About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com

Sleep Well Tonight, Fair Citizens; Sleep Well

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI am now a superhero.

It happened over the weekend in three unrelated events.

Since only the best superheroes can avert a variety of tragedies, I feel like I’m going in the right direction.

My first act of heroism occurred Saturday afternoon in the Dollar General parking lot. We had been to the store earlier that day and picked up four bags full of stuff, but by afternoon we realized we had forgotten a few things. Obviously, that was before I was a superhero, because superheroes don’t forget the laundry detergent.

At halftime of the Tennessee game, I volunteered to go back. Since I’ve already seen the Vols punt 2,000 or so times this year, I figured I could survive if I missed a minute or two of the second half.

The parking lot slopes away from the building. As soon as I got out of the car, I saw an empty buggy beginning to roll toward the first row of parked cars.

I began walking fast toward it. Then, it started to pick up steam, so I had to break into a full-on trot to save the day.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw an employee come outside with both hands over her mouth and her eyes open wide.

She turned out to be my first damsel in distress.

Incident No. 2 happened Sunday morning at church when I realized at the last minute I was needed to help take up the offering.

It was the first time, incidentally, I had taken up the offering since I was about 12. In the church I grew up in, doing this was a great honor for boys. We even got our names in the bulletin.

I didn’t realize then it was all part of my superhero training.

The third incident of the weekend was by far my most shining moment. Kim made chili Sunday evening, and we had planned all day to eat it while we finished up the series we were watching on Netflix.

When I turned the TV on, I got the dreaded “We’re Having Trouble Playing This Title Right Now” message.

Horrors.

I tried another show, then another, all of which gave me the same message.

So I leapt to my feet, and I raced to turn the machine off. After 5 seconds I turned it back on, and voila. We were watching zombies getting slashed in no time.

Kim said, “My hero,” and I picked up the remote, because what she really said was, “Could you turn it up a little bit?” Don’t worry. She’ll come around.

All superheroes need a name. As you know, the good ones are already taken. I was considering Buggy Catching Man, but like I said, I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into one tragedy when there are so many.

I also really need a cool car. I mean, the Mighty Prius is great, but people rarely gasp and point when I drive by. I need something that makes people gasp and point.

I don’t want to be too flashy, but I want a cape. There again, all the good colors are already spoken for, so I’m still working on that.

If you want to be considered to be my mild-mannered sidekick, let me know.

Successful applicants will have a really cool car.

Social Media Hasn’t Changed Since the Roaring ’20s

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comLet’s check in with Jedidiah and Effie — sometime during the roaring ‘20s — as they pass the time on social media while sitting around the pot-bellied stove.

Effie: Who does Myrtle think she is?

Jed: What’s she done now?

“Changed her profile picture.”

“Again?”

“A selfie at a speakeasy, no less. She’s got some gall — and look at that flapper dress. How vulgar. Nobody wants to see her arms. I’m going to count how many times she has changed her profile picture over the past three days. Seven! Of all the nerve. I just unfollowed her. Ha! Take that, Myrtle!”

“That is some good looking egg salad.”

“Who posted that?”

“I’ve already scrolled past it. I’ll go back in a minute.”

“You won’t be able to find it. Any time I go back to look for something I’m actually interested in, I can never find it.”

“I know. All I see is Calvin Coolidge this and Calvin Coolidge that.”

“I wish I could hide everything political.”

“I thought it would calm down after the World War.”

“The good news is, it can’t get any worse. Oh, look. Harold just posted a photo of him sitting in the driver’s seat of a brand new Model A. He said, ‘You get a horse, I’ll get this instead, lol.’ I just loved it.”

“You can like it, but don’t love it. Nobody clicks the love button.”

“Well, how do I undo it?”

“I don’t think you can on the phone app. You have to log into the desktop version.”

“I don’t remember my password.”

“It doesn’t matter. He will get so many likes and comments, he won’t notice yours. He doesn’t have to worry about me seeing him in his Model A. I unfollowed him after he didn’t wish me a happy birthday one day after I liked a photo of him in his new wingtip shoes.”

“He is a showoff. Oh, look! Margaret just went live. She’s going to show the birth of her new calf. She’s getting tons of ‘awwws’ and ‘too cutes.’”

