Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Soup Stuff"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, and fills the "smell" square in my 9-1-14 card for the [community profile] ladiesbingo fest. It has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics, where Danso & Family touch on what happens with Groundhog and Cassandra.

Warning: This poem deals with strong emotions brought up by a discussion of removing superpowers, along with some unpleasant childhood memories. Most of the content concerns coping skills, so it's hurt/comfort with emphasis on the latter.

"Soup Stuff"

Cassandra clenched her teeth through
the entire meeting at SPOON.

She listened to the people who thought
that clipping ought to be banned outright,
because when done badly it could
cripple or even kill someone.

She listened to the people who thought
that clipping ought to be restricted instead,
ideally for consenting adults or for children
only after a careful, impartial assessment,
because there were superdisempowers
that could also ruin or take people's lives.

She listened to the pair of clipping advocates
who thought it should stay unregulated,
whom SPOON had brought in for the sake of
covering all angles, and whom it was pretty clear
that everybody else wanted to punch in the face.

When asked, Cassandra gritted out her own story
and was gratified to see the shocked look
on the faces of the clipping advocates.

By the time it was over, her jaw ached
and her throat hurt and her head felt like
someone was hitting her with a mallet.
The room reeked of the advocate lady's
cheap perfume, making the headache worse.

When they got home, Groundhog parked
Cassandra at one of the little tables in the atrium.
"Stay here, I'll get us some éclairs," he said.
"Chocolate makes everything a little better."

He disappeared into Jack's Magic Beans,
the coffee shop near the entrance, which gave off
enticing smells of rich roast and pastry.

Cassandra buried her face in her hands
and tried to stop wishing that she could
hurl the whole planet into the sun.

"Wow, you look like crap."

Cassandra looked up to see Waverly
standing over her, hands on hips.
The artist wore a vulgar purple shirt
stained with several colors of paint,
but had no paint on her skin, so she
must not have started working yet.

"What do you want?" Cassandra said.

"Well, when I sit around here looking like that,
people come check on me," Waverly said.
"So what's the spill?"

"Soup stuff," Cassandra said. "We went
to SPOON for some preliminary discussion
of what to do about the clipping issue. I didn't
even know there were powers that do nothing
but mess up someone's life. I feel like --"
Her hands fluttered in the air, aimless.
"-- like there's this sludge running under
my skin and I can't get rid of it."

"Can I paint you?" Waverly said abruptly.

Cassandra rolled her eyes. "I'm not a model."

"No no no, not like that!" Waverly said.
"I mean, I'll pay you a hundred bucks
to stand against a wall while I throw
paint at you. It's milk paint, it comes off."

"I don't know ..." Cassandra said.

"Okay, two hundred," Waverly bargained.
"You can keep your clothes on and everything.
Come on, where else are you doing to make
two hundred bucks in an hour on a day
when you feel like deep-fried sludge?
There's even a non-zero chance that
it might make you feel a little better."

"What might?" Groundhog asked,
laying down a tray of éclairs and coffee.

Cassandra started with the coffee,
which was an acquired taste that
she was determined to acquire.

"I asked Cassandra to do art with me,"
Waverly explained. "She's thinking it over."

"For some people it's a great way
to vent emotions," Groundhog said.

Cassandra wasn't used to that, really,
even though drawing helped her to feel
calmer. Instead, she tended to illustrate
whatever she saw around her, while much of
Waverly's work was abstract. Cassandra
mulled it over while eating her éclair.

"I'll give it a try," she decided as she
pushed the empty wrapper away.
It might be interesting, and besides,
two hundred bucks was two hundred bucks.

"Great!" Waverly said, beckoning to her.
"You're close to my size, so you can just
borrow some of my painting clothes."

Cassandra followed her into the studio
that smelled strongly of paint thinner
and linseed oil and damp plaster.

Inside, Waverly moved a folding screen
to cover a corner and then casually
chucked a pair of jeans and a shirt
over the top edge of it. "There you go."

Quickly Cassandra changed clothes.
When she came out, Waverly handed her
a swimming cap to cover her hair and
a plastic face shield for protection.

Already a big slab of plasterboard
leaned against the wall, surrounded
by dropcloths beyond which stood
a dense arc of many-colored paint cans
and an assortment of bottles and sponges.

"What do you want me to do?" Cassandra asked.

