“There isn’t any word that is a bad word. They’re all just words. If it’s in the dictionary, it’s a word,” Babs says, speaking to no one in particular. It wasn’t meant to challenge anyone, just a mere statement of fact. Babs spoke dryly, enunciating each syllable.
Ashley, in her late thirties and undoubtedly the youngest in the room, thought Babs might like reading from the dictionary, and that it was, perhaps, something she did in her spare time. Time, there was plenty of that.
Ashley’s father, George, had just moved into the senior apartment living complex. The other apartment dwellers, while strangers, were encouraging them to sit down with them.
Claudia and Ruth sat at the table kitty-corner to Babs, gossiping like naughty school children. Claudia, more quizzical, looked around the room after every other sentence she spoke, like a pent-up squirrel needing a vacation.
“Why don’t we go for a walk today, along the bike trail?” Claudia asked.
“Oh, I don’t do that, Claudia. Not after that biker knocked me down.”
Babs smirked, “You know what I would have called him.” Claudia and Ruth both eyed her viciously.
George, new to the apartment living complex, strolled over to his daughter with a cup of coffee and a pastry.
“We handled it,” Ruth fired back at Babs.
“That’s from Starbucks. They bring us pastries and muffins every morning,” Claudia said to Ashley and her father, excitedly.
“Not bad,” replied Ashley.
Her father attempted to sit down next to Ruth, but she had other ideas.
“No one sits down here,” Ruth intervened.
Claudia winced at Ruth, shaking her head at her.
George, who is not one to back down from a challenge, picked up the chair, and placed it at the neighboring table. Claudia sipped her coffee gingerly. Ashley now didn’t know where to sit; with the three, grumpy old ladies or her lonely, solitary dad. If she sat next to her dad, they would be sitting with their backs to them. Somehow, this didn’t seem right.
Claudia piped up, “What do you have to be such a…such a…witch!” She glanced in Ashley’s direction, “She’s a witch with a “B” in front of it.”
“As far as I know, witch is not spelled with a “B.” George said, smiling, delighted to be a part of the conversation. Well, he did teach English once.
‘Why don’t you just say what you want? Go ahead.” Babs was practically cheering her on.
Claudia eyed Ruth directly, and announced emphatically, “You’re a bitch.”
Ruth rose out of her seat and threw a muffin at Claudia’s head. Claudia gasped, speechless. The muffin broke into fragmented pieces on the table before her, wayward crumbs floated on her hair. Ruth fled the scene, taking her coffee with her.
“I guess anyone could sit there now,” said Babs in the stoney silence. “You know I would have called her something else,” she said to no one in particular.