Little Terrors Solved

Why are children considered so precious? Human beings, after all, are animals. Higher evolved, yes, or so we’ve come to believe, but animals nonetheless.

While we have turned copulation into pleasure, the ultimate reason behind our mating is to reproduce. To continue and expand our genetic lineage. Same primal directive as every other species inhabiting this planet.

That we derive joy from procreation leaves simpler animals unencumbered with the plentitude of human dramas associated with sex. After they rut, it’s over. The male goes his way, the female hers.

Whenever human males try following that instinct there’s a hell to pay no animal can conceive.

Not that four-pawed beasts or fowl don’t or can’t feel the same depth of affection for their spawn, but immersed in Nature as they are, each understands what we fathom as the cruelty being inherent in their environment. They just know some aren’t going to reach maturity. And that’s good.

Surely the lioness agonizes when one of her cubs gets separated from the pride and a wildebeest gores it to death. For the wildebeest killing that cub answers self-preservation. Allowed to mature into a full-grown lion, it becomes another predator. Possibly of wildebeests. Yes, defenseless as the cub is killing it young reduces future threats.

Disease, accidents, and being victims of prey – all necessary for proper balance and survival of the fittest – will cull the weak allowing the strong to pass along their attributes which will improve future generations. With animals it’s easy making the point and pointing out the benefits of natural selection. Promoting the same about humans only provokes arguments.

Often from the weakest in our society are acutely aware if it weren’t for others’ consciences they too already would’ve been dealt indifferent fates. By the way, for every Anglo who idolizes the Spartan Way of life that’s how they winnowed their communities. They would’ve regarded Christian kindness as pathetic and ignoble.

Not so much natural selection but how we unquestionably revere the youngest among us prompts this post. Just in time for Halloween.

In horror movies, children in jeopardy rarely fail inciting viewers’ protective instincts. It’s one of the most visceral reactions the vast majority of humankind shares. But wonder if we were more like the animals inferior to us?

Wonder if we were subject to a modified natural selection?

Almost 14 years ago, I attended a play in New York titled Shockheaded Peter. The basis of the musical vignettes comprising the evening was a collection of mid-19th century German stories under the rubric Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffman These were not parables in the vein of the Brothers Grimm. Nor even the Fractured Fairy Tales of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

The misbehaving children in them received the just desserts of adults who’d transgressed. Severe punishments, indeed, though pleasing to any appreciative of manners and order. Perhaps the penalties delivered were assessed more harshly because they were children.

We expect adults to know better. The same cannot be said of the still maturing among us, can it? Should it?

Despite Americans’ tough on crime mania, we still make distinctions between adult and minor violators. Well, depending on where the crime occurred and who suffered it, for the most part.

Remembrance of these tales of Hoffman arose through the escapades of neighbors’ children. Hearing them, watching, being astounded by their utter lack of discipline, one could judge them vulgar versions of the Katzenjammer Kids comic strip. At least Hans and Fritz regularly got their comeuppances.

My Anglo neighbors’ brats needn’t fear the swift sharp smacks of attentive parents. Raised in the wild among wolves would better for them than the negligent mothers and fathers claiming these children’s parentage.

Witnessing their rampages, I pondered how a modern-day Hoffman might solve the kids’ incivilities. Okay. Why speculate? Hoffman wouldn’t spare the rod, the impaling instrument, cudgel, or inhumanity.

Nor should I.

In the Halloween spirit and the feeling it’s too bad we’ve attained a level of sophistication that labors valiantly to disprove and scoffs at the old beliefs. By keeping them in line through superstition, these often gave our ancestors the heebie-jeebies. What would it be like to summon the rumored less than benevolent spirits and command them to do our bidding?

For the good of the community, of course.

Incantations, potions, spells, powders, crystals, black masques, blood sacrifices, all these have succumbed to reason. Our lives are now bereft of “magic.”

Yet wonder if we could revive the old shades and have them act in our favor?

Surprisingly or otherwise, Las Vegas supports a great may New Agey mystic shoppes. Establishments where doubtlessly the right words in the right ears could provide the necessary spectral items to effect change or inflict punishment.

Unlike the creepy image of spooky clerks manning these addresses pop culture popularly pushes, the staffs are invariably bright and earnest. There businesses well-lighted and well-organized. If only guided by television and movies one would be misled. The goth is minimal, cobwebs and dust sparse. If there is “a little something darkly special” in some backroom somewhere, the door to it doesn’t creak while squeaking vermin do not scurry around one’s feet.

If such specters could be summoned, I know where they’d best be deployed.

Plenty of old-time Nevadans complain about the influx of Californians. That those from the Coast are importing ideas “foreign” to the Silver State and in doing so ruining its character. Actually what scorches most of the mossbacks here is the affluence Californians bring to a culturally and materially lagging state as well as amounts of disposable income too many of the locals can only dream about.

