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Poem: "When Someone Is Vulnerable" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "When Someone Is Vulnerable"
This poem is spillover from the April 5, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from paantha, kestrels_nest, and DW user Capriuni.  It also fills "The Healer" square in my 4-1-16 card for the Archetypal Characters Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, and it leads directly into the sequel "Through Weakness and Vulnerability."

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: DW user Capriuni, general fund, Anthony & Shirley Barrette

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WARNING: This poem contains some intense material. Highlight to read more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. This is heavy-duty hurt/comfort with emotional angst, messy medical details, trying to take care of a currently unconscious and generally traumatized person, difficulty balancing conflicts between Turq's mental and physical needs without benefit of his input at the moment, complications and challenges of soup care in general, trying to figure out ways of minimizing or compensating for triggers, worrying about an injured friend, and other mayhem. On the whole, though, it's sweet to see Ansel and Ethan working so hard to take care of Turq as best they can. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether you want to read this right now. However, it contains some major plot developments, so skipping it may make subsequent poems seem more confusing or less justified.


"When Someone Is Vulnerable"


Ansel took a few precious hours
of decent fall weather to cover up
the fancy rosebushes, cut back
the brown stems of perennials,
and mulch over the flowerbeds.

He was patting down the bark chips
when Turq abruptly appeared out
of thin air and crashed into him.

Despite the surprise, Ansel
managed to catch him, which
was a good thing because Turq
was dead weight in his arms.

Neither patting him nor
calling his name produced
any kind of response.

Ansel lowered Turq carefully to
the ground, laid him flat
on his back, and then began
a quick assessment of his health.

"Airway, breathing, circulation,"
he recited as he worked.

Turq was breathing, albeit with
an odd hitch to it that made Ansel
worry about whether he might stop.

Blood stained the front of Turq's torn shirt in
several places, fresh enough it was still wet,
but Ansel could not find any injuries.

Maybe it wasn't Turq's blood,
although his powers meant that
sometimes wounds disappeared
faster than they usually would.

His pulse wasn't great, but
it wasn't obviously wrong either,
just something ... off about it.

His breathing was erratic,
and as Ansel listened,
it stuttered to a stop.

Shaking Turq briskly did not
rouse him, although it did
restart his breathing.

A minute later, it happened again,
and this time shaking didn't help.

Ansel sealed his mouth over Turq's
and breathed for him, and after
a few quick puffs, Turq's body
took over its own task.

"What could be wrong with
him?" Ansel wondered.

Whatever it was, it probably
wasn't anything a hospital
could fix. Ansel and Turq
had gone over that before,
because Turq's superpowers
tended to tear up his body.

Fortunately they had other options.

Ansel dug out his phone
and called Ethan Wheeler,
the healer who had worked
with him before, and whom
Ansel had told some things
about previous encounters
with Turq in the interest of
having emergency backup.

"Ethan, it's Ansel, I need your help,"
he said. "Turq's down and I don't
know why, he just showed up and
fell over. He's not breathing right,
stops and then starts again, and
I'm afraid one of these times I
won't be able to restart it."

"I'll be there as soon as I can get
my teleporter, should be less than
five minutes," Ethan said. "What else
can you tell me about the symptoms?"
He talked Ansel through a description.

The healer's voice was reassuring,
but Ansel still worried, and Turq
stopped breathing a couple of
times so that Ansel had to pause
and take care of him.

Ansel had his mouth over Turq's
when he heard the soft pop of
a teleporter, and then another pop
as whoever it was disappeared.

"I've got him," Ethan said as
he knelt beside Ansel and put
his hands on Turq's limp body.
"I can keep him breathing, as
long as his lungs are intact."

"I couldn't find any injuries,
just the blood, but something is
obviously wrong," Ansel said.

"What in the ..." Ethan said,
his voice trailing away as his hands
roved over Turq's chest and neck.
"Well, there's the problem -- he's got
nerve damage scattered around
most of his autonomic system."

"His heart's still beating," Ansel said.

"Yeah, but there's a waver in
the pulse," Ethan said. "I'm not
surprised you missed it, though, it's
a lot more subtle than the breathing."

"I knew something was wrong,
I just couldn't tell what," Ansel said.
"I've had plenty of first aid training,
but ... nothing that covers this."

"You're a cop, not a medic,"
Ethan said. "It's okay, you did
your job by calling me."

Ansel sighed. "Turq may
never come near me again,
after that," he said.

"Well, at least he'll be alive
to hate us," Ethan said. "Help me
pick him up, Ansel, he can't stay here."

"There's the gazebo --" Ansel began.

"Absolutely not," Ethan said. "It's
too cold, and he can't spare the energy
to compensate for that. He needs
somewhere warm and safe."

"We can use my office," Ansel said.
"It has a big couch and a fireplace.
Turq doesn't do well indoors, though,
and he flipped the last time I suggested
turning to you for help when he was hurt.
I don't know exactly why, just that it
comes from his unpleasant past."

"We'll deal with that when he wakes up,"
Ethan said. "First priority is to move him
into a secure environment so I can get him
stable and then splice the nerves together."

"You can do that?" Ansel said as he
helped Ethan scoop Turq off the ground.

"More or less," Ethan said. "I can
give his body some extra energy
and guidance. He regenerates --
I can feel it working -- so this is
basically damage control."

"But he'll be okay," Ansel said,
hoping for it. He freed one hand
to open the doors and then led
Ethan into the office.

"He should be, the right care,"
Ethan said. "We'll do our best."

