__________________I WAS KIDNAPPED TODAY ____________
A rainy day in Ft. Worth is bad news day for Terry.
My elective transportation is 100% bicycle and I can get through just about all weather except rain. However, I had run out of coffee! This is not good--in fact--it's worth dodging downpours to ride a few blocks to Panera's.
Once inside, I order a mug o’ coffee and the waitperson at the counter waves me away with these words,
“That’s okay. Just grab one of the cups at the end of the counter.”
Is this generosity or is it because I am sporting earbuds that are 9mm bullet cartridges?
I walk to the end of the counter and scan for cups.
The waitperson behind the counter gives me a peculiar look.
“Is the light bad in here?”
“No, it’s fine.”
I’m really not slow on my feet. This time I was. She was making a snarky remark about my hesitation!
She was saying, “Are you blind, you old fool?”
Or maybe not. I decided to smile with dumb gratitude and go about my day.
A steaming mug of hot hazelnut java in my hand, I sat down and wrote a few movie reviews and rebutted a witless remark on the BRIMSTONE movie thread.
After a bit, I decided not to push my luck. I packed everything in my backpack and stood up.
Outside the window, I saw a deluge, a gully-washer, a downpour of Old Testament proportions in progress. I groaned.
That’s when I heard a woman's voice behind me.
“I can offer you a lift in my truck.”
Now begins my tale of kidnapping!
I turned with eyebrows raised.
The lady was about 5’5’’, white hair, crinkled eyes, a mauve, antique blouse with lacework, blue jeans, sneakers and a very old-fashioned, gaudy diamond cluster wedding ring.
Her face was grinning. Her eyes? I couldn’t see them through the puffy slits. Her demeanor appeared innocent and cordial.
So I thought.
I can’t say what her age is--I have no way of knowing. I’m 70 and she looked to be about the age of God’s granddaughter. Who knows?
In the South, in Texas, older women have been reared with Southern charm and neighborly tendencies toward Good Samaritan behaviors. At least, I persuaded myself of this.
“Oh, thank you for the kind thought. I’ll just wait till it passes.”
Looking back on the events which followed, I’m convinced I had some kind of intuition buzzing in the back of my head--a foreknowledge of premonitory hesitancy.
“I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I can see you’re ready to go. Don’t be shy. I won’t bite.
Just lift your bicycle in the bed of my truck and you’ll get home without getting soaked to the bone.”
Have you ever been at a crossroads where you are whipsawed between practical and obvious good judgment and a squirmy feeling of discomfort?
I’ve been caught in the rain outside on my bike a couple of times. I hated it! It is horribly uncomfortable, dangerous and blinding. For one thing, the brakes won’t work! Also, once you get soaked you start shivering and can’t stop.
I tell you all this to justify my poor decision to accept this lady’s offer.
Was it a stupid decision?
An hour and a half later, I knew things about my benefactor which I can relate to you now. These are things she divulged while driving me in the wrong direction. These are things she needed to tell somebody.
She ignored my directions, appearing as though she wasn’t doing anything against my will.
At first, I just thought she was a bit dotty.
Hers was a manner of speaking and acting which reminded me of a cross between Blanche Dubois in Streetcar Named Desire and Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
Was she senile? Alzheimer’s?
It was as though I had been taken captive and handed a script which MUST be played as written.
Her part was a soliloquy. My role was to protest impotently now and again.
We were on the freeway and I wasn’t going to jump out.
So--that’s the situation. I don’t know what you’d have done.
I decided to pay attention and remember as many details as I could. It would all make a great story for later.
“What’s your name? Mine is Mrs. Harry James Carter Raymond.”
“Terry...Uh, you’re going the wrong direction--it’s the other way.”
“It's best I go the way that’s familiar.”
“You’d have to know WHERE I lived--wouldn’t you?”
(Crinkled smile.) Ignoring me.
“My husband died in 1996. He was very wealthy. He never told me anything about his business affairs or anything. We lived in what you’d probably call a mansion. His lawyers told me I was broke. Harry had spent all his assets on quack cures for his condition. I was in a state of shock, I’ll tell you. I had nothing. I couldn’t pay the taxes. I didn’t know where he kept his money and I never once had a checking account. He would always put an envelope with cash in the drawer next to my bed.”
“We need to get off here and turn around. You are heading for Aledo. I live three blocks from Panera’s!”
(Crinkled smile.) Ignoring me...
“Unless somebody knocked it down and rebuilt it, that house--my house--our house still stands with everything in it, just as he left it.”
“You missed the turnoff. Exactly where are we headed? Could you just let me off on the side of the road, please?”
“Don’t be silly, it’s raining. You’ll catch your death.”
Note: I didn’t like that phrase at all!
“Harry never wanted children. There was nobody to help me. I just signed everything Harry’s lawyers put in front of me. I was told I needed to vacate and was given an envelope--just as Harry always did. I knew how to drive because my Daddy taught me when I was 14. I jumped into Harry’s car with just the clothes on my back even though the lawyer was shouting at me to stop. I drove away and never looked back.”