Or, as this relocated New Yorker knows it better, envy that begets jealousy.

A decent number of Californians have looked across the border. They’ve recognized Nevada offers excellent opportunities for real estate investment. Taking advantage of these situations, those from the Golden State have been on buying sprees which have electrified once moribund property sales.

In the interests of disclosure, this correspondent has prospered from current circumstances. My address has appreciated greatly because new money upgraded the complex which attracted renters at least initially able to afford the higher rents demanded. Very few new owners call this property “home.”

However, in exploiting opportunities, plenty of the new owners or the management agencies they’ve engaged to maintain their properties haven’t bothered giving many of the tenants any kind of white glove tests. I understand. What’s been expended should start producing income as quickly as possible in order to return the principal as soon as possible then start profiting on that investment.

Money is green so why be picky?

If I resided several hundred miles away, I’d share the same sentiment. However, I live within proximity of the problems. Mind, not every renter exhibits undesirable traits. Very few do in fact. Yet those who do have appropriated the allowances the others have denied themselves. Nevada’s transient nature seemingly exacerbates the lack of social grace. It’s as if they don’t care who knows they grew up on dirt floors.

Of the few aspects I miss from New York are Metropolitan neighbors. Inherent in a lot of people compressed into compact spaces was our understanding of limiting noise. Everyone making a racket produces din. Therefore, back East steps were light, voices were kept low, doors were seldom slammed. Adding to this, practicing civility further lessened congestion’s arduous impositions.

While life is generally pleasant in Las Vegas, there are occasions when time-limited neighbors exceed the bounds of comportment. Especially their children.

Why do such people become parents if they forsake parenting?

Unsurprisingly, it’s Anglo whelps as usual misbehaving the most. A lot of Anglos may be surprised it’s not the black or Latino kids.

In real life the vast majority of black parents maintain strict vigilance over their children. Despite pop culture, black parents aren’t generally permissive. They’re aware of the more severe penalties our society imposes on them and theirs. Love and affection aside, being responsible means doing the utmost to avoid those circumstances.

As far as the Latinos, especially Mexicans possessing dubious residency, who have precarious holds on the American Dream, they don’t want any trouble. For the best of reasons they prefer remaining beneath authority’s notice. Thus, their kids rarely, if ever, send up flares.

Anglo children, though, are unencumbered. Whether they’ve been made aware of this or intuit it, they’ll behave with abandon.

Three examples of which are the focus of this Halloween-inspired retaliation.

Two are youngsters, the other in his early teens. The first are tow-headed brothers with maybe a year or 16 months separating them. Parents of the former are itinerants. They conduct themselves lackadaisically and make the barest effort into instilling discipline into their boys, a pair who jumped the “adorable” track long ago.

The boys run riot after escaping school. They’ll get on their bikes or skateboards or kick scooters and zoom heedlessly along the complex’ lanes. Both keen like banshees. If an adult impedes either’s careering, rather than genuflect to age he’ll order the “offender” out the way. Worse if the breathing impediment is dark complexioned.

Each has no compunction about heaping insults on Latinos or blurting “nigger.” Hmmm. Wonder where they learned that.

Ordinarily that sort of conduct gets hasty meetings with the parents, but as has become apparent we’d be wasting our breaths. From the jump, the parents of these spawn have proven themselves belligerent rather than responsive. Devilish as their boys obviously are, those two refuse to see either as nothing but angels.

So instead those of us how know better, or expect poetic justice, wait for the malefactors’ just desserts to arrive. While a bench warrant finally caught up with the father, his offense was relatively minor and time ultimately served commensurate.

The third member of the evil trio is a textbook case of impending lifelong failure. Fish belly white describes his complexion. How does anyone living in the Mojave stay whiter than Casper?

Misshapen and fat twisting his face, Blubber is barely into his teens. The kid’s already obese. Were I as bloated as him at his age, father would’ve installed me in a specialist’s office until my proportions neared normal dimensions.

Motherless, and as fat as his father Fat Daddy is, Blubber becoming morbidly obese is an easy forecast. No need to imagine this tub has few same-age school friends. Although a regular yellow bus provides his commute to and from school, it’s easy to think the axles of a short bus straining under his corpulence.

Cruel as children are, his useless immensity makes him a huge target of ridicule. He is easily manipulated. That makes Blubber a model follower.

Since younger children lack the perspicuity of older kids and adults, the younger pair formed an unbalanced trio with him. The attention he ladles rewards him with their – I wouldn’t deem it friendship – non-hostile association. Like small interplanetary objects the two boys are snared in Blubber’s gravitational pull.

That’s all.

Mimicking the younger boys, Blubber now lets “nigger” tumble across his mouth flap. At first he was unsure. Some part of him knew his saying it was wrong. Goaded by his smaller associates, his reluctance quickly vanished.

