What child wants a career as an abductor?
When Howard Desseray 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 (located just a few miles from Townsville) 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 to Howard's demands.
And so it began. Trying futilely to resist his urges, Howard 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, suckers who, too late, discovered "hoes" were garden tools and not street slang.
"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?!"
|Artist's rendering of Howard in his early 20s.*
His dad then 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, his dad 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 hours online every day -- on HoosierDaddy.org, chiefly -- trying desperately to find the all-natural source of his life's journey, but to no avail.
Having learned he was in no way genetically bound to the abductor he called "Dad," Howard Desseray could feel the wind of free will blowing through his hair.
While that wind blew, playfully ruffling his combination Moe Howard-Ken Burns coiffure, he remembered liberating his cousin's pet canary.
|Howard's hair in his youth, but that's Moe, not Howard
Okay, so freedom didn't always provide a well-signed paved road. In fact, uncaged from genetic determinism, Howard felt like the man whose wife sent him to Publix to get a box of cereal. "Just any kind," she had said. "Just a box of cereal. Just pick one."
Long did the man stand in the cereal aisle, mouth agape, scanning the endless rows of brightly colored boxes, till, hours later, one of the late-night janitors (Howard hated the word "custodian") found him planted like Michelangelo's David, except clothed and more proportionately endowed, in front of the shredded-wheat section.
"Freedom can be difficult," I believe, is this parable's lesson.
*Howard portrait courtesy of Jade Deatherage, saxophonist and cellist extraordinaire, not to mention the piano