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B. B. Riefner

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Norris' Laws for Bodies Falling
By B. B. Riefner
Posted: Friday, April 30, 2010
Last edited: Friday, April 30, 2010
This short story is rated "PG13" by the Author.
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Street Norris revises Galileo's Laws for Falling Bodies. They become easier to understand but more difficult to accept. Read them and grin.

Norris’ Revision Of Galileo’s Law For Falling Bodies

            Most folks never encounter Galileo’s Law For Falling Bodies either academically or actually. I have to admit I’ve forgotten most of it, but there is one section I memorized. If you drop a cannon ball and an egg at the same instant from the same height, in a vacuum, they will both hit the earth at the same time. However, girls and boys, there is a difference in the force each hits the base. So if you’ve got a choice as to which one falls on your head, pick the egg. Now on to a much more provocative law; and this one I invented over many years of eye witness observations. There are some cases where I have to accept and trust others. However, even with that, I have had a great deal of experience watching bodies falling. There may be scientific objections, but I stand firm in my viewpoint. Trying to either subvert or defeat those objections I shall defer stating my law, until after all of my examples have been presented for your scrutiny

The Norris Law For Bodies Falling

Example Number One

            I couldn’t have been more than ten, and I was looking out my bedroom window when I saw a nasty roofer chasing a cat off the third floor roof of the new house being built next door. When the cat hesitated for a few seconds at the edge of the roof before a thrown shingle forced it to leap, I saw it was Bitsy, a black and white alley cat who belonged to our snooty neighbor Mrs. Eva Young. As it dove, I yelled rather gleefully, “So long Bitsy!”I did this because Mrs. Young had a habit of rushing out and confiscating all balls hit, thrown or kicked into her yard. So as far as my mob was concerned, any of her possession were totally evil and worthy of destruction.

             So you cannot imagine my state of shock when Bitsy spread all four legs out like a bat, her paws extended, her tail acting as a stabilizer, and sailed down, hitting the dug up earth. I expected a limp corpse, but Bitsy stood! And after a shake or two, looked up, gave a defiant MEOWWW, and slunk off!

            Bitsy proved that some times what looks hopeless is really routine if you have the right attitude and/or the proper equipment. Then again, some falling bodies just fit right in with popular expectations. However, this early observation was the root of my contentious attitude regarding dropping through empty space.

Example Number Two

             It was only a few weeks after Bitsy when the second variation occurred. It was early morning and a 20 year old male who was already a sports legend, was cutting through two backyards. This is an unwritten neighborhood no-no. No-no’s are there only to be ignored or disobeyed as far as I’m concerned. It’s a fine Spring day in 1937 and George Arnold is off to join the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain to fight Freddy Franco, Mussolini and Hitler and save the world for democracy…again.

            As he walks under two open back porches a floor above him, his incredibly tuned eyes pick up an object falling toward him, and in one smooth motion he cradles it with both hands and arms. He nearly drops it when it lets out a hearty scream. George Arnold has just caught a seven month old named Joseph Heise who has rolled off the railing while his mother was trying to change his soiled linen despite his wiggling.

            The mother has fainted from terror, so no one responds to George’s calls. After a minute or so, he rings the rear door bell until Mrs. Anna Wachter, Joe’s grandmother responds, and asks George how he got her grandson.

            “I just caught him. I think he fell from your upstairs porch” George must have responded. And I ‘m also certain he wants very much to give the infant to someone so he can attend to the growing aches in his arms and shoulders. However the grandmother also faints and falls back into her kitchen. Since the pains are now surging across his shoulders and down his arms, George lays the kid on the kitchen floor and goes home. After almost a week all the pains and aches vanish.  So he sets forth to save the world; which is another very interesting tale.

            Neither he, the grandmother or Shirley Stuller, the mother, ever mention the catch, but my older brother told me he saw George cradle it from his bedroom window. Since Norman never lied, I didn’t hesitate to ask George when I met him many years later. He smiled, gently nodded and fesses up. Little Joe is now a doctor, but I don’t know his specialty.

