Thoughts on Auschwitz & The Appearance of Evil

Some of my personal interests are crime, psychology and history. These areas of study often intersect as humans tend to kill one another, often times over differences they can’t or won’t remedy. The Holocaust is a prime example of this trifecta intersection. From 1933-1945 roughly, the Holocaust was carried out by Adolf Hitler and his Nazis with great detail and intentionality. The Germans were very well organized and kept paperwork and records on everything they did, including in each death camp.

I started learning about the Holocaust around 8th grade, or around 13 years of age. Even now, when I see pictures and footage of Auschwitz, I feel confused. Surely, this wide brick gateway with the glass lookout tower wasn’t so bad, was it? It looks like an airport tower, or even an entrance to a theme park. Everything appears so orderly and ordinary, if a little old and European looking. I expect Hell on earth–flames shooting out of the gate, the Devil walking around on the railroad tracks, bloodstains on the fences, anything really.

How could evil look like so ordinary, so efficient? Where were the flashing lights, the warning signals or other clues? No. There was just brick, mortar, glass and railroad ties at the entrance. And something else I learned recently—Auschwitz is massive. The immensity of the death camp be seen in the BBC drone footage here.

The evil was in the ordinary.

auschwitz2

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Fatigue: A Story of Susie Bee (Part III)

Susie Bee sat in the doctor’s office, listening to the sounds of stapling papers, stamps and the general buzzing of office life. It was rhythmic and made her doze off once or twice.

“Ms. Suzanne Bee?”

“Here I buzz,” Susie spoke, setting down her Bee Happy magazine. She had been reading an especially silly article about the Queen redecorating her hive in the newest fashions.

“What seems to be the problem today, Suzanne?” the nurse asked after taking Susie’s vitals in the receiving room.

“I’m not sure. But my buzz is weak, the rhythm in my knees is kaput and my antennas drag behind me when I walk. I’m tired all the time, my appetite has plummeted. I feel sick. It’s hard to even fly.”

“Well, you don’t have a temperature and your blood pressure is fine,” the nurse announced, scratching some numbers onto a clipboard. “But let’s do some blood work  to be safe and I can send them over to the lab. It’ll rule out some things. The doctor will review and call you; he’s out today on vacation. In the meantime, here’s a sick note and orders to rest and stay hydrated. If anything changes, let me know. You may just need to rest, Suzanne.”

Susie grumbled to herself on the walk home, mumbling about nurses with their degrees and feeling invalidated by the quick visit. Surely, something was wrong with her to feel so tired. Why didn’t anyone believe she was sick?

“Fore!” a voice shouted in the distance.

Surely, there was a pill waiting for her somewhere. She just needed the right diagnosis. Yes, maybe she should see another nurse, or ask to talk to the doctor directly. Or should she wait until the lab results came back?

“I said FORE, you idiot. Watch out!”

“What?” Susie muttered, breaking from her thoughts. She squinted about in the bright sunshine. “Four of what?”

And that’s when it hit her. A bright white golf ball, sailed through the air and landed– directly on Susie’s forehead.

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Fatigue: A Story of Susie Bee (Part II)

Susie Bee lay in bed, tapping on her laptop. Susie was looking up articles on HoneyCombMD, fitting on self-diagnosis like new shoes, seeing how each fit and looked on her dainty legs.

“Maybe I have American Foolbroud bacteria,” she announced squarely, squinting at the screen. “No, that’s not it. How about Colony Collapse Disorder? That can’t be it either;  I’m just one bee, aren’t I? A bent stinger? No, it’s as straight as ever and I sharpened it only yesterday. Hmm…”

Susie hummed in thought, buzzing up and down in volume.  She heard a Messenger Bee tap on her door.

“Susie Bee. How DO you be?” a voice sung out merrily. “Heard you hummin’ all the way down the hall. Here’s your mail!”

Susie looked up as a stack of envelopes fluttered down from her mail slot. Her pet aphid scurried forth and brought the mail dutifully to Susie in bed.

“Honey bill…Nurse Bee Bill from the BuzzBub Hospital. Undertaker Bees are taking up another collection, I see…Oh, here’s my bill from the Cleaners…”

Susie’s head swarmed as she added up the figures quickly in her head, using her antennae to carry over the ones.

“Oh, Alfred,” Susie moaned to her pet aphid. “I’ll have to work double shifts all next month to pay these bills! How is this even possible? I just caught up on my finances and now this!”

The bee shut her laptop and sighed, sipping on some clover juice. She scratched Alfred under the chin, humming again.

“Maybe I need to buzz up the doctor after all,” Susie concluded after awhile. “My research is becoming a drone and I’m getting nowhere. Perhaps the doc can get the pep back into my step.”

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Fatigue: A Story of Susie Bee (Part I)

Susie Bee was a busy bee. Up and down the stairs in the honeycomb castle she flew, serving the queen’s whims and wishes. As Susie Bee was responsible and hardworking, she worked diligently, ensuring the day’s work was done before sundown.

One day, Susie called into work using her buzzline phone. She pulled out a thermometer from her medicine cabinet. She used her antennae to hold the thermometer to her mouth while dialing with her free hand.

“Hello, this is Susie. I work on the 10th floor in administration and paper filing. Yes, yes I am Harold’s boss. Yes, he is a dear bee… I’m calling in sick today, I’m afraid. I think I have a fever and my knees have lost their rhythm. Yes, I’ll be sure to call the doctor. Thank you.”

