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News & Features » June 2017 » “Use Your Words” by Nkosi Ife Bandele

“Use Your Words” by Nkosi Ife Bandele

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, Nkosi proves why he’s not not your typical Upper Westside parent.

Use Your Words
by Nkosi Ife Bandele

Since I am 6’4”, Black, and a furry dude to boot, I am not your typical Upper Westside Mom. Still, I try. I give my son “time out,” and I repeatedly say “use your words.” I even do all that in my best Mary Poppins’ voice though, granted, she certainly would not augment her words with “or I’m gonna go upside your head!” And, that’s it, really. I do that Upper Westside Mom shtick, (which I sincerely admire), with my own improvisations because, well, you know, while you can take the boy outta the ghetto, you can’t exactly… well, you know.

When my seven year old told me that another boy had been eating his lunch, and that’s why he was lately so hungry after school, I was hot. I mean, that fucking rat ass bastard eating my lovely boy’s lunch, that stinking piece of shit, I should go over to that school and fuck his little punk ass up! That’s almost always my first response, and, at the risk of sounding like I was a badass at seven, the only lunch anybody ever got off me was a double decker knuckle sandwich, with a whole lotta mustard on that bad boy!

But I am not raising my son that way.

Indeed, I am proud to say that he has never been in a fight, that I’ve always insisted that he use his words (even if I just happen to be standing in the background looking on with murderous eyes as he does).

When I asked my son why he was letting the other boy take his lunch, he shrugged. I asked him if the boy was big, or if he was threatening him in any way, and he said that he wasn’t.

“Why, then?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is it too hard for you to use your words?”

“I don’t know.”

He was reluctant to divulge any of the particulars but finally admitted that it was his classmate Josh, a brat, and a pipsqueak at that, actually a legitimate case for the naysayers against Upper Westside Mom, his often reduced to pleading after all the time outs get used up.

My son knew that I despised Josh, and though I had never threatened to go upside his head or anything like that, my murderous eyes had once directed him to drop a shank of ice that he was aiming at another kid while Upper Westside Mom wagged a weak perfectly manicured pointer.

I thought that my son was afraid that I’d intervene and inevitably embarrass him, and that’s why he hadn’t told me. He was right on both accounts because obviously when it comes to him, I can really lose it, and not only did he know that, he had witnessed it. I had just threatened to hogtie the hands of an Urban Cowboy who made a remark about my son’s “fro” and presumed to touch it.

Now before I get to the actual point of the story, let me also say that my kid loves to eat. He absolutely delights in eating, sopping up runny eggs with croissants or biscuit bits, plopping whole spaghetti meatballs one by one into his gaping mouth, slurping his juice, releasing a deep stomach “ahhh!” when finished. And he can be competitive, too. When we share a container of our favorite Ben and Jerry’s “Karamel Sutra” ice cream, he watches me with such passion, and when I pass it to him, if I don’t likewise watch, I never get it back.

All that to say, I know that Josh eating his lunch warranted more than a shrug.

I told him that back in the day, we used our words to clown dudes, and that sometimes discouraged them from acting up, and that way we didn’t always have to fight. My son asked for examples, so I told him that I might say, “Hey, Josh, what’s up, you hungry, boy? Y’all ain’t got no food at y’all house? Your moms lost y’all food stamps?”

Now my son is a smart guy, and he knew that that specific kind of roasting wouldn’t exactly apply to his Josh, son of Upper Westside Mom, and presumably likewise dad, and so the next time Josh went for his lunch, my son snapped: “Damn, Josh, when the last time you ate, when you were a baby sucking on your Mom’s boobs?”

(We met with the Vice Principal after that.)


NKOSI IFE BANDELE‘s novel, The Ape is Dead!, about a black student’s journey toward true love on a politically-charged college campus, is now available from Crimson Cloak Publishing. Excerpts of this work appear in the Crimson Cloak Publishing anthology Love Matters, Akashic’s Terrible Twosdays seriesHobart MagazineCrescendo City Magazine, and the collection of poetry and prose titled It’s Animal but Merciful published by the independent press great weather for MEDIA. Excerpts from Nkosi’s second novel, Scott Free, are featured in Moonshot magazine’s issue #5 and Akashic’s Thursdaze series. He is also the author of a third novel, The Beast, and the Writer’s Digest award–winning screenplay Love is Crazy. Nkosi lives in New York City. He has been published under the pen names Eshu Bandele and skoo d foo, da bom! His website, including his blog THAT N-WORD’S CRAZY!, is eshubandele.com. Visit his Facebook Fan Page here.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jun 20, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , ,