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

to him


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

own crib,

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

wrong doing.

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

unpredictable wrath.

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

public services.

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

“Thanks, grandma”.

Originally posted February 2010, updated July 26, 2018


Sandra Lee Smith



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