“I’m going to comment that I can’t wait to be invited over for veal. Is there an emoji for veal?”

“I don’t think so. Lamb, yes. But I don’t think there is a veal emoji. I read where there is a gender-neutral pony emoji now. You might could slip that one in!”

“I’m doing it. Make sure and love it.”

“I can’t love it. Nobody does that, remember? I will like it if I see it.”

“Hey, Effie. Marvin just asked for recommendations for a blacksmith. He knows good-and-well who all the blacksmiths are. He just wants to make sure everybody knows he got a new team of mules. What a fake.”

“He’s almost as transparent as his wife. One minute somebody’s tagging her in a Sunday school picture, and 15 minutes later she’s sharing a recipe on how to make corn mash. Hey, have you seen this? ’Nine things your peddler isn’t telling you.’ It says I won’t believe No. 7.”

“What’s No. 7?”

“I don’t know. I clicked to see the three warning signs of malaria.”

“Hang on a minute, Effie, I’m doing a quiz to see which silent film star I am. John Barrymore! I’m sharing it. How many likes do you think I’ll get?”

“Who cares? I think I may have malaria!”

The Fragile Nature of the Warm and Fuzzy Feeling

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI spent quite a bit of time in the international terminal of the Atlanta airport Sunday night, and what I saw there left me feeling pretty good. It always does.

Grant is spending the next 9 months in Spain on a teaching assignment. Kim and I put him on the plane Sunday night with all the myriad of emotions two parents could muster.

Counting both departures and arrivals, it was our seventh trip inside the international terminal, which is a big, wide-open building that accommodates about a dozen airlines and serves people from all four corners of the earth.

It’s not a bustling place at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Except for the occasional panicked traveler who sprints through the door toward security, it’s a pretty laid-back place. People move about leisurely, respectfully and interact peaceably.

The diversity of people there always gets my attention.

The dress, the languages and the different cultures all weave together to create a little microcosm of the earth’s population.

Astronauts talk about the “overview effect,” which happens when they see the earth from space as a fragile planet without geographic boundaries or political, cultural, or social differences.

In other words, the things that divide us on earth are less important to people when they see our planet from space.

I get that same perspective in the international terminal of the Atlanta airport when I observe ordinary people from different cultures interacting with kindness and tolerance. It is refreshing.

The other night one family in particular caught my eye.

They spoke a language I didn’t understand. The father was on his phone trying to solve some sort of problem, while the woman admonished her middle-school-aged daughter for bickering with her little brother. 

I couldn’t understand what mom was saying, but I seemed to get the message better than the daughter did.

The girl’s T-shirt said, “Enjoy the journey.” Her journey probably isn’t going to be easy. But I found it refreshing that she is willing to give the world a chance. 

Regardless of culture or nationality, though, each traveler’s time in that building always ends with them shuffling back and forth in the line toward security.

Each one loses a little dignity as they take off their shoes and step inside the full-body scanner with their hands raised like they’re being arrested.

I know it’s necessary to weed out that one in a million person who wants to harm others. I just wish it wasn’t.

Despite watching everyone, including my son, take their turn reaching for the sky, I still left that night with a good-old warm and fuzzy feeling about life.

Of course, this was promptly shattered 6 hours later when I saw the news about the massacre in Las Vegas.

I’m not going to spend my last 50 words going on a tirade about the complete and utter senselessness of it all, although I could; and I can’t promise I won’t at some point.

But I do wonder why an innocent 12-year-old girl has to be subjected to a security scan while trying to enjoy her journey, while a deranged lunatic gets to slither around undetected before ending the lives of 59 people who are trying to enjoy theirs.

Behold the Mysteries of the Universe

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comWe had to go to Nashville on business last week.

Sometimes — okay, almost always — when I take a road trip, I allow myself a snack when I gas up.

As I browsed everything in a cellophane package at a store somewhere along Interstate 24, I couldn’t help but overhear a customer talking to the clerk.

I could tell he had been going on for several minutes before I tuned into the conversation.

He was complaining about all things online-shopping related — Amazon, PayPal, eBay, and the like. He didn’t have one positive thing to say about any of them.

Then, just as I was about to pick beef jerky over cashews, he set his sights on social media. I couldn’t resist moving closer, because I could sense it was about to get good.

