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Poem: "Trash Day" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Trash Day"
This poem came out of a discussion with starcat_jewel and is being sponsored by her, half now and half next month.  It also fills the "nonviolent confrontation" square in my 1-1-16 card for the Spies, Secret Agents, and Noir Bingo fest.  It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics.  Some of the detailed warnings are spoilers; highlight to read.  A nice day at the park turns angsty when Stan and Lawrence run into Shithouse doing community service.  There is self-blame, hesitation, a thorough frisking of Lawrence by Shithouse which is consensual but Stan didn't know that in advance, Stan flipping out over someone manhandling his boyfriend, Lawrence quashing Stan, the unpleasant shadow of Lawrence's earlier badmouthing of Stan coming back to bite them in the ass, a debate over possessive vs. protective, miscreants undoing someone else's work, minor manhandling of one miscreant, semi-consensual apology and clumsy reparations, painful discussion of the social contract, and other angst.  Most of the tone is positive, though, and things turn out pretty well in the end.   If these are sensitive subjects for you, please consider your taste and headspace before clicking through.


Trash Day



Lawrence strolled around the Mall,
his hand held in Stan's larger one,
enjoying each other's company
and the warm sunny day.

They'd seen a lot of other couples
strolling the sidewalks and picnickers
spread out under the trees. There
were a few intrepid sunbathers braving
the tepid breeze and some Huskers
tossing a football back and forth,
but so far no sign of trouble.

That was nice. It meant
they could just be boyfriends,
instead of superheroes.

Hefty, too, was enjoying a day off
with a quiet ramble through the park.
His boyfriend Roger was ensconced
at the game tables along with several of
his wargaming buddies surrounding
a slab of artfully textured ruins.

Stan and Lawrence had seen them,
pausing to exchange greetings, and
Lawrence even played a quick game
of speed chess with Roger.

Ducks quacked in the pond,
some of them followed by trains
of fluffy brown-and-gold ducklings.

Stan smiled and pulled a baggie
of cracked corn from his pocket.
Of course he had corn, because
Stan was prepared for anything,
and bread wasn't very good for ducks
even though they loved that stuff.

Lawrence helped Stan feed the ducks,
spreading out the corn so they all got
a taste of it. One of the little ducklings
kept pecking away at Stan's shoelace,
the frayed one that never would stay tied.

When their hands were empty,
they gently shooed away the ducks
and headed for the nearest trash can.
Stan tossed the baggie inside.

"Thanks," said a familiar gravelly voice.

Lawrence whirled to see Shithouse --
who had been in the Ebonies & Ivories
with him -- manning a garbage bag and
a spiked stick for picking up litter.

Community service, then.

Lawrence knew that Shithouse
had only gotten caught because
he wouldn't abandon Shiv, who had
gone down and stayed down after
Stan and Lawrence knocked him
into a stack of bricks.

Lawrence still felt a little bad
about that -- especially getting
Shithouse caught up in it -- but Shiv
had stabbed Stan and that had been
the end of Lawrence's patience.

So. Here they were.

Lawrence wanted to rush over
and greet his old gangmate, but
you didn't just do that, unless
the other guy gave you the nod
to say it was safe, especially if
one of you was working off
a debt to society at the time.

Lawrence held himself back,
hard as it was, in case Shithouse
didn't care to acknowledge him.

The older man gave him a solemn nod,
and then Lawrence could dash over to say,
"Hi, Shithouse! It's good to see you again."

"You too, kid," Shithouse said,
and started patting him down.

Lawrence grinned at the feel of
those big familiar hands on his body.

"Hey! Quit pawing my boyfriend!"
Stan barked, interrupting the reunion.

"It's okay, Stan," Lawrence assured him.

"It is not okay for him to grope you,"
Stan insisted, trying to push between them.

"Shithouse is my friend,
and he has my permission,"
Lawrence said, softly but firmly.

"Possessive, ain't he?" Shithouse said
to Lawrence, giving Stan a less friendly look.

Stan glared right back at him.
"What are you even touching him for?"
Stan said, leaning into their space.

"Searching for smokes," said Shithouse.
"He likes 'em, but he's not allowed to have 'em."

