He got  his degree and then a job, counseling
  students on  their futures.  He’d see them for
  fifteen  minutes at a time, juniors and seniors,
  all day long.   On their way out of the little town
  he’d come back  to.  He’d gone twenty-five miles
  away and no  further.  He only spoke to the
  best and the  brightest; the vocational kids

   weren’t going anywhere, the middle of the
  class would  end up like him.  It was the
  college prep  kids whose parents pushed
  them to him,  to make sure they were taking
  the right  courses, getting involved in the
  right  activities.  He made sure they looked
  good on paper,  where it counted.

At  home, his own kids were out of control;
  they smoked,  they drank, they let their hair grow.
They talked back to him.
His wife said
  she could do nothing with them.
And so as he
  guided the good kids down the
  chute towards  prosperity and respectability,
  his own  slipped behind the point he’d worked

  so  hard to reach: a home in town, nothing much,
but respectable. Each day he’d stare into the eyes
  of the  children who’d been raised right; each night
  he’d return  home to find his wife smoking a cigarette
  over a frying  pan, cooking hamburgers, with no idea
  where his boys  were or when they’d be back.  He
  knew they  weren’t playing sports, they’d given that

  up  long ago.  He suspected they were hanging out
  at the  drive-in, drinking Cokes and wasting time, not
  making  anything of themselves as he had, coming
  from nothing—a  farm north of town—and going off
  to college to  get a white-collar job.  No, they had the
  work ethic of  their mother; she’d latched on to him
  as the girl he  knew at home, the one he could always

   depend on being there when he drove back from college.
One day as he finished up at school he gazed long into the
  eyes of a boy  who was going to college back east; a math
  genius, his father a doctor.   Why couldn’t my boys be like
  that, he  almost said aloud as he ushered the boy out his wood
  and frosted glass  office door.  Then he went home,
  as if in a daze, opened up the back door  and found his wife

   smoking, as usual.  He opened up the knife drawer, took one
   out and said  “C’mon—upstairs.”  She didn’t believe him at
  first, thought  he was kidding, but he backed her out of the
  kitchen, up to  the second floor where the boys’ bedroom was.
There he kept  her until the kids came home, trooped upstairs
  and ran past  him into the room to find her sitting on the floor,
  leaning against the  wall.  Their father told them to sit down next

  to  her; they were all going to stay there for a good long time
  until they’d  changed their attitude.  The boys complained at
  first but  after a while realized that their father meant business;
  the knife was  real, and the look on his face was grim, determined.
“What do you  want us to do?” one of the boys asked in a sharp tone.
“I want you to  make something of yourselves,” he snapped. 
you,”he snarled at his wife, “I want you to make something

  out  of them while I’m gone all day making something out of other
  people’s  kids.”  The mother and the two boys sat nervously, not
  moving, like  dolls lined up on the floor, the sun from the west
  spilling over  their shoulders.  They stared across the room at the
  father, who  finally had to get up and relieve himself in the bathroom
  down the  hall.  The elder boy climbed out a window quickly,
  shinnied down  a pole, and ran to the police station ten blocks away.

The  police surrounded the house and the man came out with his hands
  up over his  head; he’d dropped the knife when they told him to.
They put him  away in the State Home of the Mentally Disturbed,
  where he  advised other inmates on career choices available to them.

From Town  Folk & Country People

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