Farmer Joe by Ruyi Wen

Farmer Joe

Ruyi Wen

Farmer Joe shook his head in disappointment when he saw the headline of the morning paper lying on the breakfast table: Turkish Terrorist Captured on Capitol Hill!

“What is the world coming to?” he sighed. “You’d think those damned foreigners would learn that what’s good for the United States of America is good for everyone! Except maybe those people in third-world countries, and they don’t count. They’re not even American citizens!”

Joe Miller was an Indianan soybean farmer who believed in rugged individualism, the Protestant work ethic, and the government’s responsibility to aid ailing agriculturalists. This last belief was the most firmly rooted in his philosophy, as Farmer Joe was the largest non-grower of soybeans in the state. Through a shrewd marriage to a senator’s daughter, he had managed to secure farm subsidies on all the land that he left fallow. This, Farmer Joe was convinced, was for the good of the country, since there was no demand for soybeans anyway. But Farmer Joe wasn’t greedy. Instead of hoarding the money, he generously gave it back to the government in exchange for more land with which not to grow soybeans. The government was so pleased with Farmer Joe’s tireless efforts for the good of the country that it gave him a monopoly on the domestic soybean market.

Farmer Joe skimmed the article about the terrorist and would have quickly moved onto the funnies page if the word soybeans in the article had not caught his attention. The newspaper reported that the terrorist, a woman—highly unusual—had not only given American military secrets to ISIS, but was known to eat organic soybeans, a practice so clearly un-American that the government was surprised it had not caught her earlier. Farmer Joe perked up at this news.

“This is the second article I’ve read this month about terrorism,” he mused, “And in that time, I’ve only seen one article about Oklahoma. My God, that must mean there are twice as many terrorists in the country as Oklahomans! And if this lady eats organic soybeans, then imagine all the demand there is for organic soybeans by the terrorists in the country!” Visions of staggering wealth danced in Joe’s head like sugarplum fairies. “I’ve got to get in on this organic soybean market! There’s some real money to be made there!”

As it turned out, Farmer Joe’s monopoly on the domestic soybean market also covered the market for organic soybeans. Farmer Joe immediately stopped not growing regular soybeans and put all his land to disuse, not growing organic soybeans. The conversion was quite simple, as none of the soybean plants that Joe didn’t have had ever been treated with pesticides. The government was pleased to learn of this development, for there was even less demand for organic soybeans than for regular soybeans, and the price of organic soybeans was three times the price of regular soybeans, which meant triple the tax the government could collect from all the organic soybeans Farmer Joe didn’t sell.

“Whaddya mean, my order will be shipped immediately?” Frankie screamed into the phone. “I’ve never gotten a shipment of soybeans from you before! What’s wrong now? I have customers who are counting on me as the most reliable non-server of soybean foods in the city!”

“Sorry, but the market’s hot for organic foods,” the wholesaler explained. “If you want organic soybeans, I wouldn’t have any to ship to you. But regular soybeans are a dime a bushel now.”

“Organic soybeans!” Frankie snapped. “Who wants organic soybeans?”

“No one,” the wholesaler replied. “That’s why there’s such a great supply of organic soybeans not getting shipped to us by a farmer in Indiana who’s got a monopoly on the market. And these organic soybeans are going at three times the price.”

“But wh—did you say three times the price?”

“Yes, sir. It takes much more time and money to grow organic soybeans, you know. Alternatives to not spraying chemicals and not using artificial fertilizers are very expensive. That’s why they’re going for three times the price.”

Frankie may have only been the owner of a small diner, but he was no idiot when it came to macroeconomics. “Three times the price? Cancel my order on the regular soybeans. I want a dozen cases of organic soybeans here by tomorrow!”

“You won’t get them, sir.”

“Good!” Frankie said triumphantly, slamming down the receiver.

Frankie’s diner was a favorite among Washington bureaucrats who hated foreign, unpatriotic foods such as soybeans, couscous and French fries. In twenty years of operation, Frankie’s diner had never been known to serve a single soy smoothie with extra wheatgrass, and it was for this reason that Allen Kater, who ordered a soy smoothie with extra wheatgrass for lunch every day, liked Frankie’s diner so much.

Kater was a high-level intelligence agent whose primary responsibility was delegating work that he couldn’t do to subordinates. Since he was not intelligent enough to do any of the work assigned to him, he performed his job superbly. Agent Kater was also constantly on a diet. His doctor had recommended soy smoothies once a day to reduce his cholesterol level, but his doctor was from Turkey. Or Turkmenistan. Kater knew it was somewhere in the Middle East, or at least Middle East-adjacent. And Kater didn’t trust the Middle East because it was full of Arabs, and wasn’t the military busy with airstrikes on Arabian-speaking Syrians right now? Kater slammed his fist on his desk. He was a patriotic, hardworking, honest-to-goodness American, and he’d be damned if he was going to take advice from an enemy of the state.