"Oh," Stan said, visibly deflating.
"I didn't realize you were looking out for him.
Thanks. I'm sorry I was a jerk about it."
He held out a hand to the older man.

Shithouse looked at Lawrence.
"Is he serious?" he asked.
"This is  your awful ex, right?"

"Yes," Lawrence said. "I might have ...
ah, painted an unflattering picture of Stan
after our breakup, but he's a nice guy.
We're back together and everything."

"If you say so, kid," Shithouse said,
and shook Stan's hand.

"Is there a problem here?"
asked another deep voice, and
that was Hefty, coming alongside them.
He might be out of uniform and off duty,
but his tone was still all cop.

"No sir," Shithouse said crisply.

"I was just making introductions,"
Lawrence said, as he cast a pleading look
at his boyfriend in hopes of backup.

"No problem," Stan said. "I was a bit
startled by how Lawrence greets his friends,
is all. Now we're smooth here."

"I was just getting back to work,"
Shithouse said, rustling his trash bag.
"I don't aim to cheat the punchclock."

"That's all right, Mr. Shithouse," Hefty said
with a wave of his hand. "Social ties are
an important part of a healthy community.
I am glad to see you making friends."

Shithouse gave him a wary nod.
"Thank you, sir," he said.
"You know my name?"

Hefty grinned. "You were
shouting it across the parking lot."

* * *

Notes:

Brick / Shithouse (Bud Ogletree) -- Bud has amber eyes and dark brown hair in a buzzcut.  His skin is coarse and dark red.  He works as a supervillain henchman, where he is quite popular as a bodyguard and blocker.  His supervillain friends call him Shithouse, which is the name he chose for himself.  Most superheroes think it's vulgar, so they typically call him Brick instead; he hates that. 
Origin: Bud grew up poor, near a dump site for coal ash.  Arsenic, mercury, and lead have genotoxic effects.  This caused health problems for a lot of people and superpowers for a few.
Uniform: Blue-collar men's clothes. 
Qualities: Expert (+4) Bodyguard, Good (+2) Camping, Good (+2) Country Music, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) My Name Is Shithouse, You Fuckin' Assholes!
Powers: Expert (+4) Super-Armor, Good (+2) Invulnerability
Equipment: Four bolt pistols (freeze, pain, sleep, and force); for each mission, he packs the two he expects to be most useful.
Motivation: Put his powers to their obvious use.  The use he sees as obvious -- protecting crooks -- is not how other people might interpret the same abilities.

* * *

Gene Leahy Mall is a popular park in Omaha, Nebraska -- not a shopping mall.  People often go strolling or picnicking there.  Browse some ideas about what to do in a park.

Gaming tables provide an easy, cost-effective way to boost the usefulness of a park, especially if they can also be used as picnic tables.  Most Terramagne-American parks larger than pocket size have at least one checkerboard gaming table suitable for playing either checkers, chess, or other grid games.  Larger parks often add a table with roads or paths on it, suitable for wargaming or children playing with toy vehicles.  This is a folding version but similar designs are often painted or cast onto permanent tables as well.

City grid tables are often paired with two showing the same terrain, one intact and the other in ruins.  These are convenient for a variety of wargames, and children like them for playing with toy soldiers and other figures.  Flat-topped tables with painted grids are most common.  However, textures ones also exist, in which the tops are typically cast in concrete or bronze.  Closely related is a "tile puzzle" type gaming surface showing a road, path, or other terrain.  Tiles are just too valuable to leave loose, even if they cost money to rent.  The T-American solution, visible in some better parks with a lot of gamers, is to create a table with sliding tiles locked into its top, similar to a tile puzzle game.  This allows the terrain to be rearranged, thus maintaining interest.  The most popular way of raising money for maintenance is to include a coin slot that makes the tiles mobile.  You can play free on whatever configuration is already there, or pay to change it.  Some people just like to solve it as a puzzle!  Naturescape tables are useful for gaming and also wilderness talks.  They are most often made by using green and brown (for drylands) or green and blue (for wetlands) paint on a flat tabletop.  Occasionally they are cast with hills or ravines using a durable material such as concrete or bronze.
 
