Lord of the Flies
My dad would always say “Lord of the Flies,” during the scouting days, childhood in all its glory.
Most all of the dads would say “Lord of the Flies,” with a sort of smirk, a twist of coffee-glazed lips or the the scratch of graying stubble. “The spiky cheeks,” as I would call them.
They emerged from behind the curtain-sealed doorway on the back wall, out from the cave of snoring, balding bears, free from their wives’ judgement for just this weekend.
One of them would be bound to see the early riser through the fogged window. The window would likely show the grease stains of their child’s name, carved into the condensation from the night before.
But through all of that, would walk the early riser, the lord of the flies, outlined against the alpine fog, a sharpened “walking stick” his method of defense.
I would still be in bed, cocooned in my sleeping bag, my personal method of defense from the banshees and mummies, who ensnared imaginations around the campfire only hours ago.
Realizing the sun had returned, I emerged from my protective sleepwear, thankful for surviving my night. The demons and spirits were gone.
Still, “Lord of the Flies” the dads would chuckle. This reference might suggest that, in an analytical setting, the demons were not dancing around the campfire, or haunting the woods, but inside us children, waiting to be released.
Or at least that's what William Golding would say.
But of course, we were kids, the oldest only eleven. Speaking for myself, a child was far from understanding such a grim component of literature. I therefore continued to fear the mythical monsters, rather than the savage beast that lurked within all human beings, that was human nature.
Or so William Golding would say.
His words hold truth to them however. Having grown quite from the boy in the sweat stained sleeping bag, I can start to understand how a type of thesis is evident in the everyday world. And why our dads referenced it.
I shed my cocoon sleeping bag. An early riser was already outside. I was late.
Child-sized leather boots were still wet from the day before. It was a brave thing to do, trudging straight through the creek, with the crayfish around my ankles. Numb toes regretted it tremendously, though I would have crossed the brook again if given the chance.
The interior of the 1930’s lodge was shaded. With the moth-eaten curtains shut, it was difficult to navigate. I stumbled over dirty laundry and short circuited flashlights.
I managed to find my walking stick. My spear was white. All of the bark had been whittled off with a standard cub scouts pocket knife. Its tip had been whittled into a point as well.
Outside, fog had settled into our valley. As any nine year old would, I felt the intense need to be submersed in thick, white fog like in the black and white horror movies my dad had showed me. But from my perspective, the only fog that showed any signs of density were about thirty feet ahead. So I began walking, and only stopped when I had completed the said thirty feet. The dense fog I had originally spotted now seemed to be gone. I turned to look behind me. The fog now appeared dense thirty feet back, at my initial starting point.
The effect mesmerized me, nearly as much as it frustrated me.
The others emerged from the lodge minute by minute, each boy journeying through the profound fog density illusion, and coping with the existential realization that they would never reach the desired cloud on the horizon.
We would bond over the frustration, swatting at the air with our sharpened sticks. Gradually growing bored, we would begin to accuse each other of absurd fear levels which derived from the story of the murderous tree man named Swingy. Enjoying each other’s company through it all.
Such innocence remained among us, until the older boy emerged from the wall of pine trees at the edge of the field. A fifth grader.
Mirroring the way my fellow cubs and I emerged meekly yawning from our cabin, they slipped out from between the pine trees, only far more energized than us sleep-dazed, late risers. Their spears were sharpened with greater precision, as they had earned their whittling badges years before us.
Their intimidation tactics had been thoroughly rehearsed. They made sure to surround us, as hyenas are programmed to do instinctively when stalking prey.
Right then I found myself being watched by the older boys, as I was the special cub. “Little Pecore,” I was often referred to.
I was very lucky; I had a fifth grade brother. I kept their secrets, and sometimes brought them firewood. I was like their messenger. And this began to pay off, for now as their spears made up the picket fence around my fellow cubs and I, they made me an offer.
“Hey Pecore, c’mon,” they nodded. My fellow cubs shifted their glances towards me. “Pecore,” they repeated.