He went on and on saying just about what I expected he would say, and then he offered up this nugget:

“I’ll tell you what else,” he said. “I’m done with Facebook. I don’t care if your toe hurts, or if you’ve got gangrene. I don’t want to hear about it.”

Obviously, that killed my beef jerky vibe.

Both clerks agreed with him, and like clockwork, offered their opinions on the matter.

I couldn’t get my mind off of what he said as the day went on for a couple of reasons.

First of all, who with gangrene announces on Facebook they have it? I don’t think that’s something I would do. Then again, I don’t announce where I eat lunch, my every mood or 11,000 before-and-after pictures of me cleaning up the garage.

Oversharing is one thing. Telling the universe on Facebook you have gangrene is another.

Of course, I don’t know if the guy was telling the truth or just being hyperbolic.

Let’s pretend for minute that he was telling the truth.

I did a little research and math, and I learned that 0.01 percent of the US population is treated for gangrene each year.

With this knowledge, we can establish the odds of getting it in the first place are astronomical.

Second, the odds of this guy knowing someone who got it are even more astronomical.

And finally, the odds of him and me being in the same place while he was talking about it are simply incalculable.

I guess I’m being silly, but isn’t the universe an interesting place? If I had gotten stopped at a traffic light right after I left the house, I probably wouldn’t have heard him say that. What would I have seen instead? Maybe the place got robbed after I left. Or, maybe I missed Jimmy Buffett stopping in to play a couple of numbers.

Over the course of two days last week, I saw four traffic accidents. I ran upon two of the four immediately after they happened.

When something like this occurs, I always think about how the slightest difference in my decision making up to that point could’ve caused me to be involved.

I try not to think about things like that too much because if I do, I’ll go nuts.

But I’ll tell you this. The next time I’m on the road, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for Jimmy Buffett. After the experience with the guy at the store, I think my odds are pretty good.

When the Pocketknife Leaves, it Rarely Returns

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comThe recliner finally gave me back my pocket knife.

I exclaimed when I saw it on the floor next to the back chair leg.

I had been convinced the whole time it was somewhere in there amidst the frame, the springs and other parts that make up a chair.

I had searched for it everywhere my hand would fit, but I never could retrieve it.

Then weeks later out of nowhere, poof. There it was.

I still carry a pocketknife just about all the time. I guess it’s a holdover from my fairly rural upbringing.

I have a few old ones and some that have never seen the inside of a pocket.

My collection would be bigger if it weren’t for my uncanny ability to lose them.

Here are three examples.

Several years ago, we tagged along with Grant to Florida on a group diving trip. During the course of the day, my pants pocket developed a hole and my knife fell out. It was a beautiful knife and almost new. I was crushed.

After we got home, however, I got wind that someone else on the trip found it. I was able to get his phone number, and I called him.

As unbelievable as it sounds, he said he might remember finding it.

Come on, Bubba. I think you remember whether you found a pocketknife or not.

And then, he said he thought he remembered tossing it in his toolbox. He would look for it and let me know if he found it.

Click.

Example No. 2 was my own fault.

I was building a deck at our house. I don’t remember why I had my knife out in the first place, but I did.

Soon after I had finished the project, I realized it was missing.

So, what looked like a brand new deck only seconds before now looked like a structure where one entombs a knife.

I’m not sure how I managed to lay it down then nail a bunch of boards on top of it, but I did.

For the last one, let’s jump in the way-back machine to 1984.

Kim and I had tickets to the Jacksons concert in Neyland Stadium.

In the days leading up to the show, some nut job, somewhere, had threatened Michael or maybe the whole family. I don’t remember.

As a result, security was tightened, and the security guard wouldn’t let me take in my pocketknife.

I scoured the concourse area of the stadium trying to find a hiding place for it. It had a significant amount of sentimental value. It was my first knife, plus my uncle had given it to me.

I walked around and surveyed the criss-crossed I-beam skeleton until I found what I thought would be a good hiding place.

When I got closer, I realized it must have in fact been a great hiding place, because someone else had already hidden their knife there.

Yes, of course I put my knife right next to it, and the word naiveté was forever redefined.

That was a long time ago, and I’m more streetwise now. 

Maybe I’m getting better at keeping up with them as well. Not counting the recliner incident, I haven’t lost one in a while now.

