"Why," he asked, "am I even here? Sure, I led Medford Elementary School's foursquare team to a state championship, but is that enough? The love I share with Tally -- is that the best life on this planet has to offer? Does that fickle emotion -- binding though it may be -- compensate for the suffering we face daily, even when we're not incarcerated?"
|Early foursquare uniforms|
Most of Howard's life, of course, revolved around abducting people, and he was good at it.
His dad was an abductor, and one of his fondest childhood memories was riding with him to Home Depot to buy yet another case of duct tape.
Howard assumed he was genetically predisposed to abduct. He had learned in Ms. Friederstone's biology class that all sorts of traits could be passed down through genetics. Was Howard governed, therefore, by his biology, his every action dictated by a gene pool over which he had no control?
Was this what that one lion in The Lion King meant when he referred to the "great circle of life"? To be free of free will, trapped inside Fate's hamster wheel, stalled on the nadir of the Wheel of Fortune, sucked into a vortex, a swirling, endless loop such as that depicted by Akira Kurosawa's 1957 film version of Macbeth, Throne of Blood, starring Toshiro Mifune, Izusu Yamada and Takashi Shimura, shown to Howard's second-grade class for no apparent reason by a sub named Yuki-sensei?
As a child, Howard held out hope that he could take a road that his father had not taken, one that in retrospect he would consider a road less traveled, although, all things being equal, the two were pretty much the same.
What child wants a career as an abductor? When Howard was five, abducting was tied with "systems analyst" as the last thing he wanted to become.
It wasn't until he was six that he locked his first-grade substitute teacher -- Ol' Lady Fenstermaker -- in a broom closet, hid the key, then threatened to throw it into Lake Medford unless he was given fat-free yogurt topped with granola for lunch every day for the next week.
His inaugural foray into abduction was a success, but only because Ol' Lady Fenstermaker's ear-piercing refrain of "I'm having a stroke!" inspired school security to bypass the fire department and just get the old woman out of there "toot sweet," meaning they hastily caved in to Howard's demands.
And so it began. Trying futilely to resist his urges, he reluctantly started abducting small pets, then moved quickly to illegal-immigrant yard workers of the very rich, sinking so low as to steal their hoes, then sell them to suckers on Craig's List.
"How long," he cried out to his dad one evening, "Oh, how long must I carry out these reprehensible actions due to the blighted genetic landscape your loins have cursed me with?!"
His dad's shocking response would change Howard's life forever.
(Editor's note: Dear Reader, please look away for a moment to give the suspense a little longer to build. Thanks.)
(Okay, you may resume reading.)
First, his dad stunned Howard by telling him, "You got no trace of my genetic makeup in you, boy. You was abducted!"
And while the poor kid was still reeling, he added, "And finding your biological origins is gonna be sort of tough on account of I abducted you from an orphanage."
Suddenly, Howard seemed to be standing atop a bottomless pit, not on the side of it, but the part that isn't made of anything, i.e., the top of the hole where the pit starts, the pit actually being a hole by definition.
Grimly, he realized that, like the words "copacetic" and "dildo," he was a thing without a known origin.
For months, he spent a huge chunk of every day online -- on HoosierDaddy.org, chiefly -- trying desperately to find the all-natural source of his life's journey, but to no avail.
And what impact would this revelation have on his future plans, including his relationship with his former abductee Tally? These and other answers will be provided in future installments, should there be any.
*Described in detail in Chapter 2, most of this incident was lost during the Great Ransomware Cyber-Attack of 2017. From the few passages that survived, we can surmise that bobby pins and super glue played major roles in the story.