"A Monster So Hideous"
Victor and Igor had left Adam
playing with the other children,
under the watchful gaze of
Anne the baker's wife, while
they shopped for herbs.
When Adam started wailing,
though, both of them ran back
to see what had gone wrong.
"What happened?" Victor said.
"Traian's picking on Adam," said Ágota,
bouncing the toddler on her hip. "He called
Adam a monster so hideous that not even
a mother could love him, because he hasn't
got one." She sniffed. "I don't think that
his scars make him ugly; I think they're cute.
He looks like a stuffed bear that you can
see the seams in the cloth, is all."
"Was Traian not minding Anne, then?"
Victor wondered, eyeing the older boy.
"Oh, well, boys will be boys," Anne said.
"Besides, everyone knows that monsters mean
the end of the world as we know it. What can
you expect when Adam looks like that?"
"I expect people to be civil," Victor said,
though of course the world was changing
and he knew it unsettled some of the villagers.
Victor caught the flash of molten rage
and stopped Igor from swinging at Traian.
"He is just a boy," Victor said.
"And boys are let to do as they like,
is that it?" Igor seethed, trying to tug loose.
Victor knew that Igor had a temper to match
his own, dark and fierce and disturbing.
It just rose to different provocations.
"Igor, let me handle this," Victor said.
"I will have words with Traian, after which
I think he will not repeat such things.
You comfort Adam instead."
He hated to see Igor regressing
to an earlier mood, and for that matter,
Adam had his thumb in his mouth --
a habit he'd almost abandoned.
"Fine," Igor said, and took
their sniffling toddler from Ágota.
Victor took Traian by the ear and
towed him behind the nearest building.
"Do you remember that play the Căldărari
performed in their last visit?" he asked.
"Maybe," Traian said, shuffling his feet.
Richard III was meant for adults, but
some of the boys had snuck in to watch
and gotten nightmares for their trouble.
"Well, the play made much of Richard's body
and how different he appeared," said Victor.
"People treated him cruelly, and that drove
him to do terrible things. When you mistreat
people, that encourages further mischief, plus
it makes you an uglier person, and then that
draws the mazil's attention, do you see?"
Traian gave him a wary nod. He wasn't
much of a scholar, which made this
a more telling punishment, but he could
still understand if it was spelled out.
So Victor talked through the issues,
using the purloined play as a framework,
with Traian glumly following along.
Then Victor shifted to describing wounds,
and how scar tissue allowed them to heal.
"Bodies can seem very scary if you
don't know much about them," Victor said.
"Sometimes what we mistake for monstrous
is simply something that we don't understand."
"But I'm not smart like you," Traian whispered.
"I don't know about all this fancy stuff."
"I wasn't born with an education, I learned
these things as I grew," said Victor. "I think
that you are entirely smart enough to realize
when you have hurt someone's feelings, and
what you ought to go do about that now."
Traian looked away with a reluctant nod.
"Then let us return to see how Adam
and Igor are doing," Victor declared,
and led Traian back to the group.
Adam had gotten engrossed in
sorting and stacking a pile of
smooth stones, but Igor was
keeping a sharp eye out and
noticed them immediately.
"What do you want?" Igor asked.
"Traian has something to say
to Adam," Victor announced,
pushing the older boy forward.
"I'm sorry I said bad things,"
Traian said, nibbling on his lip.
Adam looked up at him,
then shuffled around,
pointedly turning his back.
"But ... I said I was sorry!"
"I think you will find that
cruel words are not so easily
taken back," Igor said. "If you
want to regain Adam's regard,
you will have to work at it."
"Oh," said Traian, sounding crushed.
"Adam likes to feel that he belongs to
a group, so you might try inviting him
to play with you," Victor said. "However,
that will have to wait for another day,
as it is time for us to go home now."
He picked up Adam, and Igor
followed them back to the wagon.
"Traian may be a little beast, but
at least he showed some remorse,"
Igor said. "However did you manage that?"
"We talked about Richard III and scars
and the importance of not being cruel to
people who look different," said Victor.
"I doubt it will mend everything, but
it's made a decent start, I hope."
He put Adam into the wagon and
handed him a wooden toy made with
a string to hold its rings, which the toddler
promptly started stacking onto their stick.
"I suppose that's the real difference
between a monster and a man,"
Igor said quietly. "Hope."
* * *
“Hateful day when I received life!' I exclaimed in agony. 'Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemlance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.' - Frankenstein”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Bullying is cruel behavior that can cause short-term and long-term harm to everyone involved. Ordinarily Igor is not the kind of fellow to solve problems by hitting, but PDSD changes how people respond to triggering events. The way to stop bullying is to stop it: to interrupt it whenever you observe it happening and inform the bully that such behavior will not be tolerated. "Boys will be boys" may be true to some extent, but it is no excuse for bad behavior.
Thumb sucking is a natural reflex that begins prior to birth and usually fades during the toddler years. Regression is a return to earlier forms of behavior, a common response to stress, and not worrisome unless severe or lengthy. Growing up is a cha-cha.
"Enabling Richard: The Rhetoric of Disability in Richard III" by Katherine Schaap Williams is an analysis of disfigurement, impairment, and social issues in the play Richard III by William Shakespeare ~1592.
Stacking and sorting are important parts of toddler development, supported by a whole category of toys designed to encourage such developmental activities.
Apologies exist to repair damaged relationships. However, it's not always that simple, and sometimes an apology falls flat for reasons the offender may not understand. "I said I was sorry" is a common refrain, especially when people's language of apology differs -- it's the reflexive response of a verbally oriented person failing to connect with someone who wanted a more concrete apology.
See Adam's wooden stacking rings toy.