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Poem: "Pitfalls" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Pitfalls"
This poem is spillover from the September 16, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from rix_scaedu and DW user Peoriapeoriawhereart.  It also fills the "disability (temporary)" square in my 3-6-14 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the series P.I.E.

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: janetmiles, kestrels_nest, Rosemary, general fund, DW user Dialecticdreamer

FULLY FUNDED
190 lines, Buy It Now = $95
Amount donated = $88
Verses posted = 44 of 49

Amount remaining to fund fully = $7
Amount needed to fund next verse = $.50
Amount needed to fund the verse after that = $2



Pitfalls


For once it was Darrel's job,
and not Brenda's, that
got them both in trouble.

He had spent weeks undercover
stalking a major crime ring responsible
for smuggling drugs into the city.

Brenda was supposed to be
just a consultant this time,
searching the internet for
breadcrumbs and connections
with some help from Zephyr.

Unfortunately the drugrunners
tracked her to their meeting place
and ambushed the two of them.

Brenda and Darrel were taken
far out into a forest and dumped
into a deep hole in the ground.

The weather was already frigid
and rapidly getting colder.
They weren't meant to make it out.

It was meant to look like an accident --
a hiking trip gone wrong -- and it was
even plausible given how well people
knew their love of the wilderness.

Brenda sat up and looked around.
Then she groaned. "This pit
must be ten or twelve feet deep.
With the ground half-frozen, it's going
to be difficult to dig handholds
so that we can climb out."

"I can't climb anywhere," Darrel said,
lifting his left hand away from his right forearm
to show a distinct bump of broken bone
under the skin, where earlier he had
blocked a blow aimed at Brenda's head.

"Well, crap," said Brenda. "I guess
I'll just have to climb for both of us, then.
Help me search for something to dig with.
I need a sturdy stick, or better yet, a sharp rock."

The pit was easily the size of a closet,
its floor covered with autumn leaves
and a thick dusting of snow, under which
were some branches and, farther down,
frozen mud and gravel with a few stones.

In the end they managed to find
a flat rock the size of Brenda's hand
and a short stick that came to a point.

"I can dig left-handed," Darrel said.

"Okay," Brenda said. "It will go faster
this way. Dig from the top down. Make
a notch that slants in to a flat base.
I'll mark where to put them."

She had to stand up for a few seconds
to indicate the higher positions, and
then she scrambled onto Darrel's shoulders
to stretch above that, although even then
she could not reach the edge of the pit.

When Brenda got back down,
she started scraping away the dirt
to make the lowest of the handholds.

Darrel worked on the higher ones,
which meant that Brenda got dirt in her hair,
but digging together kept them both
at least somewhat warm and would
get them out of the trap sooner.

"That's the last of them," Darrel declared
as he brushed the loose bits away
from the highest of the handholds.

"Take off your belt, get behind me,
and hook your left arm over my shoulder,"
Brenda said. She anchored the belt
around Darrel's right arm above the elbow
and fastened the rest to his left arm
to hold them securely together.
"Sorry, this is going to hurt, but if we
stay here then we'll both freeze."

Brenda took hold of the dirt ladder
and began to climb, Darrel's weight
at her back no worse than some packs
she had carried in the past, although
she hated the way he whimpered
against the side of her neck.

She tried not to jostle him too much,
but it was still a miserable climb.

Brenda wasn't looking forward
to the trek home either. With
neither wheelchair nor crutches
she couldn't travel on her own.

Darrel had the worst of it, though,
judging from the muffled sounds he made.
Letting Darrel carry her out of the woods
wouldn't hurt anything but her pride.

When Brenda hauled herself over the edge
of the hole, however, she began to laugh.

There in the snowswept leaves
lay her wheelchair, tilted on its side
to suggest a sudden tumble into the pit.

"Did they frisk it?" Darrel asked.
The thugs had taken both their guns.

Brenda ran her hands over the chair
and quickly produced her tactical baton,
a large sheathed knife, and her keychain.
Sadly neither her cell phone nor Darrel's
were anywhere within sight.

She took off the carabiner and the split-ring,
then swiftly unraveled the paracord keychain
to produce three five-foot lengths of cord.

Inside lay a thin roll of cash, a metal file,
a tube of waterproof matches, a fishhook
in a plastic sleeve, and a miniature compass.

Brenda used one piece of cord,
the sheath from her knife,
and the baton to fashion
a splint for Darrel's broken arm.
"Everything will be fine," she assured him.