Example Number Three

            A certain Marine captain who flew F4U’s in my Marine Air Group holds a remarkable record in Bob Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Strange As It Seems. According to these impeccable sources he survived a 2,245 feet fall into the Pacific Ocean. Seems that when his plane was hit by enemy fire and in flames the good captain followed standard procedures to the letter. First he turned it upside down, so he would not be struck by the horizontal stabilizer. Then he opened the canopy unfastened his seat belt and fell free. Either he had failed to secure his parachute or he unlocked its harness when he released the seat belt. So the good captain was in a fix once he realized he was sans parachute.

            His official description of the event claims that when he realized this, he inflated his Mae West life jacket and attempted to enter the ocean feet first. He managed to do this so exactly the impact tore the heels off both his flying boots and drove him about thirty feet below the almost glassy Pacific. Although the vest managed to break two of his ribs on one side and one on the other, it preventing him from dying from either drowning or the bends, because it prevented him from submerging to any deadly depth.

            I never met the good captain but, his head mechanic was my best buddy. When I heard about this feat and I asked him what his pilot was like, he smiled and casually offered, “As far as flying, Norris, he’s totally crazed. You know he did take that SNJ in one end of the old blimp hangar and out the other on a ten dollar bet? And it’s funny but ever since that falling thing it seems he’s in a cocoon of comfort. I’d say bliss but that’s real Catholic ain’t it? Anyway he’s really …’ and though Mike hadn’t the background to choose this to describe his pilot’s state in 1946, I always liked A State Of Grace.

Example Number Four

            It’s late in August and I’m using Rock Creek Parkway as an escape route through Washington’s endless traffic jams into Montgomery County.  This is at the close of what turned out to be my last full week as an office manager for a very large corporation specializing in auto finance. My car of the month is a 59 Lincoln convertible whose top is down. It’s really a cool car that’s half a block long and wide enough to hold dances on its hood.

            As I pass beneath the P Street Bridge, Tony Bennet’s love for San Francisco is punctuated by a sharp jolt, and the hood of my car rises as the rear sinks. It’s obvious some very heavy and large object has just hit my trunk area. I automatically jam down on the break before turning my head to estimate the damage. I also have assumed some kids have dropped a rock off the bridge.

             The center of my trunk has a huge deep wedge shaped dent. As I kneel on the seat for a better look, I see the body blending into the asphalt in a sickening, abnormal, outrageous flatness. So flat it looks like it’s been just run over by a steam roller`.

            Like the good citizen I was at that time, I wait for the police, give them my story, home address, phone numbers, take a copy of their initial report which exonerates any fault on my part, and thanked them when officially released. I don’t tell anyone in my family. So when some force compelled me back the following afternoon, I claim an unexpected golf challenge has called.

            After I park my new car of the month a V8 Ford Galaxy, I walk under the bridge estimating its height. “Got to be at least 80 feet,” I mutter. Before I can fully understand why I’m doing it, I begin walking out into the sunlit drive counting one thousand one, and so on up to four. Then I get in the car and start driving back and forth along my previous route. I estimate I was at the speed limit when he fell on me.  So I fix on 25 MPH, and each time the nose emerges into the sun, I count to three. When I do I stop, vainly trying to recall exactly where I was when his arm hit the trunk. The pair of concerned police had assured me with grim nods, that it was an arm, his left arm that had almost cut through the trunk. I looked a t my arm. It was just too fragile, to … Whatever … to do that much damage.

            Later that afternoon, when I am not sure I know the exact rate of fall for the first three seconds prescribed in Galileo’s Law of Falling Bodies, I look it up in our local library. Once I have it , and do the math, it appears that if I had emerged about one tenth of a second later, all of Mr. Starling D. Madison, height six feet three and 214 pounds according to his one year old driver’s permit, would have fallen into my front seat.

            That is about one tenth of a second girls and boys! And if I was not slightly over the dividing line, if I am on my side of the road as another law requires; On the Straight and Narrow so to speak, he’s in my lap. That’s of course unless he’s twisting and thrashing, trying to reverse his irreversibleness at that instant. That of course ... Well as you can see, the possibilities are not only infinite but also terrifyingly intriguing.