Of course, as long as pockets have holes and the world has crooks, there is always a chance.

Hats Off to Those Who Cover Weather Events

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI watched a significant amount of news coverage of Hurricane Irma over the weekend.

I admire those correspondents who can stand out in torrential rains and 100-mph winds with perfect hair while saying coherent things in the camera despite the fact that a flying stop sign could chop off their head at any minute.

On my first day in the news business, I acted significantly different during a similar situation.

The summer of 1985 started with me working at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Huntsville, Ala. It was the summer before my senior year of college. I didn’t have a very important job. I spent my day with a spray can of stainless steel cleaner and a rag making sure my area was spotless.

While I was grateful for the opportunity, polishing stainless steel all day and into the night was a bit monotonous.

My prayers were answered, however, later in the summer when I got a call from the newspaper in Athens, Ala. They wanted me to work up until fall quarter doing some general assignment writing.

Hallelujah.

My boss at the Coke plant let me out of my offer to work out a notice. It wasn’t like I held the secret formula or anything, but still, I appreciated him for it.

The next morning, I barreled into the newsroom about the same time as the remnants of Hurricane Elena barreled toward north Alabama.

To the best of my recollection I clocked in, put my pimento cheese sandwich in the refrigerator and immediately took cover under a big counter in the composing room.

That’s where I met my co-workers.

The publisher was a big, burly guy who could smoke an entire cigarette while typing a story without ever touching it with his hands. He was under there, along with three or four other employees, including the sports editor.

I already liked him because he had put my name in the paper once and said I “put the icing on the cake” for making the game-winning free throw during my junior high basketball career.

They all seemed nice enough. Of course, it was dark, and we were under a tornado warning, so I guess they may have been afraid not to be nice just in case we met our demise over the next 15 minutes or so.

After the storm had passed, my boss sent me to some remote place out in the county where the tornado reportedly touched down.

I felt like Jim being sent by Marlin Perkins into a hyena den, but what choice did I have?

I was supposed to look for a little store, where the damage reportedly occurred. When I got there, all I saw was a concrete slab. The walls were gone. The roof was gone. The shelves, cans of food, milk, bread, everything was gone.

Vanished.

It was surreal.

I took a couple of photos, talked to a guy in overalls, then flew back to the newsroom to file my story.

I was the primary contributor to the lead story on my first day of work. I felt like Edward R. Murrow or any of the other greats we’d learned about in journalism school.

Of course, Ed probably wouldn’t have ridden the storm out under a counter.

How About a Little Pillow Talk

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comWe bought new bed pillows a few weeks ago.

I didn’t really want to, because I loved my old pillow. While it had grown old and lumpy, I liked it because I could twist it like a pretzel to get just the firmness I needed.

It was hard to part with — much like a favorite pair of jeans or a first car.

Kim and I went to one of those stores that specializes in things like bedding, towels and other household stuff; you know the one. They have everything from silicone spatulas in 14 shapes and sizes to massaging chairs.

I had no idea pillow shopping was so complicated. I was expecting to go in, pay about $10 and leave with my new pillow.

Oh, no. It doesn’t work that way.

They do have $10 pillows tossed about in four or five big wire bins. 

But our pillow sales specialist swooped us away from the common pillows in favor of the fancy pillow section as soon as she approached us.

“What kind of pillow are you looking for?” she asked.

What kind of a question is that? I’m looking for one that is already broken in, comfy and costs $10.

They had all kinds of pillows — feather pillows, down pillows, contour pillows, foam pillows, just to name a few.

“Do you sleep on your back, your stomach, or are you a side sleeper?”

That’s a thing, too, I learned. The type of pillow perfect for your precious little noggin depends on how you sleep.

After she gave us a brief lesson on pillow technology, our pillow sales specialist started pulling the demo pillows off the shelf one-by-one and explaining the unique features of each.

They all felt about the same to me. As I squeezed them, I was more concerned with how many pillow shoppers before me had squeezed and even possibly pressed their face into them.

I’ll bet even some of the riffraff who buy pillows from those big wire bins had even wandered over to see how the other half lives at one time or another.

Our pillow sales specialist bragged on their hassle-free return policy. She said we could exchange them after up to two weeks.

