Fringe Benevolence

In a swift, diagonal upward thrust of the arm, Michaela dislodged the velvety teal shawl that her step-mother draped around her shoulders at the stared of the diving meet.  Water droplets slid down her arms and puddled around her feet.  Michaela tightened her swimming cap and started at her toes.  The springboard reminded her of a reluctant lover, sprawled out in supplication but betraying no facial expressions that communicated a yearning for gestures of passion.

Michaela noticed the shawl dangle on the edge of the diving board to the right of where she was standing.  She took a deep breath, looked up around the empty bleachers, and imagined a crowd of impatient, bored spectators.  There would be no official competition until she could make this dive, the one that fractured the skulls of the best swimmers the school had seen in the last ten years.  It didn’t make sense to her why such a difficult and fatally dangerous routine should be required of an aspiring diver if the whole point was to win and the odds were high that the university would lose athletes to it.

But Michaela buzzed with the right amount of pride and delusion to believe that the worst that could happen would be death and not paralysis.  She repositioned herself on the board, went through the requisite arm motions to prepare for a take-off, and as she leaped forward, twisting her body like a projectile pencil, she saw the water in the pool steam and turn the color of fruit punch.  It tasted much worse than it looked.  Exuberant, bright red appears as though it should taste of luxurious strawberries, but its flavor was much more like the sweet and sour inconvenience of apple cider vinegar and cranberries.

Michaela was still falling through the water, though.  She didn’t understand how she could taste it if she was still in it.  The bottom of the pool kept getting farther away the further she fell.  And there was no slowing her momentum.  She wondered if the shawl had fallen into the pool, and if so, where it had gone.

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I don’t know why this fall jazz music mix inspired this piece of flash fiction.

Original pic cred: Adrien Ledoux @adrienl, unsplash

It Would Have Been a Metal Sandwich

I’ve been operating a piece of heavy machinery for transportation since 1997.  As the years have shimmied by and I directly or indirectly observe and experience the myriad near-accidents that can happen due to other drivers, animals, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians, I have adjusted how I come to a stop at intersections, how many times I check the rearview and side mirrors, how much room to leave between myself and other cars (while moving and stopped), and I now fully comprehend that it’s better to be predictable than nice on the roadways.

I might go as far as positing that I’ve been consciously extra vigilant this year when driving on account of the number of cars on the street but also because it’s so much easier to notice how many people are shamelessly looking at their phones while driving (at least 55 mph on the highway) or are unable to make up their minds if they’re turning now or much later.  I didn’t wake up thinking, “Oh, today might just be the day that I have near-certain death experience numero quatre!”  No, I woke up today wishing I’d woken up an hour earlier and contemplating if I was going to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond before or after meeting up with a friend.

And then I got onto the highway and had near-certain death experience numero quatre.  It happened on 85 N between the Shallowford on-ramp onto the highway and the Chamblee-Tucker exit.  I was in the far right lane and assessing the speeds of the two SUVs on the on-ramp that were traveling nearly parallel to me.  I figured the white Lexus SUV in the rear would slow down to merge behind me or accelerate enough to get in front of me by the time the on-ramp and far right lanes merged…but alas, that is not what happened.

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As soon as I realized that the white Lexus SUV was not paying attention to its surroundings, I checked my left-side blindspot and determined that I would be able to get into the left lane, which I did.  Immediately thereafter, a Ford Focus with a California license plate came barreling at me.  I cannot account for why he didn’t plow into me.  He was driving so fast….like he was chasing down Felicity Porter on her way to NYC because she has a crush on Ben, a guy who signed her yearbook and talked to her one time, and if Mr. Ford Focus didn’t catch up to her, he’d never see her again.

