THE DEVIL IN FARMER FRED


   "Be aware and beware," warned Officer Lewis.
   Mrs. Case's senior English class was not interested.  It was
close to the end of the year and they were dreaming of breathing
in a new life outside of school.  Officer Lewis had been invited
in for one last bit of guidance.
   "This," said the officer, pointing to a posterboard display,
"is a marijuana joint."
   "And this," mocked Steve, pointing to his crotch, "Is the most
important joint of all."  He and Stu giggled.
   "Steve!" pierced Mrs. Case, "Do you know how important this
lecture is?"
   "No," grinned Steve, "but if you hum a few bars I'll try!"
   The students laughed their approval.  Mrs. Case busily scrawled
on a piece of paper.  "Take this," she ordered, "and spend the rest
of the class in the office."
   Steve gave a knowing smirk to Stu as he left his desk.
   Disgusted to the core, Mrs. Case eyed him on his way out. 
   "How could you ever elect him class President?" she chided the
students.  "He's so openly insolent."
   As the lecture bore on, the students felt increasingly
trapped.  Phil sat with eyes half shut, his gaze a million miles
away.  Two girls whispered gossip.  Others felt duty bound to be
trapped and obediently paid attention.  It was quiet Mary who
woke up the class.  Her mother was a closet alcoholic, and this,
like any drug lecture, rubbed her raw.
   "Officer?"  Her voice was an incision into the room.  "Why
don't you talk about alcohol?  It hurts people, too."  Her deep,
calm manner drew more attention than any scream.
   "Well," squirmed the bearer of enlightenment, "You have to
understand that the difference between legal and illegal drugs is
that...one is legal and one is not."
   "So some drugs are good then.  Is that what you are saying?"
   "Oh no!" knew the officer to say, "All drugs are harmful."
   "Then explain to me why one harmful drug is okay and another is
not!"
   "All in good time," rescued a smiling Mrs. Case.  "I'm sure
the officer will cover that later."
   Thomas, the Mayor's son, suddenly made a connection in his
mind.  "Hey, I know you," he grinned to the officer.  "You got
wasted at the city Christmas party last year.  You threw up all
over the floor."
   The class roared with glee.
   "That's enough!" scolded Mrs. Case.  "I'll have no more
interruptions!"
   "Sorry," mumbled Thomas, "Didn't mean to bring up the truth."
   Officer Lewis swallowed his agitation and trudged bravely
forward.  But with the officer's true credibility revealed, only
Oral - "Moral Oral" as Steve called him - still paid attention. 
The lawman played his role to the bitter end, then dutifully
asked if there were any questions.  Oral's hand shot into the
air.
   "Yes, son."
   "What should we do if we see someone doing drugs?"  The
question drew daggers from Stu's eyes.
   "Good question.  It is your responsibility to report this to
the proper authorities, be it your teacher, an officer or your
parents.  You could save a life by doing that."
   "Thank you, sir.  I wish to do all I can to help with the war
on drugs."  Several people mentally spit on Oral.
   Lacking further inquiries, Officer Lewis turned the class back
to its teacher.   
   "Thank you, Officer Lewis.  We appreciate the time you took to
spend with us.  I know we all got a lot out of it.  Class" - she
turned to the room - "Let's show our appreciation for the officer."
   The students were saved by the bell.
   While the class filed out, Mrs. Case wormed her way to the
lawman.
   "That was definitely a powerful message," she cooed.
   "Well, we do exaggerate some to get our point across, but they
don't know the difference."
   "You did a wonderful job," admired the woman.
   "I can only hope I got through to them," sighed the brave soldier
of the war.
   Outside in the hallway, disgust was everywhere.
   "That sorry hypocrite," scoffed Mary.  "You can't trust any
 adult."
   "What a joke," agreed Rocky.  "Telling me my kids will be
deformed and shit because of pot.  Hell, my kid came out perfectly
normal."
   "That guy is a birth defect," observed Stu.  He spotted Steve
returning from the office.  "All hail the conquering hero."  The
two comrades saluted each another.  Steve pointed to his jointed
elbow.
   "This," he said with mock importance, "is a marijuana joint."
   "You don't know when to quit, do you?" said an appreciative
Stu.
   "Neither do they."  The grin left Steve's face.  "Fuck those
assholes.  Who do they think they are to tell me what to think?"
   Unwittingly, Steve had spoken the feelings of the entire
group.
   Phil, with his perpetual sour look, passed by.  Steve accosted
him.
   "Hey, Phil!"  Phil looked surprised at being addressed.  "What
did you think of that lecture?  Pretty stupid, huh?"
   "Yeah, great," muttered Phil, barely able to talk.  "They
teach you everything but how to be happy."
   The crushed being of Phil continued his trek down the hall,
leaving his peers a bit shaken.
   "He's so deep," remarked Mary.  "I bet someday he writes a book."
   "Sometimes I don't know what to believe in," uttered Steve.
   "I do," said Mary, more to herself than anyone else.
   A general desire to disperse infiltrated the group.  They
departed, some feeling more hollow than others.