Susie collapsed on her honey filled pillow. The thermometer let out a buzz, letting her know it had a reading. She pulled it out, dangling it it front of her face.

“Normal. Now isn’t that the bee’s knees…”

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The Keys to Oz: Peaceful Retreats

As a human, it’s important to know what recharges our spirits. As writers, it’s imperative to our craft. Write too long on empty and gobbledygook splats out, pouring black ooze from our fingers and drips onto our feet. The gook sticks to our legs, trapping us suddenly in our chairs. Our brains soon crawl out afterwards and slink away to find a new oasis. Our noses follow quickly, searching for roses and rain showers of bygone, blissful days. If truly dire, legs may start a feverish tap dancing number underneath your desk, greatly upsetting the carefully arranged pencils and tawdry knickknacks. Away, they demand! Away, away, away!

We’re not meant to work forever; we’re meant to live in Oz. Truly.

Don’t argue with me. Take a munchkin and move over.

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Flash Fiction: Women Warriors

You know the drill–99 words, no more, no less. Carrot Ranch is the spot. This week’s theme is “Women Warriors.” Saddle up!

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Labrador Lessons III: Pace Thyself, Human! (Our First 10k)

There are gulpers and there are chippers in this world. I am a gulper. There are no stages, no stepping stones of graduated achievements with how I proceed. There is simply the goal and myself, whatever it may be. Everything between me and the goal must be overcome. And now, today, this very instant in fact! Definitely not tomorrow or a wishy-washy “sometime later, honey.” I will stay the course, finish strong, even if doctors and nurses hurry behind me with a crash cart and tranquilizer darts. Reality be darned!

All this I thought today during my first 10k, walking at a steady pace with my saintly husband* and tolerant Labrador. And then my Lab, during mile six, laid down in the middle of the road during a water break. She peered up at me and my so-called goals.

“Go ahead–try to move me, human,” my Labrador taunted me from the ground. “But you’re going to carry my 55lb butt back to the air conditioned car. And then I’m gonna pee all over your azaleas you just planted so lovingly…”

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Demons, Death & Double Standards: “What a Slut…”

I ask your pardon for including the word “slut” in the title. I dislike the connotations and one sided power the word carries. I imagine the word as a broken woman, dragging her dirtied feet through this patriarchal world, a shamed prostitute surrounded by self-righteous rock throwers. A man I knew died recently and, as I learned, wasn’t married to whom I (and everyone else) assumed was his spouse. The news startled me, but I knew it wasn’t my business. I instead chose to help as I was able with the memorial arrangements. I overhead the following conversation happen the day of the funeral:

“And what was with “their companion” written in the obituary…? What, they weren’t married? …What a slut…”

Ecstatic giggling followed the speaker’s judgement. I couldn’t see the group listening, but could hear parts of the conversation. I imagined the speaker’s tongue like a snake’s, split and elegant, licking the air in glee as she laughed. The group murmured some type of consensual agreement I couldn’t quite decipher. The conversation moved onto other matters, sliding easily to other interests.

I sat in my chair, shocked, my brain numbly processing what I heard. I began wondering if I was honestly in the presence of a demon.

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A Partial Movie Review & Thoughts on the Horror Genre: “The Quiet Place”

My spouse bought the tickets, got us free glasses of ice water and I scurried off to use the restroom. I sat down in the dark theatre, baffled by the motley collection of previews that ranged from the dramatic yet playful “Avengers” series to an odd, demonic horror movie of  uncomfortable supernatural darkness. I was reminded how even though I write horror, most horror I’ve come across I dislike and avoid. More on this later.

I relaxed as the “The Quiet Place” finally began and flashed my husband a grin. I was geeked about this movie, particularly because I could learn more American Sign Language (ASL). As I mentioned previously, I’m attempting to become fluent in ASL and was curious how the language–and maybe even Deaf culture–was incorporated into the film.

“A Quiet Place” is the story of an American family cobbling a bizarre, post-apocalyptic existence while striving not to make the slightest noise. The parents are raising children, one who is a teenaged deaf girl and two younger boys who are hearing. Alien neighbors surround the town and farm where the family scratches out an existence. The aliens are blind, armored predators; they target and kill anything that makes the slightest noise (including unlucky raccoons). The family walks barefoot on sand paths, eats on lettuce plates and plays Monopoly with soft fabric playing pieces. They cannot cry loudly and struggle with expressing (and suppressing) their emotions. The parents whisper hoarsely to their kids and use ASL to communicate and teach their children how to survive.

I made it through about 40 minutes of the 90 minute film before leaving. Hats off to Mr. John Krasinski, the director, for the movie’s unique power. I walked out of the theatre, afraid to make any noise in case an alien was hiding around the corner ready to ambush me. I blared my Pandora station with courage at home and proceeded to clean my house–until 2 in the morning.

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Changing of the Winds: Mary Poppins

I’ve always been entranced by a line in Disney’s original Mary Poppins movie. Julie Andrews says this line very quietly to the children at their bedtime when asked how long she’ll stay.

“I’ll stay until the wind changes,” she announces delicately to the children. As a child, that means only one thing: she’s going away. Mary is not permanent.

This perplexed me as a child and still rattles me a little as an adult. How brave Disney was to keep this element of the story, of change and letting go. Waiting periods and change are two of the hardest things for kids to understand. I’m not sure adults win the blue ribbon, either.

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