I tread across the moist crabgrass, conscience clear, and joined the older boys. I had been turned in a mere few seconds.
As I mentioned earlier, broad concepts such as loyalty weren’t always on our minds. Of course I knew what loyalty was, but applying it to a real life situation meant making an abstract connection. My mind looked at this moment with concrete, literal comparison. I wanted immediate effects. I wanted to be with the big kids, because they were bigger and stronger.
My previously fellow cubs, almost seemed to understand, speaking with their unscesthed eyes and saying, “Hey, I'd do the same if I was as lucky as you.”
The fifth graders began to twirl their staffs, as the cubs raised theirs in defense. The oldest of my brothers’ friends stepped forward. He wore a muddy, camouflage hoodie. The older boys whooped and shouted and clapped their hands. I banged my stick on the ground, and mud sprayed up onto my legs.
On the edge of the field, a steady flow of scouts now pushed open the lodge screen door, and then let it snap back into the forehead of the scout behind them.
Whether a cub, or a fifth grader, they’d join the circle and laugh and clap as the tall fifth grader closed into the helpless cubs, rooting for the madness.
A victimized red-haired cub made his move. He jabbed his spear into the twirling fan of whittled wood. His stick snapped in two. Choosing a semi rotted staff was a rookie mistake.
The fifth grader’s staff collided with the cub’s face. He let out a cry, and fell to the ground, where he crouched on his knees. His hands covered his face, and blood seeped out from between his clasped fingers. Drops of red joined the crystal dew on the thick blades of crabgrass.
The clapping and whooping had dissolved into meer mountain echoes. Everyone was silent now, except the cub who was crying.
This awakening left us dumbfounded. We stood there rather awkwardly, wrapping our tiny minds around how fast our savagery fled the scene.
The fifth grader in the camouflage hoodie spoke up. “Hey,” he stammered, his alpha male superiority willingly sacrificed. “Hey, you’re okay. You're okay.”
He sank down to his knees next to the crying cub, and grimaced at the blood on the grass. “Hey I'm sorry,” he said slowly and audibly, placing a hand on the young boy’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he repeated.
The cub with the red hair continued to cry, but the boy in the camouflage hoodie looked calm, slowly nodding his head.
I was chosen to take the sprint across the meadow, over a hundred yards. I fetched the adults, as I was the obedient messenger.. .However I do feel the need to mention, that I believe I would have called for the adults whether it was an order or not. The boy with the red hair needed help, that’s all there was to it.
Whether I called for help out of fear, or out of good-nature, when the adults arrived they whispered “lord of the flies” under their breaths, and hoisted up the cub from the ground.
Lord of the flies. Savage little beasties. We had succumbed to the power of the wilderness. Slowly devolving into a more animalistic state, and eventually destroying each other.
At least that’s the dramatic comparison our fathers were making.
While our boyish brutality admittedly did show some resemblance, to Golding’s boys, wielding their staffs and spears on an island without adult supervision, in reality, the drama in this story is purely used for effect.
The boy with the red hair was prone to nosebleeds. He cried more from the sight of his own blood, than any actual feeling of pain. That’s what my dad told me.
“Still, you guys need to be careful out there,” he said. “You’re like the Lord of the Flies.”
I then asked my dad, as we sat on top of that splintering fence that ran across the meadow, what Lord of the Flies meant.
He crumbled up the reddened, October leaves in his hands. “It’s the name of a book. You’ll read it when you're older, and then you’ll understand.”
At the age of sixteen I wrote my assigned thesis on Lord of the Flies. I argued, that there is a key turning point in one’s character, that determines their true nature.
Most everyone at a young age will intimidate others, follow the greater power, as its what we are programed to do. A young boy will leave his friends behind for greater power. This may cause someone to appear cruel, but a true judgement of character can only be made at the turning point. When a literal effect of their brutality is demonstrated right before their eyes.
For us boys of pack thirty-five, it was the sight of the blood.
That was the difference between us, and Golding’s characters.
Time after time those dads said, “Lord of the Flies.” If only I was smart enough to know that I actually disagreed.