The Martyrdom of St. Ferris
David Lee Beowülf
He let his hands slide across the glass countertop, letting them come to a rest after hitting a clear plastic bucket filled with plastic key rings. I thought I was in the library. This isn’t the library.
“Sir,” the girl behind the counter said to the man. “Sir, can I help you with anything?” She was wearing comfortable jeans and a sweatshirt sporting a local high school’s logo. She was very pretty for a 17-year old behind-the-counter-girl (she was the hardware store owner’s daughter, too).
I’m at home. I’m watching TV. No, I’m supposed to be studying.
“Sir,” said the girl again. “Sir, is there something I can help you find? Do you need any help finding something?”
Help. Yes, I need help! Finding something? Yes! I need to find something. I need to find something I’m supposed to be studying. What? I’m watching TV. In the house. Finding something. Where?
“Excuse me,” began the girl once more. “Sir, is there something you want to buy?”
Buy? I’m on television. But I should be studying.
“Sir, do you want to buy something-“
“Yes!” he replied. “I want to buy a vowel. An ‘E’ please.”
“What? Sir, are you drunk?”
“Drunk? Hey! Where am I?! This isn’t Wheel of Fortune?!”
“Sir! If you don’t get out of here I’m going to call the police!”
“Police?! You’ll never take me, coppers!” He grabbed a shovel off the wall and quickly jumped up and perched on the counter. “I want to buy a vowel! Gimmie that ‘E!’ Wait! Help! Help? Help!”
The girl’s father and brother, hearing the commotion, rushed upstairs from the lumber room below and tackled the young man, knocking him unconscious and letting the shovel fall onto the glass countertop, which shattered into a million pieces. A police ambulance took him to the local infirmary, where he was released a day later in the custody of University officials, who explained that “they would take care of it.” It also didn’t hurt that the young man’s father paid for the damages in full.
At the very same time, Anders Fredrickson, a fine young S_ University sophomore was sitting down to a pleasant brunch at his girlfriend’s parent’s house. He called them “Sir” and “Ma’am.” Which they appreciated, even though they were more used to “Mr. Silver” or “Mrs. Silver.” His girlfriend, their daughter, was named Gladys. This was Anders’ first time meeting Mr. and Mrs. Silver.
Since Gladys was quite attractive, smart, and tremendously wealthy, not to mention that he did have genuine feelings of affection for her, Anders thought that he’d better make the best impression possible.
“Well,” began Mrs. Silver. “Gladys tells us you’re studying economics.”
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Anders, who all of a sudden began to not feel very well.
“Fine field,” said Mr. Silver. “Find out how the world runs. Can’t have too many good, smart economists, you know!”
“Well, sir,” said Anders. “I’m really interested in banking. But I think it’s better to get a broader education in traditional economics rather than limit myself to finance.” Banking? Banking! I have a bank account.
“Sounds like you have a pretty good head on those shoulders, Anders,” replied Mr. Silver.
Head and shoulders? Hair? Did I wash my hair?
“So Gladys says you’re doing well at S_,” said Mrs. Silver. “It’s such a lovely school.”
The voice in Anders’ head said, School? Lovely? This house is nice. The chair is comfortable. I like the smell of fresh coffee, I never liked it so much. Roasting coffee smells good. I hate drinking instant coffee at night when I’m trying to study. Why do I drink coffee at night? It’s so distracting to drink coffee, I just realized. Is this a good thing? Can I get any work done? I never drank coffee in high school. Now in college I have to drink coffee? Why? Maybe it’s because…
“Are you all right, son?” asked Mr. Silver.
“Huh?” said Anders, slightly startled. “Oh, excuse me, I’ve been up late, um, studying, and am a bit tired today.”
“Good! You’ll learn that you don’t need much sleep to be successful! Just remember: big bags under the eyes makes a man a CEO!”
Two servants dressed in white entered the room and set up a brunch that included eggs benedict, fresh kiwi fruit, white wine crepes, and caviar paste for the freshly-baked bagels. When Anders turned back at his hosts, he noticed a pronounced horn had grown from Mr. Silver’s forehead.
“Anders,” said Gladys. “I told daddy about you being recently elected as Sergeant-at-Arms of Kappa Sigma Rho.”