Carefully they settled Turq onto
the couch. Kneeling beside him, Ethan
used the green-and-brown throw pillows
to prop him up so he could breathe better.

"How can I help?" Ansel asked,
pulling the autumn-colored afghan
off the back of the couch to cover Turq.

"Do you know if he has anyone
for an emergency contact?" Ethan said.

"I don't think so," Ansel said. "He's got
a foster family that he loved, but he's
not in touch with them or anyone else
as far as I know. His boss is worse
than useless. I'm pretty much it."

"Then you're the closest thing Turq
has to a medical proxy," Ethan said.
"Hopefully between the two of us,
we can figure out what will help
and what he can tolerate."

At first Ethan needed all of his focus
and energy just to support vital functions.
After a couple of minutes, he sat back on
his heels and said, "Okay, I've spliced
enough of the nerves to keep him going,
so I can check for other concerns now."

"Do you want the big first aid kit?"
Ansel asked, eyeing the black backpack
that Ethan had set on the floor. "I know
you've basically got a portable hospital in
yours, and mine is stocked for first responders,
but it might have something you're out of."

"Get it," Ethan said with a nod. "I restock
as often as I can, but it's never enough.
Soups are amazingly accident-prone."

As Ansel went to fetch his tacklebox of
first aid equipment, he thought about how
the police station periodically inventoried
its supplies and replaced the older materials,
for which the folks doing the inventory got
the perk of taking home any of the old supplies
that they wanted. Ansel resolved to volunteer
for that and grab some extras for Ethan.

"Here you go," he said, setting his kit
on the floor beside Ethan's backpack.

"Thanks," said Ethan. He checked
Turq's gums and frowned. "He's lost
a lot of blood somewhere, even though
I can't find where right now."

"Can you replace it?" Ansel asked.

Ethan waffled a hand in the air.
"I can boost his regeneration rate,
and I can do basic fluid replacement,"
he said. "Blood transfusions for soups
are a lot more risky, because they can
have genetic differences that don't show
on the standard tests, so it's best to save
that for life-threatening emergencies only."

"I ... didn't know that," Ansel said.
"That's pretty alarming news."

"Sorry I don't have time to hold
your hand about it now, but you
might want to add that note to
your medical file -- and be aware
of it for other emergencies on
the job," Ethan said.

"I'll do that," Ansel said.

"I need to start an IV," Ethan said,
looking at him for approval. "Okay?"

Ansel felt the weight of the decision,
because he knew Turq would hate it,
but he also trusted Ethan's advice.

"Go ahead," he said with a nod.

"Come here and monitor Turq's pulse
and breathing," Ethan said. "The less
I have to do at the same time, the easier
it is for me to concentrate on what's left."

"Okay," Ansel said, shifting around
to Turq's head so he could keep watch.
The vital signs had steadied a lot,
which was reassuring.

Ethan was deft and quick, and he found
a hook along the windowframe to hold the bag,
but not even the needle made Turq stir.

"He's still nonresponsive,"
Ansel said, nibbling on his lip.

"It's not good, but I've seen
a lot worse," Ethan replied.
"Do you have a wrist brace
in your kit? I'm out again, I go
through those things like mad
because they are good for
so many different complaints."

"Yes, I always carry a universal wrap
in the big kit," said Ansel. He reached
down to retrieve it for Ethan.

"Little trick for field work and
trauma survivors," Ethan said as he
wrapped the brace around Turq's wrist.
"This makes it a lot harder to pull the line
loose if someone starts thrashing, and
it has a lot lower trigger risk than
tying his hand to anything."

"That's really clever," Ansel said.
"I'll have to remember that one.
Thanks for sharing, Ethan. I feel
like I'm really in over my head
when it comes to taking care
of damaged supervillains."

"Everyone's in over their head on
soup care," Ethan said. "There's not
enough data to establish best practices for
soups as distinct from naries, partly because
there just aren't enough of us yet, and partly
because of some mad science incidents that
have made people justifiably skittish about
mixing superpowers and research."

They moved back to their original positions,
with Ethan closer to Turq's head and Ansel
out of the way by his feet. Ethan prodded
Turq's abdomen and cleaned the dried blood
off his skin to make sure that they hadn't
missed any hidden injuries earlier.

"Can't say I blame them, especially
after some of the horror stories that
I've heard from Turq, but it sure
makes my job harder," Ansel said.

"Mine too," Ethan agreed. The healer
shifted slightly, and Ansel realized that
the hard floor must be rough on his knees.

There was one tapestry pillow left,
a forest-printed one from the loveseat.
It wasn't as good as a floor cushion,
but should work better than nothing.

Ansel picked it up and gently nudged
it against the side of Ethan's knee.
"Here, use this," he said.

"Thanks," Ethan said as he lifted
enough for Ansel to slip it under him.
"We could be here for a while."

Ansel stared at Turq's pale, still face
and the healer's hands, one of them
spread over his chest and the other
cupping the back of his neck.

"I hate it," Ansel said, "this feeling
I get when someone is vulnerable
and there's nothing I can do about it."

"Everyone hates it," said Ethan.
"You've done plenty, though. You
called help and kept him alive until
I got here. You gave him a safe place
to recover. That's not nothing, Ansel.
That's a lot more than he's gotten from
anyone else lately, and he needs it."

"I keep trying to reach out to him,
but it's hard to know if it's working,"
Ansel said. "This is the second time
he's shown up injured here, and
that really worries me."

"If Turq is willing to let you see
him when he's hurt, then he trusts
you a great deal," Ethan said.
"Something you're doing must
be working, even if they're
unintentional lessons."