Example Number Five

            On a delightful day in May, I’m staring out the bathroom window of my quarters at The American School for Girls. I am always amused by how much our formal English style garden is out of place in Uskadar, the oldest section of Istanbul, Turkey. I’ve just finished shaving and about to have breakfast before beginning my math class with fourteen soon to graduate high school young ladies who are all of considerable intelligence. Except for four, they are also very wealthy. The quartet is scholarship kids from the outer villages. They, of course are bright beyond conception. .

            Because I pause, I am an eye witness to three year old son of our science teacher, Odie Miller’s fall from the second floor balcony that marks his father’s quarters at the school where I have been teaching for almost a full term.

            As I start to move away from the window, I see Odie lean over the railing, lose his balance and pitch forward into open air about twenty five feet above a newly dug flower bed. I gasp as his little frame does almost two perfect full gainers before landing on his back with such force, the loose brown soil forms a short curtain all about him.

            Transfixed for just an instant, I watch Yusef, our chief gardener and gate attendant rush across the grass rimed quadrangle, ignoring my shouts in English not to touch him or lift him up. Horrified, I muffle another scream as the old man reaches out and snatches Odie into his arms, hugging him to his heaving chest. Then Yusef sobs, his chest heaves and he sinks down on the nearest bench, still cradling the child.

            When I arrive, I’m a bit shocked because all I can hear is Yusef’s deep nicotine ruined laughter. “Yusef! Why didn’t you obey me when I told you not to touch him?”I half growl and half yell

            The old man stares at me, and I am almost hypnotized by the wondrous tears of joy which are producing tiny prisms of color and flashes of joy as he responds, “Ah sir, my ears heard but my heart did not!’ And I laugh because as soon as I had this pup and my arms and my fingers knew he was unhurt, thank the will of Allah.  And do you know what he asked me?”

             I nod, the image of my own son falling into the shallows among jutting rocks clearly etched on my memory. “I know exactly what he said, Amja. Amja is an affectionate address which means Uncle in Turkish.

            “He said, Amja, please don’t tell my daddy.’

            I will never forget the look of surprised amazement that fills the old man’s face as he slowly presents the fallen star to me to also enjoy and I burst out laughing so violently I almost let the kid fall into the dirt again!..

Example Number Six

            Alfred Shorty’ Vincent is on the 4th floor of a construction job in Arlington, Virginia when he encounters Norris’ Law For Bodies Falling. He’s drilling the first hole for the supports which will \anchor the one way glass walls the plans call for. As he presses down on his drill, he feels a sudden give as the bit plunges in almost to its hilt, then encounters hardness again. Shorty frowns and shakes his head, convinced that the rumors about the concrete company’s use of oat meal or something like it to fill the centers of the floors might have some truth to them. He has already voiced his disapproval at how fast the steel beams which support each fresh pouring, are being removed from the 18 story project.

            As he starts to frown and tell himself “It’s none of my business,” Shorty loses his balance, as the floor suddenly shudders, then slowly begins to slant downward. He tries to scream but nothing comes from his open mouth as the floor tilts and he begins sliding. Then he realizes that the ceiling is also leaning, and as it registers that the building is collapsing. He is sliding toward the open blue sky when the entire roof breaks loose and falls on him. This is it!’ He thinks as the concrete slab crashes down on him.

            As the huge slab drops, a wave of air strike his body, lifts him off his feet, and flings him out into the bright October sky. Falling backwards, he sees the entire building crumbling floor after floor, pan-caking like a poorly made layer cake. Each floor falls on the one below, breaking each one off where it joins the central tower. Then his body strikes something and all is black silence.

            When he revives, he’s flat on his back, half buried in a huge pile of loosely packed sand, dumped just minutes before. The building looks like a half eaten wedding cake. Over the next ten or so minutes, Shorty gingerly moves successive parts of his body, and finds he has seemingly broken nothing! After he rises, he joins the rescue efforts, until his two assistants discover he is still alive  “Jesus, Norris!  We were looking for me!

            Nineteen construction workers die and Shorty’s miracle is recorded by every TV outlet in Washington. Perhaps the most remarkable aftermath comes 12 days after the medical world declares him fit and sound except for some scrapes and major bruises. In the area’s major league, Shorty bowls a perfect 300 game.

