Remember all the hubbub surrounding the publication of Go the F*ck to Sleep a while back? Here’s Ron Koertge’s humorous take, from the November-December 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Mother Goose waddled to the window. Ah, there was the moon, perfect and round, its light streaming into bedrooms everywhere. She sighed.
Mother Goose was upset. How could parents say that…word, that awful word, to their children? How could they use it in front of innocent little darlings almost fast asleep? Their drowsy eyes. Well-washed hands clutching the crisp, white sheets.
She loved children. Why, tonight she was baby-sitting Jack and Jill, Little Jack Horner, and the Three Little Kittens. When they were ready for bed, they would be tucked in and read to, not shouted at. Not sworn at.
Whiskers, Cuddles, and Boots mewed at her feet. So sweet. They’ve lost their mittens. Well, they can’t be far.
Mother Goose looked toward the corner where Little Jack Horner was jabbing his thumb into an already mutilated pie. And then holding his hand up so the purple, sticky juice ran down his arm and stained his new shirt. Good Lord.
“Oh, look. Here are your mittens. Now go and play while I try to get young Mr. Horner cleaned up.”
Why didn’t he cooperate? Why did he kick at her slightly swollen ankles? And why did she have to listen to Jill and the other Jack bicker:
“I didn’t trip you. I just wanted to carry the pail for a change. But oh, no. Mr. Big Shot, Mr. I’m-All-Testosterone-All-the-Time has to carry it.”
“You’re a girl. You’re supposed to just hold my hand.”
“Oh, bullshit. And you should go to Urgent Care. Head injuries can be fatal. That would make a lovely bedtime story—’Jack and Jill went up the hill / but Jack fell down and died from a subdural hematoma.’ That’ll send the tots right to Dreamland.”
Mother Goose shushed them both as Jack Horner pointed with his one clean hand and laughed diabolically. “Look!”
Oh, for God’s sake. Whiskers had his head stuck in a mitten and appeared to be suffocating.
“He did it,” shouted Boots, pointing to Cuddles, who made his wide eyes wider: Who, me?
Mother Goose managed to wrestle the mitten off of Whiskers, who promptly hissed and bit her in the wing.
“Go to bed!” shouted Mother Goose. “All of you. To bed. Now!”
Muttering to one another, and dragging their feet, everyone got into the big bed Mother Goose was so proud of.
“That’s better,” she said. “One story. And then right to sleep.”
Cuddles whispered to Boots, “I’ll bet you can’t eat a whole mitten. I did and it was delicious.”
“Has anybody seen my pie?” asked Jack Horner.
Jill sat straight up. “Is that what that is? I thought Jack was bleeding out.”
Mother Goose arched her long neck. She spread her wings so a giant shadow fell across the bed.
“Go to sleep!” she shouted. “I mean it. Go the f— !”
She almost said it.
The room darkened on its own. The kittens huddled together. Jill searched for a hand to hold. Little Jack Horner whimpered and pulled the covers over his head.
Mother Goose limped to the window. There was that moon—a cold, dead rock in the sky spreading its feeble, borrowed light over a whole new world.