"First lean back against the board," Waverly said.
Cassandra obeyed, and the other woman
swiftly traced around her with a pencil.
"Now move away so I can frisk this."

Cassandra watched as the experienced artist
cut out pieces of masking film that matched
the general outline and pressed them into place,
then perfected the edges with a line of frisket string.

"Okay, darks first," Waverly said. "Pick out
a couple of base colors that match your mood."

Looking over the choices, Cassandra chose
one whose stormy shade reminded her of
a favorite watercolor, Payne's grey, and
another that resembled Alizarin crimson
from the oil painting palette. "These two."

Waverly used sponges to make a halo
of dark red around the outline, and then
filled in the rest of the plasterboard
with that dark gray, almost black.

"Now go back to the same place, and
try to match the outline," Waverly said.

Cassandra did so, but couldn't help asking,
"With the frisket, why do you need me?"

"Two reasons: your feelings are
part of my inspiration, and if this works
then they'll change as we go along,"
Waverly explained. "Second, the shape
of your body will affect how the paint lands."

Cassandra looked down at the long landscape
of her body, hills of breasts and hollow
between her thighs, all covered by
a layer of borrowed clothing. "Okay."

"Just think about what's pissing you off,"
Waverly said, and then, "Oh yeah."

She used a variety of jars and squirt bottles to
apply the paint, patches and streaks of it
flaring over the background.

The first layers of paint were dark,
sulky purples and moody blues
that sloshed over Cassandra
much like the waves of emotion.

As much of it landed on Cassandra
as made it onto the plasterboard.

The paint dripped down her skin,
smelling of milk and mud,
thinner than oil or acrylic but
much thicker than watercolors.

The paint's fragrance reminded her of
the sour-milk odor of the advocate man's breath
as he insinuated that young soups couldn't
make responsible decisions about their powers.

Her breath hissed between her teeth.

The next color was a screaming-bright red,
like Napthol scarlet, slashing across the background
in a single stroke before the colors returned
to tempestuous blues and greys.

"Texture time," Waverly declared,
stirring a broad bowl with a wooden spoon.
Inside it, the primrose-yellow paint looked chunky.

"What did you use for texture?" Cassandra asked,
intrigued despite the grumpy mood that
still clung to the edges of her mind.

"This has bits of go-foam," Waverly said.
"I've got another with stringy stuff
and then one with coarse grit."

Cassandra flashed on how Aidan had said,
You've got grit, in such an admiring tone,
so different from her parent's complaint,
Why do you have to be so abrasive?

"Use plenty of grit," she advised.

Waverly grinned at her and dumped
another scoop of additive into a bowl
of pea-soup green paint.

The stringy paint went on first,
a warm bright peach that made
Cassandra think of baking pies
in her grandmother's kitchen,
with her aunt, oh so long ago,
and she smiled underneath
the clear curve of the face mask.

The gritty paint was not thrown
like the others, but dabbed on
with a wadded rag to make sure
the layer was thin enough
for the grit to show properly.

There was, as requested, quite a lot of grit.

Cassandra giggled a bit as Waverly moved around,
trying not to grope her and trying to reach
all the right spots with the paint
at the same time.

"You can touch me," Cassandra said.
"I'm not a raving homophobe like my parents.
Just, you know, don't grab anywhere."

"Thanks," Waverly said. "I'm not a prude either,
but touching the model is kind of a taboo."

"Oh," said Cassandra. "I wouldn't know.
All I've had were a few junior high and
high school art classes, painting fruit
and one day the teacher brought her cat
for us to practice live sketching."

Waverly rolled her eyes, putting a hand on
Cassandra's shoulder to dab pale green paint
down along the line made by her arm.
"We seriously need to get you
into some real art classes."

"Can't," Cassandra whispered.
"I haven't finished high school."

She'd run the moment she turned eighteen.

"Well that's bullshit," Waverly said.
"Talk to Groundhog, he can figure out how
to get you re-enrolled if you want, or you could
probably just test out and get your diploma."

That was something Cassandra had been
worrying about quietly in the back of her mind,
but hadn't know how to broach the topic. "Thanks."

"Next to last layer," Waverly said.
"Step away so I can lift the frisket first."

Cassandra did so, but asked,
"Why are you taking off the mask
before you're done painting?
Won't the inside get all messy?"

"I want to keep a clear outline,
which is why I use the frisket,"
Waverly explained, "but I don't
want a perfect outline."

