The room served as a combo kindergarten/nursery. Little kids ages two to six ran around like their hair was on fire while the piercing cry of newborns filled in whatever cracks of silence that were left in the wake of the kid's screams of mayhem.
Benny hated it. Kids--all ages--infuriated him. He believed he could see the future adults they would grow into and felt powerless to stop it.
At the back of the room, a pair of girls whispered conspiratorially to each other before walking over to a third girl and teasing her about her hair. A strand of it had gotten caught in the gears weeks ago and still not grown back.
A boy--four, maybe five years old--stomped around the room, his arms crossed tight across his chest, shouting at kids that they were mean. That they wouldn't share their toys. For their part, the majority of the class ignored him.
Then there was the little shit in the back. Sitting, smiling, hands folded together. Whenever Christy, or Lauren, or Phil had their hands too full to teach--which accounted for most of the time--he would reach into his pocket and pull *something* out. On more than one occasion it had been a tack, but it was usually a wadded up piece of paper that he popped into his mouth, chewed until it was nice and soggy, then, double checking that the coast was clear, spit it into a girl's hair or down a boy's shirt. Whoever was closest. Whoever he knew he could get a rise out of. He was staring down a kid to his fight. One seat up. Perfect angle to be just out of the boy's periphery while also being able to watch him without ever having to crane his neck or turn around. When the time came, he took something out of his mouth--from this distance it looked like gum this time--wheeled back and flicked it at the kid, hitting him right in the ear.
By the time the kid turned around, the Little Shit was back to proper posture. Back straight. Hands folded. Smiling dutifully at nothing. Those were the ones, Benny thought. Those were the kids who grew into adults who brought everything down around them. The girls, for all their cruelty, lacked grander ambition beyond tormenting individuals. They had no big designs to con the entire world, only to make life for a select few unlivable. The whiners would whine, but as evidenced by the kids in the class, they were easily ignored. It was the conman sitting in the back of the class, looking the part of the proper citizen that truly knew how to turn things upside down. Already, at the age of, whatever the hell he was. Less than ten. Ten! He understood how to manipulate.
"Nathan!" Lauren rushed over to the side of the room, her eyes bulging, ready to confront the spit wad victim for having jumped up and shouted. "What did I tell you about screaming."
"It was Ben! He spit at me!"
The Little Shit, hands still folded together church-tight, widened his eyes in innocent surprise and stared, aghast, at Nathan.
"Miss Cargill. I didn't spit at him."
"He did too. Look!"
Nathan held up the chewed piece of gum. When Lauren didin't react fast enough to this revelation--this injustice--his anger got the better of him and Nathan wheeled around and hucked it Ben who took it right off the forehead.
Benny smiled to himself. He knew it wouldn't do any good. Any hope of making the Little Shit pay for what he'd done died the moment the kid, Nathan, lost his cool. Not that he blamed him. Kids like Ben grew into adults like [name]. Rarely paying for their transgressions. Always looking around after the fact, shaking their head in faux sincerity. Even if it only worked half the time, it was enough to create the illusion that they, and not the kid with a fresh wad of spit gum in his hair--was the victim. The best that would ever happen was that Ben would suffer a slap on the wrist, while the avenging kid would be hauled off into the hallway where he'd get a stern speaking to about his actions and how we don't resolve our problems that way.
It made Benny antsy. Anger flooded him watching as Lauren grabbed Nathan by the wrist and pulled him over to the corner of the room. What if he intervened? What if he walked right into the classroom, slamming the door open as he marched down the row of desks, grabbed the Little Shit by his shirt and said, "I'll fucking end you if you ever do that again."
He yearned to see the fear in the kid's eyes. Sure, once his parents heard about in Benny would be castigated. He'd lose his job as a [whatever], and be subjected to scrubbing the lower towers for months. Maybe years, depending how connected his parents were. That was the question. His parents couldn't be elite. He wouldn't be here in this classroom if they were. But the way he acted. That sniveling reverence for authority whenever it suited him, the sociopathic way in which he systematically victimized everyone in the classroom. It screamed upper class. Anyone lower would simply do the crime and take the punishment. That's how their taught. Life is rough. Be rougher. Get got, take it and move it. Not so with the Ben's of the world. He knew the terrible truth of it all. No one can catch all the crime. And when they do catch it, they want to make the judgement quick and simple. Obfuscate things even the slightest and you'll never pay the full toll.
Benny's hand was on the doorknob. He knew he wouldn't turn it. He wasn't going to rush in, wielding justice like a hammer no matter how much the kids would cheer him--and he knew they would, he would've if someone had done the same thing when he was a kid. Because the deck was stacked. Even as young as these kids, the rungs of class were already in place. How many of these kids even had parents, he wondered. What would happen if Nathan hauled off and whacked Ben in the face? The Little Shit's parents would have him sitting in a boiler room in the bowels of the Glacier feeding the fires until he was of age. Then he'd do the same thing except then he'd get paid for it. Only barely though.