On the way back to New Jersey, Cal was dead silent, but Philmore could not stop yapping:
“I knew it! Just one germ could cripple agriculture!
“It’s the ‘great correction’ for the harm we’ve done to nature!
“There’s no doubt anymore! Organic plants are superior!
“Time to convert to sustainable agriculture, before it’s too late!
Cal Radi was focused on another great correction.
Philmore dropped him off in front of the barracks at Terra. As the boss vanished from sight, Cal reached into his pocket and removed the vial of Prime Slime.
Blood burned through his veins as he gazed at the murky contents.
While fondling his new possession, Cal’s friend and workmate, Sonny Noche, called over. “Que Paso, Chico?
Sonny was sitting tranquilly under a big oak tree, sporting an old Yankee baseball cap and hiding from the sun. His dark, leathery skin betrayed a lifetime of working the fields with Cal. They’d begged and filched on Mexican streets since childhood, later finding work in migrant camps, and finally for Terra’s nursery.
“I got somethin’ big.”
“No, man, this is bigger than weed.”
“Hey, I don’t do that other stuff!”
“It’s not drugs, Vato! I got somethin’ joo won’t believe. Pack your bags, amigo. We’re going home. I’ll ‘splain later in the car.”
Before long, Sonny pulled up in a pink, low-rider, 1957 Pontiac Star Chief convertible, with massive frame, fins, and a stuttering exhaust. Nothing could capture America’s jet-age passion for chrome, steel and raw power like this sculpted masterpiece. Old friends would hit the road once more, perhaps for the last time.
“We’re gonna fuck those assholes!”
“What assholes?” The rev of the engine censored Cal’s curses.
“Joo know, those mega-farm fucks that ran us into the ground.”
“Yeah, that was some bad chit, man. We was treated like dogs.”
“Dogs got it made compared to us! But now it’s paybacks.”
“Joo got weapons? Hey man, I ain’t never killed nobody.”
“No, no, cabron, dis is perfect revenge.”
“What choo got, man, a ‘tomic bomb?”
“Even better.” Cal exposed the tube. “This chit kills all kinds of crops, man, and quick, but not da organic stuff.”
“These germs eat shitty plants, treated with chemicals ‘n chit.”
“What we gonna do with dat little ting?”
“There’s billions of bugs in dis tube. We’ll make gallons of it.”
“And do what?”
“Spray the filthy factory farms all the way back to Laredo.”
Sonny Noche’s eyes lit up like hot embers. His hatred ran deep. Revenge was everything. His head twitched from the pent up anger. Cal’s face twisted with hatred. They were treated like shit. Now it was time for it all to hit the fan.
Cal jumped into the front seat, and they drove to the tool shed to make more slime. They filled two large backpack compost tea dispensers with water, bacterial culture medium and Prime Slime.
“Dis should do it!”
“What’s da plan, man?” Sonny asked. Cal plotted the roads they’d take. They knew every major farm, having picked cotton in Texas, oranges in Florida, and apples in New York.
“Let’s do it like in da old days. We’ll hit da big farms from here to Missouri, den go south through Texas. A squirt here, a squirt there; dis stuff’ll last all da way to Laredo.”
“Dat’s a big job, man. We got enough bugs?”
“Dis chit is serious, Chico! A little goes a long way.” Sonny suddenly grew paranoid, and stuck his head outside to look around:
“Anyone know joo got it?”
“Señor Potts will find out eventually, when he sees us gone. He knows where we’re from, where we been.”
“He’ll be pissed!” Sonny cried.
“But he’ll thank us in da end. We’ll do da world a big favor.” Cal crafted Philmore a note about a family emergency back home.
With a magic marker and a tattered map, they planned their revenge, farm by farm. The sins of the masters would be punished, slime for slime. Cal marked the cities they’d pass: Philly, Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Tulsa, Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Laredo. He circled the large farms, and dotted the smaller farms in between. Cal and Sonny weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but they knew the land and what grew on it.
Cal appreciated the great power in his grasp, and had the skill to unleash it. His life never amounted to much, but what he learned would serve him well. This moment justified all his pain and shame. He was put on Earth to avenge his ancestors.
“The Pontiac’s warmed up. We better go.”
“We’ll ditch it along da way, den ride da trucks, trains and back roads to San Anton’. Uncle Chuy will drive us to da border.”
Provisions were packed away in the back seat, next to the canisters. Each bump in the road mixed and aerated the canister contents. Incubation conditions were ideal for Prime Slime growth.
Sonny wanted to see the destruction first hand, so they stopped at the neighboring farm. “Señor Potts will be happy we sprayed dese cocksuckers!” Cal shouted. They sprayed a plot of GMO soybeans on the side of the road. After half an hour, nothing happened.
“I don’t see jack,” Sonny cried.
“Too dry,” Cal surmised. “Tings won’t happen till it rains.”
“God’s on our side,” Cal reckoned. “We’ll get a head start before dis ting ignites.”
They drove into the sunset, top down, singing Mexican songs, spraying plants along the roadside. None of the mega-farms were spared, as they retraced familiar routes. Sonny swerved the car left & right, depending on which side the farms resided. One squirt sufficed; two for the big farms; three for those they hated most.
As Cal surmised, dry conditions kept Prime Slime at bay. In time, however, some farmers noticed patches of destruction on the edges of their fields. It was something previously unseen, and not covered in textbooks. A few farmers notified the USDA, but local inspectors were at a loss. Since the damage was spotty and small scale, it was dismissed as a wrinkle in a season full of problems.
If not distracted by international terrorists, USDA officials might have taken Prime Slime more seriously. More ominous biological, chemical and nuclear threats were on their radar. Small patches of slime did not fit the description or pattern anticipated, and was expected to abate once the rains came. However, some farmers noticed that watering damaged, rather than diminished, the slime.
The US government was embroiled in crises. Homeland Security was focused on border control. The FDA patrolled imports and monitored drug claims. FBI and CIA agents stopped illegal drug flow and profiled Muslims. The National Guard protected US oil interests overseas. So, Prime Slime simmered in the fields.
The two lowly farmhands traveled from pumpkin patch to cornfield, sporting their fancy squirt guns. After ditching the Pontiac in Missouri, they headed due south. Like two mud flaps dangling from a truck, they sprayed their payload on farm after farm. Nothing–not corn, soybean, rice, wheat, sunflower, potato or alfalfa–was spared.
Painful memories resurfaced as they retraced the old highways and byways. Born to Mexican peasants, they were forced early on to hard, mundane, dangerous work. As part of the mass migration of illegal aliens, they planted and harvested the US crop. Undocumented and ineligible for help, they were paid little for their labor, and rarely housed or cared for. They slept on dirt and under bridges.
Conditions were especially harsh on Sonny, who suffered from asthma. They would never forget the long days, baking in the hot sun, covered in dirt, pesticides and sticky fuzz from ripe fruit.
They were half way through Texas–and hours from the border–when the first trickle of rain soothed their craggy skin. A powerful system was working its way up the Gulf. Cal made the sign of the cross, asking God for forgiveness. Revenge was on the horizon.