   The pickup screeched to a halt by the mailbox.  Nervously,
Steve opened it.  His heart skipped a beat when he saw the
letter.  He pulled it inside the truck.
   "Maybe I should wait till I get to the house, so I can share
it with Mom and Dad."
   He drove back onto the highway and turned off at the dirt road
leading to his home.  He fumbled at the letter.  "Prestigious
University" ominously stated the return address.  Then a thought
hit.
   "What if I got turned down!"  Steve stopped the truck in its
tracks.  "I can't open it in the house then!"  He ripped open the
letter.

   Steve's mother was in the bedroom when he came flying through
the door.
   "Mom!  Dad!" he cried out eagerly.
   "Steve?"  Mom spoke in that whiny voice Steve had grown to
hate.  "Better stay in the living room.  Your father's sick."
   Sick was the code word for drunk.  This would be referred to
as another "bout" and the entire incident would be glossed over. 
Admitting imperfection was a crime in Steve's home.  But this
went too far.  Not today of all days.  This should be his day. 
Years of repressed bitterness welled up inside, taking hold of
his mind.  Summoning all the courage he had, Steve crossed the
threshold of the bedroom for the first time.
   Steve saw the forbidden sight - his father sprawled across the
bed in semi-conciousness, his mother vultured over him.  She was
desperate to contain the ugliness.
   "Steve!" she said crossly.  "I told you to stay out.  He's not
feeling well at all."
   Contempt boiled over for the "perfect man".  Rage glowed through
Steve's eyes.
    "He's drunk!"
    The words hung in the air.  Two sharp, clear words that
punctured all lies.  Mother turned back to her husband.  "You
shouldn't see him like this.  It's for your own good."
   Steve knew who's good it was for - their's.  No longer could
they keep their claim as god-like beings.  The question presented
itself: How screwed up are these people who raised him?  Would he
become as they are?  It turned his stomach to think so.
   The miserable person on the bed squirmed and mumbled in a 
one-sided conversation.
   "I need my drink...it's okay...just let people be!...oh, I don't
care if they make everything okay."
   Steve could not contain his fury.  "Did you hear that!?"
   "Shush!"
   He spoke in a quieter but no less vehement tone.  "You know how
he's always talking."  Steve mimicked his father.  "'They oughtta
shoot those drug dealin' sons-a-bitches.  Can't build enough prisons
to suit me.'"
   "He's delirious.  He doesn't know what he's saying," protested
Mom.
   "Sounds like he knows what he's saying to me."
   Farmer Fred went into another delirium, much to his wife's
dismay.  "Steve, please let go."
   The words fell on deaf ears.  In his father's jerking, Steve
could almost see the repressed love his father wrestled.  He did
not know how or why, but the sight of it greatly upset him, as if
some ghostly presence had descended upon his soul.
   Fred exorcised more feelings.
   "I'm so tired...so sick of worrying...always MONEY, MONEY,
MONEY...I don't care what they want...I just want to farm!...this
whole country is crap!"
   "I don't believe it!" wailed Steve.  "Mr. Flag Waver himself
saying that!"
   Mom offered no further protests, she being content to watch
the storm.  But tears of confusion rained in Steve.  He struggled
to choke back his overpowering emotions.  Had he been wrong about his
father all these years?  Weren't the only feelings a person had were
the ones he showed?  Who was this guy?
   Father's face contorted in pain.  Dear tenderies he never gave
breath ached to be released.
   "Oh, God, I'm sorry..."  His body quivered.  "I hate it...I hate
it!...always have to control...somebody set me free!"  He called out
to his family.  "Carol!  Steve!"
   The man passed out.
   Steve's tears came out in anger.  "That's all he ever does, Mom!"
he screamed.  "He says one thing and does another!  I hate him.  He
has no right to do this."
   His mother looked him in the eye with an unexpected strength. 
"Steve, you've got understand," she said deliberately, "Your father's
really a liberal man."
   "I don't want to hear it!  I can't believe anything you say
anymore!  He was never there for me and you're no better for
supporting him!"
   Steve ran from the hurtful words to his bedroom.  He slammed
the door and stuffed his face into a pillow to hide his emotions. 
He did not want to see, hear, or deal with anything.
   He just couldn't believe it.  "Who's raising who," he mumbled
bitterly.  He had nothing - nothing to hold on to that someone didn't
rip away.  He flailed in deep waters but no one could help.  Only one
thing made him feel good.
   He sat up on his bed and scanned the floor.  Yes, there it was!
He reached down and picked up his letter.
   Hands shaking, he re-read the words that had brought him so
much joy.
   "Steve Stevens has been accepted to Prestigious University on full
scholarship."
   He pressed the paper to his chest, protecting it.  The initial
enthusiasm was lost forever, but he refocused his energies into an
unbreakable determination.
   "This is it," he vowed.  "No more farm or parents.  No one's ever
going to push me around again.  I'll have my own house and my own
money.  And I'll get me a sports car - not some beat up old pickup."
The thoughts propped him up.  His eyes narrowed.  "Nothing's going to
stop me.  This is my ticket out."
   He put the precious letter back in its envelope and placed it in
his desk drawer.  Head still swirling, he stretched out on his bed.
Steve pushed down the ugliness of the day and dreamed of the Way
Things Would Be.  He had to - it was the only way to avoid the pain.


                      SARCASM ALLEY