Monday, July 10, 2017

Ransomed Heart 10: The Abduction Conference

Even though Howard Desseray listened diligently for the Lord or Someone Else to call him to a more honorable vocation, he accepted his current job as an abductor as "being what it was" and thus he felt the need to raise his skill level (and pay grade) to Highly Effective.

How best to do that? Off to an abduction conference! 

This was Howard's first trip to the yearly event, but according to his abducting friend Chip Lo, there was sooo much to look forward to:

Check-ins in which Howard could stand in line with other abductors having last names beginning with the letters D through G; name tags (HELLO My Name Is Howard Desseray Medford); meet'n'greets featuring melon bites, carrot sticks, cauliflower florets, hardened seed-covered tasteless high-fiber crackers, toothpick-speared cheese cubes with subtle undertones of sour laundry; an all-you-can-dip bowl of ranch dressing; and Carlo Rossi Vin Rose in plastic cups. 
Abducted or kidnapped? Language makes all the difference.
Also: a semi-formal opening convocation in Townsville's convention center (a remodeled Air Force hangar with all new plastic chairs equipped with armrests and cup holders) featuring Howard's idol, the renowned abduction master Jedidiah Einsatzgruppe; plenary sessions; break-out sessions; hands-on workshops; role playing led by Townsville Community College's Theatre 100 class (Introduction to Improv for Non-Theatre Majors); simulations with Rogerian "I" statements; and an optional seminar on "Abduction and the Internet: How to Make Craig's List Work for You." 
Tally's version of Jedidiah

Also: very bad coffee breaks with petit fours and fives; group work; prison prep confabs; circle jerks (i.e., round-table Jamaican snack buffets); an after-lunch Mind and Body Awareness Assembly, featuring yoga, stretching, koans, haiku, and two duct-tape related activities: Binding Presence (akedah, about which more later)* and a playfully competitive duct-tape tug of war.

Each morning would begin with "Wake-Up-and-Abduct" sessions in which participants listened to guest speakers, watched PowerPoints and abduction-themed TED talks, and munched on cold Lender's bagels and instant oatmeal.

Howard's anticipation and anxiety had him tossing and turning the night before, sending Tally, a welder, art student, former abductee and now his current life partner, off to the den where she fell asleep while watching the Blu-Ray version of Ted 2.

He was certain he would return to Medford an abductor who could walk the streets and the yard with his head held high, a man whose fame would survive the flux and flotsam of life, whose stories would be told around campfires, bridge circles, bar stools and . . . 


The day after he returned from the conference, a dejected Howard leaned against the fireplace mantel Tally had welded to the wall in his absence.

In an effort to soften the despair inflicted upon Howard's soul by the abduction conference, the couple replaced their usual nightly warm prune juice with Jagermeister shots, accepting the likely possibility that, as a result, they would both throw up in the morning if not before.

"Did I learn anything there to improve my abducting acumen? No!"

"Please don't interview yourself, Howard. That form of evasive rhetoric is pretty much played by now. Just tell me why you're so disappointed."

"There was a session on how kidnappers have been appropriating abduction culture in the media for years, going back at least to 1886 when Robert Louis Stevenson published Kidnapped. Then, according to the presenter, Ransom, both the Glenn Ford version in 1956 and Ron Howard's remake 40 years later starring Mel Gibson, just made matters worse.

"In a later session, two highly acclaimed abduction scholars rekindled the decades-old debate on whether Patty Hearst had been kidnapped or abducted. Which was the rightful term? And what would that term tell us about class wars, privilege, terrorism, entitlement and the Stockholm syndrome? And what would the other term tell us about those same issues? 

"Sue Arv, a staunch defender of the kidnap school of thought, argued rigorously, using dozens of articles from refereed journals, that the etymology of 'kidnap' (from Latin nap, meaning 'seize,' hence 'nap diem') makes the act more of a domestic crime, therefore lacking the gravitas of "abduct," as well as the latter's more universal implications.

"The 'red-eye' panel discussion featured Father Maureen O'Kennedy, Dr. Orville Meckowitz and Judge Sylvia Hancock sharing their respective thoughts on 'Abduction and the Perception Problem: Disease, Crime or Sin?'

"In yesterday's early morning session entitled 'Delivering the (Fe)male: Women, Sex, Gender, Native American Indigenous Aboriginal Amerindians and Problematizing Abductorial Displacement,'  Heather Walking Tree Schmidt, on the lam from one of the most scholarly prisons in the country, cataloged the disrespectful non inclusion of these demographics in American art since John Ford's 1956 film classic The Searchers.

"Ms. Schmidt's position is legitimate, I agree with her and always have, she's absolutely right, and I share her anger over it, but all I wanted was some tips and shit to refine my art, to give me a leg up on my competitors in the Medford** area. Nothing! Zilchers!" 

Tally stretched, then walked slowly to the fireplace and rubbed her beloved Howard on the back.

"Just try to hit delete," she said. "Now that you know, just let it go, as my granny used to say. Oh, you hot handsome harbinger of happiness! If you put a nervous smile on that sweet face of yours, you'd remind me of Jay Gatsby leaning against the mantelpiece during his rainy day rendezvous with Daisy Fay in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, published in 1922, chapter 5, page 91 in Scribner's Authorized Text with notes and preface by Matthew J. Bruccoli."

"What? I'm sorry, I just drifted off for a second. Did you say something about broccoli?"

"No more Jagermeister for you, big guy! Let's change the subject and watch some Steve Harvey (Tally had a secret thing for teeth), but first tell me if you got to see the great Jedidiah Einsatzgruppe."

"Yes, I did, my little Tallyrooski," he said, his spirits slowly abandoning the tar pit of depression. "But that story can wait till we see what ol' Steve is up to tonight."

The lights went out. The couple collapsed on the sofa. Steve Harvey flashed his double-decker smile. Something stirred deep inside Tally.

Yes, the Jedidiah Einsatzgruppe story could wait for another day.

* Or "which there will be more about later." 
** Many readers have asked about the exact location of Medford. It's not far from Townsville.


  1. Oh, dear Roy, you never cease to amaze and amuse me! Love this.

  2. Thanks much. You're in such a tiny, tiny minority, but I agree w/ your assessment. Howard doesn't amaze me, but he amuses me.