Sticking it to the car inspector

Got the car inspected today. Thankfully, it passed. As well it should, given we recently pumped over $1,200 worth of repairs into it. Still, its odometer reads 146,902 miles and a car can’t last forever, as people don’t. The anxiety of sitting there waiting for the judgment to come down — the judgment of one man with bad teeth, neglected skin and a dorky hat — can seem unbearable. And not so good for one’s own health.

IMG_1210[1]Ours is probably not the safest car in the world, just as I’m not the fittest person in the world. Given the precisely wrong alignment of circumstances, this 2005 Honda Element (they don’t make ’em like they used to? They don’t even make ’em anymore) could prove a death trap like any car on the block.

Yet it got its sticker, a free pass for another year to terrorize the streets, like a gold star from a fussy piano teacher for having mastered this week’s etude.

In another state, under a different set of measures, it might not have qualified as “safe.” Even at another garage, a different greasy guy who might have been grouchier that day or more nitpicky or didn’t like the way I looked might have slapped on the blanched circle with a spike through it, that symbol of shame with which I would have paraded around marked as if with a scarlet “A” for 15 days and eventually pay through the teeth to spare society, those other drivers I share the road with, to get whatever it was “fixed” — or merely passable — up to the standards of some random guy’s random judgment.

It’s like going to get your bloodwork done or getting a physical and waiting anxiously for results. As if these gauges will finally tell me what I’m about, as if any of it would come as a surprise. At some point the numbers dictate how many pills I have to take, how big a dent in my disposable income I suffer, how great a percentage of my toiling at work gets rechanneled back into merely extending my days tethered to my desk.

This is him, ladies. The man who make our live a living hell every time we step on the Wii Fit and the little animated scale on the screen wiggles its carthodes at you: shame, shame, shame.

This is him, ladies. Adolphe Quételet, the man who makes our lives a living hell every time we step on the Wii Fit and the little animated scale on the screen wiggles its cathode rays for shame, shame, shame. See the evil in his eyes.

Is my BMI within the arbitrary scale for what’s “normal” as decided by some mid-19th-century Belgian statistician, Adolphe Quételet, whom no one has ever heard of and was probably a freakishly built endomorph who suffered from apoplexy (which he did), massive internal bleeding, ensuring he weighed significantly less than your typical red-blooded, prepping-for-a-doomsday-famine American?

No. Yeah, I’m not normal. Once again, I’m off the charts. An alien who cannot pack herself into the confines of what it means to be safely human and live an expected average life span of 81.2 years because I behave beyond the limits of what’s needed to merely survive. I miscalculate every day the amount of stored energy I need vs. what I expend, writing instead of running, reading instead of reaching for it, getting inspired instead of physical. I don’t need any bad-girl sticker, people can just look and see the internal imbalance.

But the car passed the test. I might have a heart attack or stroke behind the wheel, but the vehicle is A-OK, my ticket to tool around among unwitting mortals another year. Don’t have to sweat this again until March 2014.

Whee.

A newfound flash-fiction addiction

By day, I make headlines. And by “by day,” I mean “by night.”

Recently I got bit by the flash-fiction bug — like writing a headline on deadline, only meatier. Most contests, though, had too-long lead times. Needed it quick and dirty.

Yesterday, I found my fix via #TuesdayTales on Twitter. (Its host is a fellow wordpress blogger, at glitterword.wordpress.com). The simple rules: Write 100 words. Incorporate “bellwether.” Take a cue from attached photo. GO! I had 20 minutes before my shift. Below is what burbled out.

What’s great about this exercise is you have no clue where it will take you until you’re done, like a sprinter against a stopwatch. This is better than Facebook SCRABBLE or iPhone’s Words With Friends, people. Prompts can be addictive. Just as I’m ever curious what kind of headline someone else might put on the same story I’m editing, this is an opportunity to see how other minds interpret the same stimuli.

And guess what? Somehow, I was judged a winner, but visit the site — many masterful entries. (I have tweaked it here slightly because, yeah, can’t help but edit.)

Entrants were given this prompt photo to accompany the piece.

Theirs was no balcony scene from Shakespeare.

Harold fired up the briquettes, pretending to host a summer soiree at the precise moment Ruby cleared her stop, bus doors squegeeing shut another grueling day at the diner, white wedgies sponging the sidewalk, leftovers leaking from foil inside her gripsack.

“You should join us, neighbor!” he bellowed, too eagerly.

She squinted upward. Crikes, who said that?

No bellwether of fashion in plaid plum smugglers, he swatted air in a grand wave, forgetting his grip on the lighter fluid. Sparks snaked into a fireball.

Later, at the shelter, ’twas a night to remember.

100 words
@terryism

The judge — author, award-winning screenwriter and writing coach Ami Hendrickson — gave this flattering review. I’m only repeating it here for the benefit of my 80-year-old mother, because she subscribes to my blog and wouldn’t know where to find it otherwise (Hi, Mom!).

”I loved reading these entries. There were so many good pieces that I ended up focusing on writing-craft things to narrow the field. I made myself get nitpicky about things like spelling, grammar, and word redundancy just to help whittle down the contenders. Sadly, this affected some of my first-glance favorites. But it helped me make my decision.” ~MuseInks

WINNER:

“I love the sights, sounds, and set-up here. This piece combines both pathos and humor in a memorable way.  It quickly places the reader in the thick of the action. The piece moves. It’s bold, active, and rife with robust, lively words. It also packs a punch at the end that makes the reader revisit the beginning and see it in a different light.

“Furthermore, this piece contains my favorite use of the Secret Word. “You’re no bellwether of fashion” may well become a catch phrase of mine.

“Well done!” ~Museinks the judgemaster has spoken!

@terryism

Mommy Byrne

Winner has received an edit & critique of the first chapter of their manuscript (up to 20 pages) and a critique of their synopsis.

Uh-oh, better get writing …