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April 08, 2024

The Aser Stories 24: Crime and Punishment

By Sand Pilarski

So we're walking along the public boardwalk beside the piers of Skuleflight Harbor, and in front of us are a few city kids shuffling along, talking loudly. That's a problem with cities -- not enough family work for the kids, and no one is available to watch over them because it's so bloody expensive to live in the city that all the parents have to work. City work doesn't often lend itself to the parent keeping the kids with them on the job, either. So the kids roam around trying to console themselves for the lack of parentage, untutored, uninhibited, and uncontrolled.

This stupid twit with huge satchel-ass breeches stops briefly and with a rude, spittle-laden "Phwah!" hoicks a huge gob of bubble gum onto the wooden planks of the deck, right in our path.

"Hey," I call out, holding my temper, "You want to pick this up so nobody steps in it?"

The youngster turns around and looks at the gum. "I just gave you your lunch, bitch. Why don't you just say 'thank you'?"

I hate the namby-pamby bullshit that surrounds kids of his age these days. We are supposed to treat them like they don't know right from wrong, like babies in the playpen. Well, in a sense. We trust them not to go to movies that have graphically sexual or violent content, but we make laws that someone else is supposed to enforce to keep them from doing so. We say that they are innocent and vulnerable, but we refuse to give them the supervision that the truly innocent and vulnerable need. And it's all crap. They've known right and wrong, polite and aggressive, nice and not-nice since they've been pre-pubescent.

"No one can tell my child what to do..." the parents say. Ever notice that only the parents of ill-behaved offspring say that? What an absurd corruption of the idea of freedom, suggesting that refraining from destructive activity is a form of servitude. In fact, the sons and daughters can only learn appropriate behavior as they're growing up by looking to adults to give them good example and guidance. Kids don't just look at their parents to see how to act or how not to act. They look at everybody. That's why they have eyes. And all other things aside, no one has a right to spit, shit, or dump filth in the public places, not even if they are under eighteen.

What can I do in a situation like this? Crack the little creep's head with my staff and then have his parents come after me with hired thugs or worse still, lawyers? Humbly let the rudeness pass, and in so doing, encourage his future bullying of passers-by? "You're a fool," I tell him. "and these other children are fools for traveling with you. You bring your own punishment upon yourself."

His predictable reply is to flip me off with both hands.

With a shrug and a sigh, I turn to my companions, who are muttering between themselves, Danner heatedly, Cloudraft sternly. I could almost feel sorry for the brat, who thought he was scoring easy rudeness points off an old woman, but instead has pissed off two shamans and a powerful wizard.

"Ahem," says Cloudraft, addressing the young man. "You have placed the value of chewing gum above the value of all else. Chewing gum shall be henceforth grateful and cleave unto you wherever it may be found," the wizard tells him, moving his hands ceremoniously, his gestures seeming to frame the rude one.

The piece of bubble gum on the decking moves with a little quiver, almost as though it were happy, and leaps to the boy's shoulder, where a few hairs instantly become tangled. He tries to brush it away, with the same results anyone would get trying to remove gum from their clothing. "Ewww!" his friends squeal. Just then, a piece of graying gum detaches itself from a boardwalk chair seat and hops toward him. His eyes goggle in disbelief as the dirty thing snuggles onto the top of his shoe. "Nooooo!" he howls and runs from us. A piece of fruity chew leaps from the mouth of a tourist as though shot from a slingshot, attaching itself to his back. His friends run away in different directions.

"How long will that last?" I ask.

"Oh, it will wear off gradually," the wizard replies with a studious air, "but his parents will probably pay one of the local mages to remove the spell, or at least cast a counter-spell in order to minimize the effects. Like any consequence, only time and change of attitude will lessen the sting."

"He got off easy," grumps the impetuous Danner. "I wanted the attraction spell to include anything that can be spit."

Consequence, that's the thing. That's why we all have the responsibility to teach the young what to do and how to conduct themselves. Being taught a lesson by a concerned adult is a whole lot less of a consequence than learning the hard way when no other way will do.

Good ol' Dan Ur-Jennan and Cloudraft the Great! I sure have missed them.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-08-13
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