"He won't even come indoors,
Ethan, he sleeps in my gazebo,"
said Ansel. One hand swept
through his pink hair. "I'm just ...
I don't know how to help him."

"Well, remember that trust develops
when someone is vulnerable and
not taken advantage of," Ethan said.
"Perhaps you can start there."

Turq looked so thin and frail
lying on the brown leather couch
that Ansel couldn't imagine anyone
wanting to hurt him. The boy's ankles
stuck out beyond the hem of his jeans,
bony even under two pairs of socks.

"I hope you're right," Ansel said.
"Turq doesn't think much of himself,
and that makes it harder to reach him."

"Sometimes what people need is for you
to believe in them until they can believe
in themselves," Ethan whispered.

Ansel looked around the room, feeling
restless and useless, and wanting
something constructive to do. Then
he recalled how Turq seemed to enjoy
listening to him and Janie tell stories.
"Will it bother you if I read aloud?"

"No, go ahead," Ethan said.

So Ansel rummaged through the stack
of magazines shelved under the television:
Field & Stream, Backpacker, Outdoor Life,
Smithsonian, Backwoods Home, Outside,
Dirt Rag,
and Garden Gate. He set aside
all the hunting ones, looking for something
lighter, and settled on an article from
Garden Gate  about autumn activities.

Ansel's voice was smooth and even
as he read aloud. He had spent
enough time reading to children
as part of his job that he was
pretty good at it by now.

He wasn't sure if it would help,
but it kept him busy, and besides,
he always enjoyed it when Janie
read to him if he was sick or injured.

Ethan almost smiled, which was
about as cheerful as he ever got,
so at least it was doing some good.

Gradually Turq's color improved
as Ethan's gentle hands shifted
from one place to another.

When Turq's fingers started
to twitch a little, Ansel set aside
a Backwoods Home article on nut trees
and asked Ethan, "How is he doing?"

Ethan sighed. "Any minute now,
Turq is going to wake up indoors,
with a needle in his arm and
a strange healer hovering over
him, and he is going to freak,"
Ethan said. "We need to think
how to manage the situation
so that nobody gets hurt."

"But it was your idea," Ansel protested.

"It was, and it's necessary," Ethan said.
"That doesn't make it any easier." He
pushed up Turq's sleeve and traced
a fingertip along the striationary marks.
"I think Turq has a lot of bad memories,
and I doubt you've heard more than
a fraction of what's happened to him.
We need to avoid compounding that."

"He's safe here ... " Ansel said,
but he remembered how Turq had
zapped him before, and promise
or no promise, if that boy woke up
running on instinct instead of wits
then it could happen again.

"There's a big difference between
what he needs to be physically safe,
and what he needs to feel mentally safe,"
Ethan said. "Right now, those two things
point in opposite directions, so it's up to us
to figure out how to compensate for it."

"Okay, how do we do that?" Ansel asked.

"We can minimize triggers and add
safety markers," Ethan said. "What
helps settle Turq when he gets upset?"

"Food, or even just the smell of food,"
Ansel said, thinking of all the times
that Turq had let Ansel feed him.

"Not yet," Ethan said, shaking his head.
"His digestive system is still offline, and
I haven't reconnected that because it's
a lot lower priority than other autonomics."

"He likes stories," Ansel said. "That's
one reason I was reading earlier."

"Okay, that's a start," Ethan said. "If he
recognizes your voice as safe, then you
can talk him through what's going on
when he wakes up. What else?"

Ansel looked around the room for
inspiration, and his attention snagged
on the two open first aid kits. "Do we still
need those?" he said, pointing at them.
"If not, putting them away would help."

"I don't want them out of reach,
but out of sight is fine," Ethan said.
"You monitor Turq while I pack mine,
and then we'll switch for yours."

It only took a couple of minutes
to do that, because they'd been
careful with their supplies. Ansel
stowed both kits behind his desk.

"He really hates being closed in,"
Ansel said. "Could we at least open
the doors, if he can't be outside?"

"No, it's too cold today," Ethan said.
"Make sure they're unlocked, though,
so he doesn't hurt himself if he bolts."

That was all too possible,
no matter how carefully they
tried to arrange the situation.

Ansel got up and ensured that
all the doors were only latched,
and there was a clear path to
the caney-door in the garage.

"Turq likes it when I pet him,
at least sometimes," Ansel said.
"It works better when he's furry, but
even when he's in human form,
it helps, if he's calm enough
to let me touch him at all."

"Try that," Ethan agreed.
"You can sit up on the arm of
the couch without hurting him."

So Ansel moved to the couch,
perching on the end of it with
Turq's head resting on his thigh.
The skin between Turq's eyebrows
furrowed, and he made a faint sound.

"He's hurting," Ansel said quietly
as he tried to smooth the wrinkle
with his thumb. Then he moved
his hand higher to stroke through
the soft blue strands of hair.

"I know," Ethan said. "He's starting
to come around, and since he's not
fully healed yet, it's uncomfortable.
Right now, I've got a line open for
pain medication, but if Turq flips out
when he wakes up, we may lose
that option. It's your call."

"Pros and cons?" Ansel asked.
The hair felt warm and smooth as it
spilled through his fingers, and he hoped
that Turq enjoyed it as much as he did.

"I carry some medications that are
usually safe for soups, or I can use
my superpower. People heal better when
they're not in pain," Ethan said. "However,
I don't know Turq's exact sensitivities, if any,
and he'd recognize that someone tampered
with him. Based on his history, I suspect
he would react badly to that."

"Can you tell how much pain
he's in?" Ansel wondered.