T-London is famous for having a lot of three-dimensional wargaming tablesThis one is scaled for 6mm London Civil War circa 1642.  While 3D gaming tables are much rarer than 2D ones, many major cities and most famous battlegrounds have at least one playable public table in this style.  This round bronze table names buildings and streets, ideal for a game involving monsters or spies.

Grain is better than human food for feeding ducks and other wildlife.

Picking up litter is a responsible activity often used as part of alternative justice.  In this case, Shithouse helped vandalize part of Omaha, so now he's cleaning up the place to make up for it.  There are instructions and tools for gathering trash.

Reintegration is a vital step in corrections theory, and local-America does a lousy job of it.  T-American society functions much like a Tesla fluid valve.  The easiest course of action is toward healthy civilization.  While it is possible  to move in the opposite direction, it is more difficult to do so, and the system is designed to reroute people back in the proper direction.  This process requires community support in order to allow former criminals to rejoin society successfully.

There are many reasons why people may avoid or ignore each other.  One is that people who have met in a sensitive situation, such as a kink group or criminal activity, sometimes do this as a way to prevent outing each other.

Frisking is a cursory search for weapons or other contraband items.  There are protocols for doing it properly.  L-America frequently abuses these principles, but T-America does better, which is why Shithouse knows how to do it effectively without being lewd about it.

L-America discusses consent primarily in sexual or medical contexts.  However, it is important to gain consent even outside these areas.  Understand how to practice consent in everyday life.

There is a subtle but crucial difference between possessive and protective.  A possessive boyfriend wants to defend his access  to his partner's body, which is a problem to be dealt with firmly.  A protective boyfriend wants to defend his partner's body autonomy, which is a standard to which many people aspire.  Stan is protective rather than possessive, but he's still a teenager and doesn't always express it fluently.

Dominant and subordinate behavior influence much of human interaction.  Expressions of dominance include touching others, and a good counter is simply to touch the person back.  These dynamics appear in a wide range of situations from gangs to friendships.  T-America does rather better because they teach about relationships from an early age, which means fewer disputes  over it.  Lawrence agrees that Shithouse is dominant to him, being older and higher in the gang.  Stan challenges Shithouse's dominance not for his own sake but for Lawrence's sake -- hence backing down when Lawrence tells him to.  Stan may not be thrilled with Shithouse or his methods, but he definitely approves of people helping keep Lawrence safe.  The power balance in a healthy relationship should leave all parties feeling satisfied and secure, and there are ways to adjust it as needed.

Getting back together with your ex is possible but inherently awkward.  Understand how to handle it sanely, and how to deal with people who disapprove of it.  Lawrence is discovering how hard it is to badmouth someone and then just walk away from that, when you're staying in the same community.  It tends to come back later and bite you in the ass -- especially if you've talked smack about someone as upstanding as Stan.

Social connections play a major role in reducing recidivism, because friendships lower stress and help people cope with challenges.  Therefore T-American corrections theory incorporates the support of healthy ties in their continuum of care.

[To be continued ...]

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3 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
thnidu From: thnidu Date: February 4th, 2016 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

My two favorite stanzas:

"Oh," Stan said, visibly deflating.
"I didn't realize you were looking out for him.
Thanks. I'm sorry I was a jerk about it."
He held out a hand to the older man.

.....

"That's all right, Mr. Shithouse," Hefty said
with a wave of his hand. "Social ties are
an important part of a healthy community.
I am glad to see you making friends."
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 5th, 2016 11:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

>> Could this be Stan's first up-close look at someone being frisked? <<

Not exactly, but Stan is used to seeing it from official authority figures, like police tidying up some criminal he's handed over. Part of the problem is simply that Stan doesn't know Shithouse is an authority figure to Lawrence.

>> Also, it seems as though Shithouse might not to too good at reading the difference between protectiveness and possessiveness, even granting that Stan is less than fluent at expressing it. <<

Shithouse does not have a clear view of Stan, though. Shithouse is viewing Stan through the lens of Lawrence's extremely unflattering post-breakup bitching. This is exacerbated by the fact that a large part of Lawrence's complaint centered on Stan breaking up his family by being nosy and overprotective. Which to be fair, if Shithouse had known about Lawrence's father smacking him around, Shithouse would've dealt with that by "See how you like getting the crap kicked out of you by someone bigger and meaner than you are!"
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