Thursday, May 17, 2007

"The Man in Bogota" by Amy Hempel

From: Reasons to Live by Amy Hempel, HarperCollins, 1985.

In six poignant paragraphs, the narrator of this story puts herself in the role of a crisis negotiator trying to talk a woman down from a ledge as TV news cameras roll. The narrator decides she would tell the woman about a man in Bogota, Colombia, a wealthy industrialist who was kidnapped and held for ransom.

This was not a TV drama, the narrator says. The man's wife needed three months to gather the money. The man had a heart condition and his kidnappers made him quit smoking and changed his diet to keep him alive. When he was released, his doctor found him in excellent health and said the kidnap was the best thing that could've happened to him.

Maybe it isn't a come-down-from-the-ledge story, the narrator concedes, but she hopes the woman will ask the same question the man in Bogota did: How do we know that what happens to us isn't good?

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