CRUELTY


Hating the adults around me was easy, because all of them were such obvious frauds. One afternoon when the heat let up I watched a garden party in the next-door backyard through our attic telescope, the men moving in short, straight lines around the trees and swing set, the women walking higher on their toes as they glided toward the picnic table, carrying trays of drinks and pretzels. The truth lay a few yards away from the sunny scene, in the nearby woods, where tubular sprinting animals with murder on their minds were getting ready to hunt, pin, and eat each other with their teeth. A gust of cheerful summer laughter flew up into the air. I pushed the telescope away and shut my eyes. I didnít have to look. I knew that under a nearby rock, slithering blind things, fused at the mouth, had just sucked the juice out of one another and died.

That was the truth, the truth of cruelty. And yet somehow, despite all the evidence to the contrary, people didnít know. Girls and women in the pastel shells of their dresses didnít know. Distracted fathers drinking whiskey in their studies at night didnít know. Especially mothers breathing clouds of cheerful phony words in your face didnít know. Only boys knew. They saw it everywhere they looked in life. Some participated, some didnít. But boys knew. They knew that cruelty would never disappoint them. They knew that acts of kindness only left you feeling kind, while cruelty provided instant membership in that most desirable thing of all: the club of men.

-- Eli Gottlieb, The Boy Who Went Away