Ethan wavered hand in the air.
"I can tell what his nerves are doing,
but not how he feels about that,"
he said. "My estimate is moderate,
which means manageable as long as
Turq doesn't panic. It's easy to fix."

Ansel looked down at Turq, whose face
was beginning to take on a bit more animation.
The horseshoe shape between his eyebrows
was fading as Ansel stroked his hair.

"He's almost awake now, so let's wait
until he can decide for himself," Ansel said.

"All right," said Ethan. "I'll move down
to the far end of the couch so that
I'm not in his direct line of sight."

"Why do that?" Ansel asked.

"Because he doesn't know me,"
Ethan said. "Once Turq wakes up,
you'll probably have about a minute
to explain what's going on before he starts
noticing stuff that scares him. Even if he
remembers how he got hurt, he won't know
where he is now because we moved him.
Just do your best to keep him calm so he
doesn't injure himself or anyone else."

Ansel had some experience talking
to accident survivors, along with
his de-escalation skills, so he
understood how to pitch his voice
for comfort as well as authority.

"Hey, Turq," he said softly. "You're safe.
Everything is going to be fine. Can
you wake up and talk to me?"

There was no direct response yet,
but the subtle shifts of expression
were growing stronger now.

Ansel kept up the quiet patter
and drew his fingers gently
through Turq's hair, hoping
that would help rouse him.

* * *

Notes:

Ethan Wheeler -- He has pale skin, brown eyes, and short dark hair. He can't always get to the facilities he needs, so he often has five-o-clock shadow, and his oily hair soon sticks into messy tufts. He enjoys music, especially buskers. He carries cheap paperback books to trade with other people, and will read pretty much anything.
Ethan serves as a street medic, going along with whomever will hire him. He often works for supervillains and other people of questionable ethics, but he's just as willing to work for superheroes. People on both sides have repeatedly offered him permanent jobs, but he keeps turning them down because he feels unworthy. He is even more attached than most people to medical neutrality, and he refuses to take sides on cape politics or any other moral issue. He's gotten burned badly enough that he doesn't go there anymore. He just wants to make up for the damage he's done. Other people tend to view him as a tragic figure. He gets into a lot of rough situations. Ethan is not a combat medic in the military sense, but neither does he have anything like a sense of self-preservation.
Origin: Ethan started out taking premed in college, where he got an excellent job working as a lab assistant on a zetetic project designed to enhance human health in hopes of making the world a better place. A terrible lab accident happened, quickly killing several of the assistants and wounding others. Ethan's bench partner Hermanigildo managed to drag him to safety before triggering the alarm, which sealed the other nonmobile victims inside, where they all died. Hermanigildo died in the hospital a few days later.
Ethan recovered swiftly and now bounces back well from almost anything. However, he blames himself for the accident because he was the safety supervisor for the assistants, he had reported several concerns but not pursued them more vigorously, and the problem started at one of the assistant benches. More fault actually lies with one of the senior researchers, who falsified some of the data in attempt to attract more people to the project. Since that scientist also died in the incident, the truth is unlikely to come out. Ethan left school and became a traveling medic, purposely seeking out dangerous people and situations where most medics refuse to go.
Uniform: Typically supplied by whomever he's working for at the moment, so it can vary a lot. At minimum, Ethan always wears an armband with the red cross (or other local emblem) for medical staff, and carries a backpack that contains a heavy-duty first aid kit. He favors practical clothes and dark colors.
Qualities: Master (+6) Friends on the Street, Expert (+4) Neutral Stance, Expert (+4) Soup Contacts, Good (+2) Busker Fan, Good (+2) Compassion, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Medic, Good (+2) Reader
Poor (-2) Traumatic Guilt
Powers: Average (0) Healing, Average (0) Regeneration
Motivation: Atonement

* * *

"Trust is built when someone is vulnerable and not taken advantage of."
-- Bob Vanourek, author of Triple Crown Leadership

This is Ansel's home, a nice little log cabin that used to be part of a resort. The lower level has a garage, a shop area, an office, and a foyer with the indoor stairs.

Ansel's garage office has a leather couch and loveseat along with a tapestry rocking chair around a large square coffee table. His desk and its chair are along the inside garage wall, not visible in this picture. The carpet is short tan-and-gray pile. One stone wall has been plastered over, but the other has been left bare and features a stone bench, fireplace, and entertainment center. Ansel also has a writing desk with bookshelves along the front and drawers underneath, which faces into the room. The chair is brown instead of black, to match the couch. A matching computer desk with a tall hutch of bookshelves stands against the interior wall.

This is the forest tapestry pillow on the loveseat.

The couch has a knit afghan draped over the back. The Fall Colors pattern is free but requires registering on the Lion Brand site. There is also a kit for sale which includes both the pattern and all the yarn it needs.

Autumn yardwork involves various tasks for tidying up before winter. They are not usually interrupted by damaged supervillains, but Ansel's life is complicated.

One of the most basic health checks in emergency medicine is ABC (Airway, Breathing, Circulation). They go in that order because each is a prerequisite for the next to function: you need a clear airway to get air into the lungs, functional breathing to transmit oxygen to the blood, and enough circulation to carry the oxygen around the body. Bleeding comes under circulation. No matter how distracting a fountain of blood may be, check the airway and breathing first because blood doesn't do any good if there's no oxygen in it, and a person can usually smother before they bleed out.

Erratic or unnaturally slow breathing can be caused by various conditions such as nerve damage.  Know the first aid for breathing problems.

