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Ferris Bueller: Day of Retribution

When the guy at the window called my name he said Cameron, and I didn’t know who the fuck he was talking about. I’ve been just Frye for so long. Cameron, he said, Cameron, in this bored voice, Cameron. And then I couldn’t help but think, Cameron is dead, man.

I didn’t say it though. I didn’t say anything. If I had, they wouldn’t’ve let me out. And I needed to get out. I could taste getting out like it was cotton candy melting on my tongue. Sweet. So sweet it hurt my teeth.  I swallowed it down and savored it and I tried not to shake with anticipation. I just nodded, like a dummy, like a buffoon, like a guy named Cameron would nod. I even somehow managed to plaster a smile on my face. Goofy, innocent. It felt like I was wearing a mask, like I’d found some old plastic Richie Cunningham mask I wore to Halloween in the second grade and put it on again. But it worked. They gave me a change of clothes and my gate money and put me on a bus headed north.

Sitting on a bus without any reading material gives a guy a lot of time to think. Reminisce, I’d say, but not a lot has happened to me in the past few decades. Well, I guess a lot has happened, really, to me, and near me while I tried to avert my eyes, but it’s been mostly the same handful of things again and again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I started off my time at Joliet. When it closed, they moved me to Stateville. That’s the only two places I’ve been in my adult life. It’s really weird to stop to think about it. I spent 31 years of my life in prison. That was longer than I spent on the outside. It didn’t matter, really, though. I was in just as much of a prison outside as inside. I am an institutional man. From day one.

The old man had it coming. It’s just that simple. Had. It. Coming. He got home that night and he found out about the car and he flipped his shit. Just like I knew he would. Things got out of hand and he said some stuff. No surprise there. The stuff hurt. Gee, didn’t see that coming. Then I flipped my shit, and it turned out that me flipping my shit was actually kind of a shock to everyone. I don’t even remember hitting him the first time, just looking down and realizing he was on the floor and bleeding and I had the jack handle in my hand. And then she appeared in the doorway screaming. Cameron, Cameron, What Have You Done Cameron. She wouldn’t shut up. She had it coming too. I don’t even know why they had a kid if all they wanted was peace and quiet and luxury automobiles.

My parents wouldn’t let me eat hot dogs till I was 14 years old. 14! They were afraid of choking, they said, but really it was because hot dogs weren’t like, I don’t know, sophisticated enough or something. They didn’t want the kind of kid that ate hotdogs and wiped his nose on his shirtsleeve. But that’s the only kind of kid that there is. So that was what I did, after. I went to the store and I got some hot dogs and buns and relish and marshmallows and came back and I lit that horrible monstrosity of Modern Architecture on fire and had myself a good old fashioned weenie roast, at least that’s what I did till the cops showed up. The Sausage King of Chicago would have approved.

But whatever. That’s in the past. I’m reformed, I guess. I served my time, paid the price, and now I’m free, whatever that means. I’m free to do the only thing left for me to do on this earth.

I’m gonna kill Ferris Bueller.

By the morning after my release from Stateville I had done two things, neither of which got me any closer to my goal, but both of which were very welcome occurrences. I had sex with 3 prostitutes at the same time, which cost me all my gate money but was worth every penny. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking some up. And I had the first solo shower I’d had in 3 decades. It wasn’t clean, the shower stall wasn’t, I mean, there was mildew and a thick layer of orange scum on the walls and old rust stains around the fixtures.  And the water wasn’t anything approaching hot either, but I was alone, and it was bliss. There wasn’t any soap in the halfway house, so I scoured every inch of my body with my fingernails and the dregs of a bottle of Head and Shoulders somebody had left behind. When I was done I smelled like coal tar and felt like a new man.

They don’t have mirrors in prison, not real ones. Just pieces of shiny polished metal. And trust me when I say, you don’t want to be caught staring at yourself in one anyway. It attracts the wrong sort of attention. For the first time in years I looked at myself in the mirror, really looked at myself. I was old. I knew that I was, that I had to be, but seeing it there before my eyes was still mighty surprising. And perhaps even more surprising, I was a badass. I don’t know when it happened, but sometime between a scared, skinny kid showing up at Joliet Prison to serve 35 for his parents’ murders, and that same man walking free again with a little time off for good behavior, I had kinda grown into myself. I wasn’t a clumsy puppy dog any more, all paws and eyes. I looked scary. Muscles and tats and scars and this cold dead look in my eye that I didn’t recognize from the outside but I knew it so very well from the inside. I liked it. I liked this new me. I smiled and it was the scariest fucking thing I’d ever seen in my life.

My first stop for the day, after eating a delicious halfway house breakfast of Quaker instant oatmeal – strawberry – and coffee that tasted like peppercorns boiled in kerosene but was still better than prison coffee, was the home of the one person who I knew hated Ferris Bueller more than I did.