She peeled off the string and film,
then repositioned Cassandra.

The next layer of paint was thinner,
meant to run a bit, and mostly consisted
of different creamy pastels.

Waverly used more spoons and squirt bottles
to apply it in small splotches and streaks.

"Okay, you're done," the artist said as she
put down a ketchup bottle of lavender paint.
"The final layer is the pearl mist, and that's
supposed to go on over the whole thing."

When Cassandra stepped away
from the almost-finished painting,
the view of it made her gasp.

The dark cloud of despair and
frustration had been cut through with
righteous anger in swipes of scarlet,
layered with jewel tones and textures
that somehow looked as if Waverly
had used real soup to paint with,
then streaked over again
with the softer pastels.

The outline, as promised,
was clear but no longer perfect
so that it didn't disrupt the experience;
little spackles of paint flecked around it and
some drips had run down over the shoulder lines.

Now Waverly used two spray bottles,
one in each hand with quick deft strokes,
to feather clouds of silver and gold
over parts of the painting.

A silver halo hazed around the head and
down the body, then a final heavy swath
of gold swept over the scarlet line,
anger gilded over with hope.

Then Waverly stepped away.

"It's beautiful," Cassandra said,
and it was, even though the colors
should have clashed horribly.

"Yeah, we did good," Waverly said,
her mouth quirking into a smile.

"Thank you for this," Cassandra said.
"I really do feel a lot better now."

"Go downstairs and wash up in the locker room,"
Waverly advised. "The main drains can handle
the paint better than a private bathroom."

So Cassandra went to clean up,
stuffing the paint-spattered clothes
into a hamper so that she could scrub
her skin with apple-scented body wash.

When she came out of the shower,
she found that someone had laid out
clean clothes for her to wear.

Going back up to the atrium, she discovered
that Groundhog had called out an order
and procured two meatball sandwiches
whose aroma of basil and tomato
made her mouth water.

"Gimme," Cassandra said,
making grabby hands at the packet.

Groundhog laughed and said,
"Yes, this one's for you. Also I have
your payment from Waverly."
He followed the warm bundle of paper
with a cash card that had her name on it
in Waverly's looping script.

Cassandra bit into her sandwich,
reveling in the rich taste.
"Shoul' see paintin' now,"
she mumbled around a mouthful.

"The door's open, so yes, I have,"
Groundhog said. "Everyone has been
peeking in to see what you two artists were up to.
It's really something, Cassandra. I'm impressed."

She shook her head. "Waverly did all the work."

Groundhog huffed gently, "No, she didn't.
Waverly asked me for something similar once --
had me model for Lucifer, actually, for a commission --
so I know how she works with a model in the room,
and how much you must have contributed too.
You have a right to be proud of the results."

"It's an amazing work of art,"
Cassandra said softly, and let herself
own just a little taste of the praise.

Maybe, she thought as she sat in the atrium
enjoying the sandwich and the company,
she would take Waverly's advice on asking
Groundhog about the school stuff to see
if she could learn more about art.

* * *


Waverly Varo -- She has pinkish fair skin, hazel eyes, and wavy chestnut hair cropped short. Her body is relatively boyish, with just a little swell of breasts and hips. Waverly lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment as Groundhog. She keeps a small jungle's worth of succulent plants in the tower room, which has windows most of the way around because it's at the corner of the building. They provide greenery without requiring much care.
Waverly has a very volatile personality and views this as an asset because it aids her creativity. She is touchy about people who pressure her to take drugs to make her seem more conventional. Since she is fully functional and making quite good money, she doesn't see herself as having a problem. Instead she has learned how to flow with her emotions and put them to good use, with coping skills to avoid going too far. As a drawback, though, Waverly has to work harder to maintain any kind of interpersonal relationship. She is a lesbian, but so far has had no luck holding onto a girlfriend for more than a few months due to her mood swings. She does have a lot of friends among her neighbors, who tolerate her tempestuous nature and help her stay in balance.
She is a talented artist who works in paint, photography, and other media. Some of her work is abstract, some representational, some a combination. It tends toward a raucous commentary on modern society. Waverly rents an office space along the atrium, done up as an art studio. On good days, she leaves the door open so neighbors can watch her paint, or even offers lessons. On bad days, she closes the door and throws paint at the walls. Sometimes when she gets on a roll, she can paint for two days straight, then crash and sleep for a whole day. The business area is in what used to be a closet, protected by double doors. Some of her smaller paintings hang in Reach for the Sky, the shop that sells crafts made by the residents. The large ones go to galleries where they command respectable prices.
Waverly's appearance varies radically depending on mood. When painting, she usually dresses in rags: ripped jeans and old tank-tops, all splattered with paint. Sometimes she dresses in lesbian chic: slogan tops or tailored shirts over snug pants. Other times she goes bohemian with peasant blouses and flowing skirts. Often she dresses all in one color for a day. Occasionally she combines very loud contrasts like violet, fuschsia, and yellow.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Artist, Good (+2) Coping Skills, Good (+2) Raising Succulent Plants, Good (+2) Stamina, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Labile Mood

