I was 12 when I was in my first hostage situation. We were on a school trip to the Science Museum. I was in the Hall of Electricity, just me and my math teacher, Ms. Tobias. I hadn’t really gotten to see anything when the rest of the class was with me, so she had stayed with me for a few minutes while everybody else lined up in the museum’s cafeteria. Enter an electricity-based villain. Shocka-locka or Electrobomb, something like that. Who knows what his original plan was. Did he think the museum would be empty at noon on a Wednesday? Whatever. He holds us hostage. Almost three hours before Rubberman enters and free us. Ms. Tobias totally Stockholms over the guy. Visits him in the jail for years after. They’re married now. He teaches science at my old school. It’s almost sweet if you can overlook the part where he kept me tied up for three hours and I couldn’t use a bathroom.
My second hostage situation, I was 15, and I was at the 7-11. I had been about to get a Slushie when I noticed the bathroom, and that’s to prior hostage related trauma, I have to pee before I get a drink because you never know when the scariest day of your life is about to happen. So, might as well be prepared, right? So, exit the bathroom and I’m right in the middle of a robbery. Robber panics, shoots the clerk in the arm. I felt bad about that, the clerk never carded me for cigarettes. Hostage situation ensues. Maybe this being my second one, I was more relaxed. Yeah, I had to bandage the clerk’s arm under gunpoint, but then I still got my Slushie, and we all agreed that I didn’t need to pay for it. Whole thing was resolved in like 30 minutes.
I was a hostage two more times before I graduated high school. Another 5 times while I was in college, most notably the Shark Men who took us captive during Spring Break. And four more since then. Honestly, I’m a pretty good hostage. I don’t make sudden movements. I don’t come up with escape plans. Having survived this many, I’m not nervous like other hostages. I share my gum. The one problem, there’s this one hero, Tom Thumb. He has power thumbs or something. But he’s rescued me the last three times, and once before that. So, he’s got this notion about us.
“Hey babe, you’ve got my attention. So, you don’t have to keep putting yourself through this.”
I get it. It’s a trope. And let’s be honest, Rubberman played a part in a few of my fantasies when I was in high school. But yeah, I’m not a journalist sneaking into villains’ lairs. I’m just a particularly unlucky Accounts Specialist. (Believe me, there are no lucky Accounts Specialists).
My phone buzzes with another text message.
Let’s get together tonight. If you want, I can tie you up.
I’ll show you why they really call me Tom Thumb.
Between Thumb, and my next potential hostage situation, I no longer go out for lunch. But, I’m getting to know my co-worker, Mary. She’s been a hostage once, which is nothing compared to my 13 times, but still, it makes me feel like I’m less of an anomaly and that there’s really a systemic problem. Mary likes to knit during lunch, and then snack at her desk.
“It’s easier to multi-task work than to multi-task knitting, and why should I use 30 minutes of my own time to placate bodily needs. We didn’t evolve to live like this. So, what are you going to do about your stalker?”
“What can I do?”
“Get a restraining order? The guy sounds deranged.”
“Oh, he is deranged. He flicks marbles at guys’ heads with his thumb and practically kills them. After 13 hostage situations, I’ve met a lot of villains and a lot of heroes, and that’s the most messed up thing I’ve ever seen. But the cops love him. It’s that perfect use of deadly force that doesn’t sound like deadly force. So, I don’t think I’ll get any sympathy.”
“Who would have thought that letting a bunch of weirdos fight crime and be above the law would have its downsides? Fuck, I missed a stitch.”
Mary puts her knitting aside, and helps herself to my potato chips. I like that Mary swears, that she doesn’t take shit. She told me that when she was a hostage, she got fed up after half an hour, and kneed the criminal in the nuts. When the cops finally got the all-clear and entered, they almost arrested her, because she seemed to be the person in charge. Part of me wishes I wasn’t the agreeable hostage. Maybe, then I wouldn’t have a hero texting me dick pics.
“Let’s get drinks tonight,” Mary says.
“Not worried about my curse?”
“Let’s get captured. I’ll deal with the bad guy and your little Thumbalina problem.”
“And if we don’t get captured?”
Mary leans over and whispers in my ear, “I’m sure we’ll find something to do.”