In school, his spewing the slur so frequently drew the front office’s attention. A pair of administrators paid Fat Daddy a home visit. Besides alerting him, they also warned him of consequences. A number of black parents had complained. Relaying their anguish the purpose behind the school supervisors’ appearance.

Doubtful that the googly-eyed father laid down any law upon the son. Blubber probably received the most lukewarm of rebukes. I contend such because while sharing Blubber’s actions, the blowbacks, with the complex’ more loose-lipped residents, he played down his son’s perfidies.

Something about “kids being kids” and “testing limits.”

Hmmm. Although both long dead, had I been one of those “kids” as a child Fat Daddy referenced, mother and father would still be whipping me today.

Blubber recognized carte blanche when it awarded him. What kid doesn’t?

More ponderous than rogue elephant as he is, Blubber possesses the social graces of shit on a rock. He’s taken his disadvantages to heart. He purposely makes himself as unpleasant as possible.

Along our structure’s upper floors he’ll stomp intending to disturb. When not ambling barefoot, white too-tight Buster Browns shod his pudgy feet. His every footfall detonates.

Although he owns a basketball, he and it haven’t seen a court. Instead, he’ll dribble throughout the complex. Often Blubber will just randomly idle in front of neighbors’, pounding there as a metronomic nuisance.

Recently the fat load has assumed an even more infuriating habit.

Blubber’s reached that age where smoking now intrigues him. Whether he’s sneaking Fat Daddy’s smokes, or he cobbles together enough change to buy a pack of butts now and then, Blubber will light up a cancer stick. After dutifully inhaling he’ll blow smoke into neighbors’ windows. Now that Mojave temperatures have become mild, what air conditioner isn’t off and whose windows aren’t open to permit fresh autumn air?

Lumping insult into injury, the two-legged tub of goo will drop the butts and crush them out on the walks leading into those addresses’ front doors. Humans are so inventive when it comes to marking their territory, no?

So there they are a minor troika of malevolence. Their accumulated misdeeds don’t even rise to the level of a single misdemeanor. Adults should give them wide latitude. They’re kids, after all. Irresponsible as they are, they’re still forming. Maybe after a time the respective parents will accept he or she is duty-bound to mold his or her charge properly.

Eh. Probably not. The lassitude Fat Daddy and the other two parents have so far shown don’t portend course corrections. Tough seeing them waking up, wising up and straightening out their children. Now that’s wishful thinking!

From birth don’t children exude an impish energy? Since kids are indifferent to the notions of good or bad, what forces they emit, unharnessed, without guidance are quite capable of leaving chaos and havoc. And though their years are tender, nature and the universe demand the scales balance nonetheless.

In his crude and cruel fables such reckonings are what Hoffman presented.

What sort of precipitating incident might stir retribution?

A widowed neighbor, a long-time resident who owns his apartment, allegedly entertains gentlemen callers weekly. Or so report a few of our more observant and talky fellow residents.

It’s never the same visitor who raps upon his security screen door. Yet each man shares similarities. Young, wiry, unfailingly polite.

The sessions generally last an hour often starting around high noon. This neighbor is always pleased to receive these callers. He’s visibly saddened when they depart. The poor man lingers at the door until these strangers turn the corner and disappear.

As mentioned before, these get-togethers transpire during midday. Except for maintenance personnel performing custodial duties and stay-at-homes little disturbs the hours’ tranquility.

Sometimes, though, the neighbor’s visitors arrive in afternoons. Around that hour when classes have been dismissed and school buses disgorge students.

On one of these afternoons the cross elements converge.

Having arrived earlier, the tormentors spy the neighbor’s caller. Doubtlessly they’ve heard their parents speak of the man and his guests. Unformed as they are, none has the faintest idea about what the grown-ups are trying to conceal as they converse. Naturally whatever’s being hidden will enflame the youngsters’ curiosities. The gentleman caller’s late appearance presents a fine opportunity to decipher the mystery.

The neighbor lives carefully. He lives unassumingly. He’s cordial man among our fellow owners, though aloof from renters as we all inevitably become. That’s not discriminatory. Owners learn early not to expend efforts getting to know lessees because their time with us is invariably brief.

Owners who reside in their properties and smart investors have placed sunscreens across windows. Not only does the dun-colored mesh refract sunlight thereby curtailing a portion of the Mojave’s summer, but light – direct/indirect – renders them opaque from outside. At sunset into and throughout night these become transparent.

However, the mesh’s daytime opacity is forfeited should eyes press close enough. While the widower and his caller wile away an hour, the kids sneak to the right window sill. Huddled there, they peer in unabashedly. Aware of the mesh’s properties, and believing all his neighbors circumspect, the host hasn’t bothered lowering shades or pulling blackout curtains across the windows.

