Today’s Wednesday’s Word entry comes to you as a result of Jamie Grove’s suggestion in a recent post on what to do when you don’t feel like writing: put A to B. Get thy butt to thy chair, and write anyway.
The theme this week on Wordsmith.org is eponyms: words based on a person’s name. You have to be famous and/or do something really ingenious for your name to become part of the English language. For some odd reason, Wordsmith.org doesn’t acknowledge any eponym related to me. Clearly they don’t know the story of how I became a Lion’s Club member, even though I’m a woman. I only stayed in for a year, and it might be a figment of my imagination (or a nightmare), but still….
However, the name André Maginot comes into focus with today’s word of the day:
Maginot line. noun. An ineffective line of defense that is relied upon with undue confidence.
You can read about André Maginot here, and learn how his great line of defense fell short in actual protection.
Now, on to some flash fiction.
You may not know Millie. She is the main character in the novel I mention when I talk about how much I love rewrites. Millie lives alone, and she likes it that way, for the most part. She requires a large cushion of personal space, for sanitary reasons and because of her suspicion of most people. She prefers to observe life from a distance, behind a window or behind a desk or in the shadows. Over the phone, she is amicable; in person, quiet or curt. Today, I imagine Millie and the Maginot line.
Millie’s best line of defense lay in tight formation along the top edge of her place mat. As she tore off bite-size pieces off her bran muffin and chewed, with purpose, she studied each pill: fish oil,vitamin E, vitamin D, and (the catch-all) Mega-Mix Iron Supplement – iron complemented with vitamins C and B12, a dash of Folic Acid and a pinch of Copper. The Mega-Mix, her mother insisted, would boost her energy and give a little color to her cheeks.
The Mega-Mix pill was the same color and length as her mother’s manicured nails, the one on her index finger to be exact. The image of her mother’s nail, in bright corral polish, pointing to and tapping the vitamin brochure, was fresh in Millie’s mind.
“You need all of these, Millie,” her mother said as she ran her finger down a list of vitamins for women over forty.
“I’m thirty-nine, mother.”
“You can never start too early. Besides, you’re pale as a ghost and you sleep too much. Get this one for sure,” she tapped over the picture of the Mega-Mix.
The vitamins came in the mail yesterday. Millie hadn’t opened them until this morning. Now, studying the Mega-Mix pill on the table, she saw it had the thickness of a marble. She was worried. She had a high gag reflex. The other three vitamins would be hard enough. She decided to take the Mega-Mix last.
She took a deep breath. Her right hand scooped up the fish oil and, like a catapult, shot it into her open mouth. Her left hand swung from the side and grasped her water glass. She flooded her mouth, so that the pill floated for a brief second. Then, she tossed her head back as if she were in a fit of laughter and swallowed, forcing the pill down her esophagus in one strong gulp. She repeated the process two more times then paused at the Mega-Mix.
Millie had swallowed a marble once in her life. When she was five, her cousin Jonathon convinced her it was candy.
“Try it. It’s blueberry. You like blueberry, right?”
She put it in her mouth and sucked on it.
“I don’t taste blueberry.”
“Well, you can’t taste it right away,” he said. “You have to swallow it.”
So she did.
It took half a sleeve of crackers to push it down her throat. The only reason her mother found out was because she caught Jonathon, with panic in his eyes, standing over Millie who was covered in a pile of crumbs. By the time they got to the ER, the doctor said Millie was fine and they should “just wait for it to pass.” That was the last time Millie took Jonathon at his word.
Mega-Mix pill grew larger with each minute Millie waited.
She counted to three.
She scooped the vitamin up and shot it towards her mouth. It hit her front tooth and bounce out. Before she shot the pill the second time, she opened her mouth wider. She doubled up on the water.
The pill didn’t float. When she tossed her head back, it stuck to the roof of her mouth. Millie gagged, twice, and spit it out. She almost gave up, but the thought of her mother’s pointed insistence drove her to try again. She would not be defeated a third time.
The pill dropped, stuck, and gave her the sensation of someone pressing their finger at the base of her throat. After the second half of a barely chewed bran muffin and a hot cup of coffee, the feeling dissipated. By the time she got to work, Millie looked flushed but thought she felt the extra energy from the B12 and Folic Acid.
Maybe her mother was right.
But after a week of Mega-Mix gagging, Millie came down with the worst cold she had all season. When her mother found out, she showed up on her doorstep that next Saturday. Millie looked through the peephole to see her mother holding a six-pack of Ensure, strawberry malt flavor.
Millie let go of the doorknob and slipped quietly back to her bed.