Treehouse Kidnapping

I survived a kidnapping when I was a child, but don’t bother searching for news clippings of the event in your local library. I never went public with the incident, as it was more humiliating than harrowing.

  The neighborhood I grew up in had a relatively nice mix of kids, and I believe very few of them went on to become homicidal maniacs. But if I had to pinpoint one who may have chosen the murder route in life, Brandon Kervek was the kid who would get my vote.

Our neighborhood was surrounded by a wooded area that was bordered by a small creek formed from a sewage drain. A makeshift bridge (really just an old piece of wood) led across the creek’s three-foot width, which might not sound too intimidating to an adult, but the possibility of falling in mucky sewage and getting in trouble when you went home smelling like poop afterward posed some serious consequences to us local kids.

Once you’d gone over to the bridge, you were able to navigate the woods to a clearing, at the center of which stood a rickety old fort that was, despite its condition, the coolest, most desired hangout spot in the neighborhood. The structure was shrouded with mystique. I never knew who built it - it was always there, possibly built by the ancients of our neighborhood. The fort’s ownership seemed to get passed down, unofficially, to each new generation of neighborhood kids. And I mistakenly thought this was my generation’s turn. I was wrong.

One day I found myself alone at the edge of the woods, which was a rare occurrence. The creek was filled with frogs and I loved to catch them, even though I’d just hold them for a few minutes before letting them jump back in - but into a different part of the creek, far from where I found them. I honestly thought of it as a nice little move for those frogs, and one they wouldn’t have made on their own. I wanted them to experience a new environment. I needed more human friends.

After half an hour of frog-relocating, I started to think about visiting the fort. It called to me, unseen but only a few hundred yards away. Unable to shake my desire, I made my way to the clearing. The base of the tree had cigarette butts and beer bottle caps (though I didn’t recognize them as such) scattered around - this should have been a warning to me, but didn’t register as such. I was busy fantasizing about bringing some handheld video games into the fort and converting it to an elevated arcade when a rough hand grabbed me from behind and turned me around.

It was Brandon, sucking on a cigarette and staring at me curiously. Behind him was his partner in evil deeds, Eric, also smoking it up. I considered telling them what I’d heard the Surgeon General say about cigarettes, but thought better of it - probably because I was absolutely terrified.

The duo looked me over, sneers on their faces. “What the [bad word] are you doing here?!” Brandon asked. Though he’d seen me around the neighborhood for years, he didn’t know my name. I was a bug beneath his feet, and he was preparing to squash me.

I didn’t speak. I couldn’t. I did the only thing my nervous system allowed: exploded into tears. I’m not proud of it, but I truly believed my young life was coming to an end right then and there - and I had good reason to be that pessimistic. Brandon had crucified a live frog on a nearby tree not long ago, shooting it with a beebee gun until it was dead, then leaving its corpse on the bloody trunk for everyone to see. I told you he was diabolical. I believed anyone who could do that to an innocent amphibian would have no problem snuffing out a slightly larger creature like myself.

There I stood, at the base of the fort, blubbing like a baby in front of these two thugs. At first they laughed and taunted me vague threats of injury. But soon I began hyperventilating, and my sobs softened as my upper body heaved. I was losing control, and they realized it. They actually started to become worried - maybe they weren’t quite prepared to dispose of a body just yet. So they did something surprising: they put their arms around me, told me to calm down, and brought me up inside the fort.

I thought it was a trick - maybe they wanted to toss me out, to see how many times I’d bounce - but I was in no shape to put up a fight. I couldn’t even speak. The inside of the fort was even more impressive than I’d imagined, despite a pervasive smell of cigarettes. The two teenagers sat me down amidst the car magazines and cobbled-together furniture and reassured me that they weren’t really planning to do me any harm - they only wanted to give me a scare. Brandon popped open a couple beers and offered me one, but I declined with an emphatic head wave. Eric declared, “Man, I never saw anyone cry so hard!” I guess that’s something to be proud of.

I don’t remember much else about my visit. Brandon talked about something called an “ABC Card” that would let him drink legally when he turned eighteen. Because of the simple-sounding acronym, I thought he’d made it up, but years later I found out it actually existed. Eventually I calmed down enough to dry my tears and speak, though I was still feeling enough trepidation that I let Brandon and Eric do most of the talking, eighty percent of which was cursing. The other twenty percent was divided between Catherine “Daisy Dukes” Bach and her wardrobe, and their reflections of my minutes-ago crying jag. Yeah, we were just three cool dudes, chillin’ in a tree fort.

By the end of my visit, they had me in a totally relaxed state, though it was probably only their fear that I’d rat out the location of their speakeasy in the woods. Brandon gently asked me if I was going to tell anyone what happened, I said I wouldn’t (it would have looked worse for me than it would have for them), and we parted ways peacefully. I don’t remember seeing either of those guys around much after that, and in the future I made sure I always had at least one other partner on hand when I made my frog-moving excursions.