            When I sit with him celebrating his achievement, I wonder aloud how he managed to put that nightmare out of his thoughts. He smiles, takes a nice long pull from his beer and answers. “I kinda remember wondering why there ain’t no white light thing. But hey! I know you won’t believe this Norris, but I can’t remember a damn thing except for waking up thinking it was my funeral and they were burying me by mistake!

Example Number Seven

            Teachers have a list floating about in their memories which consists of two categories; the twenty brightest kids they ever taught and the twenty most disappointing. This tale involves number five or six on the first listing. It is also one of the strangest examples of the LAW FOR BODIES FALLING. The center piece is Mrs. Jackie Spellman and her daughter to be, Sandra.

            It’s 1948 and Washington D.C. is suffering through one of the worst winters on record. The ground has been blanketed, almost buried in snow since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the average temperatures have stayed in the lower teens, with some nights falling into double digit minuses. However, because this is still the era which features mass transport, nothing closes down as they do in today’s era of personal preferences.

            Sandra claims her mother went into labor during one of the worst storms. “That’s my mother.  Never let it be said that Mom can’t choose the worst time to inflect the most anguish. It’s why we all love her so.”‘ Of course it’s the daughter who let me in on this example

            Herman, Sandra’s Father, was a man without car at this time. In fact he was a struggling graduate student mastering the formulas of John Maynard Keynes as he fought his way through International Banking. So even though the firehouse was less than five hundred feet from the front door of their two bedroom apartment, Jackie insisted, “Don’t bother them Herman. They’ve got enough to do without coming down here. We can walk to the bus stop. It’s not far.”‘

            Actually it was about a quarter of a mile and most of that had to be covered on a busy street which didn’t have any sidewalks. Since it was well after rush hour, Herman agreed if only to stop his wife’s chastisements.  However the time it took her getting dressed made him at least try once more. Of course when that failed, Herman made sure he gave Jackie his full physical support as she navigated the five front steps of the building. He had just heaved a sigh of relief and taken her arm to help her down the slippery walk, when she suddenly clutched her swollen middle and let out a blood chilling scream.

            Herman went into immediate panic, yelling at the top of his lungs questions which were only answered by grunts, moans or head motions. His final plan for survival was to get her back inside and call for an ambulance. However getting Jackie back up the five steps turned out to be more difficult than climbing Mount Everest.

            He managed to get her up the first two despite her screams and folding almost double from the pain her cramps caused. As he tried to lift, push and brace her to the next, Jackie suddenly sat down, her face one sheet agony and sweat. Between contractions she managed to blurt out, “ Herm! I don’t think I’m gonna make it, hon. You better get the fireman right away. I think the baby’s head is already out!”‘

            Herman dashed in and called the operator, screaming his address, what was wrong, and finally telling her the location of the nearest firehouse. Assured that help would be there in a few minutes, he dashed back out into the cold and nearly pitched head first down the course of brick steps.The soft thin layer of un-swept snow was slowly being soiled by a red blotch slipping and sliding from one step to the next. Repressing a scream he gently reached out to take Jackie’s hand and help her back into the hall, afraid sitting in the snow would complicate the delivery. “Herman, oh dear God, what have I done?” she almost whispered, and before he could console her she pointed to the foot of the steps. He failed to understand the reason for her terror and grief, or notice something moving on the step below until Jackie moaned, “Is it all right?” Then his attention focused on something with a small cord reaching from his wife to it.

            “Oh my God! …The baby!”

            As I have already stated Sandra survived the shock of entry, and her fall didn’t affect her intellectual abilities. But, and this is a very big but, just recently I was discussing NORRIS’ LAW FOR BODIES FALLING with her and she grimaced. “I’ve really been bugged about that my whole adult life,” she offered grimly, and that’s how I became privy to her birth.

            When she finished her encounter with my law and without realizing I was stepping into a file of invisible scars, I almost jokingly asked why it had been any trouble. “Well, I don’t think it would have been so bad if my Mom had\n’t harp on it for as long as I can remember. I got to believing that maybe she really didn’t want to have me. That I was a real inconvenience right then.”

