The Demagogue, story by David C Russell at

The Demagogue

The Demagogue

written by: David C Russell


“April Fools,” I said.

“You screwed up my breakfast,” Kim said, expression incensed, annoyed, exasperated.

“I was just having fun. Don’t be such a poor sport,” I answered.

“You eat this bowl of rice krispies and let me know how you like baking soda instead of sugar,” Kim said, still annoyed.

This was my first attempt at deception at the age of eight. Kim was my younger sister by two years. Gradually, over time, motivation to deceive for the thrill it brought would mentally beckon a personal choice. The choice to mislead, frustrate, beguile to witness one’s frustration with bewilderment.

Our mom, a single parent, sluffed it off and told us to hurry up, go to school. I was not disciplined; Kim was not given the satisfaction of having been wronged. Do we brush off occurrences in life based on level of annoyance an incident may cause?

The family member freely displayed a fault at home, the person whom cut in line in public, the phone call that awakened you only to be by a telemarketer, etc.

During my adolescent years, a group of us had spent one of many weekend afternoons traipsing the local mall. At the time, we went into the toy department at a major chainstore: name of store escapes me. I chose select demonstration items to remove the battery or batteries. These included a couple EBikes, hoverboards, talking dolls or animals. I managed to leave enough vagary that overhead cameras may not have revealed my shenanigans; others would consider this criminal behavior and challenged or reported me to store security. I trashed the batteries in the family bathroom at another location in the mall.

Months later, when employed at a shoe store, business was slow one afternoon. So, to occupy my time, I replaced pairs of shoes in boxes that stated a different size number. I knew this would exasperate all concerned on discovery. It did. This prank was reported to store security. A few days passed. I was called into the supervisor’s office and immediately dismissed without questions. The cameras had caught my act of deception and dishonesty. Exercising caution was the lesson learned from this impulsive action.

To me, if others felt annoyed at an action, that was their issue, their problem, not mine. I had not directly caused harm or injury to another person, but enjoyed the thrill of another being annoyed, put out, ticked off. It felt good to me.

My next little act of deception and dishonesty occurred during my junior year of high school. I had asked Lacey to go to the Junior Prom with me. Well, not sure if she went to the prom or not, but here’s what came down.

It was the middle of the week, three days before the prom. Instead of ordering flowers for Lacey, my creative side took charge. I went to the public botanical garden and picked a few flowers. I noticed out of the corner of my eye someone driving slowly, back and forth around the gardens, as I indulged playing florist. My plan was to return home, google flower arranging, and be the man of the night in Lacey’s eyes come Saturday.

“Hey, stop what you’re doing. Come over here, we want to talk with you,” said the Police officer whose name I ignored.

“Yes sir. How may I help you?” I asked.

“Look at this,” the officer said.

“Oh, I was picking dead flowers from the garden to make minor display improvements,” I said.

“Your definition of dead flowers and mine differ widely,” the officer said.

“Come with me and my partner. We’re off to the station. On the double give me contact info for your parent or guardian,” he stated.

The conference room I was directed to appeared basic in furnishings and decor. The officer sat in a well-used swivel chair behind a mahogany desk, and four folding chairs were a few feet away arranged in a semi-circle.

I heard the sound of mother’s footsteps approaching; these were slow and conveyed anything but “glad to be here.” Her expression confirmed my interpretation. She was seated one chair to my right.

“Your son was caught and reported tampering with the flowers at the botanical garden. We brought him in for questioning, and felt you should be present, too.”

“I had to leave my job to be here. It’s damn tough being a single parent. What happened to the idea of the village raising a youngster?” she asked.

“Your son may need a big brother type person in his life. Can you contact them?” the Officer asked.

“Yes, and I can walk on water, too,” mom said.

“We won’t keep your son, but he will be watched,” the officer said.

I was placed on a strict curfew, and told if I went to the prom, my future would include a morning or afternoon at the courthouse. Not wanting to test the ultimatum created by the Officer and my mother, I called Lacey and told her the prom date was off for us. I made up some lame excuse, which of course she surmised was just that, a lame excuse.

My hope was to save the fifty dollars that is seen to be the asking price by flower shops for the basic corsage. It would probably get tossed at the end of the evening anyway.

So much for one who endeavored to be kind, nice, courteous, regarded charming and well-mannered.

My generous attempt at doing the right social thing simply didn’t work! Mom, too, expressed quite the diatribe as we drove home from the police station.

