The stepford student, p.1
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       The Stepford Student, p.1
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           Kenneth Kerns
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The Stepford Student
The Stepford Student

  A Mike Adams Story

  by Kenneth Kerns

   2013 by Kenneth Kerns. All rights are reserved.

  ISBN 978-1311320506

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  “The Stepford Student”

  Sneak Peek at “The Young Mike Adams”

  Copyright Information

  Other fiction by Kenneth Kerns

  The Stepford Student

  IT HAD STARTED so simply, so innocently.

  I remember it like it was yesterday. David and I were waiting in line at Griffith Stadium during Homecoming in our sophomore year at the University.

  “You sure you want to slum it down here with the rest of us?” I said, ribbing him a bit.

  “It beats listening to my father schmooze another room full of rich alumni,” David replied.

  He was probably right. Just as we were approaching the front of the line, we heard some commotion behind us. We turned, and there they were.

  Lauren, David’s girlfriend, was making her way through the crowd with a toughness she rarely displayed but the two of us were well acquainted with. In her wake, a young woman with wavy blonde hair followed.

  “Lauren?”

  “I’m not missing this!” she said. “I have worked too hard all semester. I need a break.” The stress of being pre-med could make anyone seem crazy.

  “Fine,” I said. I tilted my head to the side, looking back at her follower.

  “Oh! Right! Mike, meet Chloe. We met in poetry class, I think you two have a lot in common,” she explained.

  “Hi,” I said. Her big, doe eyes were intoxicating. “Tell me, do you like poker?” She nodded. “We have a weekly game, you should join us sometime.”

  Unfortunately, we were being ushered through and my attention drifted elsewhere. The four of us, plus thousands of our closest friends were being crammed into bleachers on one side of the stadium.

  I had been able to get us seats near the 50-yard line. We were able to see everything without straining a muscle. The crowd nearest us was not yet in a drunken stupor, although plenty of our fellow townies were. These were pretty good seats, all things considered.

  There was a lull before the first act began. The screaming fans started a wave of arm-flailing, sending rows or orange and blue shirts into the air and back down to earth.

  “Mike, look!” David pointed to one of the gates just as a stream of people came out. My best friend always had an eye for the eye candy. He always remained faithful, but like Lauren, was relentless in trying to get me dating.

  This time, his eye had caught a glimpse of something worth watching, but not for the usual reasons. It looked like a string of co-ed cheerleaders, but they were not from the official Gator squad. True, they were not as good looking, or as talented, but they were unexpected, which made them interesting.

  Interesting sights are the bread and butter of creative types. Cursing my decision to leave my notebook behind, I made a mental note to jot this down in it later. The notes I take of the event would not be as sharp as they could be, and certainly wouldn’t capture every detail, but I knew I had to have a record of this.

  The unofficial cheerleaders were all wearing golden shirts and blue pants or skirts. Each shirt was emblazoned with initials I had never seen on campus before.

  I leaned over to David. “GLF?”

  “Gator Leadership Foundation.”

  “What’s that?”

  “A charity funded by alumni. I’ve heard some of the guys talk about it after chapter meetings.”

  Some of the guys. I remember shaking my head at that thought. My friend was a member of the Alpha Iota Chi fraternity house, one of the more influential Greek-letter organizations on campus. It also had a reputation for pulling some of the most elaborate pranks on rival Houses, as a way of reinforcing its perch at the top of the hill on Fraternity Drive.

  The GLF squad continued their routine, spelling out L-E-A-D-E-R, before I noticed a crucial difference in their performance. Whereas most cheerleaders put energy and emotion into what they were doing, even when they were just acting, this squad was stiff, almost lifeless. At first, I thought it was their nerves or inexperience, but as I sat and watched, I realized it was neither of those things. Rather, their routine reminded me of a six-year-old version of me, when I repeated a curse word and my mother told me to apologize; I had, but I didn’t mean it, I only went through the motions. That perfunctory quality shined through in this performance. Someone made this troupe get out in front of tens of thousands of their fellow students and Gator fans.