"Yeah, it's better with my weight on my feet,"
Darrel said. "What about you?"

"I'll need help to move," Brenda admitted
as she climbed into the wheelchair.
"The everyday model is not meant
for forest trails and has no handles.
Sort of put your good shoulder
behind me and shove."

Brenda used her hands on the wheel rims
to add what force she could, but
the path was thick with fallen leaves
and a liberal dusting of snow which
made good traction impossible.

"This is not working," Darrel muttered.

"Agreed," Brenda said, although
she was used to much better mobility
and hated the thought of abandoning her chair.

"Okay, we have wheels, a real carabiner,
and a couple more lengths of paracord,"
Darrel said. "What if we make a harness,
and I pull instead of push, using your wheelchair
like a travois? That has to be easier than
trying to carry your whole body weight."

"Great idea," Brenda said.

The harness looped over Darrel's shoulders
so that it didn't stress his broken arm too much,
and hooked into the frame of the chair.
With Brenda facing backwards and the
large rear wheels right behind Darrel,
they made much better progress.

It still took a couple of hours to hike out
of the forest and find a road, then
flag down a passing car for a ride.

The driver had a cell phone, though,
which he loaned to them so that Darrel
could call the police station to report
what had happened to them
and the drugrunners' plans.

At least when they got to the station,
there was plenty of hot coffee,
someone had sent out for pizza, and
there were warm comforting blankets
for both of them to wrap up in.

Officer Grant looked at the mess
of mud and leaves caked onto
Brenda's wheelchair and said,
"Would you like me to see if
I can clean that up some?
I do my own bike maintenance."

"Sure, do what you can," she said.
"After the beating this poor thing
took on the trail, I should really
take it to my regular mechanic,
but there's no reason to go
tracking dirt all over the station."

Officer Grant evidently rode
his bike to work, because he had
a kit stashed in his locker and
soon had the work in progress.

Darrel and Brenda made their report
in more detail for the benefit of the team
who would be ambushing the thugs in turn.

Darrel declared that he didn't mind
missing the collar. "I'm cold, I'm tired,
and I still need to get my arm set.
Somebody else can be the hero this time."

"You're still my hero," Brenda murmured.
"I would've had a hard time getting
out of the forest without you."

"Mutual," Darrel said. "I probably
wouldn't have made it out of the pit trap."

"I guess those drugrunners
should have known better
than to tangle with two of us
at once," Brenda concluded.

* * *

Notes:

Drugrunning is a leading activity in organized crime.

Breadcrumbs are the traces you leave of your online activity.  There are pros and cons to leaving or obscuring your trail.  Here are some steps you can take if you wish to hide yours.

Forearm fractures are a prime example of defensive wounds.  Know how to deal with broken bones in the wilderness.

Paracord is a thin strong rope very useful in survival situations.  Here is a keychain with a hidden compartment and another with a carabiner.  You can also make a simple harness with paracord.  Make sure you buy quality paracord and carabiners.  There is no point in a cheap knockoff that won't actually support your weight in an emergency, and you can get the real thing for under $10.

A travois is constructed from two poles and a container stretched between them, used for transporting goods over moderately rough ground. Learn to make one.

There are written and video instructions for wheelchair cleaning and maintenance, but they don't really expect you to drive the thing through a half-frozen forest.  So here are steps for hosing and scrubbing a mountain bike, plus a decent cleaning kit.

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Current Mood: busy busy

20 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 19th, 2014 06:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Indeed it was. The thugs were trying to make this look like an "accident." Falling into a pit would account for the bruises and other injuries, for example. But to sell it, they had to leave the wheelchair. Which they forgot to frisk, because most people do not think of a wheelchair as an arsenal, but I have known folks who carried weapons or survival gear in theirs.

It was also half-smart to realize that Brenda and Darrel in the wilderness would be plausible, without stopping to think that Brenda and Darrel know how to survive in the wild.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 18th, 2017 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

illustration by counter-example

This could serve as an excellent illustration of "divide and conquer" ... as in, the thugs didn't think to divide and thus failed to conquer. I really like both Brenda and Darrel, and especially the two of them in tandem, so for both the protagonists' sake and my own, I'm pleased and relieved that their shoddily-constructed plan failed.

I <3 teamwork stories in general; this (P.I.E.) series is a newly-discovered trove of such delights! -- callibr8
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 19th, 2017 06:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: illustration by counter-example

>>This could serve as an excellent illustration of "divide and conquer" ... as in, the thugs didn't think to divide and thus failed to conquer.<<

Yes, exactly.