Perhaps what occurs inside transfixes the boys. A few, maybe all have heard of such relations. Who doubts what they’ve heard is quite unfavorable? Somehow they will remain sentinels silently absorbing what occurs inside until it concludes.

Later as his guest is departing, the trio’s appearance at the host’s front entrance startles him. These new unexpected visitors amassed at his doorstep confuse him. Wouldn’t a small smile make him appear genial?

Maybe a few seconds pass before the young tormenters shrilly worded accusations shred the widower’s contentment and complacency. The cawing shakes him. He retreats hastily behind a quickly slammed door. Gone as the widower is his absence does not cease the hectoring. So much so they draw adults’ attention and their presence.

The less obtuse immediately grasp the severity of the kids’ intrusion. These adults unsparingly upbraid the boys in manners their parents never have. Loud words alone suffice in chasing away the transgressors.

The damage done, injury inflicted, later that afternoon Fat Daddy and the other boys’ mother and father pilgrimage to the neighbor’s door. Whatever mealy-mouthed apologies they offer each hope the widower takes them sincerely.

But the genie is free of the bottle. What might have been suspected is now known. Confirmation will create new dynamics and alter relationships among the widower and his neighbors.

There are no sufficient amounts of “sorry” for that. Though isn’t it an impetus for reprisal appropriate to the season?

Hoffman’s codas were vicious. Of course that these were meted out against children probably sharpened the stings. Upon adults I bet the same wouldn’t have pierced readers as deeply. Older readers likely would’ve found those satisfying instead.

First, the two boys. Speed demons as each is should lead to their misfortune.

The elder of the pair rides his bicycle with usual recklessness. The one time in recent memory when he tries avoiding a collision with someone, his wheels veer off the concrete path. If he loses control and tips over desert landscaping – manicured dirt – waits to cushion his fall. Scrapes, bruises. Possibly. But nothing serious.

Yet just a little beyond the potential landing zone, a stand of palm trees. Somehow none of them have had their skirts shaven yet. The fronds circling the lower portions of the trunks resemble thick brown blades.

The boy remains upright onto the dirt. He could regain control and steer away from the palms back onto concrete. Somehow intending to turn left, his bike spins right. He stops abruptly and pitches headlong into a palm’s skirt. The shaggy fronds project towards his face, not away. The outward edges are knife sharp. They gouge his eyes and slash his face. His face a sopping red mask, he is blinded.

At the same instant elsewhere his brother skates along on a kick scooter. Not on street level but on one of our complex’ second floor walkways. Two small hoses extend from an apartment and drop off the edge into a loudly operating apparatus below.

Given the tubes’ sizes this boy likely assumes he can jump them instead of stopping and walking his wheels over both. He miscalculates.

The scooter’s front wheel clears the obstacles. His back wheel kicks against one of the hoses pitching his scooter forward. Momentum hurls him ahead against a railing. The lower half of his face smashes into the metal. Lying in a pain-wracked heap, he’s broken his jaw. Bloody teeth scatter around him.

Scream as he tries his mumbles can’t be heard over the machine’s din.

The bus that brings Blubber home is late reaching his school. After a more frustrating than usual day in classes he’s impatient. Rather than cool his jets the fat load decides to hoof it.

Riding as he has, Blubber hasn’t really paid attention to the route delivering and returning him on schooldays. Quickly he’s lost on unfamiliar sidewalks.

A face he recognizes appears. It’s not a friendly one either. Indeed it belongs to one of the numerous black kids he’s deigned “niggers.” Although Blubber has no clue to his location, he reverses course. It doesn’t matter. His new route introduces the presence of another recipient of his insults. A fast glimpse reveals more and more of those who’ve caught his ire emerging from this corner and that.

Panicking, Blubber sees an empty lot. Beyond it busy storefronts stretching across the street. He knows if he can bridge the expanse, cross the street, enter one of the stores, he’s saved.

His stout legs cannot stride long enough to propel him forward fast enough. Worse, what he’d mistaken as a vacant parcel instead held low-lying remnants of a demolished structure. All sorts of obstacles introduce increasing hindrances.

Maybe about halfway across the barren setting a shallow excavation drops him and his sight level below the street. Here in this scoop his harriers catch up and surround him. The number of those perched on the surprises. No matter which direction Blubber’s eyes flit, seething black schoolmates block his sightline.

Blubber might’ve considered offering an apology. But he wouldn’t have time. Besides, who doesn’t know his words will be tepid at best? Even kids have bullshit detectors.

Those circling Blubber descend upon him.

Pedestrians and shoppers hear clamor. Yet when they look around they see nothing. If any think about the noise, they’ll ascribe it to Las Vegas dirge. What else can it be on another sunny, cloudless Chamber of Commerce day?

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