Agent Kater looked at his watch. It was nearly noon. He had been at work for almost two hours, signing papers stamped Top Secret and sending them down a chute labeled High Security, which led to an incinerator in a basement room with three padlocks on the door. Agent Kater felt his stomach grumble. It had been three hours since his doctor-recommended breakfast of eggs Benedict, bacon, and buttermilk pancakes. Actually, the breakfast his doctor had recommended was Cheerios and orange juice, but that just further proved that his doctor was an enemy of the state. Weren’t Cheerios British? Or at least something the British liked to say? And hadn’t America gone to war with Britain at least twice, and against Britain at least twice more? Kater slammed his fist on his desk. He was a patriotic, hardworking, honest-to-goodness American, and he’d be damned if he was going to take advice from a Middle Eastern insurgent who supported an enemy of the United States.

Agent Kater’s stomach grumbled again. He had been so unselfishly devoted to his work that he had nearly forgotten about lunch while contemplating the issue of terrorism. He briskly walked to Frankie’s Diner down the street and took his usual seat at the bar.

“Soy smoothie,” he said to Frankie. “Extra wheatgrass.”

Every day for the past three years, Kater had ordered a soy smoothie with extra wheatgrass at Frankie’s for lunch, and every day for the past three years, Frankie had replied that he was out of soy smoothies. Kater would then sigh, and, proud that he was following such a healthy diet, order a consolation freedom burger with freedom chili fries. Kater, always eager to do something for the good of the country, considered it his patriotic duty to eat freedom burgers and freedom chili fries whenever soy smoothies were in short supply, since it further promoted the non-production of soybeans, which he considered a subversive crop, liable to be used by communists in biochemical weapons or whatever.

Today, however, Frankie plunked down a tall glass of greenish-white liquid on the counter in front of Kater.

Kater blinked in surprise and stared at the glass. “What’s this?” he asked.

“Soy smoothie, extra wheatgrass.”

“What? But I thought you didn’t sell soy smoothies because you couldn’t get any soybeans!”

“Well, there’s no market for regular soybeans anymore,” explained Frankie. “The whole country’s going for organic food. No one’s not growing regular soybeans anymore. All the farmers are tripping over themselves to not produce organic soybeans now. Drives up the price, you know. Too bad there’s a monopoly on the market, though.”

“But can’t you still not serve regular soybeans?”

“Sorry, Al, but I’ve gotten out of that business. Now I’m only not serving organic soybeans. If you want an organic soy smoothie, it’d be three times the price of a regular soy smoothie, only I won’t have any.”

“Organic soybeans?” Kater gasped. “But who wants organic soybeans?”

Frankie shrugged. “Lots of people, I guess. It’s such a hot crop, no one can get their hands on any.”

“Organic soybeans.” Kater repeated. “That sounds pretty suspicious to me. Don’t you think organic foods are un-American?”

“Nah. Organic soybeans are being not grown all over Indiana. You can’t get much more American than Indiana.”

Kater was dismayed. Not only did he have to order organic soy smoothies from now on, he had to pay three times the money for them, and on a government salary, too! He sipped at his unappetizing soy smoothie, hungry and annoyed. And when Kater was annoyed, he took his wrath out on the nearest possible bystander, which, in this case, was a young woman, barely out of her teens, sitting a few seats down. She was sorrowfully looking at an empty glass in front of her on the counter.

“What’s that woman doing?” Kater whispered to Frankie. “The one sitting over there, not drinking anything.”

“Oh, that’s Sisi,” said Frankie. “Nice girl. German. Works for some hotshot diplomat up on Embassy Row, I think. Been coming in for my organic soy smoothies every morning for the last few months. I hate to disappoint her like this, suddenly not selling organic soy smoothies, but hey, if not planting organic soybeans is the American way, then not selling organic soybeans is my patriotic duty.”

Kater ruminated upon this. If not selling organic soybeans was patriotic, and this woman drank organic soy smoothies, then…she must be an enemy of the state! Kater narrowed his eyes suspiciously. Now that he thought about it, SISI was an anagram for ISIS. It was also ISIS backwards and upside down. You couldn’t spell terrorist without I-S. And you couldn’t spell Sisi without them either! That settled the matter. Sure, terrorists weren’t usually blonde and blue-eyed women, but after a mandatory sensitivity training Kater had undergone at work for making some perfectly justifiable and anthropologically accurate comments about Mongoloids, he had learned that racial profiling was wrong. Anyone could be a terrorist if they worked hard and believed in their dreams.

