"So, I began to brainstorm: What was the most offensive, most hurtful thing I could say? I decided to enlist the help of someone. I would rattle off some of the best insults I had come up with and she would rate them on offensiveness, from number one to ten, ten being the most offensive..."

fiction by matthew waterman

"Goddamn, motherfucking, fag-loving, cunt."

That was the best I could come up with. The, "Goddamn," was a good introduction, possibly offending the religious right and even breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Then I have the, "motherfucking," which is, in practice, the most shocking of all. Then, I get the bleeding hearts on the left with, "fag-loving." And the exclamation point is the C-word, "cunt," that even bad-asses use sparingly. For now, that was the most insulting, offensive thing I could say.

The genesis of this brainstorming lay in my current occupational status. I knew I couldn’t take it anymore and I was going to quit. But, my pride dictated that I had to do it effectively and avenge myself for all the shit I had to take all this time. So, the plan was to walk right into the CEO’s office, quit, and tell him exactly what I thought of him…or her.

Of course, I hadn’t met the CEO yet. But, knowing that all orders originated with him or her, I knew that person was the source of all my misery. As the saying goes, "Shit flows downhill," and judging from all of that had come down from supervisor to supervisor, the CEO must’ve been doing a lot of crapping.
Thus the problem had become exactly how to tell him or her off. I couldn’t just go in rambling, saying, "You’re a stupid-head." I’d be laughed out of his or her office. "You’re a fuck-head," might be suitably offensive but it just didn’t have that special zest. Besides, one can use the word, "fuck," only so many times before it loses it shock value. It seemed that a Tourette’s inspired cursing frenzy just wouldn’t work.

So, I began to brainstorm: What was the most offensive, most hurtful thing I could say? I decided to enlist the help of someone. I would rattle off some of the best insults I had come up with and she would rate them on offensiveness, from number one to ten, ten being the most offensive.

"You goddamn motherfucking, fag-loving, cunt!" I said right off the bat.

"Um, 6.5."

"6.5?" I asked. That was my best one!

"Well, I’ve never even met a homosexual…and I’m certainly not a cunt," she explained innocently.

Undaunted, I read off another. "You little shrinked-dick, piece of shit!"

"4.0," she shrugged, her body language not showing any effect of insult. "None of that applies to me."

I backpedaled for a moment. I had miscalculated badly. As obvious as it sounds, I hadn’t realized that if I was going to offend someone it would have to be offensive to that very person. I decided to improvise: "You big, fat cunt!" I said.

Surprisingly, she began to giggle. I had definitely not foreseen that reaction. She didn’t even give a point score.

"You’re not supposed to laugh," I moaned, somewhat offended.

"I’m sorry. It just…sounded so funny." She composed herself for a moment, saying, "I really don’t think this is going to work," before breaking into giggles again.

"Mom, this is serious," I moaned. "If you can’t be serious then…we shouldn’t do this."

"Okay," she said, standing up. She walked away giggling, obviously not as concerned with my objective as I was.

Disheartened, I went back to the drawing board. I had learned a valuable lesson, though: The person being offended is the one who decides what is offensive. This idea struck me because it set up a strange situation.

For example, in the past I had offended people wholly unintentionally many times. I had lost girlfriends on two separate occasions by referring to them as, "chick," or, "babe," respectively. Now I’m strictly on a first name only basis with any future girlfriends. Intentionally trying to offend someone was, seemingly, just a tricky as avoiding a slip-up on a day-to-day basis. I felt like I was in the military purposefully running around a minefield while a doofy private a few yards away takes one misstep and gets obliterated. It all seemed so random.

The key, I realized in this situation, is the person whom is being offended. You can call a right-wing conservative a, "pinko, commie, fag," but they might just shrug it off or laugh at the accusation. Likewise, calling a leftist tree-hugger a, "nazi, corporate, scumbag," was just as nonsensical. I realized that using both of these clashing descriptions for one person is just fucked up.

It’s like calling someone a, "nigger honky."

Sadly, I realized that my prized insult, "goddamn, motherfucking, fag-loving cunt," wouldn’t work. I had to go back to the drawing board.

Step one would be to find out more about the CEO. What was the CEO’s gender and race? Where did he or she stand on key issues like feminism, gay rights, and abortion? Was he handicapped in any way? If I knew any of these things I would have an Achilles Heel to target my verbal onslaught at.

Swallowing my pride, I realized I would have to go to work for a few days to find out more. It seemed so counter-productive to go back to the office and actually do work but, sometimes, you have to break down in order to build up.

Work, of course, sucked. To begin with, the flower obsessed girl in the cubicle next to me hummed throughout the entire day. Bear in mind, of course, that it wasn’t a song or anything recognizable she was humming. It was just simple, inane, positively aggravating humming. I wanted to strangle the worthless bitch but, obviously, I couldn’t do that. That would be a cause for termination.

In addition to the aggravation of that little twit were the instructions my supervisor gave me. The goal of a project I had been working on for two weeks had been shifted. All of the information I had collected would have to be re-sorted. Essentially, it was as if nothing had been done for the last two weeks yet the deadline still stayed the same. The source of this order, of course, had been the hated CEO.