If I hadn’t already known where she lived, I wouldn’t have recognized her when she opened the door. The hair was right, that frizzy gravity-defying bob, the coloring was right, but the face was…off. “Jeannie?”

She didn’t miss a beat. It was like she’d been expecting me, like she’d been practicing what to say. “Yeah, I had some work done, ok, I know I look different…”

“No, uh, no. You look just the same. The same as ever.” She did totally not look the same. She didn’t look bad, she actually looked great for a gal her age, but if she’d walked past me on the street, I wouldn’t have known her. She just stared back at me in disbelief, and I wondered if I’d said the wrong thing. “I mean, you look great. For a gal your age.”

Her eyes narrowed to crinkled slits and for the first time I actually recognized her. “What do you want, Cameron?”

“Aren’t you even a little bit surprised to see me?”

“I heard you got out. That you were going to, anyway. I knew you’d come.” She paused and lit a cigarette. Always playing the tough girl. “I’m not inviting you in, so don’t expect me to.” This was not going the way I’d envisioned it. I thought she would just give Ferris up. I thought she would help me. I felt a series of Ed Rooney-like splutters of protest burbling up from my stomach to my vocal cords and stopped them halfway through sheer force of will. I stared at her with that same dead expression I’d seen on my face in the mirror, and she stared back with a nearly identical look that reminded me there is more than one kind of prison in the world. I knew in that moment Jeannie had done time too, hard time, maybe not in Stateville, but somewhere. “He’s my brother, Cameron.”

“I just want to talk to him.”


“Seriously. Just want to talk. Catch up.” Catch up with my hands around his neck, I meant. Catch up and bash his little boy freak-face into the cement a few dozen times. Catch up and slice pieces off of him with a razor blade. “He’s my best friend, Jeannie.”

“Google him, then.” She took a step backwards before I could stop her and slammed the door in my face. Google him. I knew enough to know that Googling was some sort of mystical Internet ritual involving computers and looking up information, but I didn’t have the first clue how to go about doing that. In prison, they let you do emails, and that’s about it. No Interneting. No Googling. And I didn’t even have anybody to email. I couldn’t even turn one of the damn things on, probably. I walked back across the lawn, fighting the urge to break down the door and throttle it out of her. I resisted because I knew she had suffered just as much as me, probably even more, because of Ferris. I just couldn’t do it to her.

I had only made it halfway back to the bus stop when I heard a voice calling from behind me. “Hold up.” As I turned, I saw a douchebag emerging from the darkness. Clad in black, shaved bald, pierced, more tats than me, even. I’m sure if it had been 30 years ago, I’d have been terrified, or impressed, or something. But I’d seen so many guys of that sort come and go through Stateville over the years, and every goddamn one of them pussies. Crying for their mothers their first night or week or month. Not like I didn’t; hell, I cried every day my first decade, it felt like. But at least I wasn’t going around making myself out like a tough guy, like a thug, only to cave under the pressure of incarceration. False advertising was what it was. “I can tell you where Ferris is.”

“Oh yeah?”

“But I need money.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Jeannie’s…whatever.” I remembered then that Jeannie had hooked up with some punk rock loser back in the day. Apparently they were still together, still making each other miserable. True love always. “You give me money, I’ll take you to where Ferris is.”

“I don’t have any money. I guess I’ll just have to Google him.”

“Good luck.”

“What do you mean?”

“He heard you were getting out, and they moved. To a gated community. With extra high security, and all those security guys have a picture of you, buddy boy.”

I decided to play dumb. “Really? Why?”

He started and stopped talking several times in a row, as if he couldn’t quite make up his mind what joke to tell, what putdown to use, how best to mock me. Eventually, he gave up. “Even if you find him, you’ll never get past the security, is what I’m saying. Five grand, and I’ll get you in.”

$5000, to me, may as well have been a request for the Hope Diamond or a pair of Molly Ringwald’s panties. And he knew it. “I’ll take that under consideration.” He said nothing and I walked away, trying to decide what to do next. Actually it wasn’t much of a decision, I had no choice in what I had to do next, it was a condition of my parole.

I met with my probation officer and put on my Cameron mask and gave all the correct answers to the questions he asked, my voice quavering with hope, with cautious optimism. By the end of the meeting I had my solution all worked out. So then I asked him a couple innocent questions. Conversationally, you know? The kind of questions a guy who wants to turn his life around asks. Questions about making amends and building bridges to my old life. Not only did I impress my PO with my filial respect for my old high school principal, but the PO was only too happy to look the guy up for me. I showed up to the Shady Meadows Retirement Home drenched because I had to walk from the bus stop in the pouring rain, but I still didn’t regret the hookers the night before, not even a little.