“You have to find better ways to use your time, son. You lost a job opportunity at the mall and the shoe store with your stupid, idiotic antics. You want to end up in a youth home somewhere?” she asked. I didn’t answer but let her point pass by.

During that summer, our neighbor had me help him do some light yard work and paid me ten bucks each week. He was nice, but the work became boring, dull, and tedious after a few weeks. I did put some of the cash toward video games so I could play with acquaintances online.

Senior year was long, slow, but quiet for the most part. I did help with behind the scenes work for the school musical that spring. No prom dates but I did hang with a small group on occasion during weekends.

Mom provided me a nice graduation picnic complete with a caterer who served up assorted grilled burgers and finger-foods. Release from school felt like a big, menacing weight off my shoulder.

During my first year of college – I got a gig working registration at the start of the second semester. My job was to welcome and sign students in, so to begin the painstaking process of registration for classes. It was during the time when the water crises was big business in some communities across the U.S.

I thought my antic was clever, appeared innocent enough, and the person would feel like they really did something good for humankind.

“Not sure if you are open to this, but the college is taking cash donations to go toward correcting the water crises in America. A one-dollar donation is all we may accept from students,” I said repeatedly over two days of registration.

Girls were more giving than the boys, but averaged a take of around seventy-five dollars with this ploy. It wasn’t much financially, but enough to make this young adult a happy camper for a month or so. This opened the interest to telemarketing schemes, which were being altered with the use of bots instead of human beings. Still, whoever said a “sucker” is born every minute, had some sound statistic in mind.

For the next few years, I secured short-term job positions till my mid twenties. These included custodial, factory, clerical and customer service. My venture narrowed to telemarketing when I began to work for a firm that conducted phone opinion surveys. Opinions ranged from politics to gardening, sexuality to the seditious. This last category was somewhat a ground-breaker into all-out demagoguery. It took me a few months to create and arrange my marketing schematic. I imagined being an architect at formulating the general and finer details of my schematic.

I was living in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan at the time, which is known for a major casino and university, respectively.

Living quarters were shared with a single mom and her youngster in a three-bedroom ranch style home. I set up shop in my bedroom, which had blinds that I kept mostly closed when present.

I used data from the call center where I had worked as the opinion research assistant to expedite my scheme. Selections were based on: marital status, time called, apparent demeanor of the one called, and overall impression. I had close to five hundred contacts from which to select.

I had two spiels used, respectively.

Spiel One
My name is …. And I am calling from …. Hospital in suburban …. You are listed by …. As contact person. They require immediate medical attention as they appear to be in rapid decline. Are you able and willing to provide information that will help alleviate their acute suffering? Are you financially able to offer something significant to further their comfort?

Spiel Two
My name is …. I am employed by …. As a home inspector. Houses in your area have been noted to be infested with …. Or, water pipes contain unhealthy levels of lead according to environmental tests. Would you join your fellow citizens in funding a project to alleviate this dyer situation?

Per usual, women were more readily found to provide help and financial aid compared to their male counterparts. I had set the limit on the first spiel to five-hundred dollars; the second spiel had a financial limit of under one thousand dollars. Of course, the acuteness of the situation ended once my hands were graced with the financial information needed and obtained from the called party.

This schemata lasted for almost eight months. An under-cover person discovered my ploy, and pressed charges.

I was charged with felony complete with details of my infractions befitting criminal behavior. I took some pride in my ongoing effort. I had earned close to twenty thousand dollars, which I used on short vacations and set aside for living expenses by placing sums into short-term certificates of deposit.

The Judge, hearing my case, made the following observation at time of sentence.

“Young man, I heard somewhere that perfection belongs to God; the rest of us learn to live with “prit near.” I laughed. He continued, “You have demonstrated what it is to be a demagogue quite well. When did this start?”

“Age seven,” that too was a lie, but a minor fib. I continued, “I played a practical joke on my sister and got away with it,” I said.

“I note your other infractions here and you regard them with little remorse,” he said. He continued to blab a few more minutes and then came the climax.

“Young man, you will serve a sentence of three to five years in prison, not jail but prison. After that, he stated my probation would be an additional three years and do ninety hours of community service annually during the probation period. I found the terms both exasperating and yet lenient.

In prison, I developed an interest in crafts and pottery. I also earned an Associate Degree in small business through an online community college program. I would live to discover if indeed, honesty is the best policy? Does crime pay better than one building a rep of having been law abiding?


The End

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