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Poem: "Save the City" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Save the City"
This poem is spillover from the November 4, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was selected in an audience poll to be opened for microfunding.  (If you click on the poll, you'll see it looks like a tie, but there was a backchannel vote for this poem.)  It was inspired by prompts from DW user Chanter_greenie and Readera.  It also fills the "playing cards" square in my 9-1-14 card for the Genprompt Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: general fund, kestrels_nest, janetmiles, DW user Gingicat, ng_moonmoth

FULLY FUNDED
232 lines, Buy It Now = $116
Amount donated = $101.50
Verses posted = 62 of 75

Amount remaining to fund fully = $15.50
Amount needed to fund next verse = $.50
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $1.50



Save the City


Danso paced around the living room,
resisting the urge to look out the windows
every time he went past them.

SPOON had found Nathaniel's grandmother
and Danso couldn't help remembering
how awkward it had to been to reconnect
with Rosita's birth family, although he
would never begrudge her that kinship.

"Try to relax," Hannah said. "If Abigail
wanted to take Nathaniel, then she
probably wouldn't come to our house.
She's giving us home-court advantage."

"Yeah," Danso said, trying to
convince himself that it would be fine.

"I'll go see if Nathaniel is done napping,"
Hannah said, and left the room.

Of course that was when the doorbell chimed.

Danso opened the door to find an old lady
with dark curly hair starting to go gray,
wearing a white blouse and a blue skirt
and a necklace of pretty nice fake pearls.

She took one look at him and said,
"Oh, you must be Danso! Groundhog
has told me so much about you."
Then she hugged him.

Danso gave a startled squeak
as she squeezed the air out of him.
"I -- um, what --" he stammered.

She let go. "Sorry," she said.
"I suppose at your age,
you might not care for hugs.
I'm just so grateful that you
took care of Nathaniel.
I'm his grandmother Abigail."

Actually the hug had felt wonderful;
she was soft in that grandmotherly sort of way,
had thanked him instead of arguing, and
Danso was just getting used to the idea
of having a real family again, which made him
miss the grandmother who'd died when he was five ...

... and he was standing with the door open like an idiot.

"Come in, please," he said. "Yes, I'm Danso.
Welcome to ... our house. Hadyn and Lakia
are studying at the kitchen table.
Nathaniel and Rosita are napping;
our mother went to get him."

"NANA!"

Nathaniel's air-raid voice preceded him
as he ran full-tilt through the living room
to wrap himself around his grandmother's legs.

"There's my little apple dumpling!"
she said, scooping him up.

Hannah followed, the girls tagging along
behind her, and more introductions were made.

Danso remembered how antsy he'd been
when meeting Rosita's birth family,
and how obnoxious he'd been to Aidan
when he thought the older man
meant to adopt Nathaniel and Rosita,
and he was determined to do better this time.

"So, uh ... what did you and Nathaniel
do together?" Danso asked Abigail.

She chuckled. "Usually I played bridge
with my neighbors until he fell asleep on me."

"I doubt that will happen," Danso said.
"He just got up from a nap."

"Won't make a bit of difference," she said.

"I don't know what Nathaniel was like with you,"
Danso said, "but he doesn't sleep well now.
A lot of things keep him up, or wake him up."

"Oh, he's always been like that," Abigail said.
"He was a colicky little thing -- I don't suppose
that's gotten any better now that he's older?"

"We're working on it," Hannah said.
"Nathaniel has a lot of allergies.
We're learning what he can and can't eat."

"That's a relief," Abigail said, bouncing Nathaniel,
who was uncommonly quiet in her arms.

"You can sit down," Danso invited. "We have cards,
but I don't know how to play bridge; Mama tried,
I just wasn't any good at it. We've got lots of
other games though -- Uno, Save the City, Checkers --
there's a whole closet shelf full of stuff."

"Save the City?" Abigail echoed.
"I don't recognize that one."

"It's, um ..." Danso trailed off, realizing
that a game with occasional superpowers
might not have been the best idea.

"It's a soup game!" crowed Lakia.
"Stuff goes wrong and you're supposed to
fix it before the whole city dies. But you
only get powers sometimes, not every time.
Mostly you have to solve things the hard way."

"That sounds interesting," Abigail said.
"Would you teach me how to play?"

"Sure, but you gotta keep Nathaniel
from trying to eat the pieces," Lakia said.

"Wait ten minutes," Abigail said
as she sat down, settling Nathaniel
in her lap while Hadyn opened the card table.

"All right, who all wants to play?"
Hannah asked. "I'll run the emergency."

Lakia, Hadyn, Danso, and Abigail were all in.
Hannah drew the Blackout card and
started the board with the electric company.

Abigail got a residential block, Danso the park,
Hadyn the school, and Lakia a commercial block.

Hannah shuffled the deck of characters
and dealt them out. Danso got the pilot,
which was bound to be useful for repairing
power lines since he wasn't afraid of heights.
Abigail had drawn the Activity Scout,
Lakia the park ranger, and Hadyn the lawyer.

Nobody rolled a superpower, although
Abigail got one spoon that would let her
reroll the other die at her first crisis.