>> I really like both Brenda and Darrel, and especially the two of them in tandem, so for both the protagonists' sake and my own, I'm pleased and relieved that their shoddily-constructed plan failed. <<

:D They are a fun team.

>> I <3 teamwork stories in general; <<

Agreed. You hardly ever see it anymore. The "teamwork" in The Avengers was almost all simply assigning each individual to a separate task suited to their skills. But Days of Future Past had intricate teamwork that wove together what different people could do, thus enabling them to escape threats that no one person could have eluded.

>> this (P.I.E.) series is a newly-discovered trove of such delights! -- callibr8 <<

Thank you!
From: siliconshaman Date: September 19th, 2014 11:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank gods for dumb thugs... although I suppose only semi-dumb insofar as they did come up with plausible scenario, without thinking it through as you said.

That said, smart thugs is an oxymoron I suppose.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 19th, 2014 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

There are smart thugs. They are just very rare. Frex, some of the thugs in Lucy were playing Mah Jongg, which has a similar cultural connotation as chess: a game for intelligent gentlemen.

I have some smart thugs, but they tend to work for smart villains or supervillains who want a better caliber of minion. So for instance, the Puppetmaster likes to recruit them for his Marionettes. It leads to rather different stories than the usual.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: September 19th, 2014 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I like this so far, and hope someone will sponsor more of it. Or I might, after payday.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 19th, 2014 07:05 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you like it. Hopefully some other folks will chip in too.
kestrels_nest From: kestrels_nest Date: September 20th, 2014 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
They're also underestimating what Brenda can do. I'm sure, for example, they didn't think the woman in the wheelchair could *climb*.

Donated as much as I currently can.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2014 06:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>> They're also underestimating what Brenda can do. I'm sure, for example, they didn't think the woman in the wheelchair could *climb*. <<

That's true. It matters immensely why someone is in a wheelchair. Some conditions are very debilitating. But for an otherwise healthy person whose just has leg problems, using a manual wheelchair can lead to some impressive upper-body strength. People look ... but they don't see.

>> Donated as much as I currently can. <<

Thanks everso!
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 21st, 2014 03:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I can't help it. Whenever I see "P.I.E." my first thought is "Proto-Indo-European".
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2014 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)

*laugh*

Yeah, I know. I actually dug into that for Polychrome Heroics, but not here.
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: September 22nd, 2014 03:54 am (UTC) (Link)
The hollow paracord key-fob is actually not too dissimilar to my favorite kumihimo braid, which uses 4 pieces of cord doubled over for 8 strands. I looked for an illustration of the braiding pattern online, but all I can find is the straight-back-and-forth one, not the spiral pattern I use.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 26th, 2014 06:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I appreciate hearing about yours. Too bad you couldn't find a pattern for it.
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: October 5th, 2014 07:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

If we're ever at a con or other event together, I'll be happy to show you. It's perfectly straightforward to do, but not easy to describe without visuals.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 5th, 2014 07:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Fair enough.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: October 13th, 2014 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Maybe you could do it and post pictures.
From: technoshaman Date: October 19th, 2014 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, that's it, I've got to get off my arse and get me some paracord and a biner or two... really good story, good *teamwork*...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 19th, 2014 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Okay, that's it, I've got to get off my arse and get me some paracord and a biner or two... <<

Just remember to buy REAL materials, there are a lot of cheap knockoffs now for 'crafty' people who won't fork over $7 for solid goods.

>> really good story, good *teamwork*... <<

Yay! That's what I've been aiming for. I'm not a team player, but the more I see of shitty so-called teamwork in the mainstream, which reminds me of classmates trying to take advantage of me in group assignments, the more I want to write things about teammates actually cooperating in effective ways.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 18th, 2017 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

from callibr8

Loved this one, for a multitude of reasons!

>> Make sure you buy quality paracord and carabiners <<

Indeed. A Real(tm) carabiner will say on the package (and sometimes on the unit itself) how much weight it will support. If it doesn't, consider it tinfoil.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 19th, 2017 07:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: from callibr8

>> Loved this one, for a multitude of reasons! <<

Yay!

>> Make sure you buy quality paracord and carabiners

Indeed. A Real(tm) carabiner will say on the package (and sometimes on the unit itself) how much weight it will support. If it doesn't, consider it tinfoil.<<

Yeah, I don't see the point to fake ones unless for a decorative shape. Fakes that look like real carabiners are just begging for trouble. 0_o T-America has more thorough rules about distinguishing theirs.
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