This is a little excerpt of a story of mine that was published in Gulf Stream a while back. I know I'm kind of cheating for the day, but this portion of the story seemed to fit in well with Sunday Scibblings' question-to-answer this week: Who else might I have been? I hope the selection can stand on its own without causing too much confusion.
* * *
Gill could have been kidnapped. He wasn’t.
His conduct afterwards revealed his tiny heart’s simple secret: He wished he had been kidnapped.
For an entire week, he returned to the monkey bars at his dead-end little park at the hour of his near-abduction. He wandered around the old, shade-soaked equipment, did some chin-ups, and checked the street every few minutes for the van marked “Dan’s Windows and Doors.” It never showed up.
For an entire week, he returned home more disappointed. His father was asleep, his mother was clipping recipes and gluing them in her notebook. The pictures of food next to the recipes looked like the food she cooked each night for dinner, only prettier, better.
Gill started to imagine what his life would have been like if the man had kidnapped him. He didn’t think about what had happened to Adam Walsh, about the long search for his body, or the TV-movie-of-the-week that filled parents everywhere with dread. Instead, he started thinking that maybe he had missed out on something, a better life—far from Twilight—a life that had nothing to do with the one he was living.
And then he began keeping a notebook like his mother’s. Only he filled it with people he considered his relatives, his maybe-family. Prettier, better.
He clipped pictures from his mother’s magazines of men from toothpaste and shaving cream advertisements and women from ads for dish soap and air fresheners, and he glued all of them in a blue, spiral-bound notebook.
He created a large maybe-family for himself and wrote long and involved stories about each of his maybe-family members. He had wise, old grandparents and young, athletic parents and a host of brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles who all lived amazing, exotic lives, who all adored him.
He cut out the pictures of missing children on empty milk cartons and taped them in his notebook, too, his lost maybe-brothers and sisters.
Gill’s notebook started filling up, and then he began to combine body parts he found admirable from several different ads into one man or woman or child. He would stick one pearly white smile on a perfect, square jaw and then find a nice nose, a pair of blue eyes. These new family members were all out of proportion. They looked like ransom people, like the ransom letters kidnappers made and sent to the families of the children they’d kidnapped. Ears stuck out. Foreheads bulged.
Gill would sit in bed at night and memorize the features of his maybe-family members—both the old, perfect ones and the newer, more grotesque ones—and imagine what his life with them would be like. He was good at imagining all the things they did—one uncle worked as a television news anchor, one aunt was discovering the cure for cancer—but he couldn’t ever decide what he would be doing with them. What he imagined was mostly a setting: They would live far from Twilight, in wooden cabins, near a lake filled with tropical fish.
Back then Gill didn’t think much about what his life would be like once he was an adult. But he never would have imagined himself in charge of a pig-plant clean-up crew, wearing a yellow rainsuit, washing bone and blood from the floors with a hose each night. He never would have imagined himself still living in the house where both his parents died.