Not like him at all


 Can you believe it?

 Gone just like that! After all the things we've done for him. I don't understand kids today. No respect. Oh, I know they said our generation was bad, with all our protest and drugs. We at least had reasons for what we did, like the Vietnam war. But these kids-- God!

 Sure, we had some clue when his grades went down. From A's to D's practically over night. You don't send a kid to private school and get back marks like that. Not without something being wrong.

 Seventeen or not, I took him by the ear and dragged him down there to one of his teachers, demanding to know what was going on.

 "I don't understand a bit of this," I said. "Billy is such a quiet boy at home, room full of books from when me and my husband went to college. He reads them all the time."

 Which was more than Billy was doing at school, this teacher told me. A regular hell on wheels, she said, and the principal was just about ready to talk to us about it, too. Apparently, Billy won't wear the school uniform and objects to what's being taught in some of the classes. He even refused to lead school prayer when it was his turn.

 Can you imagine? My Billy?

 Billy said nothing through all of this. He just gave us a look as if we were crusifying him. He wouldn't even answer our questions on the way home. Like why he changed clothing after he left for school, or what he had against his teachers.

 At home, I put his father on him, to make him answer our questions, and it took the threat of a beating to get him to say anything at all.

 And you should have heard what came out of his mouth!

 He told us uniforms were wrong. That people had a hard enough time figuring out who they were and what they wanted without everybody looking exactly the same. And the teachers were all wrong about what they were teaching, expecially history, making heros out of people like Columbus and Custard.

 Boy did that bring us up short. My husband asked where Billy had gotten all those strange ideas.

 From our books, BNilly told us, from the college texts in the attic and in his room.

 I'll tell you, if I'd known those old books would have caused so much trouble, I would have burned them a long time ago.

 My husband is a kind man. So he tried to explain to Billy how dangerous colldge can be for people not prepared for it. One has to learn the basics about math and history before going into the details. And as proof he waved Billy's report card under the boy's nose, asking how Billy ever expected to get to college with marks like those. Or into my husband's business.

 At which point Billy got hot and said he didn't want to go to college, or into his father's business. Not if it meant getting brain washed first. He said he wanted his own life and to think for himself!

 Yes, my Billy said all that and more. So much more than we had to calm him down. We told him we would look into matters. That's where we made our big mistake. We should have called the hospital right then and there. As it is I think Bill heard us talking about calling the doctor in the morning.

 Obviously some teenage trama, my husband said. A good talk with the doctor would have the boy back on track by the end of the semester.

 Well, we never got the chance. The next morning we come down to breakfast and we find this note on the table from Billy, saying he'd gone off to California.

 Later, we found out he'd taken a lot of our old stuff from the attic-- back pack and some old hippie clothing we used to wear.

 If that isn't sick, I don't know what is!

 Yes, of course we called the police. My husband figures we should have Billy back in a day or two. Meanwhile, we've made arrangements for a room at the hospital. We're not going to make the same mistake twice. Believe you me!


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