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A Farmer's Last Stand
Damn. He couldn’t be here already. I looked nervously at the calendar attached to the refrigerator, then to the digital clock on the oven. The officer was right on-time.
He came casually, rapping on the door, holding up that goddamn pink slip to the window. He was clothed in the typical Oklahoma deputy uniform, held together with that golden badge of what was supposed to be honor. But that badge wasn’t worth anything if he was going to do what he was going to do.
My children hid in the back room, anticipating something big. They always knew when things were wrong, even if you didn’t tell them. They just sensed it. It was part of their childish nature. It was as if something in the air told them that their lives were going to change forever.
My wife was touring our property for what probably was the last time. Her arms were folded and she bore an emotionless look on her face. She hadn’t shed a tear ever since we read the first notice. But this wasn’t an attempt to be optimistic. It was surrender. A capitulation to all the hardships we faced. In her mind, we lost. She accepted it. And she simply didn’t care anymore.
The house was nothing special; a wooden two-story home with small parcel of land in the back where we farmed. Most of the exterior was faded sepia; when we first bought it, it was a radiant white, but slowly the paint chipped away like our financial condition.
Everything was leading up to this. We struggled ever since we set foot in this house. We scrounged for every last penny. We toiled until we could barely stand. We begged God for help until our knees throbbed in pain. And we wished that we could find our way out of the cave, and finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. We waited for the day where we could stop plodding through life. But no amount of hard work, prayer, or hope could stop the inevitable. And, sure enough, the inevitable came.
At that time, we thought we could be perfectly happy as farmers. We believed we could still make ends meet, and that we would be able to provide for our family of four. We were idiots.
I had two children, a seven year old son and a five year old daughter. My wife and I always found faith for the future in our children, mostly because they had a future, a bright one, despite their bleak environment. Even though we lived old fashioned lives as farmers, they wanted to be scientists and artists. We weren’t mad; in fact, we were glad that they sought out a better life than the farm could give them. We were proud that they wanted to share their talents with the world. Frankly, they were our greatest contribution to society. It was way too late for us to chase our dreams; we lived for theirs.
My son had always been a curious soul. He was never afraid to ask questions, and he seemed to learn something new each day. Before our TV let out, he would watch shows like Fetch! And Sid the Science Kid all the time. He didn’t learn much at the local school, so we always tried to bring him to the library as much as possible. At supper time, he would tell the family everything he learned that day. Eventually, he began telling us about things we had never heard of before. He was already thinking about his future occupation: he wanted to be a chemist, doctor, astronaut, zoologist, and scientist. Now, he decided on becoming a full-time paleontologist, which was, according to him, “by far the coolest job.”
My daughter was a little different, more artistic than scientific. She spent a lot of her time doodling, like many kids do, but she had true talent, especially for her age. I remember the day she won first place in her school’s art contest. Granted, the competition included only kindergarten and first grade, but it was still a major accomplishment. As soon as she came home, she presented her first place ribbon to us with glee. “Mommy! Daddy! Look at what I won!” We were so proud that day; we framed her award and we decided to take her to an art museum for her fifth birthday. We raided the little money we had in our bank account to take the trip, but the gift we gave our daughter that day was priceless. As soon as we took a step out of the museum, she made it clear to us that she definitely wanted to be an artist.
One of the things our children did have in common was their love of exploring. They spent their time frolicking outside and basking in the glory of the universe. They watched with awe at how a few tiny seeds could blossom into a vibrant display of nature. They were enamored by the unending azure sea above them, and the way the clouds slowly sailed across it. They found only wonder and goodness in their surroundings. All of the simple things that most people take for granted are the things they see the most beauty in. To me, this practice meant more than two kids gawking over commonplace things; it magnified their innocence.
I remember the day when I robbed them of their innocence. It was the day we got our first notice. The kids had prepared their letter to Santa Claus that day, almost nine months early. Eagerly, they showed it to me. My son wanted a field dinosaur guide, and my daughter wanted a canvass as well as some paints. But importantly, the letter said, they wished for money to help their mom and dad.
I was shocked. No one told them anything about our financial straits. But they just knew.
Instead of being touched by their gesture, I became frustrated. These kids had to learn the truth. They had to learn that they can’t wish their problems away. They had to learn that the world was an unfair and cruel place to live, not the majestic wonderland they imagined it to be. They had to learn that things don’t always turn at well in the end. And that they won’t get a dinosaur field guide or a canvass this year from an oversized elf sliding down a chimney.
So, I told them. And after that, my son stopped telling me what he learned each day. My daughter stopped doodling. And worst of all, they stopped exploring.
The man knocked once again. I peered through the peephole. The deputy decided to tape the eviction notice to my window. Now, he had both hands in his pockets, whistling nonchalantly as he waited for me to open the door. The officer was so disinterested, so mundane. He acted as if this was just another day, just another pit-stop on his list of errands. Doesn’t he realize that he was about to ruin our lives, I though bitterly. Why doesn’t he care?
What is a house? It is more than just shelter. It is the culmination of all the hard work and accomplishments throughout one’s entire life. A symbol of a father’s worth in this materialistic society. A confirmation of a man’s ability to care for those he holds dearest.
I dutifully placed my hand on the doorknob to let him in, but I hesitated. Everything our family knows has been here. All our hopes and dreams were inextricably intertwined with this rickety old house. No matter what obstacles we endured, we were reassured by the fact we had our home. It was ours. Nobody could take it away from us.
