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FARM LIFE Chap 11 A Job Off the Farm

FARM LIFE Chap 11 A Job Off the Farm

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Published by Al
John takes his investigation of the farm nearby and Agri Corp a step further. Being a sheltered child growing up he does not grasp the significance of some of the things he sees around him.
John takes his investigation of the farm nearby and Agri Corp a step further. Being a sheltered child growing up he does not grasp the significance of some of the things he sees around him.

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Published by: Al on Dec 09, 2009
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12/09/2009

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A Job Off the Farm“Mom, come here, you have got to see this.” He lingered in the hall, hecould not look knowing his mother frequently did not get dressed. “Mom, please.”His mother had always served him even in her pain and when he believed that he wastoo mature to be doted over. He wished she wouldn’t but did not have any concernuntil she stopped doing when she stayed in bed most of the day and wore only herpajamas and a robe. He used a strong and unemotional voice imperative withoutbeing demanding. John was becoming a secret soldier now, for his own cause but hewas not sure what that was, and as a man with a cause he realized that herepresent something that might be important which caused his demeanor to change ashe became aware of himself in a new light.Late nights, the responsibility of a job, having to think about Mark andKel, and money was transforming John. He was developing a respect for the work hismother did or used to do for free. Finding clothes for those in need, dropping offmeals to people at home and sandwiches for those who were homeless, she cared forothers outside the immediate family. This then should be of special interest toher.“Let me have the camera.” Mark surrendered it to him. Mark’s camera hadcaptured far better images than grandpa’s old monocular. The pictures showedstrange devices but no chains, it was possible to read the labels on the bagssitting in a hand cart. The image of two Asian men standing near a small fire anda pan resting above the flame. John knocked on the door softly. “Mom? I havesomething here, I just want you to look at this.” He was past the point ofimpatience with his mother’s antics because she was his mother and he was onlyfifteen then surely she had to recover. Her strange behavior and the ways she hadchanged. By John’s body clock if he was sick by now he would have recovered. Hewas still far from the point of accepting the possibilty of her being severely illbut with his friends nearby waiting he had no consideration for this temporarycondition of hers that he had to endure.Finally a childish, mmmmmaaaAAAAAAaaammmmm, the twisted song of infantilefrustration. Hearing the bed noises from her room he felt both bad for revertingto whining and relief that she still could get up.“Can you come here?” She stalled, her voice was weak. “Please?”He walked in with the camera held out and went to her side of the bed wherethe light was good and the room was warm but the smell, the cancer smell wasstrongest. She did not know how to work the camera and had no strength or patienceto figure it out. Reality had already become dreamlike. Impatiently he grabbed thecamera from her then returned it to her on automatic display. “I don’t know whatI am looking at.” They had the bond of once having been equals, two parts thatmade a unit, parent and child, master and apprentice. Her nature was to go againstwhat was the current view of society. John and Mom, long ago, walking the streetsof the nearby town distributing sandwiches which he was jealous for the attentionwhen she made them but became glad for how they lifted everyone’s spirits.“We think it’s people in tents.” John was kneeling in the bed with her topress camera buttons and showed her the close ups. “Look how thin this guy is. Wewere patrolling the fence and we found one of them. We don’t know what language hespoke. But we think he was trying to escape that place!”“Stay home, don‘t go near there again.” The strength to sit up left her, sheclosed her eyes and lowered her head to the pillow and spoke. “Work with yourfather. You don’t need that job. Your father needs help to run the farm, helpDad.” Everyone knew John hated the farm, she was already a ghost as she timidlymade this request.“What’d she say?” Mark who waited in the hall asked excitedly.“She doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.”
 
