During the late summer of 1978, when I was thirteen years old, I went on a fishing trip with my friend Scott, his father and his Uncle Jerry. It turned out to be a bondage bonanza for me, even when the trip was washed out on the second day due to impending rain. Thanks to the rain, we spent the second of what should have been our three-day fishing trip at the small, lakeside cabin. The rain had stopped, and the sun came back out, yet it felt as hot and humid as ever. To beat the heat, I had showered earlier, and was now clad only in a pair of denim cut-off shorts. Because of this scant outfit I wore, Uncle Jerry had taken to calling me “Tarzan Jr.”
Just when everybody's hopes that the fishing trip would resume had been lifted, Scott's father announced that, since we were already at dock, this would be the perfect time to clean the boat. As you might have guessed, that idea did not go over very well with everybody, especially Uncle Jerry-who made his own announcement: he was taking off. When Uncle Jerry offered to drive me home, I accepted. As much as I hated leaving Scott to do the scut work with his father, I really didn't feel like cleaning somebody else's boat for them. And so I placed my stuff in the back of Uncle Jerry's pickup truck and bid father and son farewell.
Uncle Jerry was quiet for most of the drive, which suited me fine, because I was getting a little tired of him calling me Tarzan Jr. However, once he pulled up in front of my house, he turned to me and said, “Your parents aren't home?”
“No,” I confirmed. They had taken off on their own little trip while I had been away on our fishing trip. “They won't be back until tomorrow.”
Uncle Jerry nodded thoughtfully. “Listen, Doug, I have a proposition for you. How would you like to play a little tie up game with me and a friend?”
“Right now?” I asked.
“Yeah, starting now. And I'll make it worth your while.” He dug into his pocket and held out a folded twenty-dollar bill. “I'll give you this twenty for playing a game that I know you love to play. How does that sound?”
I had to admit, it sounded great. Twenty dollars was a lot of money for a thirteen-year-old boy back in 1978. But I had some reservations. “Who else is playing?”
“Just a girl who is a good friend of mine,” Uncle Jerry answered. “This'll be sort of a practical joke that we'll be playing on her. I'm going to show up at her house with you all tied up, and tell her that I kidnapped you for ransom. She may even join in if she wants. I'll have you back home in plenty of time to meet your folks. What do you say?”
When I made a gesture to take the twenty, Uncle Jerry pulled it away. “You get paid after we're done,” he told me.
“All right,” I agreed.
Uncle Jerry started up the truck and pulled out of my driveway. He kept driving until we were on a desolate stretch of road with dense forest on either side. Then he stopped and shut off the truck once more. Uncle Jerry grabbed my left wrist and pulled me out the driver's side door with him. Still holding onto my wrist, he led me to the rear of the pickup truck, where he dug out some rope.
I inadvertently grunted when Uncle Jerry roughly turned me around and began tying my wrists together behind my back with the rope. I was being trussed up right there, in the middle of an asphalt road, right out in the open. I knew that since it was a deserted road, nobody would see me, but there was still this indescribable thrill I had-it was probably the closest I felt to really being kidnapped. I was still barefoot, bare-chested, and clad only in my denim cut-off shorts.
After Uncle Jerry placed several strips of duct tape over my mouth, he then made me lean back against the side of the truck so he could bend down and bind my ankles together with more rope. While my feet were being bound, I glanced around me, wondering if a hiker or somebody else saw me. But if there was anybody in the woods, I didn't see them. Once I was bound hand and foot and gagged to Uncle Jerry's liking, he slung my tied body over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
I let out another grunt-but this time it was muffled by my gag-as Uncle Jerry hauled me over to the passenger side of the pickup's front cab. He opened the door and placed me inside, but not on the seat. Instead, he placed me on the cab floor directly in front of the passenger seat. I sat with my back facing the passenger door and my knees bent up against my bare chest.
Uncle Jerry got into the driver's seat and began driving the pickup as normally as ever. Every so often he would glance down at me, the bound and gagged Tarzan Jr. When we came to a stop, and he shut the truck off, I figured we had arrived at his lady friend's house. Uncle Jerry got out of the truck and slammed the driver's side door. I sat with my head craned over my bare shoulder, waiting for when Uncle Jerry would open the passenger door behind me and take me out of the truck.
But that never happened.
Instead, I heard Uncle Jerry talking loudly. I could not make out his exact words, but I knew he was some distance from the truck. When I realized that his conversation only went one way, with no reply, it occurred to me that he was speaking to somebody on a phone.
I wondered what was going on. He said he wanted to surprise his lady friend, so he couldn't have been calling her-could he?
I twisted and writhed my bound body, using the passenger seat as support, until I knelt down on the floor, directly in front of the seat. I peered out the window and saw that we were in the parking lot at the lakeside beach. I could see Uncle Jerry chatting away at a pay phone. We were parked well enough away from the beachgoers and their cars, on the opposite side of the parking lot from the beach.
I sat back down in my kneeling position and accidentally bumped the back of my head against the dashboard. I didn't want to give Uncle Jerry any indication that I had been moving around, so I sat back down with my back facing the passenger door and my knees pressed up against my chest.
Uncle Jerry finished his phone conversation and returned to the truck. As he started the ignition, he gave me a little wink. I was tempted to return the wink, but I didn't want to appear too cocky. We drove for a while, until Uncle Jerry pulled over and once more shut the truck off. As he got out of the truck, I wondered if we were finally at his lady friend's house. My suspicions were answered when I heard Uncle Jerry say something, and a woman replied. The passenger door flew open behind me, and Uncle Jerry plucked me out of the truck.