Yet despite all the sorrow, the worst thing about the ordeal was the deception; I felt cheated by society. We were a hardworking family of farmers, the epitome of traditional America. We were the kind of family that was supposed to succeed. But here we were, about to get thrown out on the street.
I wanted to be a good citizen, and let the officer in, but where would that get me, or my family?
I trudged through the trash heap on the floor, making my way to the kitchen. We stopped cleaning the house once we knew we were getting foreclosed. What was the point? Most of our furniture would be taken as well.
Once I was in the kitchen, I opened the cabinet, only to find a shoebox with Caution written on it in my wife’s pleasant script. Suddenly, I felt compelled to open the shoebox and examine what I already knew was inside: a 9mm Glock 19. As I thoroughly examined the pistol, I shivered at its power. When I bought this gun, about a month after we bought the house, I swore to my wife that I was only going to use it in times of extreme peril. Yet, the opportunity never presented itself. This was actually the first time I held it in my hands since the first purchase.
I hesitantly put the gun back into its place, bitterly recalling the words my mother told me when I was young. It was about the American Dream. It said that if you work hard, you will achieve. No matter what. And because of that, we were the best country in the world. She said this while we were driving to the inner-city to visit our relatives. When we stopped at an intersection, I saw a man dressed in rags, sitting crisscross on the old sidewalk. His body was a bony skeleton covered with only a thin layer of sickening gray flesh. At the time, I thought that kind of hunger was only possible in third world countries. He was holding onto a piece of cardboard, and written on it was a desperate plea from a dying man to any sympathetic passerby.
Then, I remember asking, “Why doesn’t he just get food from his home?”
She then, without even glancing at the guy, replied coolly, “He has no home.”
As soon as the light shone green we sped past the intersection and never looked back.
She went on to say that only criminals and lazy good-for-nothings could ever suffer in this society. And for my whole life, I believed her.
The deputy knocked one last time.
I sighed before slogging back to the doorstep. With the shoebox lingering on my mind, I finally opened the door to let the man in.
He just stared at me suspiciously, as if he was trying to determine if I was a potential threat or not. After analyzing my person for two whole minutes, he finally grunted in reply.
“Would you like anything to drink?” By the time the words spilled out of my mouth, the deputy was already reclining on our living room couch. He just nodded and replied briskly, “I could use a can of beer.”
After a moment of thought, he changed his mind: “Give me the finest, nonalcoholic drink you’ve got in this place.” Chuckling, he added, “Can’t drink while I’m on duty.”
I glanced over at the cabinet.
“Yeah, I think we have something.” I answered politely.
“And make it quick! The sooner we get this thing over with, the better it will be for the both of us.”
I nodded before heading to the kitchen, pretending to not be infuriated that he, the one who was evicting me out of my house, expected my hospitality. It was getting harder and harder to put the shoebox out of my mind …
“Check out this weather,” he said casually, placing his feet up on the coffee table in front of the sofa. “It’s like an oven out there. Do you know how draining it is to drive around in 90 degree weather with this on?” He guffawed heartily.
I poured some water from a gallon in the fridge. I scavenged the cabinet in search of the red Kool-Aid mix. I froze, finding myself face to face with the shoebox. Was I really about to do this? I was trapped; there was no way to avoid the inevitable doom. But when I opened the box, instead of a gun, I found an escape.
Swiftly, I tucked it into my pocket, using my shirt to shroud it from view.
“And I really do feel bad about this foreclosure thing. I like it no more than you do. It’s nothing personal. Just business.” His apathy was tangible.
I mixed in the remnants of the red Kool-Aid powder and plopped in a few ice cubes before walking over to him, bearing the cup of juice in my hand and a fake smile on my face.
As I held the cup of juice over him, he asked uneasily, “Well, aren’t you going to give it to me?”
My lips curled into an unintentional grin. Looking directly into his eyes, I took out my gun, brandishing it before pointing it directly at his plump face. The look of pure fright was somehow so … rewarding.
“No.” He attempted to reach for his pistol, but it was futile: I had already squeezed the trigger.
The shots rang through the air, and the unwelcome guest was no more. The police officer’s head slumped over the back of the sofa. His hazel green eyes rolled over into the back of his head and the floor was stained dark red. I let the crimson drink ooze down my throat as blood oozed from the officer’s bullet wound. The pools of blood on my precious hardwood floor reminded me so much of my Kool-Aid…
I could hear my wife and kids rushing to the scene from where they were. Their hurried footsteps on the wooden floor and their frightened shrieks. They saw the body.
The kids were beyond perplexed. The scene had banished them to a state of perpetual confusion. They saw the blood dripping from the deceased offer’s head. They saw his bullet wound. They saw me wielding the pistol. But the children refused to put two and two together. It was incomprehensible to them that I, their loving father, could do another human being any harm, for any reason at all. But I had a good one. They have to learn, like they learned that there was no Santa Claus.
My wife had the worst reaction out of them all. Upon sight of the dripping corpse, she collapsed on her knees, almost instantly. Her hands trembled violently before slowly rising up to cover her beautiful mouth. After gaping at the lifeless body for what seemed like an eternity, she finally plucked up the courage to look at me. Her eyes rebuked me. “Why?” they inquired. “Why did you have to go so far? Why do you always have to save the day? Why couldn’t you just accept our fate?” Yet in those beckoning eyes, there were no sadness or tears; only a hint of relief.
But I wasn’t regretful. I wanted them to see what I did. They needed to know my act of vengeance against society.
I sipped the juice slowly as I stared at the lifeless body before me. At last, I had my revenge. And it felt great.
That was the first time I killed a man.
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"Respect existence or expect resistance"