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Spare the Rod


Beth Hallam

It was evening when he came to me, my daughter's child. Out of the chill night air, on silent feet he came, to stand observing me, half-hidden by the window drapery. For a while I ignored him, unsure of my reaction to him, not knowing how to greet this scrap of Vulcankind. I knew and liked his father; we had been friends, close if one can be close to his race. But this one was different - flesh of his flesh, flesh of my flesh - he was neither Vulcan nor Terran. How did he see me, from his half-breed viewpoint?

Slowly I lowered the paper I was reading, slowly so as not to startle him away, for he was very small, and boasted only five years of life.

"Hello," I said, not knowing what to say.

"You are my... grandfather?" He was uncertain, unsure of the relationship between us, but the question was mature, beyond the years he owned had he been purely Human.

"Yes, I am your mother's father." It sounded so cold, so inhuman? But I know Vulcans; if not I then who among Humans does? They shy away from emotional contacts, withdraw like a frightened horse. You must play their game, if you would communicate with them. Yes, I must play the 'logic' game with my grandson, if I would know him better.

He approached me then, his feet hardly making a sound, as he rolled them at each step from outside to inside edge. Walking in that mincing way that typifies his race. (It has always, seemed to me that Vulcans look as if their boots are too tight, and that they walk in their precise manner to minimise the pain! There is, of course, a perfectly sound anatomical reason for the way they walk, but I am a fanciful man.)

He stood before me, his dark pool-like eyes upon me - I felt acutely aware of my shortcomings, the nose broken in a fist-fight of my youth, the curly grey hair, unkempt as always, defying my efforts to control its waywardness. "I do not know what I should call you," he said.

It was not a question but a statement. I smiled at him, and chuckled slightly, but his seriousness soon quenched my laughter." What do you call your Vul... your other Grandfather?"


"That is his name, do you call him that?"

"Yes, it is his name, but I do not know your name." He paused as if thoughtful, then threw his question. "What is your name?"

"Charles Grayson." What could I do but answer a plain, simple question with a plain, simple answer?

"Should I call you Charles Grayson?"

"I do not think it would be advisable," I cautioned, wondering what effect it would have on my colleagues and acquaintance to hear a ranking ex-diplomat addressed as 'Charles Grayson' by his five-year-old grandson. "Perhaps you could just call me Grandfather? What do you think of that idea?"

"I think that an excellent idea, thank you." His almost pedantic air was so reminiscent of his sober, dignified father that it brought the laughter bubbling out of me.

He studied me as I laughed, but neither dark eyes nor solemn lips moved into a smile. When my amusement had subsided he was still watching me pensively. I felt compelled to say something. "You want something of me, Spock?" I asked.

He hesitated a moment; into his eyes crept a wary look, as if he were weighing up my mood, calculating his chances of getting me to do as he wanted. The difference between adults and children is very slight; both are sly and selfish, it is simply that children let you know when they are plotting - adults hide it. He had made his decision, now he made his move.

"At home... on Vulcan, that is," he temporised, thinking perhaps a reference to 'home' might offend my strange Human feelings. "Sometimes in the evenings just after sunset, I go to Suvil's rooms, and... and... sometimes, if my mother says I have behaved well throughout the day... well... sometimes... "

"Sometimes what, Spock?" I questioned, willing to help him with his childish, tongue-tied explanation.

He took a deep breath of the chill night air of Earth, and choked as the cold struck lungs designed for the arid atmosphere of his own world. I drew him to me as he coughed, and he leant forward across my knee gasping and spluttering in his attempts to regain the slow, shallow breathing pattern necessary for him to function here. Slowly it returned, but the paroxysm had left the small frame weak and tired. He turned those dark-brown eyes up to look into my face, and I thought how in the future those eyes would cause havoc in the hearts and minds of Human womankind, just as his father had wrecked havoc in my beloved daughter's heart.

"Feel better?" I asked, trying to hide my amusement. He nodded. "You were going to say?" I prompted him.

"Thank you, Grandfather." He took another preparatory breath, but with greater caution this time. "When I have been good all day, sometimes Suvil will relate to me a narrative." He paused before assuring me, "Of educational interest, of course."

"Of course," I concurred. "And you'd like me to tell you a story too... is that right?" He nodded his head enthusiastically, so that the smooth black silk bobbed with the motion. "Tell me, when Suvil is relating his narrative, do you stand beside him or sit on a chair?"

He considered the question carefully. "Sometimes," he said, using his favourite word, "I stand beside him." He paused and I waited, knowing there was more to come when he had formulated what he wanted to say. "But when I am tired, after a day's school work, I sit... there." He touched my knee lightly. "So that I can lean up against him, to rest my head, you understand?"

"Of course," I was quick to assure him, "I thought it nothing else. Are you tired now, after the busy day you've had, exploring the new environment of Earth?"

This time the nod was slow and weary; this child was his mother's as well as his father's - I well remember such tricks from her. "Come then," I urged, patting my knee; he scrambled up, with a little help and settled down on my lap, one pointed ear resting against my chest. "Spock?"

The head came up, his face gazed into mine, one tiny eyebrow raised. "Yes, Grandfather?"

"Have you been a good boy, lately?"

"Oh yes, Grandfather." This assured statement was at variance with his mother's account of the journey to Earth. Oh, well, so much for the theory that Vulcans are incapable of lying.

"Um! Well, there was this man, a Human. His name was Ali Baba, and he lived..."

I had just reached the point where Ali Baba was heating the oil for the thieves; I must say I thought my style had lost nothing over the years I had had no practice. As always my audience had lost interest in the proceedings; his respiration had become very even, and his eyelashes had fallen, heavy-lidded, against his cheeks. I slowed down my recital, letting my voice get quieter and quieter until all was silence except for his breathing. Into the silence Amanda's voice fell, loud and clear.


"Shhhhhhhhh!" I whispered. "Go away!"

I was pleased to realize that she still obeyed my commands. Obviously I had raised her well, without spoiling her. I don't believe in spoiling children. Spare the rod and spoil the child.


Copyright Beth Hallam