As Uncle Jerry hefted me over his shoulder and hauled me away from the pickup truck, I heard a woman say, “Oh my God! You weren't kidding, Jerry!”
“Where should I put him?” Uncle Jerry asked.
“The laundry room,” the woman replied.
I was carried onto a inside a cramped house, and past the woman whom Uncle Jerry had spoken to. She appeared young, in her early to mid-twenties, with curvy, shoulder length black hair. Barefoot, she was clad in a halter top and cut-off shorts. As I was hauled through her house, she followed, staring at me all the while like I was something terrible that Uncle Jerry had found under a rock.
I was brought to a confined laundry room, which was really nothing more than an enclosed back porch, and placed down in an old cushioned chair that had seen better days. Uncle Jerry wiped sweat from his brow as he stood next to the woman and asked, “When will Mel be home?”
“About seven,” the woman replied. She never took her eyes off of me. “Handsome kid.”
“Yeah, Doug's a real heartbreaker,” Uncle Jerry said sarcastically. He glanced at his watch. “I gotta go get something set up. I'll be back before Mel arrives.”
The woman walked Uncle Jerry to the door, leaving me alone to inspect the dingy laundry room. The white linoleum floor was dirty and worn out to the bare wood surface in some spots. Women's lingerie hung from a clothesline that was strung out from pipes that stuck out of the dark wood paneled walls. I glanced out the window, which was behind me, and saw only the woods. I didn't know where I was-only that I was no longer in my hometown.
The woman came back into the laundry room. She leaned her butt up against the battered washer, lit a cigarette, and then gazed thoughtfully at me. After she exhaled some smoke, she placed the cigarette in an ashtray, came over to me and peeled off the tape from my mouth. She asked, “Your name is Doug? Mine's Laura.”
“Hi,” I said shyly. It was odd making introductions with somebody while I sat bound hand and foot. And Laura gave no indication that she would free me.
“From where do you know Jerry, Doug?”
“He's the uncle of Scott, my best friend,” I replied.
She nodded. “Do you need anything, Doug? A drink? Something to eat?”
I wasn't hungry, nor was I really thirsty, but I could use a break from being tied up. I had been bound like this for well over two hours, now. “Could I use the bathroom?”
“If I untie you, will you promise to behave?” Laura asked. “You're not going to try anything funny, are you?”
When I swore that I would not try anything funny, Laura freed me. She showed me where the bathroom was and I quickly entered and shut the door. I washed my hands and my face, and slicked back my sweat-dampened hair.
I emerged from the bathroom to find a glass of iced tea on the kitchen table. Laura leaned up against the counter with her arms folded. She nodded at the glass and said, “That's for you, if you want it.”
Far be it for me to turn down a cold drink on a stifling hot day such as today was. As I sat at the table and drank, Laura asked me about the bondage game the Uncle Jerry proposed. When I told her, she nodded slowly.
“Is this Mel I heard you talking about Jerry's lady friend?” I asked.
“Yeah, it's short for Melanie,” Laura said. She appeared to be deep in thought. The phone rang, and Laura went to answer it. I noticed that she spoke in hushed tones, as if not wanting me to know what she was saying.
I had to say that I was still having the time of my life. This was far better than just sitting home alone. I couldn't wait to see what would happen when Melanie finally saw me. I finished my ice tea, then got up and put the glass in the kitchen sink. There was a window above the sink, and I saw something outside that stunned me.
I stepped outside onto the front lawn and stared at the street. Sure enough, I did see what I thought I saw: sidewalks. If this sounds strange to you, consider that I lived in a pretty rural area, where we just had asphalt roads with no sidewalks at all. The neighborhood that I found myself in was not only an unknown one, but it was in the suburbs, which was miles from where I lived. And here I was barefoot; hell, even if I did have shoes, the walk back home would still be impossible. For the first time that day, I felt a twinge of uncertainty, as if maybe I had made the wrong decision in playing bondage games with people whom I barely knew.
Laura came running out after me. “Doug, what are you doing?” she asked, sounding tense. “Come back inside now.”
“What town is this?” I asked her.
She gave me the name of the town, thus confirming that I was quite a ways from my home-ten miles, at least.
“Doug, remember what you promised?” Laura asked. She glanced anxiously around the neighborhood, but there was nobody out on the street. “You promised you wouldn't cause any trouble for me, right?”
“Uh, right, sorry,” I said sheepishly.
Laura grabbed my arm. “So get back inside, now.”
I did what she asked. And no sooner were we both indoors than Laura-who still held onto my arm-grabbed a length of rope. She pulled my arms behind my back, and bound my wrists together with the rope. I was then gagged with so much tape that it practically covered the lower half of my face.
After this, Laura brought me down a flight of wooden steps to the cellar, where she dragged an old lounge chair into the only empty space there was between a clutter of boxes and other knick-knacks. The lounge chair was arranged in a flat, horizontal position. I was made to lie facedown on the lounge chair, where my ankles were bound together with rope. Laura then secured my already tied ankles to the end of the lounge chair, which insured that I could not get up.
I heard Laura let out a heavy sigh from behind me, and then she said, “It's cooler down here. It should be better for you to be out of the heat when you're all tied up like this.”
And with that, she went back upstairs, her bare feet silent on the wooden steps. I flinched when I heard the cellar door up there slam shut.
As I helplessly lay there, a bound prisoner of a total stranger, I felt a chill run up my bare back, and it was not from being in a cool cellar.