            When my utter silence didn’t erase the awkwardness, I got up and pulled her to her feet. Then I embraced her as only a gentle bear can , and waited for to tell me, I was forgiven for reminding her and also intruding into her privacy. Those words were not so easy or rapid in coming.

Example Number Eight

            It’s August, one day before my tenth wedding anniversary and I am standing before my Supervision Director for the Middle Atlantic Division of a major corporation. His office is on the fifteenth floor of the Munsey Building in downtown Baltimore, and I am desperately trying to look not only attentive but also eager as Mr. Galand D. Powers carefully thumbs through a report my staff and I have slaved over for the past four working days. To avoid his detecting my total lack of concern, interest and certainly gross lack of enthusiasm, I am staring out the oversized window directly behind him into the squalid and steamy Baltimore harbor.

            “Well Mr. Norris, this looks very satisfactory. Of course I’ll have to run your figures to be certain but….”

            At that very instant a hatless male, wearing a fully buttoned light double-breasted suit  but wearing only light brown socks, fills the window as he falls past. I know. How can something I saw for less than a second remain so vividly among my memories? You ever see someone falling outside a window you were hoping to find some relief? To this day, I am still positive he gave me the fickle finger as he fell.

            ”My God! A guy just jumped or fell!” I was half a step behind Mr. Powers as we rushed to the window. When we looked down, there the gray suit guy was; smashed into the black top garage roof. The image of his arms and legs twisted into a crude Swastika, was instantly riveted into my memory.

            Galand Powers had to be excused for the remainder of the work week. I decided there may be a chance that one day I too might fly out some skyscraper’s window or off a bridge due to stress or disappointments regarding how I had wasted my life. When I tended my letter requesting separation, the corporation accepted my two week notice. I quote: “With regret and we strongly urge you to reconsider. However, if you are determined to resign, we wish you all the best in the future.”

            Mr. Powers tried to rehire me a few years later. The fact he offered me ten times what I was earning as a public school teacher didn’t help erase half a stroke of the Swastika.

Example Number Nine

            “Hey guys, be careful. That’s pretty high!,” I warned my two sons. It was summer, Our Third Summer of Wonder, as Alex, my oldest son later labeled it. He and James were satisfying their need for thrills by jumping from a protruding rock at least 25 feet above the crystal green Englishman River on Vancouver Island. Alex was fourteen and Jimmy eleven, but they were versed in jumping into pools of water. I taught them when they were half their present age in a wonderful rock surrounded pool near our home.   Satisfied that they gave my warning some small attention when both waved and nodded their heads before scaling the face of the cliff, I went back to Billy Faulkner. Right then one of his characters was waiting for a clock he was staring at to strike noon, so he could commit suicide by jumping off one of the Charles River bridges in Boston.

            As always when I am reading, I was engrossed. Then Alex’s flailing arms lit up my third eye. In order to reach the pool, they had to jump about six feet out from the rock which was their platform. Alex was falling vertically, face first, and about two yards shy of the pool. I leaped up and screamed like some wounded house cat just as Alex hit the shallows face down.

            To reach him I had to descend a series of boulders so I had to focus on my next step. I was over half way to him, before I glanced down and saw him standing in water which hardly reached to his knees.

            “Alex! Are you all right?” I yelled. In mid leap I see his nod. When I was finally beside him, and could confirm that there was a great deal of blood, but it was all streaming from his nose, I repressed reaching out and embracing him. There was this totally focused glaze, a strangely bewildered fear and disorientation where his usual penetrating stare resided. I was sure he had a minor concussion, or as a footballer would say, “He’s had his bell rung real good!”‘

            As I circled him, checking for other cuts or signs of broken bones, I could see he wasn’t even aware I was there. It appeared there was nothing else injured, and then I had my own bell rung. Without any warning, I was suddenly holding him in my arms, actually cradling him, pressing his head to my chest and muttering into the top of his head as I pressed my lips into his thick red hair.

            “Hold still. I’ve got you. You look okay except for your nose. God! Jesus! You just sacred your old man out of five years of life.” As I spoke softly I could see James making his way around the edge of the pool, his relief reflecting from the tear streaks still on both his cheeks.

