Dear – wait, who am I supposed to be writing this to, anyway? Mrs. Sikes, I guess. Okay:
Dear Mrs. Sikes,
But there’s more to it than that. My parents raised me to be honest, and if I just say I’m sorry, you’ll think I’m sorry for everything, which is not true. So, I’ll sit here in the detention room with this yellow pad, and I’ll keep
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writing until I’ve said everything I want to say. And hopefully, you’ll understand, and I’ll be out of trouble and life will go on and I’ll go to the middle school next year, where I’ll probably get into some other kind of trouble, but it won’t be your problem anymore.
Anyway, me and my friends, we’re not popular. In fact, we were probably the least popular kids in the school until recently. When you’re small and Jewish and smart and you don’t play sports and of course you don’t have a girlfriend, popularity is pretty much out of the question. But I knew middle school was coming – “looming on the horizon,” as Mr. Grand likes to say – and I knew that if I didn’t do something to move up a couple of notches on the social pyramid, I’d be basically screwed for the next three years, after which I’d be screwed even worse for the next four years after that. And so, Curse Club was born. (Oh, and don’t worry, “screwed” isn’t a curse.) Curse Club is a very simple concept, but I knew it would work the moment I thought it up. In fact, I got the idea from Mr. Grand. Not the specific idea. I’m not trying to get Mr. Grand trouble or anything. He’s a good guy, even if his ties all have food stains on them. What I got from him was the thought of making money without doing too
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much work. He read us a book in class about a kid who gets his dead grandfather’s lawnmower and he ends up making like half a million dollars, all without much effort.
My friends and I have been compiling a list of swear words since last spring. We’re constantly revising it, adding new words, taking off ones that turn out not to be actually dirty. We get into a lot of interesting discussions about it. Like, is there any official rule for deciding whether something is a curse or not? I mean, our list has all the major curses on it – you know, the “big one,” and a couple of the other ones that are almost as bad. Then there are some that we always thought were curses, but they’re just basically names for body parts and you even hear them on cop shows on TV sometimes, and they’re in most dictionaries, so they definitely don’t count. It’s kind of funny to think about how your definition of bad words changes over the years. I remember when the worst words I knew were “shut up” and “stupid.” Then there are some words that are actually considered worse than the big famous one. There’s one in particular that I’m thinking of, that may not officially be a swear word but that is so bad that if you say it, almost
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everybody gets really angry. Especially women. You can probably figure out the one I’m thinking about.
Anyway, so we have this list, and we keep reviewing it, and if you’re a member of the Curse Club, which only costs a dollar a week, you can see the list whenever you want. I always keep one on me, and so do the other two guys who run the club with me. (And by the way, if part of getting un-suspended means naming those two other guys, forget it. I guess I’ll just have to stay here in the detention room forever.) Within a couple of weeks of starting the Curse Club, we had 18 members, which was pretty cool. It was like getting an extra six dollars of allowance every week, which is always nice. But the best thing is that it opened up a bunch of doors I never thought I’d get anywhere near. The cool kids were some of the first to join Curse Club, and as a result, some of their “cool” rubbed off on us. And, having cool kids in the club kept the bullies off our back. They also had friends at different schools, and that was what turned the whole thing into such a big business.
You know what a franchise is, right? Like McDonalds. Mr. Grand explained them to us in class. Well, we figured, what if we could somehow start Curse Club franchises in
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other schools? For $10 a week, the franchise owner would get an updated list from us every Sunday night, and they would be free to charge whatever they wanted at their school. I thought maybe we’d be able to interest kids at the two other elementary schools in town, and maybe a couple of schools in other nearby districts. But my estimate was way off.
In the first week of our franchise program, we got seven schools. By the end of the second week, we were up to 20. Last week, when you shut us down, we had franchisees in 27 schools, $270 coming in every week, $90 for each of us, and that’s not counting the $50 we average here at Harding. So, that’s how the whole thing works. I know everybody’s upset with us, and I kind of understand. But in another way, I really don’t. I mean, you should be proud of us. You want us to learn all this stuff about economics. Well, I feel like I know more about economics than most kids my age now, and probably more than a lot of older people, too. And it’s not like we were using the words to hurt anybody. So I think the First Amendment, which teachers have been telling us about since third grade, has us covered. I guess what I’m saying is, one of the things I learned was that grownups sometimes say one thing and mean
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something entirely different. And that’s worse than cursing, in my opinion.
Anyway, my parents are really upset with me. And I don’t want to be suspended anymore, because I like school. I feel like I actually learn things here sometimes. So now that you know the whole story, I’m hoping that you’ll consider un-suspending me. I also hope you’ll take into account the fact that I did not use a single one of the “list” words in this letter. That’s got to count for Oh my god. Oh Jesus. Mr. Grand was just in here. He was crying. He told me that a fifth-grader named Joey, a kid I’ve known since before kindergarten, was getting picked on by these other kids. They were calling him a faggot. They had him cornered up at the top of the stairs by the Media Room. He freaked out. He jumped over the railing and hit the stairs headfirst. Joey died. Fuck. There’s no other way to say it. Fuck this fucking place. Fuck you, Sikes, and fuck those fucking bullies. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.
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Fuck you for letting this happen. Fuck you for thinking that “fuck” is a worse word than “faggot.” Fuck you for thinking that my stupid little folded-up piece of paper was the problem. Motherfucking piece of shit cunt shit motherfucking cocksucker.
Johnny Wolowitz is a writer and musician living in Orange County, New York.