Asking for help is a sign of strength and a good leadership quality, if you enjoy a help-friendly environment. Ansel has grown up in a relatively high-trust context, so for him it's easy to ask, unlike a lot of other people who find it very difficult.  He routinely uses this as a way to make friends and build trust.  Here are some tips on asking for help.

Proxy decisions are used when someone can't express their own wishes regarding health care or other important issues.  They may be made by family, friends, an appointed guardian, or a doctor.  In theory, doctors are supposed to honor the patient's wishes or best extrapolation thereof; in practice, people usually do what they want, not what the patient would want.  Even when people do their best to follow what a patient would want, it's a very tricky balance.  In this case it's even harder because Ansel and Ethan have only partial knowledge of Turq's wishes and triggers, while the physical and psychological needs conflict with each other.  Here is a guide to making medical decisions for someone else.  For a more detailed discussion, see my post "Spectrum of Consent."

This is Ethan's "portable hospital" backpack.  He has the black version with a red cross and "Medic" stamped on the back.

Ansel has a toolbox-style first aid kit with trays to organize a large number of supplies, because it's fully stocked to first responder standards. T-American first aid kits often have a title stamped on them like that to let people know what kind of supplies are in the kit and that the owner knows first aid at the stated level.

Pale gums can indicate severe blood loss, for which various treatments are available. A downside of Regeneration is that it often obscures the nature of injuries before they are fully healed, making outside support more difficult. On the upside, it replaces lost blood more rapidly, which shortens the time during which intervention is needed. It also make fluid replacement a lot more effective -- all you really need to do is get the volume back up because the blood cells refresh so fast.

A universal wrist brace has thumb holes on both sides so it can go on either arm.  A 3D printed wrist brace may be shaped to the hand and inserted into a sleeve or wrap, folded around the hand and secured with straps, or printed in pieces and snapped together around the hand.

Trauma survivors often show worrisome symptoms of decompensation as the extreme stress overwhelms their coping skills. Trauma-informed care offers compassionate, effective ways to help survivors.

Trust develops over time as a relationship deepens.  Ansel and Turq have been doing a lot of this, despite Turq's trust issues due to trauma.  Notice that Turq isn't unwilling to trust, because he's had some good experiences in the past, just largely unable  right now.  That distinguishes him from some other characters who are more aloof, resistant, or hostile.  Understand how to build trust.

Outdoor magazines include Field & Stream, Backpacker, Outdoor Life, Smithsonian, Backwoods Home, Outside, Dirt Rag, and Garden Gate.

Reading aloud is good for children and adults.  It has many benefits, and reading for a sick friend is especially nice.  There are tips on how to read aloud.

Backwoods Home  has a nice article on growing nut trees.

Striationary marks are characteristic injuries left when a speedster, or certain types of teleporter, pulls away from restraint. It leaves long wounds, ranging from scrapes to deep lacerations, sometimes with joint injury such as sprains or dislocations, and some people have managed to tear off a limb that way. Medics and police staff have learned to look for them as signs that someone was forcibly (and not very competently) restrained. That fact that traumatized people in general, and some types of soups in particular, tend to panic under constraint is one reason why Terramagne authorities prefer to minimize the use of restraints or other confinement; it's too hard to do without causing additional damage in some cases. There have also been examples of striationary marks on an officer who made the mistake of handcuffing himself to a captive. So that technique is outright banned, except in cases where both parties are willing; it's a safety technique that emergency workers use occasionally, but that's with a soft medical type of hand-harness which is much safer for everyone.

Being safe vs. feeling safe is a conundrum often cause by challenges such as childhood trauma or PTSD.  There are instructions on how to help children feel safer and how to develop a sense of safety.  I wrote a safety tracker for measuring objective and subjective aspects of safety, since some people have difficulty gauging it accurately.

Contact comfort is important to humans and other mammals.  Both being petted and petting something furry are relaxing.  These effects are often stronger with crayon soups who have chromatic hair; sometimes it is more sensitive.  Ansel and Turq both share that tendency.  Touching can soothe pain for self or others.  Here are some self-soothing techniques.

Eyebrow body language and facial expressions include the distinctive inverted horseshoe of Darwin's grief muscle which indicates sadness or pain.  Pay attention to other signs of pain too, especially in cases of impaired communication.  Best practice is to relieve pain as much as possible because it provides better comfort and faster healing -- but some people have negative physical or psychological reactions that may affect whether and what kind of treatment is advisable.

This pain scale measures pain based not just on its subjective feeling but also its objective impact on activities. One quirk of Healing as a superpower is that most healers can perceive what the nerves are signalling, but far fewer can interpret the subjective experience of how much that pain bothers the patient.  They can usually estimate it as mild, moderate, or severe pain. Given the right feedback, however, healers can learn how an individual interprets pain and thereby refine their assessment even further.  Turq's perception of pain is bent to hell because of past abuse and present tendency for his superpower to tear his body apart periodically.  He can therefore ignore pain in the moderate range that would have most people demanding painkillers.  It is common for people with chronic pain to to develop a skewed scale, and the face charts don't always help because a person in constant pain often learns to mask it so their observable signs underreport the pain they feel.  This is routinely compounded by the tendency of doctors to fail epically at treating chronic pain.

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siliconshaman From: siliconshaman Date: April 13th, 2016 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Uh-oh.. that can't be good...

and only in America would that home be described as 'little'...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 13th, 2016 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Uh-oh.. that can't be good... <<

It's not good, but it could be a lot worse.