            “Please Alex. For God’s sake don’t ever do this to me again. Okay? Promise?”

            “Dad?” His terror resonated through my chest hairs. He had not called me Dad since he was twelve. “Dad? Promise you won’t tell Mom.” The visual memory of Istanbul flipped right along the softened edges of his every word.

            As I allowed a smile to slowly form, I agreed. “Got my word. Now sit down on that rock and let me give you a really careful once over. Somehow the phrase I longed to add, that simple I love you,’ would not form. So as I began the inspection I added, trying not to sound like either a Marine Sergeant or a football coach, “It’s a damn miracle you’re alive, guy. You do realize that don’t you?”

            “ Yes.” Then I realized why I was so wrong thinking he was so distant because he was in shock from his fall. It wasn’t that at all.

Example Number Ten

            The roof top of a 15 story Washington, DC apartment complex may be an odd place for a family reunion, but who ever claimed that the Norris family is anything other than odd? I could say that I was between planes, or even continent hopping. Both were true , but actually I was between WHERES,  Between  a stable marriage and crumbling relationships, both family and indifferent bed fellows. With only a few hours to make any family contact, it turned out only my youngest son, James, was available when I called my home from National Airport.

            “Alex is somewhere in Europe with Snowpea, and the Wart, his nick name for my daughter, is on a field trip in Mexico for about another month,’”was how he related the locations of my other two offspring.

            I readily agreed that he needn’t take a day off for the sake of a two hour visit, but I would really like to see him. He gave me an address on 16th Street in North West D.C., and when I arrived, three long haired electricians answered, “Doc! Of course. He’s up on the roof,” was the second reply when I asked where he was. Then they directed me to the outside elevator used to lift materials.

            I managed the ascent with closed eyes, and we embraced, which always looks like a couple of hungry bears hugging.  When I asked him the origin of nick name , he shrugged and offered, “ My first year at Maryland, all my friends started calling me Doctor Doom because I was so damn negative,” he explained.

            I gave him a fast but censored synopsis of my most recent antics in my attempts to avoid falling into the terrifying darkness change entails. As I did, I noticed how physically mature he had become during my most recent absence. The thickness of his arms, the sloped muscular shoulders, his full bushy un-kept black beard and shoulder length hair announced he had stepped over the threshold into adulthood at least physically.

            “How’s school?”

            “Good. Don’t fret. This is summers only. I’m doing fine. One more year and you’ll have your first civil engineer.” I was treated to slight trace of sarcasm, and aware that he was always painfully ill at ease at our encounters. Actually it had been almost two years since our last face to face.

            “Excellent! And have you gotten yourself a steady lady yet?” I asked, completely failing my try to wipe away all the awkwardness. He nodded, then his thick, totally joined eye brows lifted when a man appeared around the housing of the building’s air conditioning system, carrying a full sheet of thin plywood sideways. James fastened his eyes on him as he yelled, “Hey, you! Haven’t I told you never carry that crap like that up here?” And as I was about to ask why not, a sudden strong gust lifted the guy not only off his feet, but over the edge of the roof. As he cleared it, his calm detachment was clearly etched across his wide tanned face. My insanely ignorant hopes that he could use the sheet as a parachute vanished as the wind ripped it from his grasp. James and I reach the edge just in time to watch him turn three full somersaults before his head and shoulders enter the alley’s asphalt, and the side of a white van becomes an abstract painting of red splotches and streaks.

            “Dammit,” my son whispered at the insanely distorted body. “I’ve told all of them not to carry ply …” Which I interrupted when I put an arm around his tightly cinched shoulders.

            “Jim, listen son. You and I have had some really bad times. Most of them I caused. None of them were your fault. And …’ He turned facing me, the sadness in his eyes saying more than his lips, and right then I am not sure who it was for.

            “We’ve never listen do we? I mean we can avoid so many stupid mistakes if we’d just listen once and a while, Dad.” I could only nod, tighten my grip and lean into his great, warm strengths. Later as American Air Lines took me to Bogota, Columbia, I could still fell hios thick warmth radiating across the great gulf I and I alone had carefully created.

