Riding With Strangers

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young child is abducted by a stranger.

Submitted: June 15, 2010

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 15, 2010



  The white truck pulls up to the curb and a friendly man inside is saying something to me.  I don’t understand him right away.

  “I’m a friend of your mother’s.  She got tied up shopping and asked me to pick you up.”

  He is in his thirties with balding blond hair, tan skin, the face of an actor or a model you see in magazines advertising shaving cream or menthol cigarettes.  He has a smile on his face and a naturalistic, laid back demeanor.  I am six and I have visited my friend Mark’s house who lives about four blocks away.  I didn’t ride my bike today because I had a flat and couldn’t find the pump and now this man has offered to give me a ride.  I hesitate only for a beat.  My primal instincts, although young, are honed and something deep inside screams danger but the voice is very tiny and distant and I can’t hear it too well and things are moving really fast and there are other cars going by so maybe this is okay. 

  “I’m Scott.  Don’t worry, I know your mom pretty well.” 

  It is about seven in the early evening and I had let it get a little too late, the shadows growing long and night  falling fast and me walking with my long shadow, stretched in the grass and trying to step on it but not being able to.  I was really picking up my pace before he arrived, not running but moving pretty good, trying to get home before it got too late. 

  He pats the seat with his hand, dressed in slacks, shirt sleeves rolled up to reveal thick forearms covered with golden blond hair. 

  He laughs a little sensing my fear.

  “If you don’t feel comfortable no sweat but I’m just doing her a favor.  It’s your call, big guy.”

  He stares at me a moment and I feel myself getting into the truck and the next thing I know the door is closing and we are moving and the first thought that comes to my six-year-old innocent and unworldly mind is, “I’m dead.”

I had violated the one major principle instilled in every young child’s brain: never accept a ride from strangers. 

  But this is not a stranger.  He said he is a friend of my mom and doesn’t look like a vampire, a werewolf, a killer or a fiend.  He looks rather pleasant and friendly, dressed well enough and his truck is new and so he obviously works or has some money to pay for nice things and why would he be wasting his time talking to a kid like me?  I look at my blue Keds mingled with the candy wrappers, apple cores and Slurpy cups on the rubber floor mat. 

  “Were you at JensenPark?”

  I can’t talk.  My eyes dart over the handle of the truck.  I consider what it might be like to just fling the door open and leap but now we are moving too fast and there are cars behind us and I don’t know if I can survive something like that.

  “Your mom’s great.  It’s been like twelve, wait, thirteen years.  Yeah, thirteen since we talked last.  I was up in Corvallis.  That’s Oregon.  I worked there with my wife’s dad.  He owns a manufacturing company.  You know the little washers that go in your sink and your bathtub?  Those kinda things?  Well, we make those.”

  I nod.  Easier now.  He is speaking normally but still I  feel my heart pounding wildly in my chest.  Still I want to get out of the car.  Still I feel this sick dreadful feeling of losing all control but it also feels electric and good in way, a very far off way.

  “You shouldn’t be out this late.  Just lose track of time or what?”

  I nod.  I look down at his shoes.  He is wearing white tennis shoes with mud on the soles but his pants and shirt are dressy, work clothes.  The radio plays that god damn song they keep playing over and over again.  “Sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight…”

  We pass by the lot with the dirt jumps built by the older kids where we rode our bikes and then by Grandma Brasher’s old house that has stood there since the turn of the century and inside she fed us cookies and found a dead mouse under the sofa and tossed it into the old-fashion wood stove near the front door and the mouse disappeared in the fire with a crackle and Grandma Brasher shut the iron door using the kitchen cloth and I remember wanting to see the mouse close up but not getting a chance to.

  “What do you like, baseball?  You a baseball fan?  You look like you could smack it out of the park pretty good.  I can’t play anymore, my knees are all banged up but I played in high school and college.  I went to St. Martin’s College.  Have you heard of that college?  You know what college is, right?”

  I nod again, staring forward, not wanting to look at him only focusing my will on the road ahead, getting home, stepping out, closing the door, walking into my house, not looking back.

  “You know how to throw a curve ball?  You hold it like this, kinda like making horns with your fingers.”  He holds out his thumb, index and pinky fingers.  “Wait, what am I thinking?  That’s a knuckle ball.  Curve ball is like this.”