Arms? thought Anders. Three sets of arms, with matching hands, instantly sprouted from Mr. and Mrs. Silver’s sides. At the same time, one of the bagels grew legs and began to dance around the table.
“Good man, Anders,” said Mr. Silver as he served himself eggs benedict. “I’m a frat man, myself. Served as Treasurer of Phi Kappa Zeta for two years. Great experience, too.”
“So, Anders,” said Mrs. Silver. “I’ve heard some bad things about the fraternities at the University. I hope you don’t have plans to kill and eat our Gladys.”
Mr. Silver looked Anders in the eye and said, “arrfhg, drfgwgm mrglggup! I like your brain.” His eyes widened to twice that possible of a normal human.
Anders grabbed a fork and leapt up on the table, knocking the tray of crepes to the floor. “Oh, yeah, Pops!” he screamed. “You’ll never take me alive, you freaks! Try this on for size!” He moved to drive the fork into Mr. Silver’s head — darkness.
Anders noticed that he was wearing only a hospital gown and was being held down by tight leather straps when he woke up in the emergency room. He had a very bad headache and had the lingering taste of vomit in his mouth. A doctor walked in.
“Mr. Fredrickson” said the doctor. “You had the Silvers’ pretty worried, but you’ll pull through OK. I don’t understand why you kids do these things to yourselves. I imagine you have quite a headache, but there’s no permanent damage I can see. I thought you idiots stopped taking Jimpson Weed seeds in the 1970s.”
Anders was released that evening. Gladys drove him back to his dormitory. She explained, on the way back, that her parents were very concerned that he was all right, and that she didn’t think he was the kind of boy who would take drugs before meeting his girlfriend’s parents. Anders, still with a bit of the headache, pled with her to believe that he was not on drugs.
Friday night was Kappa Sigma Rho’s “House” party, with music supplied by one of the myriad San Francisco techno DJs available for such events. The flashing lights were owned by the fraternity, who, naturally, supplied the right amount of alcohol. And, almost as naturally, there were plenty of “controlled substances” and “smart drugs” available for those attendees who wanted the true “house” experience. The parties always started at midnight and ended around five in the morning. KSR’s parties were tops on campus for the last three years, thanks to Social Chairman Ferris Bueller.
Tonight, the Friday before winter finals, was the special “Mud Slide” winter closer. To celebrate the end of the rainy season, Ferris had commissioned a local ice cream parlor to whip up twenty gallons of chocolate fudge and tequila sundaes.
“Ferris,” said Ross Bacher, a fellow KSR brother, “this has to be the sickest, ugliest party of the century!”
“I expect,” replied Ferris, “that the yard will be an unusual shade of brown tomorrow morning! I was thinking of adding some Guinness once the ice cream starts running low!”
“Dude! That stuff’ll make everyone shit blood!”
“Ahh, you just don’t appreciate fine art! Hey, where’s Nick? Where the hell is that idiot?”
“He told me he wasn’t doing too well in school and needed to get a head start on finals week.”
“Impossible! You don’t miss a celebration of the Spring Equinox because of a stupid test! This is S_ University! We’re smart already! I consider this an insult to the integrity of the fraternity! Where do you think he is? The library?”
“I think he’s up in his room, the library’s too crowded for him.”
“Well, I didn’t brew all this coffee for nothing!” Ferris grabbed a Thermos labeled “Zooooom!” and called out to another KSR brother: “Anders! Frat business! Emergency!”
“What’s up, Ferris? This party rocks!” said Anders Fredrickson.
“Anders,” began Ferris. “Nick has decided to abandon the fraternity’s honor tonight. He’s studying. Something must be done!”
“Dude,” said Anders, “Nick’s in trouble this quarter, he dropped boundary value problems.”
“Serves him right for majoring in engineering and joining a frat! Besides, if he wants to pull an all-nighter, it should be for a good reason!
“And since this party is a good reason, I added some extra octane to Sloan’s coffee tonight, just in case a few weaker brothers needed help to stay up and, and,… And! Nick needs a refill! Let’s go!”
Anders and Ross looked at each other in casual agreement. Anders quickly told his girlfriend Gladys that he’d be back in a minute. Ferris put his deputy Social Chairman in charge of things until he returned and the three of them left the party and walked up a few flights of stairs to Nick’s room.
