Suppose in your neighborhood a certain little boy lived — a boy who was rather naughty. I don’t mean naughty as in one day the kid’s baseball rolls into your yard and smashes into the basement window and breaks it and then they all run off and you end having to pay for the new window yourself. No, not that kind of naughty. I mean more like the naughty where pet after pet in the neighborhood seemed right as rain for years on end and then met a most untimely death. Sometimes, they would look a bit as though they got hit with a car — various pieces gone, etc. Sometimes, they would simply disappear without a trace. (You’d be surprised how undetectable a cat is when it has run through a chipper along with a large amount of brush). Mostly though, they simply died from what was at the time said to be “natural causes” though pretty much everyone in the neighborhood privately thought that a cat screaming endlessly until it clawed itself to death sure didn’t seem like “natural causes.” Nor did it seem all that “natural” when Billy’s Bull Terrier ran head long into a brick wall. They are called “Bull Terriers,” I grant you, but they don’t charge things the way a bull does and bulls certainly don’t charge into brick walls. Even bulls are too smart for that.
Did I mention that the little boy was known as “Donnie Boy”?
Anyway, speaking of running into brick walls, Donnie Boy loved to play croquet at the Country Club. It gave him plenty of opportunity to practice his cheating skills and Daddy always said to take every chance to do that because those were the most important skills of all! Why just the other day, Fred had told his boys how he had ripped off someone for a million dollars!
“And you know what the best part was, Junior? The best part was that that sucker was paying big bucks for a high-falutin lawyer with a degree from HAHVAHD. And, his lawyer tells him not to hand over the cash without a signed contract and witnesses. Of course! Duh! And I look this sucker right in the eye and I say, ‘Joe, I’m an honest man. Always have been. Always will be. And, when I give you my word, there is no need for a contract. My word is my bond. My word is my contract.’”
At this point, Fred snorted and slapped himself on the thigh to emphasize how funny he thought this was. Then, he lowered his head and used a stage whisper which naturally drew Fred Junior and Donnie Boy closer. “You know who he believed? His own lawyer? Or me?”
Fred Junior knew the answer of course, but he felt uncomfortable being an unauditioned-for part in someone else’s play.
Eager Donnie Boy though supplied the line. “You!!”
“That’s right, Donnie Boy! That’s right! That fool-cake gave me the cash and then of course I denied it! Idiot!”
Many such experiences led Donnie Boy to revel in cheating at croquet (just as in everything else). He would loosen the mallets of other players. He would kick the balls when no-one was watching. His favorite though was when someone went through a wicket and hit a ball. Then, the sucker-player would start taking his extra shots and Donnie Boy would scream: “HEY! What are you doing? You already took your extra shots!”
“No, I didn’t!” Some of the other players weren’t sure. But those who had kept track told Donnie Boy he was wrong. Then, he would attack them by saying that they were in cahoots with the person with the extra shots; that everyone else was a cheater anyway! Often, the person who still had an extra shot coming would give in. But sometimes, everyone would get mad and eventually and go home. And, when that happened, they would leave the set up in the courtyard because no-one felt responsible for putting it away.
And, that’s how the trouble began.
Other folks liked to go for a walk on the lawn at night. Some were rather elderly and almost all were somewhat Martinied up. And, some avoided wearing glasses in public for reasons of pure vanity. Murphy (of “Murphy’s Law”) was not only alive and well but actually prospered as never before during the last few years; he now owned a little island chain in the South Pacific. Therefore, it should come as scant surprise that the very first night the young croquet players “forgot” to put away the set, not one, not two, but three club members tripped over an unseen wicket at various times. One sprained an ankle; two each ruined her gown. All three spilled their drink and ended up smelling as though they had had too much to drink….which was probably true, but not really the point. Being drunk was perfectly fine. Being perceived as being drunk was definitely not fine.
Needless to say, Fred Junior and Maryanne were severely punished for their (supposed) part in leaving the croquet set out. Maybe it isn’t really “needless to say” because they actually had had nothing to do with it. Donnie Boy was the only family member involved. For that matter, you could even say that it was mainly his fault because he had intentionally created the chaos that led to everyone quitting in anger. True enough, there was nothing physically preventing the other kids who were playing from taking it upon themselves to put the game safely away. But none did. All of them were punished in one way or another.
Except Donnie Boy of course. He heard about the accidents from his mother.
“Oh, Mommy, that’s awful! I’m so sorry. I’m afraid it’s all my fault!” Donnie Boy hid his face in his hands, grinning from ear to ear, while making sobbing noises.
“What do you mean, Donnie? How is it your fault?”
“I’m sorry Mommy. I just couldn’t find a way to make them put it away. I mean, when they quit their game, I knew it was dangerous. I reminded Maryanne & Junior, but they just got mad and told me to mind my own business. Junior said, ‘So what if some fat old lady falls and breaks her ankle? Who cares? I don’t care. Do you?’ So, I just shook my head. I didn’t know what to say. I started to put the set away myself but Junior said he would … he said he would ….”