With that knowledge, I started paying more attention to the packaging to make sure I wasn’t getting Chester Somebody’s reject pillow.

I decided on a memory foam pillow that had some kind of magic power which is supposed to keep it cool. Needless to say, my $10 didn’t go very far, but I’m not going to buy another pillow… well, ever, so why not splurge?

Sadly, I wasn’t taken with it right from the get-go. I couldn’t twist it like a pretzel. It was a little flat, and it was too firm for me to put it on its edge.

I nicknamed it Spam, because it was shaped like a big can of Spam.

That didn’t work very well, because saying, “Goodnight, Spam” just made me hungry every time I got into bed, so I changed its name to Slab.

Slab is huge. One wrong move, and everything goes flying off the nightstand. If anyone ever challenges me to a pillow fight, Slab and I will clean house.

On the upside, I had always wondered what memory foam meant, and now I do.

It means you’ll always remember your trusty, lumpy old pillow.

How Sunday School Gave Me a Sense of Direction

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI have spent my entire life trying to improve my sense of direction.

I still have my clueless moments, but for the most part, I know my north from my south.

And it’s all because of the 23rd Psalm.

I don’t remember exactly how old we were — probably 8 or 9 years old — when our Sunday School teacher challenged us to learn the 23rd Psalm.

Those who learned it would win a prize.

What kind of prize? Who cares. It didn’t matter. Prizes weren’t quite so plentiful back then as I recall.

I don’t remember much about the process of learning it, but I’m sure it was laborious and fraught with frustration on everyone’s part. It was quite an assignment.

I distinctly remember some of my early interpretations of the passage. I didn’t understand what having my head anointed with oil really meant. I envisioned a quart of Quaker State 30-weight dripping onto my shirt. Compound that with my cup running over, and all I could think about was how much trouble I would be in for making such a mess.

I finally grew into understanding it, and on a good day, I can still recite it perfectly.

My prize was a United States map puzzle.

It was gloriously colorful, about the size of a dish towel. Each state was a piece of the puzzle with the state name and the state capital, and a picture representing something about each state.

Tennessee’s little picture was a fiddle. Alabama’s was a cotton boll. Florida’s was a rocket. That’s all I remember.

I played with it tirelessly. I learned a lot about the geography of the United States because of it.

I also learned north, south, east and west.

I put it away for the last time decades ago. But I continue to think about it on a regular basis.

It is my mental compass.

Let’s say I ask for directions, and the person tells me my destination is to my east. All I have to do is close my eyes and pull up the mental image of that puzzle, envision Michigan or Montana, then hang a right and head toward North Carolina.

It hasn’t failed me yet.

I don’t rely on envisioning the map per se as much as I used to. But it’s one of those things burned in my mind that I cannot unsee, so to speak.

It’s kind of like how the smell of apple pie always makes one think of grandma’s house.

I wish more people would’ve had a United States map puzzle. I am continuously baffled by how people have no concept of directions. I see it all the time.

My office is on the southeast corner of Church and Third streets. For those of us lucky enough to have a United States map puzzle burned into our brain, all we have to do is hypothetically stand in the middle of the intersection facing north, hold our puzzle in front of us and head over our right shoulder toward Florida.

I can’t tell you how many times I get a call about 5 minutes after the meeting is supposed to start from someone who is circling the wrong block.

Maybe that’s why we need the Lord to lead us beside the still waters, because we would never be able to get there on our own.

Ah, Those Meals in the Hayfield

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comOne of my first jobs was hauling hay.

I started when I was 12 or 13 helping my uncle by driving the tractor that pulled the hay wagon. 

At least I think I helped. In the early days, I probably hindered more than anything.

I would do my best to try and serpentine the wagon through the field as two bigger boys on the ground walked alongside and threw the rectangular bales to someone on the wagon who stacked them.

As I grew older, I became one of those bigger boys. And before I hung up my gloves for the last time, I had spent quite a few grueling and offensively hot, dusty days in the hay field.

Every work day started with a trip to the store.

The store we would visit depended on where we were working that day. But, they were all the same. Each one had a wooden screen door with a spring attached to it which made the noise a spring makes as it slammed behind us as we entered. Rows of wooden shelves sat on a dark gray concrete floor.

