Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Right and Responsibility"

This poem is spillover from the March 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] stardreamer. It has been sponsored by EdorFaus. This poem belongs to the Damask thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, and it's a direct sequel to "The Inheritor of Our Fear" so read that one first or this one will make no sense.

"Right and Responsibility"

When Mallory woke up, she was
stretched out on the futon -- which was
still in couch mode, rather than bed mode --
and covered with her new peach blanket,
the fabric warm and fuzzy under her fingers.

Heron was gone, but had left a note
promising to keep her updated
on yesterday's events.

Thankfully her stomach had settled too.
Mallory spared a moment's intense gratitude
that Heron's persistent efforts had reduced
the morning sickness to something that only
flared up under stress or strong smells.

She padded into the bathroom, peeled off
yesterday's scuzzy clothes, then stepped into
the tiny shower wedged into a corner.

Dressing in clean clothes made her feel better,
and finally she went downstairs in search of breakfast.

Maisie was in the kitchen, although it
could have been Clement or Maze or Mira
actually cooking. The tidy row of cooking utensils
still waiting for use had to be Clarity's hand.

The smell of waffles filled the room, and several bottles of
syrup already stood on the table -- the golden bottle
of Massachusetts maple syrup, fresh from this season,
courtesy of Danielle's Eastbord relatives; Heron's mason jar
of homemade birch syrup, nearly black; and finally
the deep purple blackberry syrup from Wholesome Joe's.

"Feeling up to breakfast? Heron said you were
sick yesterday." That was Clement, through and through.
"I'm making waffles if you want some."

Mallory's mouth watered. "Yes, please."

"Ham says he's sorry that he couldn't be there
for you when the shit hit the fan," Clement relayed.

"Yeah well, That Guy got what he had coming
anyway," Mallory reported. "Ham can take a turn
the next time somebody wants a piece of me."

"He'll hold you to that, you know."

"I'm smooth with it," Mallory said.
"So, waffles?"

"Waffles," Clement agreed, as he shifted
a perfect golden-brown offering onto her plate.

Mallory started with the delicate maple syrup,
enjoying its subtle yet complex flavor
over the crisp-tender texture of the bread.

Soon Clement settled across from her,
their toes just touching under the table.
Evidently everyone else had already
eaten and left for classes. Mallory
felt no need to fill the air with idle talk,
but the companionable silence felt good.

After they finished breakfast, it was
Maze who put the dishes in the sink
and headed out the door.

Even after her morning shower,
Mallory still felt vaguely dirty.
She ambled over to the chore board
to see what needed attention.
Sometimes cleaning other things
helped her feel cleaner, too.

She had largely given up dusting
and left that to other people,
but "clean the floors" and
"polish the furniture" were
both still available.

Mallory secretly loved
the new cleaning supplies
that Heron kept bringing over
in ones and twos, even after
the boxloads of stuff they'd
picked up in Onion City.

They smelled pleasantly of citrus
and didn't irritate her lungs the way
the harsh chemicals had before,
especially when she remembered
to cover her face with the silk scarf.

Mallory hummed a little as she swiped
a damp mop across the hardwood floors,
then used a cloth to go over the piano in
the dining room and the curving banister
of the big staircase that began in the foyer.

She went back to the chore board
and snagged "water the plants."
As Mallory worked, she let her
fingertips trace over the leaves
and the surface of the potting soil.

There was the large floor plant
in the living room and the cluster
of hanging plants in the corner that
Walden and Paige had assembled,
a trio hanging in the kitchen, and
a bunch out on the front porch.
Then came the spider plant in
the second-floor bathroom.

Danielle also had several trailing plants
in shadowboxes in her room, but
Mallory left those alone.

After finishing the plants,
she washed her hands again,
and finally felt clean.

Mallory flopped onto the couch and
browsed through the television channels
until she found a marathon showing of
post-apocalyptic bombs from the 2000s.
Happily she settled in to watch The Aftermoth,
in which civilization was destroyed by a plague of moths.

Next came Moonshatter, a live-action remake of
Thundarr the Barbarian that boasted enough
cheese to cover a pizza. Going Postapo wasn't
a real favorite of hers, but in her current mood
she enjoyed it as a spoof of the genre.

The explosions almost covered the sound
of the front door opening. Mallory craned
her neck to look, and saw Heron come in
with a bag of groceries on his hip. "I'm glad
to see you resting quietly," he said.

She twitched her shoulder at him.
"Got up, showered, ate breakfast, did some
housework, then decided that I deserved a treat."

