Loren Luther is a student of the world. He currently resides in Cloverdale in the Confederacy of Dunces. He is the absolute master of the toys in his cedar chest. His ambition is to start there and slowly, almost imperceptibly take over the world. This was all discovered recently when I babysat for his mother. She arranged for two hours of my time so she could make a quick trip to the Piggly Wiggly and then a stop to have her hair styled for a dinner party she was having that evening.
“How are you today Loren?” I asked the boy after seeing his mother to the front door and finding him in his bedroom.
“I’m OK,” he answered. He sat in a cartoonish red plastic chair at a small, child sized desk in his bedroom. He held a globe in his hands studying what I thought was the Arctic.
“Looking for the land of the Eskimo and polar bear?” I asked leaning over his shoulder while looking at the globe from above. He glanced up and looked at me in the eyes. He lowered his brow to emphasise what he was about to say.
“Why would I care about Eskimos and polar bears?” He turned back to his globe. “Tell me how boats can sail way up here. Its covered in ice.”
“Well, boats don’t usually sail up there except in summer when the ice melts. They also have ships called ice breakers that can cut through the ice as long as it isn’t too thick.” He nodded his head and then started tracing a line from Alaska to Russia. His finger stopped at a city on the Arctic Ocean called Murmansk.
“The Russians have a navy base there. I saw it on the tele. Most of their boats are all rusty. I think some of them are sinking. Dad says they don’t have the money to repair them.” He looked up again and waited for an answer. I was astonished at the question. Why would Loren Luther of Cloverdale, a student at Confederacy Elementary School, care about old Russian ships?
“Perhaps the Russians need their money for something else?” I answered.
“I saw on the tele the Russians have lots of money from selling oil and gas so if they have lots of money then they should be taking care of their ships.” He squirmed in his red plastic chair. It wobbled slightly. He was outgrowing it.
“Luther, may I ask why you are interested in the Russian Navy?”
”I’m going to take over the world when I grow up. I have to know these things.” His statement was matter of fact. It didn’t open the door for rebuttal or comment.
“Oh,” I said. My amazement was doubling with every sentence he spoke.
“May I ask your strategy?”
“What’s stragee?” He asked not understanding the word I used or how it was pronounced.
“The word is strategy. It means, what is your plan to take over the world?”
“I saw some people on the tele in a place called Tibet way up in the mountains and they were walking thousands of miles on their knees and they’d stop all the time and lay down on the ground and then get up again and keep going. One of them said the trip was long and hard but they did it one step at a time. I’m going to do it one step at a time too.”
“OK, where are you going to start?”
“Right here with my toys.” He stood up and took my hand. He led me to the other side of his bed. There on the floor were scores of plastic army men and tanks and jets. Half of them were green plastic. The other half seemed to have painted red using a permanent marker.
“You’re taking over the world with your toy army?” I asked. It was an attempt at humor. He wasn’t amused.
“These are my soldiers,” he said pointed to the standard green plastic men. “Those are the Chinese. She how I painted them red?” I nodded. “I’m figuring out how to defeat them.
“That’s your plan, take over the world with your plastic army one step at a time?”
“No, I control them.” he said pointing to his army. “It’s my first step. I also control this,” he said holding up a GI Joe.
“You control your toys?”
“What’s the next step?”
“I’m working on that. I want to have control over my room. Right now my mom tells me where to put the furniture and when to make my bed and when to put my toys away. You know - stuff like that.” I nodded again. “I don’t want her to do that any more so I’m thinking of ways to keep her out of my room.”
“And then?” I asked. He stopped to think.
“My friends. I need to decided what to play. No more voting.”
“Do you think they’re going to stay friends with you if you tell them what to do all the time?” He hadn’t thought about that. He jumped up on his bed and sat thinking. He looked up at a poster on the wall. It was half a Star Wars poster. The poster had Darth Vader on one side. The other side was cut away. From the hand holding a light saber I could tell it must have been Luke Skywalker.
“I guess you have to be lonely to take over the world.” he said, never taking his eyes off the Sith Lord. “After my room I’m going to take over my school. I got elected class president at school.” he said proudly. He jumped off the bed, fell to the floor and pulled a shopping bag out from underneath. He held it up. I opened it. It was partially full of candy. ‘”That got most of the kids to vote for me. The rest had to promise to vote for me or my friends and I wouldn’t let them play on the school’s big toy. We sort of took it over at recess.”
“Dont’ you think that’s wrong?” I asked, wondering if Loren had any morals whatsoever.
“Yes, but I saw someone on tele say that the ends justify the means. I didn’t know what it meant so I asked my dad and he explained it.”
“So you’ve got this all thought out?”
“Yep, and that’s only the start. I can’t tell you the rest because you’re a grown up and you’ll tell other grown ups.”
He went back to his desk, picked up the globe and started looking again at the Arctic Ocean.
“Call me if you need me,” I said as I walked to the bedroom door. I was going out to the living room to watch the tele.
“I won’t need you but I’ll call you if I want you.” he replied as I shut the door.
For a moment I wondered if the young Hitler or Napoleon started out this way? Should I warn the parents? Should I recommend psychiatric help?
There was a sign on the outside of Loren’s door I noticed when I entered but only understood as I left. It was written in red crayon on white lined paper. It read:
Turning the world upside down.
Turning the world upside down.