Rooney didn’t care that he had a dripping near-stranger at his door. He was excited to see me.

The old man had had a stroke. He was in a wheelchair and his words came out in constipated, staccato barks, but his brain was still there. He knew me right away and a wolfish grin spread across half of his ruddy face. “Bueller?”

“Bueller.” My reply met with his approval and he wheeled back out of the way with the whine of a mechanized wheelchair. I stepped inside his assisted living apartment. It had obviously come furnished. Everything was beige and gray and generic, except for one thing. One entire wall was set up as a command center, like on TV, like FBI guys have when they’re hunting down America’s Most Wanted. There were pictures and maps and schedules. Intel. Details that I would have spent a decade gathering. I had come to the right place. The old man was obsessed with Ferris Bueller, maybe even more obsessed than I was. And he had spent 31 years accumulating every scrap of information I would need to know to finally rid the world of its cutest little sweater-vest-wearing tumor.

“I…went…to…jail.” Rooney spat the words at me as I gazed at the photos. Ferris had aged, his deal with the devil hadn’t gone far enough to protect him from that, but he still looked like a second grader. A sallow, fat second grader with baggy eyes and a receding hairline. It was truly a face made for punching. “His fault!!”

I had nearly forgotten about Rooney. I knew he had gotten into some trouble awhile back. Kiddie pics, or something like that. “What do you mean?”

“Framed me!” His good arm flew up to point accusingly at a picture of Ferris in which he was inexplicably wearing plaid pants and a tam with a pompom on top, a golf club slung jauntily over his shoulder. Jaunty.  Everything about Ferris is jaunty. Ferris Bueller is one jaunty piece of shit. I decided I was going to carve the word jaunty into his forehead. “What do you mean, he framed you?”

“Put pictures…hacked!” He stopped to catch his breath. “He did it! I know!!”

“He put the pictures on your computer?” Suddenly it all made sense. Ferris was always awesome with computers. He used to backdoor his way into the school’s computers and change his grades, erase his absences. Never bothered to do mine, of course. “For reals?”

“Framed! He called police!” Rooney’s chest heaved with the effort of speaking. “Life roo…ruiined! All because I…dropped my….fucking wallet!” I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but I didn’t need clarification. We were speaking the same language. I felt bad for the guy, but at the same time a heavy sense of relief came over me. I was thankful, in a way, for what had happened to him, for what Ferris had done, because it meant that I wasn’t alone in this. At least one other person on the face of the planet wanted Ferris gone too. “Get him! Cameron! Get that…mmmuu…moother…fff.” He just sort of ran out of steam then and gave up.

I nodded solemnly to let him know I understood.

Twenty minutes later I was driving Ed Rooney’s sensible sedan down Michigan Avenue while eating a triple cheeseburger from the Billy Goat Tavern that I’d bought with the money I withdrew from Rooney’s account using a credit card and a magic number called a PIN. With Rooney’s permission, of course. Come on, I may be a murderer, but I’m not a thief. He said he wasn’t using it anyway. He said I could have it all, as long as I followed through. With our mission.  Kill Ferris.

It felt good to be home. It felt good to be free. So good. The idea of freedom was tempting. It would be so easy, I thought, so easy to go back to the halfway house where I was supposed to be checking in for the night at any minute now. I could do what I was supposed to do, salvage what was left of my life and live it. I could get a job, maybe, doing whatever it was that guys like me do on the outside. Boxing groceries, digging ditches, scrubbing toilets. Billy Goat burger for dinner every night, a shower, alone. Prostitutes now and then. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad.

When I was in prison, they made us sit in groups and talk with the prison psychologist. That’s a real thing, not just movie bullshit. Dr. Credenza was her name, the psychologist, I mean. She wasn’t pretty, like, at all, but since she was the only woman I saw for decades at a time, I had a raging crush on her. We all did. Anyway Dr. Credenza had an interesting theory about Mr. Ferris Bueller. She thought Ferris was something called a narcissist, that he actually had a personality disorder. She thought that there was something wrong with him, badly wrong. She said that the way I described him, she wondered if he may even be a psychopath. She said psychopaths didn’t always act the way people expected, they didn’t act like crazy people in the movies, that most of them lived fairly normal lives only they were complete and utter assholes. Pardon my French. Dr. Credenza insisted that the more I obsessed about Ferris, the more I was only giving him what he wanted, which was to be the focus of everyone’s universe, the star of everyone’s show. Dr. Credenza said that if Ferris had only known all the hours I spent thinking about him, he wouldn’t feel guilt, he wouldn’t have any remorse, he’d be overjoyed.