  What could compel a dozen or more young men and women, adults really, to do something embarrassing like amateur cheerleading at Homecoming?

  A FEW MONTHS LATER, during the spring semester, David and I were hanging out in our shared apartment. A few friends had been invited over.

  “I personally liked the Casino Night,” I said upon my return from the kitchen. I passed the drinks to everyone before sitting back down.

  “That’s only because you won the door prize and had a knack for the roulette wheel,” Tyler Jenkins retorted. He was our residence hall advisor our freshman year. The sports journalism major was also a source of contradictions: the sci-fi fan was in a frat and was responsible for introducing David to the Alpha Iotas. So it was not surprising to hear him dismiss events like the Casino Night that he had worked very hard on.

  David tossed a betting chip into the center of our dining room table. “I’m in.”

  “All I’m saying is, it’s not like I’m one of those people who stalk the penny slots in Atlantic City,” I tried saying in my own defense. I added a chip of my own to the pile. “But I thought the gambling they did allow was quite entertaining and I had a good time.”

  “Give me a double deck of cards and a professional dealer, and I’ll show you where all the real action is,” Tyler said as he raised the bet to two chips.

  “Texas Hold ‘Em?” I asked.

  David looked at the clock.

  “Hell yeah,” Tyler replied.

  It was past ten o’clock at night. David shifted in his seat as he called Tyler’s bet.

  “Have a hot date later?” I joked as I added my chip.

  “Maybe,” David said uncomfortably.

  “Lauren’s coming over?”

  “If she can pull herself from the books,” David said.

  “Let’s see what you’ve got,” Tyler announced.

  There was a knock at the door. David leapt up, dropped his cards, and practically ran for the door. I turned and look at Tyler, who shrugged. The apartment grew silent save for the tick-tock of an analog clock on a nearby wall.

  Tyler had won the hand, greedily scooping up the small pile of chips, and adding them to his neatly arranged stacks of winnings.

  When David didn’t return right away, I got up out of my seat and went looking for him near our front door. Tyler stayed behind to count his chips and finish his beer.

  What I saw was curious. The door was left ajar, but David was nowhere to be found. I opened the door wider, and looked outside. My mind was already speculating that maybe he decided on a late-night walk around the neighborhood when my gaze drifted down toward our welcome mat.

  A golden-orange envelope had been ripped open and tossed aside. I took it, turned it over, and found no return address. All I saw was the remains of an old-timey wax seal that had been embossed with a logo consisting of a Venn diagram and an acronym I had only seen once before.

  GLF.

  DAVID DID NOT return to the apartment until long after I had crashed on the couch waiting for his return. Around daybreak, I woke up. Still blurry-eyed, I stumbled down the hall and tripped over something.

  I bent down to pick up a
soggy t-shirt that reeked of two distinct odors. One of them, undoubtedly, caused the t-shirt’s dampness. The other smell was less familiar. It was kind of smoky. Was it from a camp fire? Nah that was not quite it. David didn’t smoke, so I didn’t think it was cigarettes. But it was kind of a sweet smell, like a nice cigar or—

  I tossed the shirt down the hall toward David’s room. After wiping my hands on my shorts, I made like a bee to the bathroom. In the comfort of privacy, I leaned against the door, listening to myself hyperventilate. I finally convinced myself I was reacting foolishly. After all, this isn’t the first time I suspected or witnessed David acting recklessly.

  So what if David had tried marijuana?

  I DID NOT get a chance to talk to him about it later that morning. I had fallen back asleep and was already running late for class when I finally got up again.

  Social Problems. What a drag, eh? I took it as an easy elective, and it sure has lived up to the billing. All the same, I was not going to take my A for granted, so I made sure to show up. I managed to get there just as the professor was getting started.

  Like many of my classes, it was in one of the large lecture halls on the University Plaza. The room was only half-full, and I slipped into one of the middle rows while the professor’s back was turned.

  “Mike?” someone whispered from behind me.

  I turned my head, and saw big, gray doe-eyed pupils, a wavy mane of bright blonde hair, and a pink sun dress, a combination that belonged to only one person.

  “Oh, hi, Chloe,
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