Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Dr. Doohickey and the Smile Machine"

This poem came out of the October 2014 Creative Jam.  It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chordatesrock.  It has been sponsored by an anonymous donation.  This poem belongs to the Dr. Doohickey thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Dr. Doohickey and the Smile Machine"

 


The loss of his legs was a blow,
but Dr. Doohickey found ways to cope.
Mostly, he built things.

This was not what his doctors recommended,
but then, these were the quacks who couldn't
figure out how to articulate a bed and gave him
a wheelchair that had to be pushed by hand,
so he had plenty of reasons to ignore them anyhow.

(The last thing he wanted to do was talk about
how his legs had gotten hacked up in a wood chipper.)

Whenever his feelings began to gum up his thoughts,
like oil left too long in an engine, Dr. Doohickey
went down to his lab and made something.

He designed an inertial compensator
to make zoom wagons more maneuverable,
although he did not yet have a Class Z license of his own.

He constructed one hundred two-legged robots
the size of ping-pong balls, which could connect
into a robotic centipede to climb over obstacles.

(There was nothing wrong with his hands.)

When his mind was running smoothly again,
Dr. Doohickey turned his attention from science to art.

He brought out boxes of gears made from
silver and gold, copper and bronze,
even glass in rainbow colors,
and spun them together.

He carved Tesla fluid valves from clear crystal
and mounted them so they would tilt back and forth
while directing streams of tinted liquid.

He worked until he got stiff, building beautiful things
with springs and screws and metal plates
that felt like fine satin in his hands
and gave him a sense of accomplishment.

(The stumps of his legs ached, sometimes,
but he could ignore them.)

The gizmo grew under his fingertips,
complex and exquisite, illustrating
favorite principles of physics.

It had no purpose, yet it was pleasing.

His assistant Crystal came downstairs,
her heels clicking on the way to the lab.

"What are you making?" she asked,
leaning over the workbench
to admire the results.

"This," Dr. Doohickey said
as he waved a hand over it.

"So what does it do?" Crystal asked.

Dr. Doohickey gazed at the gleaming gizmo
with its array of soothing springs and valves and gears,
all whirring away with a sort of scientific white noise
that made the small of his back relax and his lips curl up.

"It makes me smile," he said.

"Oh, that's useful," Crystal said brightly.
"You should make more to sell.
I'm sure other soups would enjoy that."

"Maybe they would," Dr. Doohickey said.

"If you make a spare, I could call WeGeex," she coaxed.
"You know they'll trade time in the FunLab for it."

He hadn't gone there since before the accident.

"Is the FunLab even accessible?" Dr. Doohickey asked,
fingers drumming on the arm of his antchair.
"I can climb stairs in this thing, but it
runs down the charge in no time."

"If it's not accessible now, it will be
by the time you get there," Crystal said.
"Imagine what a ruckus it would cause,
if they realized that some geeks couldn't get in."

"All right, one copy coming up," said Dr. Doohickey.
His fingers reached for the little boxes of bright gears,
a smile already stretching across his face.

She smiled back at him.

* * *

Notes:

Therapy doesn't always work, whether focused on talk or behavior.  Nobody should be pressured into any therapy that doesn't help them, or actively makes them feel worse.

Everyone needs coping skills to deal with life's challenges.  Learn how to develop some.

An inertia damper is an extant device that absorbs or redirects force in ways we already understand.  The science fiction device often called an inertial damper or compensator is a futuristic device that absorbs or redirects force in ways we do not yet understand, sometimes referred to as inertia negation.  See the difference?  The same design could be truth or fiction depending where you're standing in the timestream.  But it's all force manipulation at the core.

Modular robots that can connect and cooperate also exist, such as these roombots and robot snakes.

This is a Tesla fluid valve.

Brushed metal or satin finish has a distinct grain, which may feel smooth or satiny-grooved to the touch.

Dr. Doohickey has made a Rube Goldberg machine for fun.

Moving meditation offers various ways to still your mindPuzzles, fibercrafts, and other hobbies can help ease the stress of PTSD and other mental conditions.  Dr. Doohickey has discovered building things as a coping technique, and it works quite well for him given his logical perspective and tactile focus.

WeGeex is a corporation that specializes in technological innovation.  They have a Zetetics branch devoted to analyzing and retro-engineering whatever gizmos or super-gizmos they can get.  There's an Implementation branch that takes the usable bits from there and converts them into products which can be mass-marketed.  Instead of a conventional Research & Development branch, however, they have the FunLab.  Employees can earn time in the FunLab as a perk for excellent performance, perfect attendance, and other standard stuff; but they can win big chunks of time and a supply budget  for letting the company play with any of their inventions.  Since many gizmologists, super-gizmologists, and super-intellects are strongly motivated by opportunity to explore and make stuff, the corporation gets a LOT of random stuff handed over to Zetetics.  Employees can keep the patent rights to their own work if they want it, and always get developer credit; plus anything developed from an employee's work by the company earns the original employee a royalty.  FunLab time has no obligations beyond safety precautions; if you want to do pure research, you can. 

WeGeex put out a steady stream of cool new products and are a leading source of cutting-edge technology.  They also have a fund set aside for damage compensation if a product turns out to have a harmful flaw.  Part of that program includes a bounty  for customers who identity the problem, which can be taken in cash, free products from another line, or time in the FunLab on its monthly Customer Appreciation Day.  This makes WeGeex hugely popular with early adopters.  Ironically they also make a line of shatterproof plow blades and other simple agricultural equipment for the Amish.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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