At first I didn’t believe her, at first I still thought that Ferris was my friend. But a lot of what she said made sense. The way that he’d break any rule to get what he wanted, screw over his friends and family for kicks, the way he moved through life as if a camera was on him all the time, just waiting for him to do something quirky or amazing…it made sense. I told her about Ferris singing in the parade that day and she shook her head. “Who does that, Cameron?” she asked me. “Who on earth would do something so crazy? Except for somebody who’s actually crazy?” And I didn’t have the answer to that.

I knew that Dr. Credenza would want me to give all this up, to go back to the halfway house and get some menial job and enjoy my Billy Goat Burgers and prostitutes and whatever semblance of a normal life I could cobble together, but I couldn’t. I had this sneaking suspicion that the reason I’d been born at all was to rid the world of Ferris Bueller. It was destiny. I was put on Earth to kill Ferris Bueller. I screwed it up when I was a teenager, I fell under his spell and I didn’t see him for what he was, but I wouldn’t make that mistake again. Now, I knew better.

A few hours later, Ed Rooney was five thousand dollars poorer, and I was in a car trunk sneaking my way into one of Chicago’s finest gated communities. Once we were inside the gate, Jeannie’s Whatever pulled into the driveway of a house under construction. I emerged from the trunk out of sight from prying eyes and tried to look nonchalant and inconspicuous as I stalked through the housing development towards the Bueller residence.

The house was big and amazing, which didn’t surprise me. Perfect landscaping. Picturesque. It was the house of someone with too much money, just like my parents had too much money and Ferris and Jeannie’s parents had had too much money. Sometimes I think too much is worse than not enough. Not enough may make you miserable, but too much makes you a monster. I’d rather be a miserable wretch than a happy monster.

I didn’t go to the front door. There was a side door, and Jeannie’s guy had told me that was the best way to get in. It wasn’t locked. They left it open for the sake of convenience, that’s how sure they were about the about the security in their gated community. There was an alarm, but he’d given me the code. Jeannie knew it in case of emergencies and he had watched over her shoulder a couple times.  He said that was pretty sure he knew what it was. He said he was good at figuring out things like alarm codes and PIN numbers by looking over people’s shoulders and I suspected that he probably was indeed.

I was able to walk right in like I owned the joint. No one was home. I entered through a small perfect foyer with a small perfect floral arrangement. Fresh cut flowers. The lights were off. I didn’t bother to turn them on; there was enough ambient light so I could see what I was doing.

I meandered through the house, trying to get a good feel for the floor plan, trying to play out all the various scenarios in my mind, trying them all on for size. My mouth watered with anticipation. It was so close now. I hoped he would hurry. Above all, I hoped that no one else would show up. I wanted it to be just me and him. I knew there were some adult children who no longer lived at home. A boy and a girl, of course, because Ferris was just the type of guy who could dial up the perfect family as easily as he could do everything else. And I knew, of course I knew, that there was a wife.

It didn’t surprise me that he’d married Sloane. But it did surprise me that she married him. She seemed so much smarter than that. So much better than him. Then again, I don’t think I could ever have believed that anyone on earth could have possibly been good enough for Sloane.

I always assumed she’d wake up one day and see Ferris the way I’d learned to see him. But I guess she didn’t, because here they were, 3 decades later. Happy as fucking clams by the looks of everything. She used to come to see me at first. She’d come to see me and tell me all the things they were doing with their golden charmed lives and make apologies for him not being there. One day I told her to stop coming. It made me too sad to see her. I told her about how I couldn’t afford to be sad, because sadness was weakness and in prison, weakness is…not a quality you want to cultivate. And she didn’t come back.

I heard the door open and the alarm code beeping and I hurried to the foyer with my fists already clenched and ready. But it wasn’t Ferris. It was Sloane. Her hair was short and her arms were full of groceries. “Can I help you carry those bags, ma’am?” She didn’t scream. She jumped, a little, when I came around the corner, but I don’t think she was totally surprised to see me. She actually allowed me to take one of the bags.

“You’re fast. Faster than I thought.”

“Oh, you were expecting me, then?” She smiled and for a moment I could still see that girl right there beneath the surface. I was glad she hadn’t ruined her face with plastic surgery like Jeannie had. It was more like a rosebud that had opened. The bud had been beautiful, perfect and dewy, but the flower was spectacular and still perfect, just in a different kind of way. Like she was made of velvet instead of silk. “You don’t seem that surprised.”

“I talked to Jeannie. Heard you’d been asking about us. It was only a matter of time till we ran into you.” She tucked a lock of hair behind an ear. “I suppose I didn’t expect it to be, here, exactly, I guess? ” She laughed. I laughed too. I followed her into the kitchen and she started putting the groceries away. Expensive groceries. I hadn’t bought groceries for decades and recognized precisely none of the products, but even I could see the Buellers were not eating mac and cheese. “How did you manage to get in here? If you don’t mind my asking?”