* * *

Body autonomy is a crucial human right, for children as well as adults, if you want people to understand and respect consent. It is neither fair nor effective to violate people's body autonomy repeatedly, and then expect them to know what healthy boundaries look like.

Clipping entails the removal of superpowers, helpfully or harmfully, and it's more often harmful than helpful. For inspiration, I used some figures from safe and unsafe abortion.

Most attention focuses on the exciting superpowers, but they can also be trivial, useless, or actively problematic. Of course, almost any power can cause trouble if uncontrolled, but that's a different issue. In Terramagne, supernatural abilities that are purely negative are called "superdisempowers."

Chocolate soothes stress and uplifts emotional state. Enjoy a recipe for Chocolate-Frosted Éclairs.

This is Waverly's t-shirt.

Coffee is a status symbol representing adulthood. For most people, coffee is also an acquired taste.

Milk paint is typically sold in powder form. Some versions use lime for a stronger bond, but then you have to be more careful not to get it on your skin, although it's still pretty safe. A lime-free recipe is better if you need skin contact. Glazes may be used on top of milk paint for protection or special effects.

Art therapy offers many benefits. Read some exercises or watch a video.

Pricing art can be challenging for artists. There are different methods that work. Waverly sensibly charges more for her meticulous work which takes a lot of time, than for freestyle painting like this which can cover a large surface much faster. This one will probably go up with a starting price of at least $1000 due to the large size, but it could easily go for several times that in the first sale if the gallery allows tag bidding. It's actually worth a lot more because it's such an iconic rendition of superpower issues, but most people won't realize that for a while.

Frisket is a masking material that L-America offers in liquid or film versions. SillyPutty can also be used for masking. T-America offers frisket string which is convenient for making narrow stripes or for sealing the edges of large areas to be filled in with liquid or film.

Colors have emotional symbolism. Payne's grey is a dark bluish grey with a somber mood. Alizarin crimson is a deep purplish red that is sullen if undiluted, although it comes up a more cheerful pinkish tone if lightened. Milk paint should be layered from dark to light.

Textured paint offers many exciting finishes. You can manipulate paint with numerous tools, or mix additives into it. Here is a guide to using fingerpaint textures.

Women are called "abrasive" and penalized for doing things that men are praised for doing. Grit is a useful personality trait that enables people to persist despite adversity -- for example, Cassandra's determination to escape from her domineering parents -- and it typically develops as a response to hardships.

Chrome yellow is sometimes called primrose.

Van Gogh Foam, colloquially called go-foam, resembles styrofoam. However, if you press a stylus into one side, it makes a distinct ridge on the other side -- which will slowly subside back into the flat sheet after a few minutes. So you can scribble on it, set it aside, and reuse the same piece later. Kids love it. It's just a craft/play application of cheap memory foam that was developed for padding delicate things. It can also be chopped up and used to texture paint.

Here are some different green paints.

Orange dilutes to peach. This lovely video demonstrates mixing different shades of peach and pink.

"Don't touch the model" is a basic point of fine art etiquette for working with live models, especially nudes. While not an absolute, it is the standard for professionals, and any desired deviations should be negotiated beforehand. Some models are very fussy about maintaining boundaries. Others really don't care about platonic handling.

Pearl mist delivers a beautiful shimmery effect.

Enjoy a recipe for Italian Meatball Sandwiches.

T-America has cash cards which can be bought and reloaded similar to gift cards, but are as anonymous as paper cash and usable anywhere with a swiper. L-America has reloadable prepaid cards, but they are inferior and require a lot of personal information, so they don't really substitute for cash.
Tags: art, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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