Ferris instructed Ross to knock down Nick’s door. Ross opted to simply knock hard.
“What the fuck do you want?!” Nick yelled from inside.
“Get out here, you pussy!” shouted Ferris. “You’re letting down the entire frat!”
Nick opened his door and said, “look, I need to study, OK.”
“Then why is your TV on, mister?! Is Vanna White helping you with your calculus?” asked Ferris.
“I like to study with the TV on. Helps me concentrate.”
“Concentrate, schon-centrate! You have to make an appearance, otherwise I’ll look bad; the fraternity will look bad. And I don’t intend to look bad, and I sure as hell won’t let you make the frat look bad; that’s why I brought Anders with me to enforce fraternity rules!”
Nick looked at Anders, who giggled quietly. Then he looked at Ross, who was holding the “Zooooom!” Thermos. He noticed that the “Z” was drawn to resemble a lightning bolt.
Ferris said, “Sloan made her secret coffee, just so you could pull an all-nighter!”
“I’m not drinking anything tonight, especially after what you made me do last Friday.”
“Still sore about that? Hey, I didn’t know Chelsea had such a powerful left hook! Dude, you need to relax with women! She told me that if you ever touch her again, her mom would suck the marrow out of your bones!”
“Fuck you, asshole! No way! Not tonight! If I flunk out my parents will kill me.”
“Family values, eh? Sounds like your mom and dad need to reevaluate their cultural imperative… Come on, man, listen to that music: the pounding, pulsating beats, the lights, the babes bouncing… You have the rest of the weekend to study… “
Anders, who had poured a cup of coffee for Nick, said, “dude, drink this and you’ll have all the energy you need to study. Just spend a couple of hours there and come back… “
“You drink it, Anders,” said Nick.
“Not a problem,” Anders said as he lifted the Thermos above his head and poured hot coffee into his mouth, some of which splashed on his shirt, making little brown streaks on the white cotton. When he had finished, he wiped off his chin and handed the mug to Nick.
“OK,” said Nick after he had downed the coffee, “just for an hour.”
Before the Sunday fraternity meeting, which would be short as it was finals week, Kappa Sigma Rho president Kyle Filstrup took Ferris aside.
“Dude,” started Kyle, “what did you do to Anders and Nick?”
“What are you talking about?” replied Ferris.
“They’re in the hospital and the cops arrested Nick for being on drugs.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“Somebody’s asking questions about the party. Somebody’s asking me about the party.”
“Frat guys get sick all the time on weekends.”
“From drinking coffee?”
“Sure. It’s finals week, right? Students drink a lot of coffee and take speed. Everyone knows this. I don’t see what the big deal is.”
“So why aren’t you sick?”
“I don’t have any tests until Thursday! Besides, I’m in marketing, I’m supposed to study the night before tests.”
“You’ll have to explain that to a special guest tonight.”
The weekly fraternity meeting was called to order, with all present save for Nick and Anders. The order of business hadn’t changed from previous weeks: role call, approval of last week’s minutes, committee reports, treasurer’s report, and general discussion. But before this week’s general discussion started, the president made an announcement.
“Brothers,” said Kyle. “Two KSR men were hospitalized on Saturday. We don’t know why, but Dean Reilly is waiting outside to speak with us.” Kyle looked at Anders’ replacement and said, “Derek, please let him in.”
Dean Reilly was escorted into the meeting room, and Kyle offered him a seat.
“No, thank you, Kyle,” said the Dean. “This won’t take very long.” He crossed his arms as he stepped to the front of the meeting room to address the group. “As you are well aware, two members of Kappa Sigma Rho spent the better part of the weekend in the hospital. One was arrested for disturbing the peace, vandalism, and attempted murder. Is there anything anyone wants to tell me before the police come around tomorrow?”
The meeting room was silent.
“Look, Sloan’s gone for at least a month,” Ferris said, as he and Ross drove out onto the highway. “These things, coincidentally, usually take a month — or less — to blow over. As her boyfriend of four years, the least I have is the right to borrow her car, right? She did ask me to look after it over break, didn’t she? Besides, I’m just a cell-phone away, right?” He popped open the glove compartment, revealing an elaborate communications setup.
“What about your car?”