“Jeannie’s…Whatever. I gave him some money.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, of course it was.”

“Why did he? I mean, I can’t quite figure it out, you guys could have given him way more money than I could, so…” I didn’t say it but I figured the guy had to have a beef with Ferris, and it turned out that I was entirely right in my supposition.

“Oh, he thinks Ferris gave him AIDS. Well, not AIDS AIDS, but HIV, you know?”

What? “Well, did he?”

“Who even knows any more, what Ferris is capable of?” I thought she was serious but then she laughed again like it was a joke so I laughed too. “Are you hungry, Cameron?” My name on her lips gave me chest pains.

Even though I was still stuffed full of Billy Goat Burger, I couldn’t say no. Food cooked by Sloane Peterson sounded like a banquet prepared by angels. “Starved.”

She took a knife out of a block on the counter and started chopping some vegetables that she’d left on the counter.  Carrot, a pepper, some mushrooms.  “Dinner will be ready soon. Would you like to join us?”

“Us? So he’s, he is coming?”

“What do you have planned, Cameron?” She looked at me and cocked her head. “What are you here for?” I couldn’t exactly tell her, so I shrugged. “Because if you’re here because you think he’s going to….I don’t know. Make things right, that’s just not how he’s made?”

“I honestly don’t know why I’m here.” I did, though. I totally did. Fist. Face. Smash.

“I just don’t want you to…shit!” She sighed and rubbed her forehead with the back of her thumb. “He’ll apologize to you, ok, Cameron? He’ll say whatever you want him to say. Whatever he thinks you want to hear, he’ll say it. He’s so good at stuff like that. He’ll tell you anything, he’ll be charming and sweet and it will all seem so convincing. But it’s all on the surface, Cameron. It’s not real.  It’s a mirage.” I blinked and must have looked confused, because she kept explaining. “I don’t want you to get…sucked back in again, Cam, that’s all. Ferris can be…seductive. He can make you feel like you mean something to him, but the only person who means anything to Ferris, is Ferris.”

God, she had woken up. She knew. She understood. Oh, poor Sloane. 30 years of Ferris. “If what you’re saying is true, then what are you doing here?”

“I honestly don’t know why I’m here.” She shook her head. “Inertia?”

“I failed physics, Sloane.” I being a smart ass, but I knew exactly what she meant. The same inertia had kept me friends with Ferris since we were little kids, even when I knew he didn’t have my best interests at heart, ever.

“He’ll use you, but it will be all for his own amusement. That’s all people are to him. Entertainment.”

“I’m not as easy to use as I used to be.”

She didn’t believe me, I could tell she didn’t believe me, and her concern, her genuine concern for me made me feel things, warm things, soft things, that I didn’t want to be feeling right then. Because I had to stay strong and hard and cold. “Just think about this. If he wanted to see you, Cameron, if he really, truly wanted to see you, would he have made it so hard for you? If he really wanted to see you he should have been waiting outside the prison when you were released. But he wasn’t.” I opened my mouth to try and interrupt but she silenced me with a gesture, the knife clenched in her fist. Her fingernails were pale pastel purple like lilacs blooming in the spring. “If he cared, he would have done things so differently. All the way back to that day he would have done things so differently, Cameron. If he cared. He’ll probably act overjoyed to see you, he’ll let you back into our lives, as little or much as he wants to, and he’ll act like he’s doing you a huge favor the entire time, Cam, listen, ok? All it is, is another person to worship at the altar of Ferris Bueller. And I just think, he’s done enough to ruin your life.”

“Well, I appreciate your input.”

The door opened then and there was the beeping of the security code. “Maybe you should get out while you still can, Cam.” I didn’t move and Sloane looked very sad. A few moments later Ferris entered the kitchen. He only hesitated a moment at seeing me and then flashed a megawatt grin, as if he’d planned the whole thing, as if he’d set it all up.

“My ears are burning!” God, I hated him so much. “Darling, have you invited Cameron to dinner yet? If not, please allow me. We’d love to have you. Old buddy, old pal.”

“I invited him.” So bitter. I wouldn’t have thought Sloane could be capable of sounding so bitter.

“And did he say yes?” He looked at me in that cockeyed, peculiar, cutesy way that he had that reminded me of a little bird, his head tilting this way and that. “Did you say yes to Mrs. Bueller, Cameron?” How could he manage to go through life that way?

“I said yes, Ferris.”

“Well that’s just crackerjacks!” He literally, actually swung his fist in an oh-gee-whiz 50’s sitcom dad kind of way. I desperately wanted to squash him, crush him, demolish him piece by piece.

“Jesus, Ferris. Can’t you talk like a fucking human being?”