  He makes a “C” with his thumb and forefinger.  We pass along the dark willows fringing the Lutheran church and instead of making a left at Decatur, he turns right and we are suddenly in the parking lot of the old church that no one ever seems to attend and is always deserted and out around behind it in the forest is a pond that gets really deep in the winter rains and is up to my waste and one time I rode my bike into it on a dare and that’s how I know it’s so deep. 

  We park against the forest and I look at the church and there is a single old white car covered with dirt and pine needles parked nearby but no other cars.

  His hand touches my leg and now my heart is beating even harder and time and reality seem to slip away, strobe-like with my hair feeling like it will peel from my scalp and nothing really in very clear focus.

  “This is um, this is a church where my sister goes.  My sister goes to this church.”

  He is stranger now and the smile is gone and I can tell he doesn’t really know what to say.  He is working hard to find the right words and I can sense his uneasiness and I feel sympathy for him.

  “I’ve never gone and I feel bad because I keep telling her I’m gonna go but I just keep forgetting.”

  I nod again.  I don’t think I have said anything so far.  I think of excuses for him.  He’s sad.  He needs to stop and think for a moment.  He misses his sister. 

  Wait, he hasn’t said my name.  If he knew my mom he should have known my name but he hasn’t said it.  I want to ask him to tell me what’s my mom’s name and see if he is lying but I do not.  That might be embarrassing for him.  I notice his brow is wrinkled now and in this different subdued light he somehow doesn’t look as cheerful or optimistic.

  “What’s your name?”

  Wait, he just asked for my name.  If he knew my mom she would have told him my name. 

  “What’s your name?”  He asks again with a little smile and his hand rests on my leg.  “You can tell me.  I don’t bite.”

  I’ve heard that line in movies and they always say that right before they bite.

  “You don’t like to talk much?  I get it.  I was just like you when I was your age.  Never talked.  Even at school.  I was a shy little kid.”

  I look at the handle on the door and try to figure out how to work it.  I am not sure if it is a pull or a twist or a turn.  I wonder how fast I can get out before he grabs me. 

  I hear the sounds of a zipper.  “I want you to do something for me okay?  Can you help me out?”

  I shrug my shoulders.  At least he didn’t say, “I’m going to kill you now okay?  It’s going to very painful and you are going to bleed a lot and maybe scream.  I am going to tear your guts out and cut your head off then bury you somewhere in the woods where no one can find you.”  He asked me to do something.  This isn’t that bad.  I am somewhat grateful for this.

  “You ever think about anything like this?”

  I don’t know what “this” is he is referring to.  My head is mostly down, watching my Keds kick the apple core on the rubber floor mat and my shoe reveals a Mustang logo on the mat that exactly matches a Matchbox car I own.  I feel that if I don’t look at him, nothing bad will happen.  There is a silence.  A terrible dark silence. 

  “I like this shirt.  What kind of shirt is this?” He says and he is touching my shoulder and I feel him pulling me closer to him and hear the springs in the seat creek and outside there is a robin singing in a tree the song they always do right at dusk to let the other robins know it is time to turn in for the night.

  The world becomes all fuzzy and blurry where my mind is spinning like the first time I had my teeth cleaned and they gave me too much gas and the world spun away into a whirling vortex of saliva and loud sounds, the vortex spinning faster and faster and tightening around me.  I remember trying to scream in the vortex but it was drowned out by other loud sounds.  The colors in the vortex are all varying shades of dull gray, magenta, a pale yellowish mustard, a dense ubiquitous mauve.  Inside of me is a sickness in my gut that spreads to my brain and the sickness feels like a hunger but it’s not hunger.  It is another kind of emptiness; a poisoned longing to be comforted; a will to be embraced, held, to feel secure, but this is a different kind of comfort.  I have done something wrong.  I am not sure what it is but my soul understands it better than my mind.  I cannot reason it but it is just a sick feeling.  Like eating something bad and it poisons you, not bad at first but after the seed has taken root, the damage spreads and slowly builds.  This poisoning lasts a really long time and you can forget it for a while but it always seems to be there, like a stain on the lining of your stomach you can’t scrub away with time or stomach acid.  This poisoning is similar to the first pangs of sea-sickness where you are nauseated but it is a hunger too and you try to feed the hunger but it just makes it worst until your only recourse is to vomit it all up because you have to get rid of whatever is inside that is destroying you, eating you up.

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