>> and only in America would that home be described as 'little'... <<

It's a one-bedroom house, and those are rare. Most houses start at two bedrooms. Also it has only one bathroom, which is a major limitation on household size. As an apartment it would be luxurious; as a house, it's small. Most of the space is in the 'extra' layers of the garage floor and the loft, which are minimally used as function space. The actual living floor crams kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom into a compact space, minus what they lose for stairs. There isn't even a separate dining room, just a foldout table along the wall. Storage space on the living floor is minimal too, that's mostly in the garage.

It's huge for one person, comfortable for two, but cramped for any more than that. It wasn't designed as a permanent house, really. It was designed as a resort cabin, for which it is luxurious and one of the largest models in the batch. Those are on lots of 1-2 acres with lakeside access. Some of the small ones are in rows with only postage-stamp yards. When the resort broke up, they all sold cheap, because they're cabins and they're off the beaten path without the immediate access to town stuff all around. And the township didn't really want people to tear down the cabins and rebuild a bunch of bigger houses crammed awkwardly together. The cabins at least fit the space nicely. But only a few of them are suitable for family living over the long term. Despite that, a number of families bought them because that's what they could afford, and have members regularly sleeping on futons or hide-a-bed couches.

Ansel has the couch in the office, a hide-a-bed couch and a futon in the loft, of which the futon is the customary guest space. It's not a real bedroom, though, the loft isn't even divided. It just has three sort of lobes: one used for games, one for exercise, and the futon for sleeping with a couple of folding screens to provide minimal privacy.

Size depends partly on culture, because a big country requires different skills (tolerating longer travel times) than a small country (tolerating dense population). But there are still practical concerns, and the most limiting factor in housing is the ratio of butts to toilet seats. You can sleep on the floor, but peeing outside leads to problems.

Another factor in this location is that, being a former resort, it does have some communal spaces like public toilets, shower houses, an administrative center, and a recreation building that help take up the slack for the private buildings being small. So another consideration is how much time you spend at home and what other facilities you have available. The better the public facilities are, the less space you need as an individual. Some of the cabins are like efficiency or one-bedroom apartments.

A lot of the town living space is similar in terms of apartments or live/work buildings with office/retail space below a one or two bedroom apartment. But there's a lot more to do in Cambridge Commons. The former resort is more popular with folks who prefer nature activities to urban ones. That capacious garage under Ansel's cabin is double-long and originally meant for parking boats. You couldn't get a car into the second bay, that one's for bikes. Routinely parking two cars in a double-long garage would be a nuisance unless one person always got home earlier and left later than the other, or one vehicle was only used for occasional purposes. As a place to live, it has definite pros and cons, so you have to think about whether you're going to miss the stuff it lacks or enjoy the stuff it has.
siliconshaman From: siliconshaman Date: April 13th, 2016 07:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Ansels home is twice the size of the average UK two bedroom house... although as you point out, that's not taking into account functional space. Still, I'd like to have a 'little' home like that, given that even deducting the garage space, it's bigger than where I live now... and much nicer looking.

And yeah, if you're going to crash land somewhere, at Ansels feet is a pretty good point to do it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 13th, 2016 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>> Ansels home is twice the size of the average UK two bedroom house... although as you point out, that's not taking into account functional space. <<

The UK is a lot more walkable than America, though, even T-America. That influences house size. If you expect to do a lot of your socializing elsewhere, and there are places you can borrow things so you don't need your own copy of everything, then smaller living is more feasible. The more you have to do on your own at home, the more room you need to store it all.

One reason why Ansel, as a single person, bought a house sized for a couple with overflow space for guests and recreation on different floors is because he's a cop. He loves his job, he loves people, but it's still stressful at times. So his sociability varies widely. This way Ansel can come home and crash alone, hole up with his girlfriend, hide in his office, go biking, exercise in private, have a party, go to the community building and hang out with friends ... it depends on his energy level and social interests in the moment.

>> Still, I'd like to have a 'little' home like that, given that even deducting the garage space, it's bigger than where I live now... and much nicer looking. <<

It is a really nice cabin.

>> And yeah, if you're going to crash land somewhere, at Ansels feet is a pretty good point to do it. <<

Yep. Ansel may be worried about how wrecked Turq is, but the fact that Turq keeps seeking him out -- however reluctantly -- for help is a huge sign of progress.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 30th, 2016 12:07 am (UTC) (Link)

confused

I attempted to donate 10$ to your paypal, but I'm not sure if it worked, if it did, I would like it applied to this poem, please and thank you, if not *shrug* I'm not sure what happened (sadface)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 30th, 2016 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: confused

Without a name on this, it's harder for me to track. But I can tell you that the last $10 donation I got was earmarked for whichever poem in microfunding was the closest to being fully funded, which was "The Door to Nowhere." If yours was a different donation, I'll need more details so my partner and I can try to track it down.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 30th, 2016 05:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: confused

I attempted a donation through your main page PayPal donation button at midnight, but I am unsure if the donation went through as there seems to be no pending transactions on my account. This has happened with PayPal for me before, I will attempt again in 12-24 hours if nothing shows up
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 30th, 2016 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: confused

If the transaction is not showing in your PayPal account, then the problem is with PayPal. We have had some different glitches with them recently, so it may be that they are experiencing technical difficulties on a wider scale. My best suggestion at this time is that you talk with customer service at PayPal. Perhaps they can help get the transaction going.

If that doesn't work, we can discuss other methods of payment. I've done that before with people who weren't on PayPal.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 10th, 2016 05:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Squee!

I'm so glad to see this posted!

These are the kinds of /setups/ used regularly in comics and superhero movies, but there, everything is /understood/ and /accepted/ immediately as urgently needed care, great, thanks for saving my bacon!