“Let’s take the next exit, why don’t we, hmmm? It looks like a wonderful exit--maybe the best exit on the entire freeway…”
(She flashed a petulant look and ignored me.)
“I drove and drove. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I ran out of gas. I sat in the car and watched the sun setting. A highway patrolman came by and was extremely courteous. He drove me to get gas. He poured it in my tank and got the car started for me. I thanked him and kept driving.”
“Here is the exit--right here--RIGHT HERE--YOU NEED TO … you missed the exit!”
(She acted as though I hadn’t said anything.)
"I arrived in Fort Worth and checked into the Y.W.C.A. I was still a member! I stayed and stayed until they made me leave. I counted the money in the envelope the lawyer gave me.”
“Excuse me, Ma’am, but I would like for you to drop me off or take me back, PLEASE.”
“Oh, don’t call me Ma’am! That’s for old ladies! Call me Dorothy. Like the actress, you know, Dorothy Dandridge.”
“I’m sure if Dorothy Dandridge were driving, she’d have taken me straight home by now.”
My mind was racing. Wouldn’t yours be? Was this a comical situation I’d fallen into or a dangerous one? I’m a go-with-the-flow sort of person. I knew I ought to be more worried and pissed off. For some reason, I was enjoying my situation. I can’t explain it. I think because it was cinematic and extremely interesting. If she got violent, I think in a fistfight, I might be able to beat her. Maybe. Maybe not. I really didn’t want to find out.
“My sister died when she was 24. She drowned. Henriette was traveling 2nd class. She probably would have survived had she gone, 1st class. The Titanic was a class conscious vessel, let me tell you. She was the one who had introduced me to Harry. For some strange reason, he liked my name.
He kept saying it over and over. ‘Dorothy Yvois...Dorothy Yvois…’ and he made me laugh. He told me, ‘Yface is beautiful and so is Yvois.’
Henriette would have been my bridesmaid and it would have been a double wedding with Harry’s brother. Oh dear--I can’t remember what we called him…”
And so it went. On and on she drove and talked and talked. In and out of any discernible context. She was making no point. I gave up trying to persuade her to turn around. I decided to get tricky.
“I’m getting hungry, aren’t you? Why don’t we stop and have lunch?”
“Open the glove box. There should be some chips in there. I don’t know how old they are.”
“Ha ha ha. You think I’m stupid, don’t you?”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m nobody’s fool.”
“I’m sure you aren’t. Are you hungry? I am.”
She ignored me again and drove along with knitted eyebrows. I couldn’t tell if she were angry or just confused.
Then, without any change of conversation, she turned off the freeway and crossed a bridge to the other side. We were heading back to Ft. Worth. My anxiety was lessening. I grew a bit more friendly, to encourage her to accommodate my longing for freedom.
“The rain has stopped. I’m glad there wasn’t any hail.”
She was pursing her lips, deep in ancient thoughts.
“Henriette was jealous of my engagement. What’s-his-name, Harry’s brother wasn’t good looking at all. Harry was always pleasant and dressed well. When she drowned, I cried for weeks and Harry was wonderful. He bought me a sable coat. His brother...oh what was his name? Anyway...OH! Tighe--that’s it! Tighe was his name. It took me forever to say it right. It rhymed with 'oblige'. That’s how I got it right. Tighe was sullen and indifferent when Henriette died. He didn’t come to her funeral! I had nothing to do with him after that.”
I was sitting on the passenger side calming down now that we were going east instead of west. Then, it hit me. The math was all wrong! Her story couldn’t be true!
“Your sister was 24 when she drowned? Was she younger than you or older?”
“A gentleman would never ask a lady her age.”
“I’m the kidnap victim, I don’t have to be a gentleman. I don’t think your sister could have died on the Titanic. That was 1912. If she were 24 in 1912 and you were her younger sister…”
“Oh, did I say the Titanic? I meant the Lafayette. I was thinking of the Normandie and forgot it was changed to the Lafayette. I got confused with the Titanic.”
“I’m pretty confused myself.”
“Harry and I married a year later. We had a good marriage. I never wanted for anything. I stayed home and he went off on business trips. I collected silver and China and played Mah Jongg at the Ladies Auxiliary on Wednesdays. Harry liked Whist. I didn’t, but it pleased him if I joined in on Sundays.”
“Okay Dorothy, this has been...um..well I kind of enjoyed our little chat. Now, in a few minutes, we’ll be back to where we started and I’d like you to let me off back at Panera’s. The sun is shining and I’d like some more coffee. Would that be okay with you?”
“Harry caught pneumonia. The only exercise he ever got was riding his bicycle. He was caught in a spring rain.”
She turned off on Hulen and dropped me in front of Panera’s. I pulled my soaking wet bike out of the bed of her truck and waved to Dorothy. She rolled down the window and spoke cheerily.
“Don’t get soaked. You’ll catch your death.”
Then, she straightens in her seat and drives away. Just like that--gone.
I hadn’t wanted her to see where I lived. That’s why I had her drop me off at Panera’s.
I sighed a huge sigh of great relief.
What the hell was that all about?
Robert Louis Stevenson would be so proud.