“Ouch! Sloane, my pet, are you having a bad day? That’s too bad. Poor Sloane. We need to get you a foot massage, stat!” Then he turned his attention back to me again. “We all have bad days sometimes, isn’t that right, Cameron?”

“Leave him alone, Ferris. This is a mistake. Cameron, just…just leave, please?”

“Why would our friend Cameron leave, Sloane, he just got here! And we have so much catching up to do! Silly wabbit.”

“He’s not going to change, Cameron, he’s incapable of it. Trust me.”

“Now why would I want to change, Sloane? People love me just the way I am.”

Sloane sighed and looked down. Her shoulders slumped and the knife in her hand sort of fell to the side as her wrist muscles relaxed for a moment. I thought how easy it would be to grab that knife and plunge it into the side of Ferris’ neck, into his chest, right into his eye. Finally Sloane looked at me again. “It’s true, Cameron. People do love him just the way he is. For some inexplicable reason.” I looked at him, that eager, jauntily evil expression, the way he seemed to be feeding off the things that Sloane was saying, and I realized it was true. It was all true. All those things that Dr. Credenza had said were true. Ferris Bueller was a monster and what he wanted, what he fed off of, was attention. He didn’t care if it was good attention or bad attention, he didn’t care if he was loved or hated, not really, he just wanted to be the center of attention. He was like that glowing monster in Star Trek that made everyone fight each other and then lived off of the chaos and hostility it had created.

I knew then that even if I were to attack Ferris, beat him within an inch of his life or beyond it, I would never win. Ferris would simply get more attention, more love and adoration from those people who idolized him because they were fucking morons. Even in death they’d cluck their tongues and say what a great guy he’d been and he’d have like a million mourners at his funeral. For me to kill Ferris would mean he’d get nothing BUT attention, he’d go down in history as “Ferris Bueller, that totally righteous dude who got killed by a crazed escaped con”. Everyone would talk about him for months probably if not longer while I ended up arrested and put on trial for the murder. No more Billy Goat Burgers, no more prostitutes. And I felt like I knew enough about Ferris, the real Ferris, by this point to understand he probably thought that being murdered was a pretty great way to go out. After all, who wants to get old and weak and irrelevant and die, where’s the fun in that but that’s where both of us were headed, we were both practically old men now. One or the other or both of us would be in diapers inside of a decade, probably. Rolling around in a wheelchair in an assisted living facility like Ed Rooney. How much better it would be for Ferris to go out now in a blaze of glory and be remembered at least for a little while by everyone in Chicago if not the whole US of A.

I could see it play out in my mind’s eye just as if I was watching a newsreel and then I looked at Ferris and noticed a twinkle in his eye, an eager twinkle, expectant, and I knew I was right. He wanted it. Wanted it maybe even worse than I wanted to give it to him. No matter what happened if I lifted a hand against Ferris he would win, whether he ended up in a hospital with hot nurses waiting on him for months or if I put him in the ground he would win and just like it said in some old movie, sometimes the only way to win was not to play. I looked at Sloane and I smiled and for the first time in a long time it was a for real smile that I felt right down into the center of my chest. “I think I made a mistake, Sloane, I’m really…I uh, I ate on the way over and…uh, I’m sorry.”

“Ok.” There was hope in her eyes and in her voice and she smiled a little. No one could smile just a little like Sloane could. She wanted me to go, wanted me to get away, wanted me to be free. I only wished I could set her free as well, but she had to do that for herself.

“What? Cameron, you’re leaving? Whyever for?” Ferris actually sounded kind of nervous and I knew I was on the right track. I didn’t even answer, didn’t hesitate, just turned away. “Cameron? Cameron! Old buddy, where are you going, we have so much catching up to do!” I just kept on walking. “Cameron! Hey, I’m talking to you here!” Before I knew it I was to the door and through the door and out into the night. I felt like I had just escaped from a nightmare, like I had woken up from a coma or something, and I wanted to scream Hallelujah, let my people GO! And then a door opened behind me and I didn’t even turn to look because I figured it was him but it wasn’t.

“Cameron? I’m…I’m coming with you.” Sloane, my God, it was Sloane’s voice I heard and she had said what? My brain couldn’t process that much information and she shook some car keys and only then did I turn back to look at her over my shoulder. “I’m coming with you.” She sounded much more sure of herself the second time and my brain started to catch up to itself and I had to swallow several times in a row and even then I still couldn’t talk. “Wait here.”

She hurried off into what looked like a garage and eventually as the capacity for rational thought slowly began to return, I heard an engine start. A garage door opened, must’ve been with an automatic opener because she drove out before the door was even open all the way, she just scooted under the crack in the door as soon as it had got up high enough. It was the car, she was driving my father’s car, and I knew what Ferris must have done, was gone and got that goddamn piece of metal somehow and had it restored so he could drive it around everywhere getting his jollies about how he had destroyed three lives simply because he wasn’t in the mood to go to school that day. She braked to a halt beside me as if she expected me to get in. I hesitated.

