This begins a highly fictionalized memoir, a sort of A Tree Grows on Mango Street on Rye, if you will.
FINALLY, WE DECIDED to go to our father and ask him. He would know. Our mother’s English was not too good, but Papi, he talked like the people on TV did. He read the paper every day and listened to the WINS radio. Give us 10 minutes and we’ll give you the world. Papi would know.
He came by in the afternoons, since he didn’t live with us. You couldn’t bother him while he was on the phone or when he was writing down the people’s numbers on the blue paper. So we waited until the phone stopped ringing and he had his drink in his hand.
All three of us asked him at once, “Papi, how do you spell ‘fart’?’”
He stopped to think about our question. He said he had never thought about it before, but, he said, it sounded like “F-O-T.”
We repeated it after him, like in religious instruction. “F-O-T,” we said. “F-O-T.”
Some nights later, after we’d been sent to bed, we couldn’t sleep. We kept talking to each other in the darkness. The word came up again. Evie said it was a strange word. Rafael said it was, too. Then I said, “I bet it stands for ‘Fumes Of Terror!’”
We made so much noise laughing that Mami came in to check on us. We told her about Fumes Of Terror, and she laughed, then she told us to say our prayers and go to sleep.