As they put their little plastic figures on the board,
Nathaniel took a lazy swipe at the Activity Scout,
but didn't complain when his grandmother
nudged it farther out of his reach.

Lakia enthusiastically described the rules
as best she could remember, with some help
from Hannah on the tricky bits. Then Hannah
turned over the first emergency card and read,
"High winds have knocked down a power line."

The characters sprang into action, searching
for the source of the problem, and of course
more things went wrong along the way. They
moved toward each other, because the game
rewarded cooperation and let you share a turn
if you were in the same square with anyone else.

Despite being new to the game, Abigail got
the hang of it fast, making Danso wonder if
the bridge helped because Mama always said
that was a card game for good partners.

They scrounged for resource cards --
"This is way easier than on the street,"
Hadyn whispered -- and did their best
to keep the civilians out of trouble.

A miniature snore made Danso look down.
Stretched sideways across his grandmother's lap,
Nathaniel was limp as a kitten and sound asleep.

"Wow," Danso said softly. "Wish I could do that."
He could feel it in her, not a superpower,
just a knack like the warmest fuzziest blanket ever.
He wouldn't touch it -- that would be rude --
but he sure could admire it.

"Works like a charm," Abigail said.

By the time Danso's pilot had found a ladder
to help the electrician fix the downed line,
a car had backed into a transformer
so the power still didn't come back on.

Hadyn's lawyer was addressing the accident
while Abigail's Activity Scout (who had not
gotten a superpower on the second attempt)
and Lakia's park ranger dealt with the transformer.

Danso loved playing Save the City because
it made you think about how to handle
the good and bad things the cards turned up,
plus you had to do the roleplaying for
all the things not laid out by cards or dice,
and that took a lot of cooperation.

In the end, they managed to get
the lights back on, and everybody won.

Lakia and Hadyn cheered -- quietly,
because Nathaniel was still drowsing --
and Abigail declared Save the City
to be at least as fun as bridge.

"Think you can handle visiting the horde again?"
Hannah asked. "Nathaniel comes as a set now."

"No problem," Abigail said, gazing down
at the sleeping toddler in her lap. "I wish
I could have kept him, but I just don't
have the energy to keep up with
a small child all the time anymore."

Danso remembered how exhausting
it had been taking care of all the kids,
back when they'd been on the street together,
especially with Nathaniel howling all the time
because nobody knew his allergies yet.

"I'm sure everyone will appreciate
a visit when you can come," Hannah said.

Even now, it was challenging for Hannah
to take care of everyone, though Danso
helped as much as she let him.

Maybe it would be easier with another adult
to help, if Abigail came to visit Nathaniel.

Maybe nobody would notice if Danso
pretended she was his grandmother too.

"Did the best I could with his mother,
but I had a hard time raising her by myself,"
Abigail murmured, looking down at Nathaniel.
"I do love Rhonda, but that girl has issues."

Lots of people had issues, especially
the kind you got when life knocked you down
and sat on you so you couldn't get up.

Danso understood that, even if he
still resented how Nathaniel's mother
had abandoned the toddler.

"Stuff happens," Danso said.
"Least we got each other."

"I'm hungry," Lakia piped.

"I should go start supper," Hannah said
as Danso and Hadyn began gathering
the game pieces to put back in the box.

"Want some help? I could come
bake cookies," Abigail offered.

"That would be lovely," Hannah said.

When it came to winning hearts
and winning respect, maybe
they were doing better this time.

"Let me take Nathaniel," Danso said.
"I think I can keep him asleep
for a little while longer."

Carefully they made the transfer;
Nathaniel snuffled a bit
but did not wake up.

Abigail reached out toward him,
and Danso warned her,
"Don't touch his hair. It tickles,
and sometimes that wakes him up."

She grinned at him and said,
"Well, that's useful to know!
What's your favorite kind of cookie?"

"Oatmeal raisin," Danso said, remembering
the old family recipe written on fading paper.

"I can make those," Abigail said,
patting him on the cheek
as she headed for the kitchen.

Huh. Maybe Abigail wanted to pretend
that she had more than one grandkid.

Danso was absolutely okay with that.

* * *

Notes:

Grandparents provide many benefits, and may contribute to human lifespan.  Therefore, it is advantageous to preserve that relationship when at all possible, unless the grandparent threatens child safety or family functionality.  In our world, grandparent rights are patchy, and nevermind what the law says about "the best interests of the child," in court children are treated as property more often than not with arrangements made to please the adult(s) with the most power.  Terramagne has better family services, thus less reliance on court-ordered family dynamics; most arrangements are made informally within a family, perhaps with the aid of a counselor, and the options for formalizing those arrangements are far more flexible.  There are also tips on how to be a good grandmother and a set of grandmother principles.

Hugging is good for people, including teen boys.  Some teens don't want to hug anymore, although there are reasons for hugging teens in particular.  Explore how to navigate personal boundaries when showing affection with teenagers.