Here, Donnie Boy faked sobbing again. It was several moments before he could pull himself together. He was on the verge of bursting out with laughter. At last, when he thought he could control himself, he went on, “would beat the ever-loving … the ever-loving … something I can’t say … out of me.” And, he clenched his fist like this (and now Donnie Boy clenched his teeny fist to emphasize the point).
“I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m so sorry I wasn’t braver. I should have made them listen to me!”
“That’s okay Donnie. But those two are in for it!”
Donnie Boy was still small enough to spend most of his time in the same neighborhood. Soon, no-one wanted to play croquet with him. To Donnie Boy, this seemed a horrible thing. He wanted to practice his cheating so he was losing out there, but he also was looking forward to some more old people tripping over the unnoticed wickets.
A few nights later, he was at a family dinner at the boring old people’s Country Club. Fred Senior was waxing eloquent about himself but the stories were all ones Donnie Boy had heard many times. It was early fall and the days were still warm; at least this one was. Donnie wandered over to the equipment shed. He glanced at the croquet set. It was unlocked. Maybe I can practice my shots, he thought for a moment. Nah, what’s the point? It’s a lot easier just to cheat. But no-body wants to play any more and there’s no more excuse to leave it out… Donnie’s train of thought was interrupted by the loudspeakers at the clubhouse. They were announcing awards of some kind. I should be getting one, he though to himself. So what if I never played?
Wait a minute! Thought Donnie Boy. Who says I have to play croquet to set it up?! I can just put out a few well-placed wickets and old people are sure to fall over them again.
Sure enough, that very night, three people had again fallen. This time though, one of the injuries was serious. Old Mrs. Barrett fell and broke her arm in three places as she smashed against a nearby brick wall.
Fred Senior broke the news over dessert. Everyone did a nice job of feigning concern except Donnie Boy who burst out laughing. Fred tilted his head sideways and stared at Donnie. He walked over and took the small boy’s head in his normal-sized hands and said in a hard menacing stage whisper, “Now Donnie Boy, you are going to tell me the truth. Look at me. Tell me true. Did you put those wickets out?”
“Wickets? I didn’t play croquet today! Honest!” Donnie Boy’s pants were getting a little wet.
Fred Senior ground his yellow teeth as he spoke: “That is NOT what I asked you. Did you put those wickets out today?”
Donnie yelled, “It was probably Fred and Maryanne again! I didn’t do it! And anyway, there isn’t any brick wall out by the croquet! It’s all lies! I’ll prove it.”
Donnie Boy jumped up from the table and ran out to the croquet lawn. He ran and skipped and sang, “I’m right! You’re wrong! No brick wall! None at all!” Suddenly, Donnie Boy tripped on one of the croquet wickets and smashed his head into the nearby brick wall. “ARGH!” he began to scream. “Why didn’t you pick them up?! I thought you’d pick them up! What’s wrong with you people?”
Mommy nearly fainted when she saw how much blood was trickling down by Donnie’s ear. “Oh, Donnie, Donnie. We have to take you to the Doctor’s.”
“Mommy! Mommy! Why didn’t they pick up my wickets? Why did they leave them there?”
“So sorry, baby. I guess they were busy calling an ambulance and everything for Old Mrs. Barrett. How’s your head? Try to stay awake. Daddy called an ambulance. What do you mean by ‘my wickets’ Donnie? Why do you say ‘my wickets’?”
“I didn’t say that, Mommy. You must be hearing things.”
“Donnie, the ambulance is here. They’re going to X-ray your head and make sure everything’s OK. You’re Mommy’s little hero now, Donnie. Be brave.”
She shook her head and took the hands of her other two kids and the went back inside to gather up their things. She felt she had to sit for a moment to collect her thoughts though and she toyed with her cake with her fork. The chocolate smelled good, but she had lost her appetite. She looked over at Fred Junior who was slowly shaking his head.
“What’s wrong, Honey? Are you also worried about our little hero?”
Junior snorted. “Hero? How is he a hero? First he doesn’t put away a croquet set and people trip and fall. Then, he blames it on us. Then, he intentionally puts wickets out so people will fall and then he lies about their not being a brick wall — which anyone can see! There’s always been a brick wall along — actually along two sides of the croquet pitch. And, then, he trips over one of his own wickets and smacks his head! How is that being a hero? That’s not what the word means, Mom. Not even close.”
Other purely fictional tales about a child sociopath.
Everyone I met as a child had a vivid, or at least a willing, imagination.
Let’s see how yours is doing. Imagine that you are in a role-playing game. The goal of the game is to acquire as much money as possible. You are cast into two very unusual roles. On the one hand, you are a player competing against a large number of other players.
On the other hand, you are also the banker/moderator of the game. You handle all the money and no-one else can see or double check on the amounts. If any disputes arise among the players (including you) you and you alone are in charge of deciding the outcome.
Do you see how you are guaranteed a win unless you restrain your power with ethical principles such as a sense of fair play?
Remember that the goal of the game is to acquire as much money as possible. Given that, when will enough be enough? At what level will you stop? When you have 50% of the wealth? 75%? 90%? 95%? Read the goal again.
The only thing that would prevent you would be your ethical principles.