“We’ll sell it, Cameron, or destroy it. I just don’t want for HIM to have it any more.”

I nodded because I still couldn’t speak and I climbed into the passenger side. As I did, the door to the house opened, the front door, and Ferris stalked out. Sloane must have left him without confrontation, without him even realizing she was gone, perhaps understanding just as I had that he would only have fed on the drama anyway. He had only just then put it together when he heard the car engine. “What do you think you’re doing, Sloane, sweetie, kitten, pumpkin face?”

“What does it look like I’m doing, Ferris? I’m leaving you. For Cameron.”

She had said for Cameron, not with Cameron, and while I was sure that was a slip of the tongue and everything I felt like my insides sprang to life all full of Mexican Jumping Beans and Pop Rocks and Sea Monkeys.

“Uh, no, you’re not, Sloane, precious, because you are my wife, and that is not allowed!  If you look that up in the wife handbook, leaving is not in there!” Ferris, for the first time, probably ever in his life, actually seemed pretty upset about this turn of events. I knew somewhere Dr. Credenza was cheering because she said that the worst thing you can do to a narcissist is walk away from them and Sloane and I, both of us, were walking away.

“I’m not your wife any more, Ferris. I haven’t been your wife for a long time. And I’ve decided I am not going to be your audience any more, either.” Ferris gaped, a legit, shocked, open-mouth gape and then we all paused. We paused a long time because we didn’t know what what to do or say since all three of us were raised-by-the-TV Generation X idiots who never knew how to react when we experienced actual human emotion that we hadn’t previously seen emulated by Barbi Benton and Larry from Three’s Company on an episode of the Love Boat.

Eventually I recovered. What would Larry do, I thought?  What would Larry do?  “Are you still here, Ferris?”


“You’re still here?” I put every ounce of the disdain I felt for him into my voice. “It’s over. Go home.” And Sloane laughed and stepped on the gas and we drove away with the tires squealing. Leaving Ferris behind, alone probably for the first time in his life, actually alone.

The camera stayed on me this time.

Image by dnak Ferris Bueller: Day of Retribution

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Kristin is a geek, a libertarian, and a domestic goddess. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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68 thoughts on “Ferris Bueller: Day of Retribution

  1. Ferris Bueller is one of those characters that appeal to you when you are younger but than you get older and you start to realize that the Vice Principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was doing the right thing even though he was a butt monkey and a bit of kill joy. There were a bunch of similar revelations when the original fans of Rent matured from teenagers to twenty and thirty some-things who realized that the vain real estate developer was still the most mature and morally upright character in the entire musical.

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    • Yes the last couple times I watched it I couldn’t help thinking that Ferris really was a pretty terrible person. As a writer I marvelled at how they put some of the little touches on the character to make him likeable even though practically nothing he did was likeable.

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  2. The fact that I’ve never seen FB’sDO was in no way an obstacle to enjoying this – well done.

    And I way this not just because I’m a sucker for anything with an aphasic character in it. Which brings me to my suggestion, as tight as it is, could still be tighter (eg pretty unnecessary to tell us Rooney had a stroke. Could’ve been some other calamity, but in any event maybe have R tell us (or not), or have C speculate rather than know. Probably a few other examples of this sort of thing that if tightened up would elevate this from well done to boffo.

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  3. Tremendous work, Kristin! Thank you for it.

    I walked away from a narcissist too, before I got sucked into a Cameron-like vortex. It’s hard, because a narcissist can be so damn charming and compelling and is really good at offering just enough emotional sugar that you stay in their orbit. But eventually there isn’t enough to breathe, and so it’s less of a stretch than it might seem to think that a paroled murderer would be a preferrable partner.

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    • My narcissist was different, kept sucking me in via doing outrageous and argumentative things that I felt compelled to rectify/argue against until just like Cameron I realized “wow this person is getting off on this” and stopped even talking to them.

      I felt that since Sloane fully knew the situation in which Cameron had committed his crime she probably would have been more forgiving, as well. :)

      Thanks for your input

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      • You demonstrated that you found it difficult (aka challenging) to tell the difference, at least initially, by asking for clearer marking. I mean, assuming that was the reason you left that particular comment, and responding to your expressed need by adding a category, even though there were plenty of cues that the piece was fiction, is me reading you charitably; the uncharitable assumption would be that you wanted to complain about the content, but didn’t want to get told not to comment just to complain, so you found a pretext to do so.

        I was choosing a kinder interpretation of what you said, out of those available to me, and regardless of your opinion about me being the moderator, I am and will continue to be the moderator. So there’s not much point to you pointing out that you don’t approve.

