I recently wrote a novel called How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers. Some people have used it as a guide, others have used it to balance wobbly dinner tables. It’s about a writer who one day impulsively kidnaps a book reviewer outside of a coffee shop, in front of dozens of witnesses. This is obviously not how one would successfully go about kidnapping a stranger. My novel is more of an anti-guide. Do the opposite of what my characters do, and you might actually have a successful abduction.
But now that I’ve gotten a few kidnappings under my belt, I’ve decided to hold some auditions for those who might be interested in being my partner. Today’s audition features David James Keaton. We will be discussing the possibility of kidnapping the protagonist from his novel, The Last Projector.
MB: All right, David, before I agree to be your partner, you’re gonna have to answer a few questions. I don’t kidnap strangers with just anybody. Well, not usually. I have a long list of potential partners awaiting my consideration, so let’s make this fast. Who the hell are you, and why should I trust you?
DJK: My name is David James Keaton, and you can definitely trust me as long as we have the same objective. I’ll probably have no interest in your success or well-being once we go our separate ways, however, so after this is over you should probably cut off all contact. Maybe change your name to Max Booth the Second. Or would that be just Junior? That won’t work. Haven’t you seen the Kiss of Death remake with Nicolas Cage? Because of that movie, I’ve never worked with a Junior, and I won’t start now.
MB: Provide examples of your criminal past. Any jail time served? Ever jaywalk or swallow your gum even though you knew it would stay in your stomach for years until eventually hatching into a horrifying monster? I need to know this kind of stuff ahead of time.
DJK: I was locked up for a couple hours for unpaid speeding tickets once, but my friends bailed me out pretty quick. Well, not too quick. That night, I’d just convinced them all to go see Star Trek V, and we’d been pulled over on the way home. Everyone was in such a bad mood from that movie that they insisted the police officer handcuff me, which he did, all while saying, “some friends ya got there!” And then they did some joy-riding in my car until they finally got 500 bucks out of the ATM to come bail me out.
I also had a vandalism streak back in the ‘90s and would read the police blotter in the local Bowling Green paper to see which smashed payphones were reported. Come to think of it, that police blotter column may have technically been my first publications.
But I don’t have too many urges to vandalize these days. However, if I’m left in our getaway car too long, I’ll probably compulsively start picking at the upholstery. And if I’m left there with ‘80s pop rock music playing, I might even tear up the entire dashboard Francis Dolarhyde-style.
MB: Do you have any special talents? What can you bring to the table?
DJK: I learned how to correctly punch people in the face by watching Magnum Force. In that movie, Clint Eastwood hit everyone with the side of his fist, rather than his knuckles. Try it! Instead of punching straight down all awkward with the front of your knuckles, bring your arm down like you’re hammering invisible nails. You can do this all day long with no pain at all. This is a game-changer. Other things Clint Eastwood taught me that could help us – while watching Heartbreak Ridge I learned how to give our gang new nicknames within seconds of meeting them. Your new name will be Max “Phone Home” Booth. The Third.
MB: All right, so if you’re wanting to work with me, you must already have a target in mind. Who are we kidnapping?
DJK: Lawrence Bridge Kensington III. Friends call him Larry. He directs pornographic films, but more important than all that, he spit mouthwash in my face when I was idling my dirt bike next to him at a four-way stop. He never even apologized. Holy shit, I just realized he has the same last name as you! Is this going to be an issue ?
MB: What’s so special about him?
DJK: I’ve recently discovered that his real name is Jack Grinstead, and I want to find out what he’s hiding. I’m pretty sure you should never trust anyone with a two names.
MB: What kind of ransom are we looking at? Are we walking away with a few hundred thousand, a million, what? Or something besides cash? What’s in it for me?
DJK: Whether he’s calling himself Larry or Jack, I don’t think he’s ever had much money to his name. Our caper is more to protect the rest of the world from his inevitable apocalyptic meltdown. What’s in it for you? You live in this world, too, right?
MB: Be honest. How dangerous is this person? What kind of weapons should I arm myself with, and how likely are we to utilize them? Will he be packing? Will he be alone?
DJK: He’s a pussy. One of his neighbors regularly beats the shit out of him. Basically, his only real weapon is anachronistic meta-narrative confusion. Which means we might find ourselves kidnapping each other and then making a soundtrack of the hypothetical movie of our situation that already existed before we were born.