“Don’t have one! Sloan’s dad took care of that one! We’re boyfriend and girlfriend — we share things. Get it? Like her father’s car. Relax! Like I said, this thing’ll blow over, besides, I’ve always wanted to see Mexico.”
“I don’t know, Ferris. We only have two weeks for break, missing the first couple of weeks of school would most likely reflect negatively upon my future.”
“Dude, you are way too up-tight! Don’t you know what the ‘college experience’ is all about? College isn’t about going to classes, it’s about getting out and learning something about the world. You can’t let school get in the way of college, Ross! Hey, look inside my bag and take out what you see.”
Ross complied. He found a medium-sized zipper-lock type clear plastic bag that contained about a dozen small, spherical amber pills.
“What’s this, Ferris?”
“That, my friend, is what made the coffee go Zooooom!”
“You crazy shit! If they find this shit at the border we’re going to jail!”
“I don’t think so. First of all, they’re not illegal, at least not yet. Secondly, we aren’t going to get searched. I’m an American, you’re an American. We’re white, middle-class college students going to Tijuana in a middle-class car. The cops won’t even notice us.”
“What are you going to do with these pills, then?”
“I’m going to take a couple and lie on the beach by the Sea of Cortez for two weeks straight, that’s what.”
“This shit sent Anders and Nick to the hospital!”
“That’s just because they were so uptight to begin with. Todd found them during some research trip digging up ruins in Belize or something like that. They’re some kind of Mayan aspirin, he thinks. And besides, what damage did they really do? Anders got a little sick, from Gladys’ lousy food, and Nick woke up with a headache because the hardware store owner beat the shit out of him!”
“Yeah, well, I haven’t seen Todd since before the party, where’d he go, anyway?”
“Since he’s a grad student, he probably disappeared at the command of his advisor. I think he’s supposed to go live with the Mayans some more, write a paper about it, and then live the joyous life of an unemployed professional anthropologist. Anyway, I put eight of them in the coffee, one should only last about six hours. Go ahead and try one, tell me what you see!”
“Have you taken any?”
“Of course! I took one before the party! They’re great! I was up all finals week and aced my tests!”
Ross fished out one of the seeds, popped it in his mouth, and washed it down with Mountain Dew. Ferris drove through the night until reaching the Mexican border. On the way, Ross was able to explain, for several hours it was really, really dark outside.
Ross woke up with a start, saw the bars in front of him, and smelled the stench of human waste. He quickly realized that Ferris’ screams from the adjacent cell were what woke him up. He got to his feet and looked towards the small crowd from where Ferris’ screams seemed to be coming.
The guards left Ferris sobbing on the floor of his cell, pulled their pants up, and approached Ross’ cell.
“Your driver is too uptight, amigo.” one of them said with a light Mexican accent. They all looked at Ross and then left.
Ross looked over at Ferris, who was lying in a pool of dark liquid. “Ferris,” he said hoarsely. “Ferris!”
Ferris did not reply, but wept and occasionally coughed. After about five minutes, he was unconscious, and all Ross could hear was his muffled breathing. Ross did not panic, at first he did not believe what he was seeing. But, remembering an old cliche, he pinched himself, then slapped his thigh with his hand. Finally, he reached out and grabbed at the bars imprisoning him. This was real. Realizing what had happened to Ferris, he checked his clothing. No, nothing had been “tampered” with. He even had his wallet, which, to his amazement, still had $200 in it. His windbreaker had not been removed either. He felt something in the jacket’s inside pocket. It was a baggie half-full of those amber pills from the night before.
The cell’s walls began to shake and Ross felt himself get uncomfortably warm. He knew it was nighttime, but the light shining through the little windows was more characteristic of high noon.
“Ferris!” he shouted. Ferris did not awaken.
The rear wall collapsed into a pile of broken brick and mortar. Ross turned around at the noise and was blinded by an intense light. Yet he kept to his feet. He felt himself in the grip of strong but very wet hands that pulled him out of the cell through the rubble that a moment before was the rear wall. He felt himself lifted up onto a platform of some sort.
He regained his sight a few moments later. He saw, through a porthole, the Earth below him get rapidly smaller, and then turned around. One of them was at what appeared to be the craft’s controls, while the other looked back at Ross with its huge, single eye. It reached into Ross’ jacket and pulled out the baggie with one of its tentacles.
It smiled at Ross and said, “Zooooom!”