Wednesday, January 16, 2013


For this post, let me paint you a picture all in words.  Just read, and imagine it with me...

That’s the way of the world.  Plant your flowers, grow a pearl.  Child is born with a heart of gold.  The way of the world makes his heart grow cold.  So sang Earth, Wind, and Fire back in 1975.  As witness we need look no further than the evil that was born long ago in a tenement flat on the East End of London, England.

Here lived the Grimstead family:  Roland Grimstead, his wife Penelope (“Penny”), and their little boy, Graeme.  Penny Hewitt Grimstead was a beautiful, gentle lady--far too beautiful, too gentle, and too much of a lady for the life she led.  What little money she could scrape together, she spent on her paintings--delicate, refined watercolors--and on her doting, adoring young son.  Graeme worshipped his mother, thought she was the center of the whole world, because of her kindness and humor and the little bits beauty and gentility that she brought into their hardscrabble, public-dole lives.  Unfortunately, whatever money did come into their flat that was not from the public dole came from Graeme’s father, who was everything that Graeme’s mother was not.

Roland Grimstead was an unintelligent, uneducated, bitter, hard-drinking, angry man, whipped and beaten by a life in which no job ever lasted and any kind of prosperity was a dream or a cruel joke.  And the recipient of his anger was the woman he had gotten pregnant and married.  Penny had always seen, or tried to see, the good in Roland.  She had tried to help him and tried to love him.  What she had gotten back all too often was his belt or his fist or the back of his hand.  Sometimes the beatings were truly terrible.  But Penny took them all--to keep her husband’s hands off their child.  When Roland flew into one of his frustrated, liquor-soaked rages, Graeme ran and ducked for cover and shuddered and cried at the pain he knew was being inflicted on his mother.  

Why did Penny stay with Roland?  Did she love him in spite of the abuse?  Did she still see the good in him in spite of it?  Did she pity him and see him as the victim of a world in which he was never good enough?  Did she see no better alternative for a single mother with no money of her own?  Could she not bear to separate a son from his father--even that father?  Did she, like so many other battered wives, see no way out?  Perhaps it was any or all of the above.  Penny’s brother Nigel tried many times to talk her into leaving, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.  Tomorrow, she thought, it could be better.  Tomorrow, she thought, he could be better.  So she stayed, and little Graeme lived half his life in beauty and gentleness, and half in terror.

Then, one awful day, Graeme returned home from playing to find that his father had gone into one rage too many, too badly.  There sat Roland Grimstead, drunk and weeping, on the kitchen floor, in a pool of blood--Penny’s blood.  She lay there at his knees, her skull cracked from Roland having furiously banged her head against the kitchen counter.  His mother slain by the monster she had married, the traumatized Graeme ran back into the streets and hid in the rubbish in an alley until the police, who had arrested Roland, came to find the boy.  Anguished, curled up inside himself, Graeme was bound over as a ward of the state until his grieving Uncle Nigel claimed him.

Nigel Hewitt worked as a handyman and general laborer on a country estate outside of London.  Once the property of wealthy noble landowners, the estate had been converted to a lavish resort for well-to-do tourists and business people.  Graeme refused to leave London until he and his uncle collected all that was left of Penny--her beautiful, delicate watercolors--to take with them to Nigel’s spare lodgings at the estate.  There the little boy lived with his uncle, and saw a very different world from the one he had known in the city.  It was the kind of world that his mother would have painted:  graceful, refined, elegant.  He looked at the resort, and the people who visited and stayed there, and something occurred to Graeme:  It was a world where only some people, certain people, were allowed.  It was a world to which only people of means were admitted, a world from which all others were barred by a wall of money and culture.  For want of money and its refining influence, all there was for a person was the kind of world from which Graeme had come, a world of dirt and cruelty and despair and anger.  It was the kind of world that discarded and destroyed beauty--like his mother and her art.  Graeme realized that people allowed these two unequal worlds to exist side by side, with most people living on the side that was ugly and harsh.  Seeing the difference between wealth and poverty, seeing that people allowed it to exist and didn’t seem to care, or that they believed it was the right and proper thing, and intuitively understanding that this gross disparity of lives was what had made his father a monster and cost Penny her life, little Graeme Grimstead learned to hate.  It was a hatred he would come to bear for all mankind.

People let this be--people who keep everything for themselves and leave nothing for everybody else.  That’s why Daddy was so mean and so mad; people like these made him that way.  I hate them.  I hate them all.  One day I’ll get them.  One day I’ll make them pay.  I’ll get the whole bloody world.  

Such thoughts in anyone’s mind can be dangerous.  But such thoughts in the mind of a boy who discovers that he is a genius--that’s something else again.  Because all it takes is a the anger of a wounded but brilliant little boy in the right place at the right time, with the right means at his command, to create an epic villain--the world’s greatest villain.  Next time we’ll learn how that evil, once planted, took root, and see the menace that grew from it--a menace that only the power of the Environauts could challenge!  For into the life of an angry little English boy would come...the Quantum Prism!

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