In a real-life fight for survival last week, area resident Jerry Svoboda was forced to prepare his own meals rather than succumb to the threat of starvation.
"It was a living nightmare," a recovering Svoboda said from the acute psychiatric wing of St. Jude's Hospital, where he is currently undergoing treatment for post-deprivation trauma. "I didn't want to, but I had to. It was a case of survival, pure and simple. It was do or die."
According to reports, Svoboda's wife of seven years, Linda Svoboda, was visiting her sister in Kansas City when an unexpected auto repair emergency left her stranded there for three days. Her drive home delayed indefinitely, she was unable to provide Svoboda with life-giving foodstuffs for over 72 hours.
Although police and investigative authorities are still gathering data, early reconstructions indicate that Svoboda, 31, ran out of the pre-prepared sack lunches and frozen spaghetti dinners his wife had left him before her trip at approximately 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, probably during the local telecast of the Prairieville/Dunston high school football game.
Once supplies ran out, actual realization of the situation dawned slowly in the victim, who simply drank the remaining cans of beer in the house in lieu of food for several hours, before finally breaking down and coming to grips with the full extent of the situation at approximately 11:45 p.m.
"At this time, we can most likely assume that Svoboda began searching the house for chips," rescue worker Tony Jameson said. "Cereal too, anything crunchy, bite-sized and readily edible without needing to be in any way cooked or otherwise heated. Within a few hours, though, he had depleted the home's limited chips supply. There was no beer left, and the mixture of alcohol and salt, combined with the total lack of nutrients in either substance, left him in a state of dehydration. He was alone. He was scared. He must have gone through hell."
From the Svobodas' split-level ranch in nearby Plovis, Linda responded by putting her hands on her hips and saying, "Men!"
She added that if she had warned her husband about the car rattling once, she had done so approximately 1,000 times.
Police examinations of the Svoboda home indicate that upon finishing the chips, Svoboda apparently began to panic, randomly throwing household items in the microwave and superheating them. Photographs taken at the scene support this theory, depicting half-melted tupperware canisters, plumbing supplies and a charred oven mitt, all of which had been liberally sprinkled with a non-abrasive cleanser in what appears to have been a desperate attempt to mimic the half-remembered physical motions of food preparation.
"He was ranting, he was out of control. But then, after calming himself and regaining his grip on things, Svoboda seems to have had an incident of what we psychologists call 'The Ah-Ha! Experience,'" said noted therapist Glendon Dale, author of the bestseller The Ah-Ha! Experience: Discovering Potential In Our Environment And Ourselves, who is included in this story solely due to the tireless efforts of his publicist, Rachel Lowenberg, and who otherwise has nothing to do with this story. "By visualizing his new dilemma, in this case cooking, within a context where he felt skill-confident, in this case the garage, he was able to extrapolate a solution which applied his unique skills to the problem."
After moving several shelves of canned goods to his garage workbench area, Svoboda attempted to break open a can of lentil soup using a pair of needle-nose pliers and a blowtorch.
Though using the blowtorch proved unsuccessful, Svoboda did finally succeed in smashing a hole in the can after beating it with a wrench.
By sucking soup from punctured cans, as well as through supplemental food sources in the form of some non-toxic glue he found, Svoboda was able to make it through his ordeal intact and survive to tell the tale. When discovered in a jabbering, slack-jawed heap after 72 hours, Svoboda was taken to the hospital and has been improving steadily. He appears to be unhurt.
"Jerry is an inspiration to all of us," said Gern Yuerm, also of Plovis. "Not only did he feed himself, but he also taught us all a little something about the limitations we place on people due to gender. The moral is obvious: Never let the wife take the car out of state."