MB: What location were you thinking? The best place to abduct this Larry or Jack or whoever with as few witnesses as possible. Is there somewhere we can get him alone?
DJK: The drive-in. I know this seems like a terrible place to snatch someone, but, ironically, the more witnesses the better when it comes to this guy. He’s the kind of asshole who won’t believe he’s being kidnapped unless a hundred strangers are honking their horns. Or applauding. And is he doesn’t believe it, we won’t believe it. Filmmgoers call this a “suspension of disbelief .” Larry, however, calls this a suspension of his balls. I don’t know what that means either. I told you he was dangerous.
MB: Okay, we have a target and a location. Now we need to discuss method. There’s many ways to kidnap a person. We could sneak up on him and throw a potato sack over his head. We could shoot him with a tranquilizer. We could order him a pizza and lace it with sleeping pills. The possibilities are endless. You know this person better than anybody.
DJK: Although Larry fancies himself a serious filmmaker, he makes most of his money shooting porn, and he indulges in every movie-making shortcut known to man. Including this fake phone book he keeps in his trunk for whenever he needs a character to pretend to make a phone call and spout off some obvious exposition to advance his paper-thin plots. So what we should do is swap that fake phone booth with a real phone booth, and then when that phone rings, we could… fuck it, let’s just hit him on the head.
MB: Now that we have Jack, or Larry, how long until someone notices he’s gone? Who’s going to be coming after him? Should I be worried?
DJK: The only person who might notice he’s gone is Damon Gold, the owner of the adult film company Larry works for. Damon, however, might throw a party if he thinks Larry is dead. Or at least keep his current party going an extra week.
MB: How could we convince them we mean business? They’re not getting Larry back until the ransom has been delivered. Should we cut off some limbs or what? Shave a scalp, maybe? You know, once I filmed a hostage being forced to walk on a floor of legos, then sent the video to the guy’s wife. She paid up, like, immediately. What would work best for Larry? Try to be creative.
DJK: Like I said, we’re not going to get any money out of this, just the satisfaction that we’ve kept the world safe from post-modern paradoxes. And if Larry doesn’t show up on a porn set, because of the nature of low-budget, clandestine shoots, everything will probably happen exactly the same, only the two strangers who would still be having sex on the plastic-covered furniture won’t be recorded on film. Who are we kidding, I mean recorded on videotape. So Larry is unessential to his own existence in a lot of ways. And the only person who gives a shit about Larry is Larry, and by that I mean only the previous incarnation of Larry before he became so jaded and worked a profession that actually made a difference in people’s lives, when he went by “Jack Grinstead,” the paramedic. And if Jack knows that his future self, Larry, has been abducted, I have no doubt that he’ll try to change the course of his life to stop this from ever happening. This may mean… yes, masturbating into more Venus Fly Traps. I know, I know, don’t ask. So what we’d need to do is to convince Larry’s future filmmaking staff that this is some crazy gonzo botanist porn we’re working on, but that it’s set in the ‘80s when Larry was still calling himself Jack, and then we’d somehow record Jack masturbating into Venus Fly Traps without his knowledge, then mail the VHS tape to his future self, who would be confused by the old technology and stack it unwatched next to his old two-tape version of Heat. Wait, I mean mail the Venus Fly Traps to Larry, who would probably be ashamed to see them in the daylight and staple their little green mouths shut.
MB: Jesus Christ, you’re crazy. How do you predict this hypothetical kidnapping ending? Will it all be smooth sailing, or is there a massive gunfight in our future? I don’t mind spilling a little blood here and there, I just need to be prepared.
DJK: I think if we follow Larry’s lead, and we can keep these plants from talking to the cops, we’re gonna be okay. Did you know that a Venus Fly Trap will only close and re-open ten times before it no longer responds at all? That’s not a lot, but if you think of it like a cat, that still sounds better than nine lives. My point is, let’s not get carried away with the stapler. A tiny strip of duct tape over their mouths, and we’ll be fine. No one has to know we even considered doing any of this. Wait, what are we doing again?
MB: This all sounds very confusing and more trouble than it’s worth. But fuck it, count me in.