Kidnapping me was a lark. I was so unsuspicious he could have scooped me up with a butterfly net. Never again will I be so trusting of strangers, even though they seem sincere. What could I have been thinking? Oh yes, the lost mother beagle whose pups were crying up a storm. I know that’s a popular pitch in nabbing kids; go for their sympathies, entice them. It’s just my luck that I’m twelve, only look eight. Evidently at the time of the big S at the school bus stop I had to be thinking like an 8 year old, too! Or younger…
I don’t remember the details of the snatch because to tell the truth I don’t seem to remember much at all since he held a handkerchief soaked in what smelled like ether over my nose and well, that was it until I woke up in this basement with my hands tied behind me. Ether smells so pukey! He must have hit me on the head, too. Though I don’t remember it, I’ve got a pretty big knot on my top.
Since I‘m super short and wear glasses, I guess he figured I’d be no flight risk. If only he knew! –Wait, don’t go there. This is real and life-threatening. The knot on my top is starting to throb, and I can feel my heart bamming away. What is more troubling is that although I’m pretty sure I’m twelve, I can’t be completely sure of my name. Strange that I can remember some of the self-defense lessons from last summer. I may be little and bitty, but those courses weren’t for nothing, although I didn’t use my head in the current situation.
I inch over to the heating duct to see what I can hear. Definitely no crying puppies. Can I hide somewhere? Dumb thought. Maybe he is going to try and ransom me. Would that mean my parents are rich? Even if they are it doesn’t mean they would be willing to pay for my return. Although my memory of them is foggy, I get the feeling that I have been a handful for them and they might just welcome a respite
My thoughts turn inward. Where did that thought come from? I don’t even remember my parents and yet I just caught a negative glimpse of them, true or not. I look around, recalling how other prisoners have freed themselves by rubbing their restraints against something sharp, (although I couldn’t even remember my own name?) Zilch. This is not the basement of a handyman. Fire? No thanks. My eyes are beginning to adapt to the darkened basement. There are two very small windows up near the floorboard above, and a drain in the cement, which means I can pee. Whoop de doo!
After what seems like ages the cellar door opens. He flips on a light and comes down the stairs carrying a tray. I barely look at the try and said, “Thanks, Daddy.”
He draws his head back and says, “I’m not your daddy,” as he holds out the tray, apparently forgetting that my hands are tied behind my back.
“Well, who are you?”
“I’m your worst nightmare,” he snarled, whereupon I giggled. He was acting like a monster from one of the movies I couldn’t remember, either.
“But you will spoon feed me like when I was a baby won’t you, Daddy? ‘Cause I can’t hold the spoon or the tray myself.” If looks could kill I wouldn’t be around to tell you this story. He cuts the rope that restrained me, and as I rubbed feeling back into my wrists, I said, “Where’s Mama?”
He looked at me suspiciously. “What’s your name, little girl?”
“I can’t remember. What’s yours?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know!”
Oh, good. He‘s regressing. We’ll be down on the floor playing marbles soon.
“Not really. Just being polite. I really can’t remember my parents, my name, even my age.” I swing my legs against the chair as I swallow a spoonful of canned chicken noodle soup.
“Yum! I was getting hungry.” I look up at him and smile. He stands with his hands on his hips, watching me eat. My last meal? Nah, I hope not.
“You don’t know who you are!” An incredulous, worried look crosses his face. “You could be anybody!”
“Yep.” I think I slurp a little. I am really hungry.
“How many kids get off the school bus at that stop?”
“Oh”—here I am pretending to count, because I really can’t remember. Would more or less be better? “Let’s see, one young girl rides when their chauffer is toting her mother around, and—aw, I can’t remember! You took my memory away from me!” I don’t have to fake the sniffle that follows my statement, because I’m not having fun any more. “I wanna go home!”
“Yes, and I’d like to return you home, but I’m not sure what I’m dealing with here.”
“I know the feeling. I can barely remember a bunch of big houses in the neighborhood, but not my parents. My mother could be head of the house or the maid, or the butler could be my own dad—here I shoot him a dark disparaging look. I feel my face brighten as a possibility crosses my mind. “Or I could even be a poor relation.” With my last statement he turns to leave.
“Hey, aren’t you going to tie my hands back up?”
He turned and gave a little-boy smirk. “You can try and escape. Be my guest. But I rather thought you liked it here, with me as your Dad-dee.”
I call up the stairs after him. “I’ll bet you don’t even have any kids of your own!”
He called back over his shoulder, “I can think of a lot worse things!”
“Yeah? Name one.”
He emitted his Prince of Darkness snarl. “Like being held prisoner underground by a childless villain.” I heard him double lock the door. Several hours later he descends and sets down what he refers to as a “pot to poop in.” He stands over me, again with hands on his hips. It must help him think. “Nobody in the whole world has missed you yet. Is no news good news or bad news?”
The next time he brings me vittles I have a new question for him. “Do you really not know who I am?”
“No. Do you?”
“No, but I want to know what happens to me if I remember.”
“I guess we’ll have to see.”
“Well, who did you think I was? People—even childless kidnappers—don’t just run around snatching total strangers….I think.”
He does his heh-heh-heh thing and an idea occurs to me. “Hey! Wait a minute! Is this some kind of audition? I was in that play at school last fall…and are you trying out for Hulk or something? We’d make a great team!”
He scrunches up his face at me and says, “Are you from the funny farm or something?”
“No, but you must be, a grown man with nothing better to do than pick on little kids for fun.”
“No. not for fun.” My statement seems to come closest to making him feel a little ashamed. Hey! Just maybe he was religious! Could I tweak that banjo string?
“Do you know why I’m still alive?”
He seemed curious and shook his head.
“Because God watches out for me and takes care of me.” He does not reply. “And do you know why I forgot my cell phone and left it at school today?” He was silent, listening. “Because He is watching out for you, too. He knows you have a better life ahead of you than playing bad guy—or somebody else’s stooge.”
Growing increasingly desperate despite my bravado, I break into song, revealing the voice lessons I can barely recall. As I sing “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am his own…” my captor flees up the steps. I call after him, “Remember that I don’t have any memory of you or what’s happened!”
It is several minutes before I realize that there has been no sound of the door being locked behind him. Crossing my fingers, I tiptoe up the stairs and try the door. It is unlocked! On the kitchen table is a sheet with big black words scribbled on it: “I QUIT!”
Without a moment’s hesitation I run out the door, turn left and hightail it towards home as fast as my short legs can carry me.