The Rug Rats
(The horror of Dieburg, West Germany, 1953)
“You can tell everything about the behavior of rug rats—”
Old lady, Lilla Simpson began. She then interrupted her son, saying:
“Now, watch.” She held the child up by its legs; she was a brute of a woman, all of six-foot three, two-hundred pounds, clumsily she held the child. Her son watched he was three inches taller and fifty-pound heaver than her; she held the child up high like a puppy, by its hind legs. She forced meat down his throat, the child was five-years old, and several other children were standing by, looking, observing, three girls, and the rest boys. Immediately, Elmer surged eagerly forward, to balance the kid he was dangling, but the mother, kicked him in the shin, “Just watch, you don’t need to be a hero, I’ll not drop the kid,” she commanded. She had taken another piece of meat from the table with a string attached to it, she dangled it, moved it along the boy’s mouth, nose, inside his mouth then pulled it out quick, the other children were in a sort of scrambling about watching, salivating, they had not eaten all day, they now had formed a circle around Lilla. Then in the middle of the wooden planked floor, she brushed the meat to the side of her. Slowly, as not to disrupt the circle of children, and their tantalizing observations, although they had already been through such displays of behavior modification, ‘trials’ she called them…
Now you could see the shadow of the child being swayed on the floor, as if from corner to corner, the children had gotten tired from looking up, now they just watched the shadow swaying on the floor, Elmer had closed his eyes; the child was voiceless, confusion in his eyes. The meat and the string fell from her hands.
“Open your eyes Emer,” said Lilla, “now what do you think of my little children,” they were all waiting for her to allow them to fight for the piece of meat on the string, no one was concerned about the child being held as if in midair. Desensitization had taken place; hunger had taken over, disassociation for a few.
“They look like a pack of rug rats ready to eat a dog alive,” she said, then laughed, “and damn if they couldn’t!” then nodded her head, and the children leaped onto the string and piece of meat twisted onto it.
“You can tell as much about a dog as you can a child,” Lilla said easily and calmly, still holding the child in midair.
Outside the door was Ralf, a bloodhound, hissing his paws on the bare ice awaiting his super, in the drizzling ice rain, and he leaped up onto the window, looked into the old woman’s face, and the child she was holding, with grave inquiry, with no dignity, she dropped the child. At that moment she saw the children, she called rug rats, pause in their readiness for fight and flight for the piece of meat, as they stood looking at her thenthe boy, with absorption and bemusement, and the piece of meat, with a sort of momentous dreadfulness. Elmer gave his mother one hurt and reproachful look turned about and climbed the wooden stairs to the loft and lay down on the bed.
Lilla sat down and growled heavily within herself. “You can tell about rug rats and dogs—” she repeated. Then gathered her composure and rose, but growled all the more, started to shake. “Well I don’t blame the boy (meaning her son),” she said, “if I had to look at these grubby rug rats all day…” then the old lady stood by the stairway, leaned on the wooden railing. “I suppose, I reckon you feel bad about my experimental psychology, sure you do,” she shouted up the stairway, then picked up her pipe, on the mantel next to her, lit it.
All that night it rained, and the following night, as the dog lurked through the window, and the children barefoot, were made to brief excursions in the cellar, for games: whoever caught a rat alive, got bread and milk, and three cookies. A mouse brought only bread and milk, for every one else, it was as usual, water and a slice of bread twice a day. The cellar was monstrous, with long corridors.
With a touch of rheumatism, the old woman woke up, it was cold in the house, evidently Ralf had fought his way through the door, and found his meal, gathered it, tearing off the child’s dry outer garments, the hound soaking wet, drying himself off by the chimney an hour or so, then departing before the old woman got up, and only the Devil knew what then.
When the old lady woke up, she saw the child was missing, and she suggested to Elmer to go down to the village and find her another child. “Take Ralf with you, he don’t mind bad weather.” She explained to him.
The boy, who she thought of as a boy, who was really a thirty-year old man, grumbled as he walked out the door, “One day’s like another around here…! Killing aren’t anything to maw,” he said in his childish restlessly whisper.
No. 646 (12-27-2010)