Monthly Archives: February 2021

Bumblebee Boy
The bumblebees that stung me
   had a hole
The bumblebees that stung me
   had a role:
To defend their nest
   from unwelcome guests
The bumblebees that stung me
   had a hole.

The bumblebees that stung me
   had a hole
Their hole was by the front door
   near a pole
One of us boys
   had this idea
(Don't recall who, 
   possibly me?)
To have a little fun
   with that bee hole.

The bumblebees aflight
   had work to do
We sat and watched them
    fly out in and through
Clever boys,
    we played our trick:
We dug a fake hole
   with a stick
And covered up the hole
   they were accustomed to.

What fun it was to watch
   the bees explore
They couldn't find the way
   to their front door
Could not get in,
   could not get out,
Those bumblebees
    flew all about
We boys had won our battle
   -- not the war.

We eventually grew tired
    of our game
The boys went home for lunch,
   I did the same.
As I walked toward
   our kitchen door
One bumblebee
   gave me what-for:
She stung me on my ear
   and made me pay.

I yelled real loud and
   ran in to my mommy
She flicked the bee away
   and tried to calm me
I didn't tell her
   of our game,
Our craven plot,
   what it entailed,
And so my mom felt
   very, very sorry.

But lest you think that
   nature had its way
A garden hose was
   summoned the next day
Down the hole it went
   flooding out the residents
So the bumblebees that stung me
   went away.
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We have all watched at least one “evil child” film, most likely several.  Our latest one was Case 39 (2009) featuring Renee Zellweger.  It was pretty derivative as evil-child films go, but the actress (Jodelle Ferland) who played the evil foster-child did an admirable job of getting viewers to hate her from the get-go.  Unfortunately, this meant that our viewing experience amounted to 1 hour 45 minutes of waiting for the evil child’s comeuppance.

Even so, in accordance with post-modern conventions, the evil child’s comeuppance would remain in doubt in the end.

Perhaps the first-and-foremost evil-child film was The Bad Seed (1956), based on a novel of the same name.  The story of the biological daughter of a serial killer (and her victims), it garnered four Academy Award nominations and would pretty much write the rules for how all future evil children in film would behave and the dilemmas that they would pose.  Namely:

  How can a child be evil?  Children don’t know sin!  They haven’t had enough experience to learn adult-quality guile and calculation.  The evil child’s motives are presumed to be beyond question for the simple fact of her age.  This means that Act One of every evil-child film deals primarily with the adults coming to grips with the possibility of child sin.

The evil child’s bad intentions are usually brought to light by showing her doing something really annoying, like making a whiny demand over and over (like a normal child might do) until the adult can’t stand it anymore and yells at her.  Subtext: if it makes an adult angry, of course it is sinful!

  How dare adults question the morality of a child when every adult has his own secret sins!  The adult-as-hypocrite angle is usually explored in the middle of Act Two, though often presaged by wanton behavior revealed in Act One.  We often discover that the reason evil children become evil is to make their parents pay for the sins they never owned up to.  (That’s what children — and priests — are for!)

Of course, the adults in the film turn this idea on its head and say, my child can’t be evil!  The child is like me — it sprang from me — and we all know I’m not evil!  (OK, Hypocrite.)

  Then there’s the dilemma of how to deal with the evil child on a “level playing field.”  Even after it becomes obvious that the evil child has special mental/physical abilities and can manipulate others to do her will, the adults invariably cling to the notion of children as helpless beings.  So they purposely hamstring themselves from taking physical measures to stop the evil child.  Subtext: Adults hate to take responsibility!  What if they’re wrong?  If they harmed a child without a really good reason, they would never hear the end of it.

The result of all these constraints is that the only acceptable way for the adults to deal with the evil child is to outwit him, her or it.  So most of the tension in Act Two derives from the protagonist adult trying various schemes to distract/derail/disempower the evil child, but with each attempt failing — and each failure portending the dreaded (and taboo) physical measures that will ultimately be needed to neutralize his/her/its evil threat.

  Eventually, the protagonist finally realizes, it’s the evil child or me (or humanity), and all stops must be pulled, all taboos set aside.  And all past sins must/will be acknowledged, whatever it takes to defeat the child.  This brings us to Act Three, where the battle begins.

No matter how it ends, the adult who takes on the evil child always winds up (a) exhausted or (b) cynical and demoralized or (c) sullied by the endeavor.  Often all of the above.

• • 👿 • •

A BRIEF COMPENDIUM OF EVIL CHILD STORIES (AND THE CHILDREN)

The Bad Seed (Rhoda Penmark)
Village of the Damned (David Zellaby)
Pet Semetary (Gage Creed)
It’s A Good Life (Anthony Fremont)
The Adventures of Lassie (Timmy)
The Exorcist (Regan MacNeil)
The Omen (Damien Thorn)
Case 39 (Lilith Sullivan)
Godfather Part II (Michael Corleone)
The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy)

If I may remind you, Dorothy was responsible for killing two older women.  As for Timmy, well, no one can be that wholesome.  Lassie was onto him, but adults wouldn’t listen.*

• • 👿 • •

We will see how these well-worn themes play out in the real-life horror story in which the “evil child” happens to be a once-President of the United States.  As you recall, his actions could not be questioned because… well, because he was President!  How could any act of our President be sinful?

