Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Accidents of Time and Place"

This poem is spillover from the November 4, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from westrider.  It also fills the "women being awesome" square in my 9-1-14 card for the Genprompt Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the series Walking the Beat.

"The Accidents of Time and Place"

It was Indian summer,
the last surge of warm weather
before autumn swept away the sun
behind cold wet clouds.

Dale and Kelly took advantage
of the lovely weather to walk around
the neighborhood and watch for
people who might need help
raking leaves or shoveling snow
in the months to come.

Chaz trotted happily beside them,
not pulling on the leash in Kelly's hand
except when he passed close to
a particularly delectable signpost
and they paused to let him investigate it.

Everyone else was out
mowing the yard one last time
or washing the car or planting tulips
while it was still warm enough
to make outdoor work enjoyable.

A metallic screech and a pained yell
yanked Dale's attention sideways.
Trouble, she signed to Kelly
as she hobbled into a run.

She found a car propped up on a cheap jack
that was slowly giving way with a moan of metal.
A brown hand flailed into view, revealing
Juste's favorite Dominican bracelet,
then disappeared back under the car.

Dale jammed the handle of her cane
under the car frame, hoping it'd hold
if the jack gave way completely,
hoping the tough titanium would
keep the weight high enough that
it wouldn't crush Juste completely.

Behind her, Dale could hear
the soft beep of buttons
as Kelly called an ambulance.

"Juste, it's Dale," she said.
"Can you hear me?"

A muffled grunt was the sole reply.
Well, at least he was getting some air.

"I'm right here beside the car," Dale said.
"Reach toward me with your hand."

As soon as he did so,
Dale captured his wrist,
pressing her fingertips
over the pulse point.

His heartbeat was rapid with panic,
but still strong and steady.

"Kelly's calling for help," Dale said.
"I have my cane propping the car up.
We'll get you out of there."

She held onto Juste's hand,
reassuring him with calm words,
until the paramedics arrived.

They  had a set of powerful, sturdy little jacks
meant to hike up wrecks after an accident.
It took only moments to deploy the devices
and lift the car enough to extract Juste.

Dale's cane clattered free, its butt end
now marred with a deep shiny gouge.
She'd have to ask an engraver
to smooth down the burr, but
she didn't begrudge the souvenir
of a good day's work.

Sometimes when the world
picked a fight, you lost,
but other times you won and
today they were definitely winning.

The paramedics loaded Juste
into the ambulance, debating
whether his ribs were broken
or just cracked a bit.

Dale picked up the twisted ruin
of the jack that had collapsed.
"We need to run some errands,"
she declared, and Kelly nodded.

So they went to get the end of the cane fixed,
and Dale talked to Juste's father about
the importance of safety precautions.

Kelly chatted up the florist, eagerly
pointing out this and that in the colorful book
before picking out a handsome weeping fig
which they took to the hospital room
where Juste was spending the night.

"No permanent damage?"
Dale asked him.

"Just some busted ribs and
a lot of bruises," Juste said.
"Could've been much worse,
but I won't be working for a while."

"Broken ribs suck," Dale said fervently.
She'd had a few of her own.

"Just so you know," Juste said,
"your money's no good at my dad's garage
from now on.  You need something fixed,
you bring it to us and we'll get it done."

Dale opened her mouth to say that
she couldn't accept that kind of favor --
and then realized that now she could.
There were advantages to retiring
from the police force after all.

"Thank you," she said to Juste.
"That sounds wonderful."

He looked at her, and then
looked down at his hands,
one thumb rubbing the opposite wrist.

"I'm sorry for being such a jerk,"
he whispered.  "I just ... don't like cops,
and you saved me anyway.  So, um, thanks."

"You're welcome," Dale said.
"Saving people is what I do.  I can't
help everyone, but I firmly believe in
helping those placed in my path
by the accidents of time and place."

On the way home, she told Kelly
what Juste had said to her.

You can't blame people for being cautious
if they've met bad cops,
Kelly signed back.
You can show them what the good cops are like.

Life was a never-ending battle against
the forces of corruption and chaos,
Dale knew, but some days,
you could still win.

Thinking back to the young man's
hesitant yet sincere apology,
she counted today a win.

* * *


"Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you."
-- Saint Augustine

See the ASL sign for "trouble."

This is Juste's bracelet, inspired by the Dominican flag.  Read about how to make a bracelet with fishtail knots, or watch a video.

It's necessary to use jacks and jack stands safely when lifting vehicles to avoid accidents, so follow the instructions carefullySimple scissor jacks are fine for a quick tire change but can't support a car's weight for long; they may shear or tip.  For longer repairs or anything where you need to crawl under the car, you need a proper floor jack and at least two jack stands.  Juste actually knows this, but he's a young man and prone to "It'll only take a few minutes!" shortcuts.

Among the houseplants that come from the Dominican Republic is the weeping fig, a type of ficus, associated with enlightenment and longevity.

When you have hurt someone else, it is appropriate to apologize.  Know how to give and receive an apology, and how to forgive yourself afterwards.  In this case, Dale's actions finally tipped the scale for Juste to see her as an individual rather than "that pig-cop who lives around here." Since he's not a complete dick, now he feels bad about the former prejudice -- and is man enough to make things right.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, romance, weblit, writing
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