Force Majeure

by Nancy Wileden

The Twilight Zone program began each week with the words “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension”. To enter my current twilight zone it took many, many birthdays rather than imagination. The show’s narrator goes on to say that this fifth dimension is a middle ground between light and shadow, fear and knowledge and science and superstition. Yes, I do find myself in a middle ground; a space between making the most of everyday and the realization that my long-range plans probably should include learning about the art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

There are times when my mind and my body seem to be on different sides of the door to this new dimension. My mind is full of ideas and possibilities. My body on the other hand is more practical. To help with this dilemma the menu of activities available to me here has changed and each choice comes with a short explanation. For instance, scuba diving is now snorkeling—I can still see fish and get wet, but my back won’t hurt for a week after.

Paddle boarding is now kayaking—I get to sit down and again—my back… Long bike rides with the granddaughter have changed to spending an afternoon together getting mani-pedis. Again, I get to sit down and there are no hills.

Nancy SCUBA diving

Camping is now making s’mores on the backyard fire pit.

Going to a concert? No thank you! I think I will stay home and find something on Netflix. Let’s face it, anyone I want to see perform in person is at least as old as I am and it won’t be pretty.

And tackling a new language? – Questionable at best! Yes, I can solve Wordle every day, but fifteen minutes later I have forgotten what the answer was.

This dimension is full of new people. Many are medical professionals in specialties unknown to me before, but now I rely on them to help me with my new constant question- Is this normal for my age? And that’s another mystery. Why are all these people in my twilight zone so young? Periodic maintenance no longer just applies to the car and the house; it also applies to my various parts and pieces as well.

There are familiar faces here too. Faces of beloved family and faces of old friends whom I value with a deeper appreciation than in previous years Some may have started as casual acquaintances who met at work or on a committee somewhere, but now we share a long history of coping with life’s up and down together. I’m glad they are with me because it can be worrisome and frightening here. Having a hand to hold along the way makes it easier.

The deepest mystery here is the changing aspect of time. Are there really more hours in the day to spend with a book, or just watching the butterflies?? How can I have all this time every day and yet wonder if there are enough months and years left to do all the things I still want to do?

So many questions! Yes, this is another dimension. This is a place of past and present loves, beliefs, strengths and hopes. It is also a place of uncertainty. Unlike the TV show I know how this will end eventually. But in the meantime, I will accept and adapt to my new realities here, enjoy the opportunities, cherish the people, and continue to marvel at the mysteries in my twilight zone.

by Colletta G. Rose

Being one of many siblings born in 1982, Bertha was destined to be a force, unlike the first born, Andrew. He was always a little depressed. Nobody ever took any real notice of him because he was so passive in nature.

With an old fashion name such as Bertha, she knew she would also be a has-been if she did not come out of her depression. She soon showed the world how she could twist and turn. She started making waves when she wasn’t getting the attention, she felt she deserved. She showed us all how well she could churn as if she had been bred on a farm. She flittered and fluttered as she spread her girth to spit, sputter and tap dance across the frothy, warm, succulent waters.

Bertha was becoming a nasty threat to many small islands which could not get out of the reach of her many arms. This lady knew the real meaning of ‘reaching out and touching someone.’ The islands and their residents pleaded and begged, reminding her of the wrath of destruction brought upon them last year by her cousins, but Big Bertha had the Thomas Edison syndrome, so all fell on deaf ears. There was clear evidence she had made a pact with Lucifer. Big Bertha was on a war path, hell bent to scalp anyone or anything within her grasp. She would see to it that they would have a swell of a time with her!

Only a few days young, Bertha yanked and tugged at the hearts and belongings of each and every living creature on the coastal islands who dared stand in her way. Not caring that every meteorologist was monitoring her eye and catching her every move on film, she continued to show no mercy as she picked up speed as though she were on a well carved toboggan trail headed for the gold.

She wasn’t satisfied with taking off roofs; she also felt it necessary to make any ordinary object deadly. Her wind was so bad, it made you realize just what a bad hair day is. Her rain was propelled so hard you burned as though Heroin was being pushed into your veins. Bertha never slowed as she clawed her way across the small land areas headed for the USA.

She emitted emotional distress to all who domiciled along the Florida coast. Over one half million people evacuated, seeking higher, dryer land. She had us all on the run; Imodium AD was no cure for this mandatory move. She roared and showed fangs as she became as jagged and rugged as the Devil’s breath. She held all vessels at bay as the infamous Captain Jose Gaspar did when he invaded Tampa.

The big Breath was leaving victims helpless due to her senseless violence. She acted as if she were a gang of young hooligans with a twisted notion of fun. She bashed children’s bicycles as though she were armed with baseball bats, all the while whooping with jubilation as if she had just hit a home run. She knew the videotape would reveal her demon-driven, sickening, stomach-punching documentary for all the world to see.

She randomly smashed car windows, boasting excitedly as she flung her behind round and round as a cattle driver flips a bullwhip. Did she mean for her actions to be only a prank and then through the excitement turn into a crime? Did she perceive herself to be a prankster whose mischief got out of control with her behavior turning from a teenager to a hardened thug? She had violated curfew by staying up throughout entire nights. Could she have been helped if she had been treated for ‘depression’ when at a tender age?

If this were a person who could be taken to court for its’ damage, what punishment would be handed down? How would she have to repay her victims? Would the rich shrug it off because they carried enough replacement insurance? Would the poor back off in fear of retaliation? Would the Judge impose the toughest of penalties? What price can repay peace of mind?

Nancy Wileden is a retired Florida educator who moved to the Tampa Bay area with her husband four years ago. She has taken a wide variety of OLLI classes on subjects from
Spirituality and DNA to Zentangle and welcomes the opportunities OLLI provides for new experiences. After years of teaching young children the basic mechanics of writing, she is a reluctant writer herself. She signed up for Marilyn Myerson’s Imaginative Writing class as a personal challenge and enjoyed it thoroughly. This piece was written in response to a prompt titled “” I Must Be in the Twilight Zone” and a recent birthday. Nancy is ignoring that birthday and still enjoys traveling, SCUBA diving, and family adventures.

Colletta G. Rose is a member of the OLLI-USF Community of Readers & Writers, otherwise known as the “Crew.” This shared-interest group meets via Zoom for discussion and special events and shares reading of current novels, nonfiction, short stories, memoirs, and essays. Writers receive feedback through group conversation with experienced readers, and newcomers are nurtured and trained using supportive methods.

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2 Replies to “Force Majeure”

  1. Nancy and Colletta.. what a joy to savor your stories over and over.. each of you has a unique voice and the ability to draw your readers in, captivated by your crisp, alluring styles. Nancy, your insights open new windows. Colletta, your imagery is engrossing and mind-boggling.
    Thanks to both of you for exercising your imagination to such delightful ends.

  2. After returning Thanksgiving Day after almost 3 weeks abroad, getting back to normal at home and starting into holiday mode left me with little time for non essential activities. I saved the OLLI email and finally am getting caught up. SO glad I saved your terrific stories!! Keep writing 👏🏻👏🏻

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