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        • If it was labelled Fiction, like it is now, I would have known to skip it. Once I started to read it, it was clearly fiction.

          Maribou: So there’s not much point to you pointing out that you don’t approve.

          The point is that I am pointing out to you and the staff that you are lousy at it.

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          • You’re not actually achieving that goal; you are pointing out that you are more into insults and complaints than in adding to the conversation.

            As for the lack of a fiction category, until now we mostly assumed that if people read clearly fictional excerpts on the front page, they would know something was fiction. No particular need for a separate category. No particular harm in adding one though.

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  4. I just wanted to chime in with how thoroughly I enjoyed this. Such a nice break from the usual politics and a fine piece of wordsmithing.

    Now you gotta do it again, please!

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  5. I disapprove of this story, but only because it violates my headcannon that Ferris, and in fact the entire movie, exists entirely inside Cameron’s head, as he lays sick at home. :)

    But, yes, if we take the movie at face value and Ferris exists, he is not a good person. At all.

    I mean, yes, some of his hijinks are wacky, for various levels of wacky…ditching school, yeah, that’s normal teenage behavior, although less acceptable now, but judging by the time, it’s fine. Hacking his attendence record, pretty much the same thing….something that, when you think about it, isn’t that great, but standard ‘teen stuff’ back then.

    And grabbing a mic and singing on a float, that’s pretty wacky, or even acceptable, everyone seemed to enjoy it. Lying to a resturant to steal someone’s reservation, that’s within the realm of wacky…it doesn’t seem to harm anyone, at best they’ll just get kicked out when the guy really shows up. And as we don’t ever see the end of meal, it appears he did not, and they paid like normal…so they ate, the guy presumably went elsewhere, and the resturant had an additional table full. Everyone wins.

    But speaking of ‘they paid’….Ferris stole a bunch of money from his father almost unnoticed at the start of the movie. Money in savings bonds, so we’re not talking about a twenty or something, we’re talking about a few hundred dollars at the least…and that’s what paid for his Day Off.

    This is…less wacky.

    Likewise, manipulating his best friend to use his father’s car, when there is at least some level of dysfunction in that family and there will be, at minimum, yelling…not very wacky at all. (Ferris _already has a car_. He picked up Sloane from school in it!)

    And pausing during the race home to talk to some girls, while wacky, is, uh, somewhat dubious behavior for someone in a relationship that is at ‘Going to marry each other some day’.

    I am totally on board with the idea that Ferris (If he is real at all), is a sociopath.

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    • I’m glad you maybe liked it, David. :)

      They were having some fun with Ferris, just like I was, I still like the movie overall. Just that I have a different take on some of this behavior now than I did in 1989.

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      • I remember thinking that Ferris, like Tom Sawyer and Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, are characters that are rich because they are ambiguous.

        At the conclusion of Tom Sawyer, Twain wrote that it had to end because it would start to be the story of a man, not a boy. I think it was his way of saying that Tom could easily have grown into the type of character that Twain mercilessly mocked, the amoral hustler and conman.

        And I saw an interview with Bill Watterson where he described how Calvin was written deliberately to be not necessarily a nice person; We accept him because he either gets his comeuppance, or his adventures are essentially harmless.

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  6. Maribou: You’re not actually achieving that goal; you are pointing out that you are more into insults and complaints than in adding to the conversation.

    I haven’t insulted anyone, and if you think making a suggestion that you then implemented is a “complaint” then you are further proving my point that you are unfit to be a moderator.

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    • I haven’t insulted anyone.

      That statement is, on its face, incorrect. You’re not helping your own cause here, . Here’s a few tips for you.

      1. When you ask for something (a clear label for fiction) and then you get it, the appropriate response is “thank you.”

      2. If you don’t want to read fiction, just don’t read it. Move on.

      3. If you don’t like something a moderator is doing, the best way to raise that issue is to send a private e-mail to the editorial board about your concern.

      And an observation: you certainly have strong opinions about things for a person who has apparently been participating in this online community for less than 48 hours. Maybe you’ve been lurking for a long time. If so, great. In that case, you should have figured out some of the norms of etiquette and behavior that prevail around here, and now that you’ve decided to enter the active commenting community you shouldn’t be surprised at getting some pushback when your comments deviate from those norms. If you haven’t been lurking for a long time, then be aware that one of those norms is courtesy, and your comments were discourteous.

      By all means please continue to comment, but also by all means please be courteous when you do so. TIA.

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  7. Nice. I’ve always hated that movie and Ferris.

    I was never big on the ’80’s movies when they were released because I was into horror and action only (sue me, I was a teenager). With age (and a bit of nostalgia), I’ve learned to appreciate a lot of the ’80’s teen flicks, but I never could like Ferris.

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