That's not what happens when a traumatized person realizes that their agency, or their body, has been violated again. Even with the best of intentions, that is another trauma to deal with, but very few stories DEAL with it. It's as invisible as the "whites only" and "coloreds only" signs in certain historical photos.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 10th, 2016 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Squee!

>> I'm so glad to see this posted! <<

Yay!

>> These are the kinds of /setups/ used regularly in comics and superhero movies, but there, everything is /understood/ and /accepted/ immediately as urgently needed care, great, thanks for saving my bacon! <<

I hate when these issues are brought up and handled that badly. It's rare to see them done well. (Actually the closest I can think of recently was the end of Age of Ultron where Hulk hung up on the Avengers and fucked off into the sunset, because that is generally what happens when you enslave people: they escape if they can.) The way entertainment generally handles these abrupt changes in boundaries is ... kind of like the guy who gets a girl drunk because that's the only way he can get laid, especially if he thinks all she needs is a 'real man' to show her what it's like and then she'll want more. They have all these tough characters who don't want to let anyone in, often for valid reasons, so the author's solution is to force them. 0_o Yeah no. That never goes to a good place.

Ironically, Turq does understand that Ansel and Ethan mean well. In his head. The rest of his instincts are still howling alarms. He isn't unwilling to accept help, but he is largely unable to yet. His foundation is secure, he's just taken so much damage over time that it has severely impaired his consent. So Turq is in a very different place than some other characters who are more aloof or hostile.

>> That's not what happens when a traumatized person realizes that their agency, or their body, has been violated again. Even with the best of intentions, that is another trauma to deal with, but very few stories DEAL with it. <<

Sadly so. That's kind of like surgery: It's always going to do some damage, and sometimes quite a bit of damage. So in order to be justified at all, it has to do a lot more good than harm. "Avoid life-wrecking brain damage" is a compelling reason for intervention. But it doesn't negate the damage. Responsible caregivers will account for that, and not just leave it. Because it frankly does no good to save someone who's bleeding to death, only to lose them to PTSD a few months later because you couldn't be arsed to protect their psychological as well as physical health. You can't make an awful situation not be awful, but you can usually buffer the impact somewhat. So Ansel and Ethan are setting up for that, in the physical supports they provide and in talking to each other about options. It's up to Turq whether their actions are acceptable or not.

Tune in to "Through Weakness and Vulnerability" to see what happens next.

>> It's as invisible as the "whites only" and "coloreds only" signs in certain historical photos. <<

Funny you should say that. Racism does actually come into Turq's storyline, although it's not fully visible yet. The foster family to which he is so strongly attached is Chinese-American, so he has that ethnic imprint. People can be shitty about transracial placements, though, which means after that he got a lot of flack about "pretending" to be Chinese. 0_o So he hid what he could of it. The more Turq gets to know Ansel, though, the more these currently safe associations connect back to the older ones, so it's starting to peek out again. Little glimpses of Turq's home life are showing through. It's a very positive sign.
zianuray From: zianuray Date: May 10th, 2016 04:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Backwoods Home

I love that magazine!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 10th, 2016 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Backwoods Home

It's a favorite of mine too. They have so many articles about how to do things!
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 14th, 2016 11:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Detailed Feedback from alatefeline

Detailed feedback…on parts of this poem that drew distinct reactions from me. Part 1 of 3.

>> cut back
the brown stems of perennials,
and mulch over the flowerbeds <<

The specificity helps set the scene for me.

>> because Turq
was dead weight in his arms <<

My reaction: Oh no!

>>Neither patting him nor
calling his name produced
any kind of response <<

My reaction: Very not good. I’m worried about the characters, but also caught up in the plot, wanting to see what happens next.

>> "Airway, breathing, circulation,"
he recited as he worked <<

Yep. That’s familiar from First Aid / CPR training so it works for me as a plausible point of congruence.

>> His breathing was erratic,
and as Ansel listened,
it stuttered to a stop. <<

Reaction: NOOO! Ansel, fix it! I trust you! (Going to stop putting “my reaction.” You can tell reaction vs. analysis, I think.)

>> Whatever it was, it probably
wasn't anything a hospital
could fix. Ansel and Turq
had gone over that before,
because Turq's superpowers
tended to tear up his body. <<

Yep. Thanks for the recap. If the character didn’t remember it in the moment of crisis, I as the reader wouldn’t.

>>Ansel dug out his phone
and called Ethan Wheeler,
the healer who had worked
with him before <<

Backup is good.

>> "I've got him," Ethan said as
he knelt beside Ansel and put
his hands on Turq's limp body.
"I can keep him breathing, as
long as his lungs are intact.” <<

Whew! We are moving from survival crisis to medical treatment crisis. Even that is a relief…which knowing the delightfully devious author, means something is going to up the tension again soon in an appropriate rhythm.

>> "Well, there's the problem -- he's got
nerve damage scattered around
most of his autonomic system.” <<

How on earth do you do that? MORE mad science? Or is it a direct superpower side effect?

>> "I knew something was wrong,
I just couldn't tell what," Ansel said.
"I've had plenty of first aid training,
but ... nothing that covers this.” <<

Yes, and you’re worried to death because of that, aren’t you, Ansel? He’s doing his job to the best of your ability with Turq, but at that level of engagement, it’s very personal however professional it is. And he’s become an important friend to Ansel in however odd a way.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 15th, 2016 01:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Detailed Feedback from alatefeline

>> Detailed feedback…on parts of this poem that drew distinct reactions from me. Part 1 of 3. <<

Squeeeee! :D

>> cut back
the brown stems of perennials,
and mulch over the flowerbeds


The specificity helps set the scene for me.<<

Yay! I try to do that, not just to put the boots on the ground, but also to distinguish between different characters. Ansel has a cabin by a lake with a nice yard, and he loves doing outdoorsy things. Janie has an apartment in town, although she also pitches in at Ansel's place.

