An old favorite of mine, shared for the first time today, written about two years ago. Enjoy.
A Million Acts of Cruelty
Word Count: 1668
Rufus Wilbrook was four years old when he first realized his ultimate power over the servants. It was a dawning moment for him when he realized that ‘No’ simply didn’t mean anything anymore. ‘No’, didn’t apply to Rufus. ‘No’ always meant yes, eventually.
“I want three cookies, not one, Miss Mildred.” He had said petulantly and his nursemaid had pursed her lips disagreeably at him.
“No, Rufus, your lady mother said you could have just one cookie before lunch and you were lucky to have that.”
At that precise moment, Rufus’s father had wandered by, drink sloshing in hand and although the man wasn’t wont to pay that much attention to his son since he spent most of his days in a drunken stupor today he found that he was delighted to see the petulance in his young son’s face and thought it a lark to tend to his tender feelings.
“Come now, Mildred, I think young Rufus here can have three cookies. In fact, I believe he can have six cookies and all of them right now, dear. He can sully his appetite if he so chooses.”
“But sir, Mrs. Wilbrook–”
What Rufus noticed were two things. First, that his father had absolute control of the angry nursemaid who did not dare speak again and that he called her only by her first name as if to purposely demean her. But more importantly and perhaps most unfortunately was that he noticed how powerful his father looked and how much he enjoyed ordering the poor woman around.
So, Rufus, too, adopted this haughty attitude of kingship to imitate the father who never paid him another ounce of attention. He therein refused to call his nursemaid anything other than Mildred and he did it tauntingly and he did have his six cookies, plus two more just to spite her.
His father had been wrong about one thing. He had not ruined his appetite for lunch. He had in fact cleared a fair amount of stomach space vomiting into the bushes shortly thereafter and then declared that he was hungry again.
Young petulant Rufus grew into mean and cruel Rufus. He spent many an hour pranking and pestering his household staff and could not keep a tutor or a nanny longer than a few months at a time. Most quit in disgust, some out of sheer exasperation. One declared forthrightly at the front door, “You are ruining this spoiled bratty little child by not disciplining him!”
His grandfather, William Wilbrook, who happened to be coming down the hall heard the young nanny’s complaint and frankly agreed with her and invited her to come back inside.
“Something must be done about that boy,” he affirmed.
Then he had an idea. He held a private meeting with all of the household staff including the nanny who had helped him to form the idea and who had immediately agreed to stay on. After this fateful day not a single household staff member left the employ of William Wilbrook and his family. Suddenly he had the most loyal staff on the entire island.
Months passed that turned into years, that turned into a decade. Rufus’s father died in a drunken car accident that also killed his father’s mistress. His mother left of her own accord to live in a sanatorium. Rufus continued to perpetuate his unique brand of cruelty and violence on all of those he considered beneath him. Maddeningly, stoically, all steadfastly endured his machinations. They were unhappy but all maintained the same glint of something within their eyes, some inner strength that Rufus could not penetrate, no matter how hard he tried. Rufus Wilbrook was a bully of the highest order and he enjoyed his work.
When he was five he found a nest of week old kittens and delighted in stealing the kittens and tossing them across the yard. He laughed and laughed at the mother cat’s nervous gathering of her kittens. One he took all the way to the kitchen and stuffed it into the refrigerator for the cook to find.
He rolled in the newly watered flower beds smashing all of the flowers flat in the process and then ran through the house to slip and slide his muddy body down the halls.
When he was eight he delighted in sneaking into the servant’s quarters and peeing into their private laundry baskets. He would move things around in their drawers and read their mail. When he was twelve he spied on the women and hid in their rooms and closets, feverishly masturbating.
He stuck tree branches in the soup, drove the lawnmower into the pool and stole lawn tools and hid them in bushes around the estate.
When he was fourteen he forced a young girl up a tree and wouldn’t let her down until she cried piteously and had to relieve herself over the side of the tree.
When he was sixteen he drove through the pool house doors and parked on the couch.
All of these deeds he did in plain sight in the full knowledge that no one could stop him. There were many more vile and devious things he did that no one could see. He broke up marriages writing false love letters, he stole and stole and stole from those who had nothing to give. He set one against another and made enemies of friends. As he grew older he became a tyrant of the worst order, seeding his family home with bile and discontent.
Finally, as Rufus approached his twenty-fifth birthday his elderly Grandfather called another staff meeting. It would be his last, and he meant to make it good.
“I thank you all for coming. As you know I have been monitoring for years the document that I asked you all to maintain many years ago. The day has come to settle the debt.”
He looked around the room of tired beleaguered faces and sighed.
“I had truly hoped my grandson would see the error of his ways but he has remained a cruel and vindictive specimen of a boy for all of his life. Now he is an atrocious man poised to earn a fortune with which he can do nothing but harm. Immeasurable harm.
I will not see that happen.”
Silence filled the room. There were tears in more than a few tired eyes and some smiles at the corners of a few mouths.
“Delia, please fetch my grandson one last time.”
The woman scurried out of the room and soon returned with a disgruntled and reluctant Rufus.
“Come now, Grandfather, my birthday isn’t until Saturday,” he said sarcastically, “There’s no need to bring these good people together on my behalf.”
“These are good people, ” William Wilbrook said. “Far greater people than you have ever been.” He waved his hands towards all of the people. “And all of these people are here because of you. All of these good people have had to suffer you.”
His grandson sputtered and spit. “What is the meaning of this–this diatribe–”
“Sit down, grandson.” His grandfather roared.
“As you well know you stand to inherit a lot from me when I die which could be at any day. You are my only living heir.”
A slow sly smile raised the corners of Rufus’s mouth.
“You deserve none of it.” His grandfather stated. “You have been a hateful vile despicable unbearable little shit since you were four years old.”
At this Rufus’s smile abruptly shattered off his face. He raised an angry hand.
The room lay as quiet as a crypt.
“Many years ago, I asked a very big thing of this household staff, something no person should have had to endure. I asked them to stay here and watch over you and try to teach you the error of your ways. I did not ask them to love you, that would have been too much. But I did ask them to turn the other cheek and to endure you. For your sake.”
Rufus looked away angrily but said nothing.
“I also told them to keep a record. Each kept a detailed diary and a master log of all of the incursions from you that they have had to endure. They kept a tally of all that they endured of you. I have read all of their diaries and approved of each tally as true. Every single tally mark represented a dollar of your inheritance. I allowed that you would pay off your offenses in real dollars as they have had to endure you with real pain. Today we finally reached the very last tally mark that signifies the end of my great wealth. You, my dear grandson have spent the entirety of your inheritance on a lifetime of cruelty.”
Rufus stood up, gaping like a fish, unable for the first time in his life to produce a single sound.
“And now it’s time to pay out each act of cruelty to its victim. First up, Delia Coopers, our head of household staff whose pain seemed to appeal to you the most for you made her suffer no less than 45,990 acts of cruelty. I award her $45,990. For 21 years of service I compound that by 21 awarding her $965,790. Thank you for your kind years of service, Delia.”
A gasp ran through the room as each servant realized their own compensation.
Delia nodded, tears squeezing out of her closed eyes, and sobs rising in her chest.
“The rest of you will receive similar packages. Please see my accountant in my office at this time.”
Loud cheers filled the room as all of the full time staff filed out of the room, excitedly.
Rufus Wilbrook landed in a shaky pile on the couch, still gasping inaudibly.
“And you, my grandson, get nothing. And I, William Wilbrook will die a very poor man, but my heart will be richer than yours.”
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