It started out when he was very young,
perhaps only a few days old,
Lying in the enclosed-glass hospital nursery,
He felt disgruntled and began to cry,
and when no one came to his aid,
His cries turned to screams, desperate
bellowing, cries of despair
and soon all the nurses plus a doctor or two
were hovering over him,
checking his vitals, changing his diaper,
and when nothing seemed to temper his distress,
They hurriedly took him to his mother
who nursed him and spoke gently,
running a soft finger over his forehead.
Aha, he thought, sucking with satisfaction
at her breast. this is what I get when I am
angry. Everybody sits up and pays attention.
I’ll have to remember this. And he did.
By the time he was a toddler, he was a pint-size tyrant;
His screams could be heard a block away,
and neighbors would come to the house
knocking on the door,
and inquiring – was there something they could
do for the wee boy?
My goodness, his face was red
and his eyes bulged–
he was an angry force to be dealt with
whether it was because
mama wanted him to sit on the potty
his baby brother was getting more attention–
or he wanted his blocks and toy cars brought
He wanted his aby brother’s toys.
His mother walked the floor with him
hours on end, totally exhausted,
while he cooed and smiled at her
just as long as she held him in her arms.
When she tried to put him down into his
he quickly erupted in a volcanic sew of anger.
Eventually, his mother learned to hold him
in a rocking chair while they slept, her holding
him and rocking whenever he whined or cried.
He was, it goes without saying, the bully of
the playground, the master of deceit in the
classroom, where all the children feared and
avoided him, which only compounded his wrath.
He kicked and punched other children
when no one was looking and presented
an angelic face whenever accused of some
He could count on his mother and father
to defend him but his younger brother
always knew exactly what he was dealing with
and carefully avoided his older brother as
much as possible, keeping silent whenever
he was the target of the older siblings
And so they grew up and the younger brother
moved far away, to a town in North Carolina
where he could forget he even had an older
While the tyrant–for that was surely what he was–
married and had two children of his own, which
he quietly and carefully bullied and tormented
much the same way he tormented a pet dog
when he was a child.
When he joined the police force, his parents
and wife all sighed with relief, for surely this
would change the tyrant around, being in
But does a tiger change his stripes?
it is what it is. you are who you are.
He became the most feared policeman
on the force in their city,
and easily rose to the top of the ranks
for no one would ever oppose him
and he was crafty, preying on the weaknesses
of others and using those weaknesses
to achieve his own goals.
Gang leaders loved him for they recognized
in the tyrant a kindred spirit
while all others fears and loathed him
including his wife and children–
but one person did not fear him,
she who championed his causes for many years
whose eyes were opened when her grandchildren
told her the truth about her son, their father,
and so it was that one night when the tyrant
dropped by to see his mother (his father had
died years before) to drop off his uniform shirts
which she washed and ironed for him; she
was waiting for him, sitting in her rocking chair,
that same rocking chair in which she had rocked
him when he was a baby,
and she bluntly asked him – was it true?
all the things people said about him?
What his own children said about him?
“Why!” he exclaimed, “I’ll beat them within
an inch of their lives for telling you–”
“No, you will not” his mother replied softly
and with that she drew out a gun from her
apron pocket and shot her oldest son
in the heart.
She told the authorities it was self defense
and everybody believed her,
except, perhaps, her grandsons who sat
on either side of her at the funeral,
holding her hands and whispering
Originally posted February 2010, updated July 26, 2018
Sandra Lee Smith