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By the time I’d changed into the left lane that white SUV was where my car was in the right lane — I could have been in a metal sandwich but for the exact speeds that Mr. Ford Focus and I were going.  I was anticipating certain destruction in that moment…but it did not come to pass.  Did my heartbeat increase? No.  Did I get sweaty?  No.  Did my adrenaline levels rise?  No.  I was more annoyed than anything because as much as I’ve made peace with my death, whenever it occurs, and I have zero interest or need in living a long life, I absolutely did not want to go down in a pile of tires and windshields on 85 N.

Pas du tout.  I envision my death to transpire in a considerably more peculiar manner, where people cannot believe what they are seeing.  Par exemple, some primordial scream tears through my physicality, I vomit up some nephilim creature, my body jolts up into the sky, and then it bursts into a million shards of crystalline mitochondria.

I was also very much looking forward to catching up with my friend, whom I hadn’t seen since January 2020, and if I ended up ensnared in car parts, she’d have no way of knowing where I was and why I wasn’t responding to her texts.  Once again, the universe proves me wrong…I would care how and when death came for me.  Being okay with the premise doesn’t mean one is as indiscriminately welcoming of its actualization.

Read about the other near-death experiences here and here.

Michael Caine’s Birthname and Autumn foliage

Michael Caine, yes, the actor, was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite.  When he was just shy of his twentieth year of existence, he went to Korea as part of the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers…because the Korean War was on but not sustaining the kind of momentum that a victor would prefer.  Contracting malaria a year later meant that he had to return home to England.

I happened to come upon this information while checking my bookface timeline.  Yes, I follow Military.com’s bookface page.  They posted this article yesterday about Caine’s memories while in Korea.  It’s not a long read.  There’s also a YouTube video where you get to hear him talk about what is quoted in the article.

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It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been inspired enough to take pictures on my phone and post them anywhere.  I felt compelled, however, to share photos of these trees not only because the leaves are gorgeous, but also because they were on a particular route I like to drive when I want to escape the mise-en-scene of intown Atlanta in exchange for more appealing sights.

I took these pictures with my new phone, a purple Samsung 21+.  I didn’t start this year wanting a new phone but because of the whole T-Mobile-ate-Sprint thing, I had to get a new phone because my LG V30+ from 2018 was apparently incompatible for their network.  The only reason I got a Samsung was for the color purple.  I don’t use my phone for much other than texting, calling when absolute necessary, checking emails, and scrolling reddit, so it was easy enough to get used to Samsung’s interface.

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Pic creds: IMDB, Stephan C Archetti (courtesy of Getty Images)

What to Do with Your Enemy after You’ve Won the War?

If you’re one of the Allied countries and you’ve got approximately 11 million German soldiers in your custody, what do you do with all of those prisoners of war?  The Armchair Historian discusses this very topic (don’t mind the bit with the video’s sponsor…it goes by quickly).

Did you know that there were German soldiers imprisoned in American facilities and were “leased out to farms and factories to serve as laborers”?  I definitely never learned about that in any school text book or class.  Moreover, “German laborers were treated on par or just slightly better than Black workers — recall that this was during the days of Segregation.”  It happened.

Behold this Smithsonian Magazine article and this tidbit:
As World War II raged, Allies, such as Great Britain, were running short of prison space to house POWs. From 1942 through 1945, more than 400,000 Axis prisoners were shipped to the United States and detained in camps in rural areas across the country. Some 500 POW facilities were built, mainly in the South and Southwest but also in the Great Plains and Midwest.

At the same time that the prison camps were filling up, farms and factories across America were struggling with acute labor shortages. The United States faced a dilemma. According to Geneva Convention protocols, POWs could be forced to work only if they were paid, but authorities were afraid of mass escapes that would endanger the American people. Eventually, they relented and put tens of thousands of enemy prisoners to work, assigning them to canneries and mills, to farms to harvest wheat or pick asparagus, and just about any other place they were needed and could work with minimum security.”

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If you’d like to watch a dramatized version of what German POWs experienced in Europe, say, in Denmark, take a look at Land of Mine (Martin Zandvliet, 2015).