Example Number Eleven

            This incident takes place in late fall, after all the leaves have falling and Washington, D.C is exposed for what it really is; the prime example of a city with no middle ground regarding everything from political views to racial equality. I am driving north on Kenilworth Avenue, in the notorious Anacostia section where murders are almost a daily event and twenty-two is a ripe old age if you happen to be a African-American male with no athletic abilities. This is an area where if you leave a stalled car for more than half an hour it either vanishes or is stripped.

            I am only slightly aware of all these facts, because it’s Friday, and I am anxiously preparing to ask Katherine to become my second wife. The thought of having three uninterrupted nights with her beside me is most intoxicating. Then in a one frame panorama her aromas and softness are temporarily erased from my thoughts.

            I m at the junction where Pennsylvania Avenue and M. L. King Blvd. pass over me like the  wings of two prehistoric fliers. My Dodge Van butts under the first and approaches Martin Luther King which sweeps above in a long, easy descending curve to join me about a quarter of a mile ahead. Both overpasses are at least forty feet above me, when the latest example of Norris’ Law occurs.

            Suddenly a soaring object invades the late fall sky, and shatters my present reality.

            Like one senses a ball or tricycle rolling out of a driveway or bouncing out from between park cars, and breaks before they actually see it, a car appears and my reflexes force me to photograph the next three or four seconds..

            A light blue Jaguar convertible’s nose eases into a downward glide like some small plane beginning its landing, sine its top is down I can see a man at the wheel. Even though this is only in my view for no more than two or three seconds before he and his British status symbol silently disappear into the crippled and stunted grove of struggling oaks, the details are so clearly frozen in my memory, it’s as if it took an hour for him to pass overhead and it just happened ten seconds ago. It’s been twenty-three years.

            I can still see the slight dent in his right front fender, and the dull brown fiber glass filler used to safe guard it from rust before it is repainted. My inner eye recalls the irregularly margins of his pressed down roof and the wide strip of weathered tape stretched its entire width. But deepest of all is the face, and his entire upper body which seems to be a photograph it’s details are so vivid.

            Both his hands are on the wheel as if he is landing a plane. The head is bent just slightly forward, and his shoulders and back pressed against the bright red leather seat. But most vivid of all is his calm intense expression, which has a look of complete confident assurance. So outrageously out of sync with the reality that embraces him. As he crashes amid the ruptured forest strewn with industrial debris, I picture him as a Royal Air Force pilot, fighting to land his World War One Spad among the rusting barbed wire of No Man’s Land.

            I never slow down. Next morning I read in the paper the crash killed him instantly. That his name is being with held until his next of kin can be notified. Yet even right now, I see him flying by, like some scene from a Hollywood action film, and its sound track is always the same; Those Daring Young Men Flying Obscene.

            Of course I have questions. Once the ordinary are asked, others appear. Why did he appear to be so confident? Even now I wonder, did he drive off the bridge deliberately just to test his skills?

Example Number Twelve

            It’s a nasty, cold wet November day in Western North Carolina. Henry Majors and I have made two major mistakes. We decided Boone Lake was a great place to live, before we discovered it was world famous for its ice storms. Secondly, we rented a round house, yes, three hundred and sixty degrees round, on the top of a knoll. So the first ice storm we had, I was in the house and couldn’t get my car down, and Hank was outside and couldn’t get either his car or himself up. Nice

            We had taught high school together for over eight years, did some heavy drinking and deep soul searching. Hank resigned when a bag of weed fell out of his glove compartment when two DC cops stopped him for a bad brake light. It wasn’t his weed but he decided he was going to try a new line of work, movie theater management. I was hiding, trying to write a novel, so Boon Lake seemed ideal.

            Anyway, I pulled up to foot of our hill, directly below the huge porch about twenty five feet above. I decided to leave my car here, and as I got out, a young man and younger woman appeared on the porch. Then they were on the railing, teetering back and forth. I started to yell for them to get off, when they joined hands and leaped. Both fell head first on to a group of rocks easily the size of mini vans. I can still remember the sound his head made when it hit one of them. It was so loud it smothered her end.