Working for Agri-Corp was not like school or home, it was work and hedisliked it from the first and never found anything redeeming about it. He agreedwith everyone who said Work Sucks, but they kept on working they seemed glad to doit and were happy to follow orders, glad for the recognition of being given orders. What good was the money, he was fed at home and there was nothing to buy. Storeswere empty, the grocers only had uninteresting necessities. Kel and Mike, both oftheir families needed the money, they were sharp and attentive but John slouchedas he typically did and the prospect of getting on a bus and being taken to heknew not where was a little scary and daunting especially since he did not havehis parents support like the other boys did.Mr. Pelter was seen walking across the street, he gave the boys a look thattold them to stay where they were and then he stepped into the coffee shop. Thestreet became an assembly point of twenty or so of young men, half townies andhigh school kids who knew each other, the rest looked like farmers and they waitedin a common silence, they had been instructed to wait quietly. If someone’s buddyjoined the group there was nothing more said than, Hey, and Howdy, as they waiteda nod or look might follow. No one knew the significance of what was going on.They each trusted whoever recruited them and waited hopefully until a stubby whitebus stopped near the head of what had become a line that grew from the streetcorner.The bus approached the wrong way sped to the end of the block and made awide U turn. It reached them again and stopped, the door opened, a man emerged whowaved them in, he got back in the bus after everyone was on board. There wereseats for all, the doors closed and they were off. The seats were small and it wascramped on the bus and the familiarity amongst the guys made it inevitable thatquestions would be called out. The man who shepherded them on the bus finallystood.“Try to hold down the noise and all of your questions will be answeredshortly.”John and his friends were at first surprised when their principal did notboard the bus but they were glad. It would be good to start again where theauthority, the boss, had no preconception about them.After making a semicircle turn onto a ramp an awestruck sound rose, throughthe weeds and stretched across a noon sun was a long neglected stretch of theFederal highway. Many had never seen it, John had a vague memory of this endlesspavement and knew his father took it annually to market his crop and bring homesupplies. The highway had levees on both sides in some areas, in other low areasthey could see fields still flooded on both sides. The vistas of water combinedwith the loose gravel made the drive seem like an excursion on the Mississippiwhen it is rough. Semicircles of debris remained where the water had crossed thehighway.“I’ve never been this far.” Kel admitted.After an hour the bus was off the highway and stopped in front of a largesheet metal garage. Inside things were waiting for them. Jump suits and baseballcaps were first distributed. John in silent anger waved the hat under Mike’s nose,“Agri Corp,” he whispered. Mike, who needed the job, mouthed the word silently, IQuit, fitting the hat to his head he wore a satisfied expression of a subordinatewho finally turned the tables on a superior he secretly hated.People in the domed cities associated Agri-Corp with white bread, peanutbutter and marshmallow sauce, as well as artificial leather shoes, and selfheating micro meals in colorful boxes, while those in the third world saw theAgri-Corp mark on sacks of corn, rice, artificial rice and dried beans, in IowaAgri Corp meant a juggernaut of acquisition through controlling banks, themanipulation of markets and a monopoly of seeds, chemicals and plant patents. Thefamily farmer rose unrepentantly in John. As often as he rebelled against the farmlife it was too much for him to be in with and working for the enemy. Especiallythis enemy who was also hated by his father and grandfather. Terror flashed inside
 
him with the realization that he could not leave, having taken a bus here he didnot know the way home.One busload of men joined another busload in the large and poorly lit space.Five busses, a little over one hundred men more than half around John’s age almostall were desperate for work. Assembling with no instruction into a single largegroup where the light was a little better as if to show their willing faces to thenext recruiter or now more likely a boss. Some let it be known they would fightanyone thinking of edging them out for the job. They were eager to serve and thenervous turning began in each of their stomachs, if asked they would back stabeach other. These men twisted and compromised by circumstance would make loyalemployees.A large black screen on a stand came on showing a man in an ambiguous outfitdisplaying pins, chevrons and insignia, there was a slight movement in his jawsignifying that although this was a recording he was waiting for attention beforeaddressing the assembled circle. “Welcome to Agri-Corp, gentlemen. Today you willreceive the Agri-Corp uniform. Take care of your uniform, the first one is a giftfrom the company, the rest you receive will be deducted from your pay. Theflashlights and walkie-talkies you will be given are to be returned at the end ofyour work shift.” His recorded voice in the concrete block building echoed butreached most of the group in the otherwise empty garage. A desperate voices rose,What? What’d he say? “The men walking among you with clipboards are Captains andthey will help you find your assignment. Captains are your direct supervisors.Know who your captain is and follow his directions. Until you are promoted youmust obey any captain who gives you directions. Do as you are told and you will bepromoted before you know it.” There was a lightness in the last few words but itwas betrayed by the demeanor of some of the captains present who smiledsadistically. The voice ended and even the static accompanying it snapped off. Thebright image of a man in a sharp uniform projected more authority than theslouching and contemptuous captains in the room because he was recorded and on TV.Each farm was assigned six recruits. John sensed the care made in thearrangement, numbers and geometry formed a symmetry in his mind, he noticed thisimmediately and later confirmed it, Mike and Kel where sent to opposite corners ofthe farm and no one in John’s groups knew anyone else in the group. Had John beengiven a genuine education he might have gone far in mathematics but education onlystressed practical knowledge which did not interest him since his practical needswere being served by his parents.Four of the six men were always on guard duty with eight hour breaks tosleep. The instructions were simple, “If you see anything suspicious call it in onthe walkie-talkie. Call in if you see anyone going in or out of the restrictedarea. Take no other action. Trespassers are considered dangerous do not havecontact with them. Do not enter restricted areas. If in doubt call it in.”Directions so simple even a security guards could follow.It was frightening and disorienting, everyone John met had an experiencesimilar to his own. They were assigned to cold tents, issued thin sleeping bagswhich were passed from one guy to the next. Where ever John laid in the tent therewas a rock under him. Captains were also the cooks and no matter what hours youworked it was mush in the morning and the rest of the day a kettle over a firewith beans and wads of meat occasionally surfacing in it, black coffee any timeand in the morning canned grapefruit juice. Thin tissues for toilet paper anddesignated sand pits behind shrubs for toilets. The kids who were recruited mostlylived in poverty however they where kept far from this kind of hardship, at homethey laid in soft beds with half empty bellies. Being coddled despite the povertywas a side effect of the plague and made parenting an attempt to give children thecushiest life affordable for as long as possible. The hope was to keep them homeand away from carriers. The lifestyle was a gift from the previous generation whohad faltered and failed. Being spoiled was a legacy to children for whose future

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