Kater tapped the young woman on the shoulder. “Ma’am, please come with me.”

The young woman blinked in surprise. “Who are you?” she asked in a slight German accent.

Kater whipped out his FBI badge. “If I told you, I would have to kill you. You may call me Agent Kater. Now come with me.”

Sisi started to get up from her seat.

“Freeze right there!” Kater screamed. “No sudden movements!” He slapped a pair of handcuffs on the woman and glared at her. “I thought we could do this the easy way, but if you’re not going to cooperate, then you leave me no choice.”

He dragged the woman back to his office and looked her up on his computer. Elisabeth “Sisi” Fischer had been born in Hamburg, which made her a Hamburger. Very suspicious, Kater thought. She was undoubtedly related to the notorious criminal The Hamburglar. And Germans, as a whole, weren’t to be trusted. Hadn’t America gone to war either with them or against them several times? And wasn’t Germany a hotbed of terrorism nowadays? It had taken in all those Turkish refugees, who were now driving trucks into crowded plazas and sexually assaulting the local women. How could anyone be sure that this Sisi Fischer wasn’t one of those German refugee terrorists, mowing down innocent civilians and groping high school girls? Kater shuddered at Sisi’s treachery. And he did not fail to note that her last name, Fischer, had an I-S in it as well. Proof again!

“Sir?” Sisi asked apprehensively.

“What?” Kater snapped irritably.

“Um… are you not going to ask me any questions?”

“What do you think I’m doing now?”

“But you have asked me nothing.”

“Oh, I’ve found out plenty. You’re a Turkish terrorist, aren’t you?”

“What? No! I am not even from the Turkey. I am German. I am here, in this country, working as an au pair.”

“An oper…what? Operations analyst? Opera singer?”

“Au pair,” Sisi repeated. “It is like, how you call it, nanny—”

“Oh, God, an operative!” Kater screamed. “I knew it! Frankie said you worked for some foreign official! You’re some kind of secret agent here to steal our government secrets and bomb the shit out of our country! That’s it. You’re under arrest!”

“What? Why am I arrested?”

“Espionage! You’ve been selling secrets to ISIS, haven’t you? I bet you’ve been tampering with my correspondence, too. That’s why I never see any of my papers after I sign them! You ought to be hanged, shot, and electrocuted for your treachery!”

“Mr. Kater! I have not—”

“How did you know my name?”

“What? You said your name is Agent Kater.”

“Don’t lie to me! I would have given you an undercover alias! No matter. The fact you spied on me to find out my real identity is just more proof of your subversive activities.”

“What are you talking about? What does subversive activities mean?”

“Hey, who’s asking the questions here, you or me?”

“You… well, I—”

“Just keep your mouth shut while I call headquarters and have them throw the book at you. Any requests for a particular book? Kafka, perhaps? Or a lovely volume by Günter Grass?”

“Wait! But I have done nothing! Do I not get a lawyer?”

“Dammit! I said I’m asking the questions around here! Besides, you have no rights if you’ve been convicted of treason.”

“But I have not been convicted of treason!”

“Are you contradicting me?”

“No—well, yes. I am!”

“Aha! So you admit it! You’re guilty! Guilty as hell! Only an insurgent bent on destroying the greatest country in the world would contradict its government agents, who are the voice of its people and the soul of its bureaucracy!” Kater yanked up the phone receiver. “Headquarters! This is Agent Kater. I’ve captured a terrorist!”

Headquarters, which had been making so little headway on its various domestic and foreign quagmires, was ecstatic to hear of this unexpected victory in the war on terror. The next day, newspapers across the country ran headline stories about Sisi Fischer, denouncing her as a terrorist spy who not only sold military secrets to ISIS, but also engaged in unpatriotic activities such as eating organic soybeans and being a Turkish refugee. Sisi Fischer was promptly shipped off to a detainment camp in Cuba and Agent Kater was promoted to a position in which he no longer even had to delegate work.

Farmer Joe shook his head in disappointment when he saw the headline of the morning paper lying on the breakfast table: Turkish Terrorist Captured on Capitol Hill!

“What is the world coming to?” he sighed. “You’d think those damned foreigners would learn that what’s good for the United States of America is good for everyone!”

About the Author

Ruyi Wen writes short stories from a quiet suburb in Texas, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and their menagerie of well-behaved houseplants.