The Swear Jar

John Jodzio

John Jodzio

I have a swear jar sitting on my kitchen table. It’s made from an old cheese puffs container. It has Q%@#*$$$!! written on it. My husband Bill made it before he died. Whenever it fills up I take the money to the casino or I go shove it in a male strippers’ crotch.

The swear jar is mostly filled with my own money, but sometimes my children or grandchildren slip up and say “fuck” or “shit” too.

For instance, just this morning my grandson Tommy told me to “fuck off” when I asked him to take out the trash. I pointed to the swear jar, but instead of putting a dollar in there, Tommy gave me the finger. Then he stomped out the door and rode off on his BMX bike.

“You know I always get my money,” I yelled after him. “One way or another.”

Later that day Tommy took a nap and I rifled through his backpack to get the swear jar money. He didn’t have any cash, but I found a bottle of Oxycontin. I put it in the shoe box with all the other drugs I’d stolen from my other children and grandchildren that week. Then I drove to the library to meet Edith.

Edith was sitting in the periodicals section, paging through a Consumer Reports magazine. We’ve been friends for years. We raised our kids together, were in the PTA, now we’re doing this to supplement our fixed incomes.

“What did you get?” she asks.

“Some Oxy,” I tell her. “Some ruffies. Some weed.”

Edith opens her purse and shows me her stash, a shitload of shrooms and some acid. Her grandchildren are really into that trippy crap. I see them in her front yard sometimes, ruining her lawn with their dumbass hackysacking and stick juggling.

We pass sections of the newspaper back and forth until the bus from the senior center pulls up. It takes them a while to get off the bus and walk inside, but then all of our regulars make a beeline toward us to see what we’ve got today.

In an hour, Edith and I make two hundred bucks each. Then we ride out to the casino. We play slots until we see Harriet and Louise. Luckily we see them before they see us. I shove my Glock in Louise’s ribs. Edith’s shoves her gun in Harriet’s replacement hip.

“Walk,” I say.

We shuffle past the blackjack tables and out to the parking lot. We don’t even really have to hide our guns because we’re old people, we’re invisible.

“Get in,” I say, pointing to my car.

“Selling your shit on our turf is a good way to end up dead,” I tell them.

They hem and haw about not knowing what turf was ours. We’re old, they say, we have trouble remembering whose turf is whose. Edith’s heard enough and she pistol whips both of them and takes their money and drugs. Then we drive to the strip club and give the stripper’s money to fondle their junk.

After I’ve gotten my fill, I drive home. My family is coming over tonight for one of the grandkid’s birthdays. I’m supposed to make the birthday cake. When I get home I start mixing and baking. I get the cake in the oven just in time, but then I sit down on my couch and close my eyes for one goddamn second and I zonk out. I wake up to the fire alarm going off. The goddamn cake is burnt to a crisp. Fuck, I say, fuckity, fuck, fuck. I say fuck like seventy times in a row, because it is the only word that makes sense in this situation and because I can easily afford it.


John Jodzio is a winner of the Loft-McKnight Fellowship. He’s the author of the short story collections If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home (Replacement Press) and Get In If You Want To Live (Paper Darts Press). He lives in Minneapolis. Find out more at


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