The day hadn’t been a complete loss, though. I had recognized a female co-worker from upstairs—the floor the CEO was on. After subtly approaching her, I asked, "What’re you doing?"

"Trying to find a file," she answered, blandly.

"Oh…. For the CEO?"

"Nope. For Steve."

"Oh." There was silence for a moment. I almost panicked, but, astutely, kept the conversation from veering off target.

"That CEO…. It must be a tough job," I said.

"Yeah. Hey did you see the lottery numbers for today?"

"Uh…no, I didn’t. I hate the lottery."

The woman gave me a somewhat startled glance. I hadn’t meant that to sound so harsh and now I was in double trouble. I had alienated the woman and the conversation topic was all wrong. Drastic action was needed.

"The CEO likes…I mean plays the lottery. I think. Maybe you could ask him." I thought to myself, "…smooooth."

The woman then abruptly stopped what she doing and seemed somewhat upset. She turned to face me for the first time and said, "Look—if you’re trying to pump me for information about the CEO, I don’t know anything. I don’t work with him and I’ve never seen him. He must be pretty big because they had to put special reinforcements in the room, though. That’s all I know."

"Oh," I responded.

As I slinked away I asked myself how she had discerned my secret. Over my shoulder I said, "Good luck with the lottery." Behind me I heard a file being slammed in anger.

The important part, though, was that I got some information. One thing I learned: the CEO was a male. The woman had referred to the CEO as "him." I cautioned myself, though, that if she has never seen him nor met him she might’ve just assumed the CEO was a "he." Another, more important thing I learned: he was overweight, grossly overweight, if the floor needed special reinforcements. This was stuff I could use.

Another thing I could use I discovered quite inadvertently. It was the next day at work and, of course, the day was sucking. Two co-workers behind me had started a conversation and insisted on including me in it. I had absolutely no interest in the latest, cute things these womens’ kids had done but, to be polite, I had to pretend to listen. To make matters worse, one of the women kept touching my arm so that I had to pay attention.

"So, there we were at the beach…Fred, Timothy, and I…oh you should’ve seen this place," rambled one of them. I kept reminding myself to look at her rather than letting my eyes wander. Meanwhile, the other woman looked on with actual interest.

"So after that long trip and that long wait and then the other long wait, we finally got there."

I kept getting distracted by my musings on whether this story was even half done.

"And get this," she said, touching my forearm again, "Timothy wants to play catch."

The other girl giggled, squealing, "Oh noo-ooo." I smiled politely.

"So get this: You know what I do?"

"What?" asked the second woman in rapture.

"Oh, I’m so horrible…I went up to the bathroom and told Fred to watch him!"

"Oh, noo-ooo!"

"Then I took a nap!"

"Oh, noo-ooo!" screamed the second one at an even higher pitch.

"Aren’t I just so horrible?"

"You are. You are so horrible," giggled Ms. Attention Span.

Myself, trying to conclude this exercise in frustration, joined in saying, "Wow, you are a really bad mother."

The two stopped laughing instantly. They muttered a few nervous, incomprehensible things and gave me dirty looks before wandering away. That’s when a second realization hit me: Insults directed at one’s personal like are much more offensive than general insult’s that are technically offensive yet vague. In addition, one is allowed to say something derogatory about one’s self or those close to them but it gets offensive when someone else says it. She called herself, "horrible," and that was fine. But, when I said she was a, "bad mother," it was very offensive. I realized that that was a symptom of the sensitivity people have for their loved ones. That explained the derogatory inflection of, "Your momma." I had found a new way to offend!

Obviously, I already knew that insults directed towards a person’s personal life were some of the most offensive. Calling someone’s wife or husband a complete fuck-head generally doesn’t go over too well. But now I realized why: People were afraid if they didn’t defend their loved ones, then they would be insulted too. It was a sort of overcompensation. If a person didn’t argue against the idea that their spouse was a complete fuck-head then they might as well have been agreeing with that estimation. In addition, people were doubly offended because they also had to prove that they weren’t stupid enough to be associated with a complete fuck-head. The next mission, therefore, became obvious. I had to discover a person close to the CEO I could insult, in addition to the offensive material I would launch directly at him.

Unfortunately, no one knew anything. I spent the rest of the day scouring for information about the CEO’s family or personal life but to no avail. It seemed as if he had no family at all, in fact.
I decided to fall back to the old faithful: Insulting his mother. Everyone had a mother. Most loved their’s. Saying something about her seemed to be my best bet. The problem was what to say. The obvious choice was "motherfucker." But I wanted something targeted more personally towards her or the CEO. Possibly, "mother cunt sucker?" "You receptacle of your mother’s ass perversions?" "You licker of mothers’ cunts?" I would have to work on this.

I went home obsessed with what to say. I knew the deed had to be done tomorrow…I couldn’t stand another day of actual work. So, all night I worked on the most perfectly offensive thing to say to the CEO. It wasn’t easy. Without my assistant it was even harder. Of course, my mother really hadn’t helped that much before anyway. But I could’ve used the moral support.

