Star Light, Star Bright

What are the odds? I’ve always hated when people say that. Most of us have no real appreciation for matters of chance. We believe that things we want are much more likely to happen than they really are and things we don’t want are less likely. I didn’t wake up today feeling lucky. Or unlucky.

Odds of winning Powerball Grand Prize: 1 in 195,249,054. Odds of being struck by lightning in the United States in any single year: 1 in 700,000.

She has the softest brown eyes I’ve ever seen. We met in the grocery store when she hit me with her shopping cart. I’ll always wonder whether she did that on purpose, but I flatter myself at the thought. Anyway, we chatted a bit while a good size bruise formed on my leg. We made plans to meet later for coffee. I kept thinking, “Things like this just don’t happen to me.”

I know what you’re thinking, punk. You’re thinking “did he fire six shots or only five?” Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk? ~Dirty Harry

I went on about my business for the rest of the afternoon with a bit more bounce in my step tempered by the pain of that bruise which was turning the most brilliant colors. Sure, we were just meeting for coffee, but that doesn’t stop a guy from considering whether there are more intimate possibilities. What? It could happen.

Star light, star bright,
first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Oh darn, it’s a satellite

Little did I know, just about then a 6.5 ton satellite was tumbling out of orbit. As it entered the atmosphere it began breaking apart and burning. Much of it disintegrated, but pieces scattered over a swath several miles wide and a few hundred miles long. One of those pieces hit me right in the head. Who would ever have thought that a burning chunk of space debris would be the last thing to go through my mind? At least I gained some notoriety in death that I never did in life.

According to NASA, the chance of a piece of UARS debris hitting anybody anywhere in the world: 1 in 3,200.

So twice in one day my life took a wholly unexpected turn. How often does that happen? I’m going to miss that coffee date. Here’s the funny thing though. Don’t ask me how I know this, but had I lived she would have broken my heart. I sure dodged that bullet.

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10 Comments on Star Light, Star Bright

  1. I have to say this is the most interesting flash I’ve seen in a while. I mean that in a good way. It’s very indescribable.

    Thanks, Hannah. The idea just sort of hit me. [sorry] ~Tim

  2. LOL Made me smile. Also, reminds me of the satellite that’s supposed to be disintegrating in the atmosphere.

    Thanks, Sonia. That satellite was exactly the inspiration for this. ~Tim

  3. I really liked this Tim – I wasn’t sure where it was going – I burst out laughing at the star bright rhyme when it ended ‘Oh darn, it’s a satellite’ – but then the twist came.

    Very well done, held my interest all the way through.

    Thanks, Helen. I remember that version of the rhyme from my childhood better than the real version. We hang onto the oddest things. ~Tim

  4. Where’s this NASA data from? That is mighty low! But maybe, mighty lucky once in a while.

    Thanks, John. I admit I did not double-check their math. http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/585584main_UARS_Status.pdf [page 8] ~Tim

  5. I like the quotes inserted into this piece. It gave humor to a gruesome ending.

    Thanks, Lara. I plan to go out laughing. ~Tim

  6. Well told story. Clever construction. I keep trying to say something more original but all I’ve got is: I really like this flash. If you got permission for the quotes, you could sell this one.

    Did you ever watch the Showtime series “Dead Like Me”? I used to love that show. The premise was a girl got hit by a toilet seat from the space station, then spent her afterlife as a grim reaper.

    Thanks, Peg. I saw the “Dead Like Me” series when it was rerun on the SciFi [now SyFy] channel. I liked that one too. ~Tim

  7. Yeah, the phrase “What are the odds?” is somewhat overused. It always amuses me when someone can actually work out the odds and answer the question.

    Thanks, Icy. I like to give them a number and challenge them to prove me wrong. ~Tim

  8. I really like the ideas woven into this one.

    Are the odds on being hit by space debris really 1in 3,200 ? If they are then I’m gonna stop going outside. :)

    Thanks, Steve. Yes, those are the odds calculated by NASA, but I see by your next comment you found a common misconception about that number. I wondered if anyone would notice. ~Tim

    • Doh, on the second read I realised that the odds were 1 in 3,200 multiplied by the number of people on the planet, which kinda makes it a bit less of a risk, dunnit? :) :)

      Thanks, Steve. You’re exactly right. While the stats I quoted for Powerball and lightning are for an individual, the one from NASA is for anyone anywhere getting hit. The risk to any one person is more like 1 in 21 trillion. Go outside and play. ~Tim

  9. I really liked this. Weaving the quotes through the story gave it an interesting feel. I liked the humour at the end too. Any statistic can be twisted to give a different message.

    Thanks, Peter. Anyone can tell a lie, but it takes statistics to give them real weight. ~Tim

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