40 YEARS OF CUTBANK: "Damage" by Christopher Merkner

From CutBank 72/73 Christopher Merkner














Our son has been saying damage a lot. He is two. He really throws himself behind the first syllable, and lets the second sort of grumble at the back of his mouth.

Of course the word he is trying to say is damnit. I have been saying damnit without restraint recently. Recently, I broke a shoelace, dropped milk, lost my glasses and cheated on my life with a woman who talks to me at the grocery store.

We’re in the car. The streets are icy. I tell my wife that I need to get to work early in the coming days. She says, “Seriously?” My son says, “Damage.” We turn around and tell our son not to say that word. He’s all bound up in his car seat. He’s all eyes. He seems blameless. He looks at us. “What word it is,” he asks. We say, “You know what word.” He says, “Damage.” I say, “Right. Don’t say that.” “What word it is?”

My wife explains that damage is not a nice word. We don’t say words that are not nice, she tells him. My wife looks at me. This idea troubles our son into silence. He looks out the window. My wife is still looking at me. I turn to look at her. I say what but I know exactly what she’s saying.