“Wow. I didn’t think you could get away with a word like that any more. It’s pretty offensive, isn’t it?” Mark Nipple marveled, nodding at the radio. It was tuned to an alternative rock station. He stopped briefly at the traffic light, turned right on red. “I guess maybe because she’s Jewish herself — and female — she feels she’s allowed to use it. I guess she’s being ‘ironic,’ too.” Mark spoke the word derisively. Though he did not really practice a religion, Mark’s grandfather, Ira Nubaum, had identified as a Jew.
“What word?” Mark’s wife Anita, sitting beside him, had not particularly been listening to the radio. It was music for a younger generation, though because their son, Aubrey, aspired to a career in music, they did keep their ear to the current trends. Mark likewise took a professional interest in contemporary music.
“That song,” Mark jerked his head toward the radio.
Anita listened for ten seconds until she recognized the song. “‘Genius?’” she asked, a note of curiosity causing her tone to rise like a helium balloon.
“Is that what she’s singing? ‘Genius?’”
“The song’s called ‘Genius Next Door,’” Anita informed her husband and then reflected. “Yes, ‘genius’ is kind of a suspect word, isn’t it?,” she offered after a pause. “Like ‘artist’ or even ‘intellectual.’ Hey! Watch out for that car! What is he, crazy or something? Stopping in the middle of the road like that?”
Mark clicked his blinker, looked in the rearview mirror, swerved around the car that had stopped suddenly in the street. He shook his head in a kind of wonder, relieved for some reason certain taboos still existed, that some sad barrier hadn’t been crossed, even in the name of art, even with the license of sarcasm. “I thought she said something else.”