            Years before I was trained in advanced first aid, but I instantly knew there was nothing I was going to do here but call the police and the fire department. Well, I did sort of check for pulses, heart beat and respirations. But I did it with my eyes fastened somewhere off in the slowly icing forest.

            When I got up the slope, Henry had already called and was sitting on the sofa, drink in hand and an extra double Scotch on the rocks for me.

            “Who the hell were they, and what the hell did they do that for?” 

            “Couple of kids I taught four years ago. On their way to Mexico, or so they said,” Hank paused took a good slug and shook his head. I knew exactly why. “They did some crystal meth while I was getting them something to eat.  After that it didn’t take long for them to lose it.”

            My next question was interrupted by the police siren. I’m not going to go into all the crap we went through before the cops and medics got finished. So after we were alone again, I asked Hank about why.

            “They got pretty nuts, and then Junior, I can’t recall his real name and Janet, decided they didn’t want to take all the time to drive to Mexico. When he said, “Let’s fly!” and she nodded, I thought they were going to the airport. But he opened the door to the porch and they waltzed out there. I think I told them to be careful, and then they were up on the damned railing and I was yelling and they sort of turned, gave me a big wave and …”

            I met both sets of parents when they came to claim their kids. I don’t know if  they knew why their kids had done fliers off our railing and I didn’t make any effort to  enlighten them. It was quick, down and pretty dirty. When I got back I made Hank do some soul searching.

            “Look, I’ve told you all I can remember. They were high on meth, he said let’s fly to Mexico and she said that was a great idea. And before I knew it they were …” Then he paused, got that oh ho look and finished.

            “They were not on the railing. I heard him ask her if she wanted to be Peter Pan or Tinker Bell. Yeah… Jesus, I’m absolutely positive they really believed they could fly.”

            Later I told him about my law and he almost smiled. “Look Hank, maybe they really didn’t think they could fly, but I’ll bet the farm they thought they wouldn’t get hurt when they landed.

Conclusive Results For Norris’ Law For Bodies Falling

            You now have 12 absolutely true examples of Norris’ Law For Bodies Falling. By reliving them, I am left with an observation you may or may not agree, depending on how you perceive your position in THE PROCESS.

            I’d like to let you in on something.  When I began, I was positive that if anyone of us really knew where we were in THE PROCESS’ it would be anyone falling from Point A , which  is any position at least thirty or more feet above to Point B ‘ie.’ the Earth. After carefully considering all of the examples, I no longer can maintain that position. Obviously the Law For Bodies Falling is quiet simple.  Those who thought they were doomed, survived and most of those convinced they would survive did not.

            However, I have come to a few other conclusions. Sometimes falling is not necessarily down.  See? Many times we grasp only the cartoon image. You can fall through. You can fall into and also over or fall for, fall from, and fall short. You can even fall into Fall! But actually very few of us ever fall into the WHERE where they are, or the WHERE where they belong.

Web Site: B. B. Riefner  

Reader Reviews for "Norris' Laws for Bodies Falling"

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Reviewed by Alan Abrams 9/1/2010
It was not me in the Jag, but it was me on an R75 one winter evening on the Suitland Parkway. I was turning wrenches at Cycle City, and a customer complained about a high speed wobble. I made some adjustments and took it for a spin where I could open it up, southbound on the Parkway.

Rush hour traffic was thick heading north, an endless stream of headlights coming at me up the two lane. Nothing ahead in my lane, however. So I laid out on the tank and put my left arm back, to reduce drag, and ran it up to 120. Steady as a rock.

Suddenly, a north bound pair of headlights pulled out to pass. Some impulse from the most primitive depth of my brain caused me to twitch the bars, and I sailed off--blinded by the headlights--to the right.

An instant later I touched down on some grass, upright and whole. Too treacherous to brake hard. It was as black as three feet up a bull's ass, as I coasted to a stop.

I went back the next day and found my tracks, which stopped at the edge of a ravine. I have no idea how far I traveled through the air. But my heart is pounding as I write this.
Reviewed by Joel Sattler 5/2/2010

Evidently, the shortest distance between two points is down.


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