In the end I centered my assault on the lessons I had learned at work. I began by attacking his obesity. I hit below the belt with a remark about his mother. And, assuming he was a white, male, Republican-because he was a CEO after all- I concluded with a stereotype directed at this. After much consternation I decided upon, "Listen here you pig shit wrapped in a blanket of fat. If you’re not overly busy with another unsuccessful attempt to satisfy your whore of a mother, I’ve got something to say. I quit! I quit you hypocritical, money-fucking, jackbooted capitalist, son-of-a-bitch."

It was perfect. And I didn’t even have to use that many curse words!

All night I rehearsed the declaration. I repeated it to myself over and over like an actor memorizing his lines. I was determined to make this my moment of triumph. I would be Hamlet and this would be my monologue.

My nervous energy the next morning was incredible. I had barely slept a wink but I wasn’t tired in the least. For the first time in years, I couldn’t wait to get to work.

It was a strange feeling to enter the elevator at my workplace and not hit the normal, eighth floor button. I had been doing it so long, drowsily and half-awake, that it had become a habit. No, today I would be going to the twenty-first floor. I had business to take care of.

The floor was lit well, much better than the eighth. It figured. I wouldn’t expect the bastard CEO to have anything less. Outside the elevator bank, a hallway led in two directions. On one side, beyond a partition, I heard activity and many people talking. On the other was a large, ominous door. I decided to approach it. Once close enough, I read, "Office of the CEO," on a gold plate on the door. I had my appointment with destiny.

For a moment I gathered myself together outside the door. I wanted this to be perfect and rehearsed my verbal Normandy one final time. The suspense was astounding. As I put my hand on the doorknob and began to turn it, I felt as if I were about to do the most important thing in my entire life.

I charged in pronouncing loudly, "Listen here, you pig shit wrapped in a blanket of fat! If you’re not overly busy with another unsuccessful attempt to satisfy your whore of a mother, I’ve got something to say! I quit!!! I quit you hypocritical, money-fucking, jackbooted capitalist, son-of-a-bitch!"

The petite black woman behind the desk asked simply, "May I help you?"

Apparently, her name was Annette Anderson, and, according to the nameplate on her desk, she was the Secretary to the CEO. I had surmised that she was not the CEO midway through my diatribe but I was unable to improvise enough on the fly. Rather than look foolish, I decided to complete it as originally devised.

So, for a brief moment her question hung in the air, both of us aghast, eyes locked, mouths agape. I blinked suddenly, rapidly, and raged, "Where is the CEO?!?"

"Clyde?" she asked.

"Sure! Clyde! I demand to see CEO Clyde!"

The secretary smiled quizzically, saying, "Uh…normally Clyde doesn’t get any visitors…?"

"I don’t care!" I looked around. There were two doors in the office, one looking much like a coatroom. I strided to the other. "Is he in here?" I demanded.

"Um…yes, but sir…"

Before she could say anymore I charged in. "Listen here you pig shit wrapped…in…"

There was no one in the room. There wasn’t even any evidence that someone would be in there. No desk. No shelves. No pictures on the wall. There was simply a series of computer terminals, a few printers, and a few computer screens. I turned to the secretary, who had now stood up, and asked through my angry confusion, "Where is he?!? Where’s the CEO?"

"Sir, that is the CEO."


"In there. Clyde."

"I don’t understand…?"

"CLIDE," she said as if talking to an imbecile. "Computer Licensed Independently Developed—"


I screamed. I couldn’t help it. The CEO was a computer! A fucking computer! "Aaarrgghh!" I screamed again, storming out of the office. "Aaarrgghh!" I screamed again in the elevator. "Aaarrgghh!" I screamed in the lobby and again walking down the street.

How about that! The CEO was a fucking computer! All my time and energy spent making the most perfectly offensive insult was for naught. Because of a fucking computer! I considered going back and using it on my immediate supervisor but, in good conscience, I couldn’t. He was, after all, just doing what the computer told him to. Shit!

In the end, I think I ended up offending a young ecologist the most. At a newsstand, after I had settled down slightly, the owner must’ve seen my downcast mood and asked, "Rough day, huh buddy?"

"Yeah," I muttered. "I found out I work for a fucking computer."

"Oh, don’t we all," he agreed. "Technology seems to’ve become everybody’s boss."

"No, I mean I, literally, work for a fucking computer."

"Oh, you mean you make newer, better ones? Faster ones."

"No, no," I began to say. But just then a young woman looked up at me from her magazine. She had simple, straight hair, and was wearing a tye-dyed shirt and a beaded necklace. Her eyes were filled with hate.

"You bastard," she said. "Can’t you see that all this technology you’re creating is ruining the world? It’s devastating the environment…destroying human individuality…. You are what’s wrong with society you son-of-a-bitch."

She threw her magazine back on the pile and stormed off before I had a chance to say anything. I stood there for a moment in shock, plaintively looking toward the newsstand owner for support. The owner was merely shaking his head in mild disgust, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the girl or I.

Slowly, I began to walk away, unsure of any retort I could’ve used against the young woman. After all, I didn’t even know her that well.

©2004 Matt Waterman
Smokebox is a non-commercial, volunteer driven e-zine