’s office like always and not in their garden like he never was and never had been nor ever would be. “There’s nothing wrong with the word. But what about the man?”
“What about the man?” Tina, Claire and Ethel all asked.
“Doesn’t he just seem… you know,” Agnes said, shuddering. “Urgh.. he just kind of revolts me. Like, what is he doing in there?”
“In where?” Ethel, Claire and Tina all asked.
“In his office,” Agne said. “With the lights off, and the doors bolted, and all the windows covered in soot. It’s not… it’s not natural.”
“Natural?” Ethel, Tina and Claire all asked.
“You know, the sort of thing a human being of living flesh might do,” Agnes said, suddenly leaving the room so she could go and make a cup of tea even though she’d only just had a cup of tea. “There’s something very wrong about the mayor, that’s all I know. Something very wrong indeed.”
“Well, that was weird,” Tina and Ethel said.
“But not rude,” Claire said. “At all. Stupid Mum. Who cares about the mayor anyway?””
“The mayor,” Daniel said, taking his earphones off now it was safe, and looking at the others very seriously indeed through the holes in the crocheted blanket. “Is a massive fucking wanker.”
“Daniel!” Tina, Ethel and most definitely Claire all shouted. “You can’t say that!”
“Well, it’s only what I heard,” Daniel said, before putting his earphones back on and listening to whatever it was he was listening to under his blanket while he watched whatever it was he was watching in there with the cat and the doll (he’d finished his yoghurt by now).
1. Written on July 28th, 2023
2. Obviously this episode will be censored in reprints.
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