Board game design includes both the rules and the materials, which may involve such things as a modular board or specialized playing pieces.  Contemporary gamers often view the board game more as a play set than a singular finished project, especially with the advent of game systems such as Looney Pyramids and the Piecepack which can be used for numerous games.  In Terramagne this tendency has developed even further, as it connects with their playground art which also facilitates game design.  There are tips on board game design for teachers and students or hobby designers.

Enjoy a recipe for Grandmother's Original Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

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14 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
kestrels_nest From: kestrels_nest Date: November 17th, 2014 01:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I love it!

Nathaniel's air-raid voice preceded him
as he ran full-tilt through the living room
to wrap himself around his grandmother's legs.


I have to wonder, given how attached Nathanial obviously is to his grandmother, how his mother came to hand him to a complete stranger!?!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 17th, 2014 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I love it! <<

Yay! I'm glad you're enjoying this.

>> I have to wonder, given how attached Nathanial obviously is to his grandmother, how his mother came to hand him to a complete stranger!?! <<

They do talk about that later in the poem.
kestrels_nest From: kestrels_nest Date: November 17th, 2014 01:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I rather thought they would. Now I just have to hope someone else (or more likely several someone elses) will keep it rolling.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 17th, 2014 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I'm sure that folks will pitch in to keep it going. The question is just how long it will take.
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: November 24th, 2014 10:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Hugging is an interesting thing. Since talking to a lot of autistic adults, I have been careful to make sure that kids I know -- including mine -- know that hugging is not an obligation. My own kids ( one autistic, one nautistic but not neurotypical) tend toward the tacklehug and have had to learn more about personal boundaries.

Last night I was at a work event which included kids from our youth group, and one autistic teen I adore was in a huggy happy mood, which was awesome.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 24th, 2014 10:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>> Hugging is an interesting thing. Since talking to a lot of autistic adults, I have been careful to make sure that kids I know -- including mine -- know that hugging is not an obligation. <<

Good for you!

>> My own kids ( one autistic, one nautistic but not neurotypical) tend toward the tacklehug and have had to learn more about personal boundaries. <<

Elsewhere in Polychrome Heroics, Sloane Wood is like that.

>> Last night I was at a work event which included kids from our youth group, and one autistic teen I adore was in a huggy happy mood, which was awesome. <<

Yay!
siege From: siege Date: November 25th, 2014 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Is she...

She chuckled. "Usually I played bridge
with my neighbors until he fell asleep on me."


And then

"He was a colicky little thing -- I don't suppose
that's gotten any better now that he's older?"


Hm. Maybe Nana has a hidden power to provide comfort in some way? That would be an excellent thing. "Grandma Comfort", gently guiding bad children to a better path! :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 25th, 2014 04:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Is she...

Well spotted! She has Good (+2) Putting Kids to Sleep as an ordinary quality.

If you look at the parents or grandparents of kids who were born with superpowers, especially ones that manifested early, often you can see hints of unusual talent. The latent potential can show through even if it's not manifesting at super level.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: December 8th, 2014 06:29 am (UTC) (Link)
*warm fuzzies through and through*

Did you want to strike out "232 lines, Buy It Now = $116"?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 8th, 2014 06:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Yes, the price line should've been crossed out; I have fixed that now. Thanks for catching it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 8th, 2014 10:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Waiting to comment

I waited until this was complete to comment, which was tough!

Danso thinks she's /pretending/ she has more than one grandchild now? I can't wait until the truth settles into his bones. He /needs/ the extra adult to rely on, buffer his own impending adulthood a bit more.

At least Abigail is /trying/ to mend the situation as best she can, which makes her someone I'm now curious about.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 8th, 2014 10:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Waiting to comment

>> I waited until this was complete to comment, which was tough! <<

I'm glad you made it.

>> Danso thinks she's /pretending/ she has more than one grandchild now? <<

Part of it is that being abandoned shook his connectivity. He can reach down to other kids, but reaching up to adults is harder now. But another part is that he missed out on some of the "family friends" effect so that he's less familiar with how extensions are formed. His mother died right around the time Danso was moving out of childhood and starting to pay more attention to interpersonal dynamics. His uncle sure as hell didn't pick up the ball. So most of Danso's memories of adults are "those people who are around" like kids think of their parents' friends ... and then "Beat it before I call a cop, street trash." 0_o

>> I can't wait until the truth settles into his bones. He /needs/ the extra adult to rely on, buffer his own impending adulthood a bit more. <<

Sooth. He needs the time to adjust, too, because if it hit him all at once I think he'd freak. People easing into the family, he can handle. I think.

>> At least Abigail is /trying/ to mend the situation as best she can, which makes her someone I'm now curious about. <<

True. Her achievements have often fallen short of her hopes, but here she's got a great opportunity to catch up, because she can really grandparent these kids -- not be expected to carry the whole weight. And in return, Hannah and Danso can do things for her if she needs help.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 13th, 2014 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
<3

Abigail is lovely. I hope we get to see more of her, and particularly of her interactions with Danso.

~AnonyMouse
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 13th, 2014 09:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Yes, Abigail is intended as a recurring character. Just ask for her during any relevant prompt call.
14 comments or Leave a comment