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message stonesMy husband is responsible for hundreds of people at the plant where he works. I won’t tell you his title. For one reason, it’s long and convoluted. For another, most of the words won’t mean anything to laypeople. And most importantly, I need to look it up to get it exactly right. It’s easier to say he’s the assistant plant manager, but really, it’s more complicated than that. On a good day, he has to make sure everything is on schedule, running efficiently, and up to code so there are no health violations. On a bad day, well, we don’t like to think about the bad days.

When the phone rings in the middle of the night, you know it’s a family emergency or a work emergency. You know it’s never a good thing. The phone rang a few nights ago, and it was a work emergency. All he told me before rushing out was that there was an accident on the docks. I knew it wasn’t family. And I knew it wasn’t good.

How do you comfort someone you love when you don’t even know what you’re comforting them for?

Hours later, he tried to sneak into bed, but I was awake, worrying for him and the unnamed victim of the accident. I asked him what happened.

A maintenance worker, whose uniform is dark blue, was working alone on the docks. The docks are dark despite the lights, and very noisy. It’s against the rules to be there alone, but he was there by himself. He had his back turned and was standing against the wall, working against the building. When the truck backed in, the driver couldn’t see him, and the maintenance worker didn’t see or hear the truck. He was pinned against the wall.

When my husband got the call, he was certain the worker had been killed.

But a series of unrelated circumstances resulted in a different outcome.

  1. A different driver was supposed to be there, but this driver was waved into the property first.
  2. The truck had a damaged bumper, and it was bent in right where the worker was pinned.
  3. The worker’s arms were above him when he was pinned, and he was able to reach his radio and call for help.

The worker sustained only bruising. No internal bleeding, no broken bones. By all rights, he should have been killed, but fate, divine intervention, luck… whatever you want to call it spared him.

The driver of the truck was sick over the whole thing. My husband didn’t look too good after he got the call, and honestly, he looked shell-shocked when he got home. I was torn between laughing and crying, but just settled on thanking God for his intercession.

The thing is, from the writer’s perspective, they say write what you know, but sometimes you just can’t. Sometimes life just isn’t believable.

No one would ever believe that you could be pinned by a semi and live to tell about it. There are too many coincidences that worked in the maintenance man’s favor to help him survive, especially after he was alone, in the dark, in dark clothes on a noisy dock.

Writing what you know sometimes isn’t believable.

When my husband’s grandfather died (his father’s father), his mother’s two sisters missed the funeral, and we wondered where they were. They showed up at the wake to tell us that they were with their uncle who had just died. We had no sooner buried one family member, we were going to have to bury another. After his wake, we were decompressing at my brother-in-law’s house when we got a call that my father-in-law’s uncle had passed. That made three. Now, I grant you, that was two on one side of the family and one on the other, but that made three for us, back to back. We weren’t even able to grieve any longer. We were completely empty, void of tears, unable to even process the emotions.

If I wrote a scenario like that into a book, no one would believe it.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

So, draw on your experiences. Use your emotions. But choose expeditiously. A little reality goes a long, long way.

Do you have any “truth is stranger than fiction” moments that inspired a story? Care to share them, or how you changed them, in the comments below?