The old man at the cash register wore overalls while always consuming a tobacco product in one form or another.

Our purchase consisted of a honeybun, a can of Beanie Weenies and a couple of cans of Sun Drop sodas apiece.

In case you’re one of the uncultured, Sun Drop is a citrus soda which was the most popular soft drink where I grew up. I can only assume it still is. Many would argue Sun Drop was right behind Baptist as being the most popular religious denomination, as well.

The honeybun was breakfast. The Beanie Weenies were lunch.

It was all delectable.

Of course, now I look back and wonder how we could work until noon without a molecule of protein. I guess it’s because we didn’t know we needed any.

It also had something to do with the fact that anyone on the crew who complained about being hungry, or anything else, earned himself the job of climbing into the sweltering barn loft to catch the bales as they were tossed up. It was the worst part of the job.

I had originally planned to write about how we could eat good-tasting food back then guilt-free because we led an active lifestyle where we — I suppose — burned up all the bad stuff.

I apologize to all you dietitians out there for that one, but you know what I mean.

I will admit, I would give almost anything to be able to spend a day noshing on honeybuns, Beanie Weenies, Sun Drops and whatever else I wanted without a particle of guilt.

Come on over, Froot Loops, hotdogs on white bread, chocolate milk and any food containing the word chip.

Let’s party.

I know I’m remembering it more fondly than it really was. Maybe it wasn’t the food. Maybe it was the newfound experience of making a couple of dollars combined with the independence of being able to eat whatever we wanted. Making choices like that was a new concept for us back in those days.

Nah, it was the food. I’m dying for a can of Beanie Weenies right now, but I’m certainly not wanting to climb into a barn loft.

That Time I Didn’t Pole Vault

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comAnother school year has started, which triggers the annual revisiting of my first day of seventh grade.

Or, as it has come to be known inside my head, “The Scariest Day of My Life.”

Seventh grade was the first year we started changing classes. We went from controlling the elementary school to being tossed in with the eighth grade through senior classes.

There was no such thing as a seventh-grade hall, pod or anything else of the like. We were right there looking eye-to-belt buckle at the varsity football offensive line and having lockers right next to cheerleaders who had only existed in the yearbook until then.

My first brush with death that day came as I lurched down the dark, dank staircase that led from the gym to the locker room. That is where I and my seventh grade brethren would change clothes for PE.

After changing clothes faster than I had ever changed clothes in my life, I started back up the steps to wait for the coach — whose instructions from the principal, I was convinced — were to kill all the seventh graders.

As I walked up the steps, I passed the meanest person in the world. He was an eighth grader I will not name, as he is likely still the meanest person in the world.

As soon as he passed me, he turned to scream a string of obscenities to the person coming down behind him. I was sandwiched in the middle.

I had heard those words before, but never used together like that, at such loud volume, or accompanied by the spit that flew out of his mouth and hit my arm as he yelled them.

Did I mention it was barely 10 a.m.?

For the first day of PE, all of the seventh grade boys were told to sit on the bleachers. Then, after about 5 minutes, as I recall, here came four or five high schoolers who ordered us to start walking toward the football field. One carried a vaulting pole.

A vaulting pole. A pole which one uses to pole vault.

I immediately knew how they were going to kill all the seventh graders.

They were going to make us pole vault.

So, 40 or so of us doomed 12 year-olds began our dead-man-walking march to the football field, which, ironically, took us past the elementary school building.

Oh, to be a sixth grader again. So innocent. Such a bright future.

We filed one-by-one through the narrow gap between the football field fence and the corner of the school building. We blindly followed the big guys — including the one carrying the vaulting pole — to an open area behind the home-side bleachers.

There it was. The pole vaulting area.

All the equipment was new. I suppose the local orthopedic surgeon donated it.

I replayed the imminent horror in my head over and over.

I saw myself vaulting 25 or maybe 100 feet in the air then missing the landing pad by 6 inches. They would rename Main Street in memory of me.

Maybe I would never get off the ground. Maybe the end of the pole I was holding would impale me when I tried to launch myself.

I wish I were exaggerating this more than I am.

As it turned out, though, we weren’t forced to pole vault; and I don’t remember if anyone ever even did.

It’s ironic that with all those big kids — some armed with 20-foot poles — my fear was my own worst enemy that day.

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