Creative Unfiction by Doug Ferris
“My dad can’t frinkin’ drive,” the little girl said flatly.
The comment, coming from the mouth of my four-year-old niece, caught me off guard. She watched me steadily through clear blue eyes, patiently awaiting a measured response.
I stared back, uncomprehending. “What was that?” I faltered.
Usually a shy and polite little girl, her coarse language–in stark contrast to her childlike sincerity–surprised me. The statement was more a question than assertion.
“My dad can’t frinkin’ drive?” she repeated, less certainly than before.
I paused, unsure how to respond. After all, her dad was a professional truck driver, hauling a propane rig–which we jokingly called the ‘rolling bomb’–across the snowy Canadian prairies from the Alberta oil fields to Montreal through some of the worst winter weather in the world. Frankly, he was a pretty good frinkin’ driver.
I waited, silently.
“But he can frink coffee?” she inquired, looking for reassurance.
I softened and smiled. “Yes,” I replied, “It’s OK for your dad to frink coffee when he’s driving.” She relaxed, visibly reassured.
“But he can’t frink beer,” she scolded.
“No, he can’t frink beer when he’s driving,” I agreed.
Concerns for her dad’s safety allayed, my niece skipped off to play with her cousins. She left me reflecting on the impact that a few casual phrases of overheard adult conversation can have on children as they try to interpret the complex world around them. “More is caught than taught,” my grandmother used to say.
And, hey, ‘don’t frink’n drive’.