In this suspense-thriller, the Evil President (like all Presidents) began his term by reciting an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution.  This oath is the American version of white smoke pouring from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney — a sign of new leadership blessed by destiny.  And sort of like how cardinals becomes popes, the recitation of the oath transforms the oath-taker, for one brief moment, into a person pure of heart and a worthy vessel for the nation’s hopes.  Americans expect their new President to be the quasi-religious guarantor of their liberty, opportunity and well-being — at least when it comes to themselves.

But in our story, soon after the curtain lifted in Act One, this President’s words and deeds were seen to be callous and calculated.  His constant lying, whining and pandering forced (most of) Americans to recalibrate their notions of normal.  Still, since he caused nothing terribly tragic to happen, at least not right away, this slow-boil of the frog served to freeze his opponents in place and embolden his supporters.  The Evil Child President grew in strength even as the media tallied his innumerable threats, lies and schemes.

So, Act One concluded with the forces who wanted to “do something” about the President lining up against those content to “wait him out” (as long as he advantaged them), while a third contingent formed, agreeing among themselves to add fuel to any fire that the Evil Child President might ignite.  Which he would.

Every horror movie since The Bad Seed has taught us, don’t give the evil child a free pass.  The evil child takes advantage and preys on the weaknesses of others.  Then the evil child appeals to the adults and pleads for immunity from punishment, because he is a child and because the adults are just as bad.

Act Two.  The Evil Child President took advantage of his free pass, given to him by half of Congress and a third of Americans.  He demanded loyalty without being loyal to anyone or anything.  He made enemies for the sake of having enemies to disparage.  His opponents were vocal but their curses did not harm him.  With Shakespearean flair, he set fires and caused storms, setting himself up for a grand Shakespearean fall.

Act Three.  The Evil Child President was sort-of held to account for his acts by a tribunal of self-interested politicians.  But these nominally powerful adults could not summon the will to banish the Evil Child President or deny him future power.  Instead, they condemned but ultimately excused his wanton behavior, because they could not come up with a really good reason to punish the evil child.  Technicalities, they said.  Cowardice, they showed.

So the evil child won.  His weak vindication (reminder: a majority of the Senate did vote to convict him) showed that the essence of the evil child’s reign was to sow doubt about who are the victims and who are the victimizers and thus render moral judgment impossible.

And suitably, in accordance with post-modern conventions, the evil child’s comeuppance remained in doubt in the end.  We may now have to endure a sequel.

_____________

For further reading, you might consider “The ‘Evil Child’ in Literature, Film and Popular Culture”, edited by K. J. Renner (2013).  I didn’t consider it because accessing it would have cost me about $50.
* “What’s that, Lassie?  You say, Timmy is from hell?  You must mean, Timmy is in the well!  Let’s go!”
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•  From now on, when I’m making out my grocery list and I need to buy half-and-half, I am just going to write down half.  Because I think I can remember the other half.

•  Know who cares which team won the Super Bowl three days after the fact?  Pretty much no one except those who played it.  Ditto for so many other heavily-touted achievements and awards in our celebrity culture.

•  We were about to sell a car on Craigslist, and my spouse and I were reviewing the text of our ad.  One angle we came up with: $2oo off the asking price, for liberals.  We were really tempted to throw that in, but it would have alienated most potential buyers in these parts.  (As it is, we did sell it for asking price, 16 hours after listing it, and had to turn away ten other interested parties.)

•  Faith in Humanity Department: When we handed our car over to the buyer, I forgot to remove our garage-door opener clipped to the visor.  We called the buyer a few hours later, and he told us that he had already stopped at the post office to mail it back to us.  We got it the next day.  My guess is that the buyer was a liberal and that we owe him $200.

•  So, we bought our first new vehicle in over a decade.  It has a back-up camera and other modern safety features — very happy about this.  But it has an “infotainment panel” rather than an everyday radio and CD player.  I’ve driven the vehicle 120 miles now and have not yet dared to turn on the radio or play music.  I’m sure I’ll figure everything out sometime.  Gosh-darned newfangled technology.

•  When I was a kid, my mom would walk into my bedroom, or the den, or wherever it was I happened to be reading, and turn on most of the lights in the room.  “It’s too dark in here to read, you’ll ruin your eyes!” she would say.  As it turned out, I guess she was right.

•  By that I mean, one of my eyes doesn’t see colors so well anymore.  My other eye makes up for it.  I guess I have the COVID-19 virus to thank that I can renew my license without a trip to the DMV for an eye test which I may no longer be able to pass.  (But who knows?)  Passing the DMV eye test and getting my license renewed has been a worry of mine for a few years.  But you all need not worry, I see fine to drive and I won’t be crashing into you, or anyone else.  I wouldn’t bring it up otherwise, he says defensively.

•  Meanwhile, as I fret about my driver’s license, right-wing militias plot their next moves.  If the government has priorities, they should be going after the danger that is me.

•  Love is sharing finger-food without a thought.

•  Thanks largely to my spouse’s diligence, I had my first-of-two COVID-19 vaccinations yesterday at Walgreens.  I said to my spouse, Thanks, Biden —  as otherwise, my spot on our health department’s waiting list was April or May.  I was never so glad to get a shot.    It feels like a corner has finally been turned, not that normality is knocking on our doors.  But still, it was an eye-waterer.  Damned newfangled technology.

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