>> because Turq
was dead weight in his arms


My reaction: Oh no! <<

Yeah, Turq is not in good shape right now. :(

>> Neither patting him nor
calling his name produced
any kind of response


My reaction: Very not good. I’m worried about the characters, but also caught up in the plot, wanting to see what happens next.<<

I'm glad I managed to hook you along both of those lines. And just so you know, it takes more to flatten Turq than it does for most people, because not only does he have Regeneration but his pain scale is pretty bent. He can keep compensating a few notches higher than usual. So by the time he stops moving, he's really hurt.

>> "Airway, breathing, circulation,"
he recited as he worked


Yep. That’s familiar from First Aid / CPR training so it works for me as a plausible point of congruence. <<

Cool. I often look up details for scenes like that, although I have that one memorized.

>> His breathing was erratic,
and as Ansel listened,
it stuttered to a stop.


Reaction: NOOO! Ansel, fix it! I trust you! <<

:D I'm glad that's coming through, Ansel as competent and trustworthy.

>> (Going to stop putting “my reaction.” You can tell reaction vs. analysis, I think.) <<

Yes.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 15th, 2016 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Detailed Feedback from alatefeline

>> Whatever it was, it probably
wasn't anything a hospital
could fix. Ansel and Turq
had gone over that before,
because Turq's superpowers
tended to tear up his body.


Yep. Thanks for the recap. If the character didn’t remember it in the moment of crisis, I as the reader wouldn’t. <<

I appreciate that bit of feedback. One of the things I'm trying to track, because Terramagne is just getting to where they have enough density of input to identify patterns, is what things can be tended with conventional care and what can't. If a strongman has a failure of protective field and rips a muscle loose, a hospital can fix it because it's still just a ripped muscle. But if a tough guy has the same problem, that's difficult or impossible to fix without specialized equipment, which few facilities carry because there's not much demand for it. Soup care is a specialized field that is just beginning to coalesce and I've only got a handful of characters doing enough to have built up a real skill in it. Turq's problems tend to diffuse throughout a significant part of his body, and they're not static, the Regeneration will put things back together eventually. But the acute effects can be miserable and terrifying in the meantime.

Interestingly, there is one thing that would've been useful that didn't come up, because Ansel hadn't stocked it and Ethan could fix the problem faster by hand. Supplemental oxygen. Turq's problems hit his chest often enough for that to be worth asking if he can tolerate it. Ansel will probably think of it after the fact.

>> Ansel dug out his phone
and called Ethan Wheeler,
the healer who had worked
with him before


Backup is good. <<

Yeah, and Ethan is a lot better than he realizes.

>> "I've got him," Ethan said as
he knelt beside Ansel and put
his hands on Turq's limp body.
"I can keep him breathing, as
long as his lungs are intact.”


Whew! We are moving from survival crisis to medical treatment crisis. Even that is a relief…which knowing the delightfully devious author, means something is going to up the tension again soon in an appropriate rhythm. <<

:D *bows to Master Tolkien* I learned Hurt/Comfort from the best.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 15th, 2016 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Detailed Feedback from alatefeline



>> "Well, there's the problem -- he's got
nerve damage scattered around
most of his autonomic system.”


How on earth do you do that? MORE mad science? Or is it a direct superpower side effect? <<

In a weird way, it's both. Turq's superpowers didn't emerge naturally, but came from mad science torture. So they aren't "normal, healthy" superpowers. They malfunction, to a greater or lesser degree, fairly often -- and the less he's able to concentrate, the worse the effects tend to be. His teleportation currently amounts to tearing his body into tiny pieces and reassembling it elsewhere. The less focus he has, the more things tend to go wrong with that process. In this case, a lot of little nerve fibers didn't get lined up right. Even the big neural lines, like the spinal column, are really more like rope -- many tiny fibers twined into one thick cord. Not one cut, but lots of them. So instead of smooth function, a bunch of Turq's autonomic systems were skipping in and out like an electrical system with shorts in it. O_O Ethan's healing ability let him manually splice the most important connections first, and then work down the list of priorities. Anyhow, Turq's powers also tend to activate on a reflexive basis if he's hurt or scared enough. Getting stabbed was enough to trigger a reflexive jump -- and his hindbrain thinks of Ansel's place as a bolthole now. This is a huge improvement over Mr. Dipper's shitty gang.

>> "I knew something was wrong,
I just couldn't tell what," Ansel said.
"I've had plenty of first aid training,
but ... nothing that covers this.”


Yes, and you’re worried to death because of that, aren’t you, Ansel? <<

Absolutely. Turq worries Ansel to bits. Ansel cares about everyone; he's the kind of cop who would run into a burning building to rescue a crook. But he's especially inclined toward community outreach, which means he spends a lot of time helping people out of bad situations. He can get very, very attached to folks. As pesky as Turq is, he has a good heart, and Ansel knows that. But it's also painfully clear that Turq is not ready or able to accept much help yet, so Ansel has to hold himself back. Worry worry worry.

>> He’s doing his job to the best of your ability with Turq, but at that level of engagement, it’s very personal however professional it is. And he’s become an important friend to Ansel in however odd a way. <<

This is true. It's an awkward relationship, but they're making good progress.
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