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, matters were only made worse by the film Ransom, both the Glenn Ford version in 1956 and Ron Howard's remake 40 years later starring Mel Gibson.
"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.
*A quick reminder of Medford's location: just a few miles from Townsville.