In the modern world, this practice was for the most
part looked upon as archaic; unfortunately, many of the
doctrines of that church had little in common with
civilized notions. Every first born male in that sect,
having repetitively heard that they were special,
adopted the tenet with the same fervor that tyrants of
old embraced the doctrine of the divine right of kings
As firstborn, unless caught in the act, there were
few crimes they could be punished for. During meals,
they invariably got the most meat and biggest helpings
of dessert; they always got to stay up at least an hour
later than their siblings; and when adults
unconscionably needed a few hours alone, they got to
sharpen their already substantial skills at world
domination by being appointed official baby sitters of
It was fortunate for them that they had been blessed
by God with a superior intellect and a natural ability
to rule, for if the events which took place in my
brother's duchy were (and I'm sure to varying degrees
they were) representative of the chaos which must surely
have ensued in other households of the called and
chosen, then these first born wouldbe monarchs were in
desperate need of all the arrogance and presumption
their special status engendered.
My brothers and I looked forward to those occasions,
when Bruce was the man of the house, about as much as
Republicans looked forward to Watergate. As temporary
despot in charge, he had even formulated a little speech
for these occasions which seldom varied. "Mom was
gone," he would begin, "and he was now in
charge, therefore life as we knew it had ceased."
"We would," he solemnly intoned, "do
exactly as instructed or else." For emphasis he
would wave a thick wooden paddle brusquely in our faces.
It was twice the size and exactly the shape of a ping
pong paddle. Carpenters in the church had been
instructed to cut them out and pass them round to the
brethren as disciplinary aids for the small honorarium
of two dollars each.
Mutinies are neither specious nor spontaneous.
Contrary to both societal and religion's cherished
notions, rebellion is not an individual's first and
natural response to benign authoritarian directives,
otherwise societies, nations and religions, would never
have the chance to inexorably evolve into that state of
institutionalized repression so characteristic of all of
them. But, rather, rebellion is an individual's quite
natural reaction to dictatorial oppression.
His first few attempts at domination by decree went
unchallenged mostly because he had followed the regular
pattern familiar to us all. Keep quiet, don't run around
the house and get to bed on time. His problems began
when he attempted to rewrite the program.
To this day, I am positive that the dishes would have
been done, the floor would have gotten mopped, the
toilet cleaned and he would have retained possession of
two of his original front teeth if only he had somehow
learned to govern with grace.
Having been diagnosed as demonic by Herbert's local
pastor/ inquisitors rather than bipolar, I was on one of
my inexplicable highs that night, which usually lasted
from several days to several weeks. During those
periods, I was invincible. Nothing could touch me when I
was in that state. If called upon to defend the humblest
of God's creatures, a cat, a dog or even a brother, woe
betide the perpetrator.
Little brother Keith (in stark contrast to most eight
year Olds) had failed to display any real diligence in
scrubbing down the bathroom. In point of fact, he had
merely given walls, tub and toilet a few perfunctory
swipes with the mop, retired to his room and gone to
sleep. When Bruce discovered the slovenly workmanship,
he went in search of the offending party, rod of
correction in hand. Yanking the tyke out of a sound
sleep, he began shouting at him and was about to start
hitting him with that god damned Christian club when I
reached over and grabbed it out of his hand. "Go to
sleep, Keith," I said. "I'll take care of
My actions seemed to constitute a far more egregious
offence than that of Keith's barely cleaning the
bathroom and I knew Bruce would leave him in peace to
deal with the unconscionable crime I had just committed,
that of rebellion against duly constituted authority.
We faced off in the living room. Bruce, a good five
inches taller than I, took center stage and assumed an
aggressive stance. Hands on his hips, he had that
enraged cast to his eyes seen only on the faces of the
egotistically selfrighteous who've just been told to
f__k themselves. He demanded I return the paddle to him
forthwith, go immediately to my room and stay there
forever. Of course, he felt it necessary to add, in a
low and icy voice, that he was telling Mom the instant
she walked through the door.
I slouched against the wall about ten feet away,
mentally forcing myself to look relaxed. Bruce took a
few decisive steps towards me biting off his next words
as he advanced.
"Give me that paddle. Now!" he commanded.
"No." I quietly replied.
This was definitely not the correct answer, for he
rushed me at this point, trying to smother me with his
superior weight and height. I hit him in the stomach as
hard as I could with my left fist and, just before he
crashed against the wall from the force of his momentum,
slipped to one side just beyond arm's reach. Holding his
midsection with both hands, he looked shocked.
"It's against God's law to hit people with your
fists," he gasped. "You've had it now!"
"Stay away from me, Bruce, or I'll hit you
again," I replied. Still half doubled over from the
shot he'd taken to the stomach he was, nonetheless, only
a couple feet away and he suddenly straightened up with
alarming speed and lunged at me. I hit him hard and
fast, once on the chin, and once to the right side of
his face, staggering him. His hands and arms went limp
and he was barely standing.
And I suddenly felt an overwhelming rage, towards him, that f__king Church, the substantial part they played in the impoverishment and subsequent breakup of my family, and their doctrinal nomination of this sanctimonious bastard as temporary king in residence. I gave him one last shot for the road, full on the mouth, splitting both lips and breaking two of his upper front teeth. He dropped to the floor screaming and clawed his way to the couch,bleeding over everything as he went. Burying his head in the seat cushions, he rocked his body back and forth sobbing.
I went over to him and put my arm around his
shoulders. I felt like the most vicious son of a bitch
since Attila the Hun. At that moment,I'd have given
anything to take that last punch back.
"I'm sorry Brucie, I really am," I said.
He elbowed me aside and, turning his bloodied visage
to me hissed, "Mom's been talking about sending you
to Juvenile Hall and she'll do it now."
"You're going to rot in jail for this," he
"Yeah, right," I replied, and stalked off
to my bedroom. Bruce waited till I'd closed the door,
tromped down the hall and locked me in from the outside.
I'd figured he might try that but it didn't matter,
nothing mattered, certainly not locked doors. Besides, I
was planning on using the window.