"So you do," Heron agreed. "Have you had
lunch yet? There's a two-for-one sale at
Wholesome Joe's, but I can't eat two of
everything and I don't feel like feeding
the lazy, bottomless pits at my place."

Mallory followed him into the kitchen
where he unpacked a head of celery,
a bunch of pale yellow carrots, a bag
of apples, and a jar of peanut butter.

"I saw the peanut butter, then picked out
fresh produce that would go with it,"
Heron explained as he started reducing
everything to neat slices and sticks.

"Thanks," Mallory said. "I'm sure that
Josephine will be thrilled with whatever
we don't devour ourselves."

They piled the bounty onto a platter,
added handfuls of crackers and pretzels,
opened the peanut butter, and then
carried everything into the living room.

"Lunch is served," Heron declared.

"And a tasty lunch it is," Mallory said as she
popped an apple slice in her mouth. "So what's up?"

"Officer Morisett called me today," Heron said.
"The hospital released that guy who attacked you
into police custody, so they arrested him on grounds
of assault, and their staff is working out what
other charges they can add to that."

Mallory's gaze dropped to her hands,
folded over her belly. "That's good to know."

"It's up to you whether or not you want to tell them
about your pregnancy," Heron said. "You're not obligated
to give up intimate details about your health, although it
might come up in the investigation when they talk to people
at the Sanger Women's Center. Even without the fetal rider,
they've got enough to put him away for a long time."

"I'll think about it," Mallory hedged. She still felt
uncomfortable talking about the pregnancy directly,
because of all the awful memories it dredged up.

She knew about the fetal rider laws, though, which
raised penalties for harming or threatening to harm
anyone with a wanted pregnancy. That had actually
come from a long, ugly set of legal battles over cloning --
both voluntary and involuntary -- which established
a person's right to make their own reproductive decisions,
including the rights to refuse reproduction and to reject
a particular partner. With the parent's will formalized
as the qualification, that allowed lawmakers to extend
extra protections to crime victims who were pregnant.

Mallory might not have agreed to the act that
made her pregnant, but now that she was,
she'd deal with it. Somehow. She didn't care
what the law said about her right to terminate;
it still felt like murder to her, and there were
some things that she just wouldn't do.

"Okay," Heron said, picking up a pretzel.
"I just wanted to keep you posted."

"I'm kind of surprised that you went so far
with That Guy," said Mallory. "You really
fucked him up. Okay, he deserved it. Ham
would have beaten the shit out of him.
I just ... wasn't expecting it from you.
Before you always seemed so gentle."

"I'm gentle when I can afford to be,"
Heron said. "Other times I'm not. He tried
to kill you and your baby. I figure that a few hours
of severe discomfort and a lingering recovery
is fair punishment for that offense."

"You make it sound like a court sentence,"
Mallory said. "What gives you the right
to pass judgment like that? You don't
seem like a 'Might makes right' kind of guy."

"Power doesn't give right. It gives
responsibility," Heron said solemnly.
"The responsibility gives you the right.
So if you don't accept the responsibility,
you don't get the right."

Mallory blinked. She had never
thought of it like that before.
"Huh," she said, and grabbed
a carrot stick to cover her
sudden lack of composure.

"In my family, we talk about this stuff
all the time," Heron said. "I grew up on
logic puzzles and ethical dilemmas. It's
one way my parents keep us from asking
'Are we there yet?' every five minutes
in the car. 'What about the consequences?'
is a lot more fun, and it's useful too."

It was a little less impossible to think about
with someone who actually knew the territory.

"I guess if That Guy tries to bother us again, he'll
just get his clock cleaned all over," Mallory said.
"I kind of wish that I hadn't done anything where
he could see, though. It creeps me out that he
knows about my power, or thinks he does."

"He may not remember," Heron said,
layering a cracker with peanut butter
and half of an apple slice. "A jolt like that
can scramble memories. It's kind of like
getting hit with a taser, in that regard,
which is a lot worse than a zatzer.
There are soups with electrokinesis
who can actually mimic a taser."

Mallory had heard of that, and worse,
from her supervillain friends. Then again,
they hadn't really been her friends, had they?
She felt safer with Heron, even if he had
just jazzed someone into next month.

She scooched a little closer to him,
and Heron affably put his arm across
the back of the couch so that she could
get more comfortable, without making it
look like he was going to grab her.

He really made a great backrest.

"Yeah, that's a nice thought," Mallory said.
She stuck finger into the little jar of peanut butter
to scoop the last of it into her mouth. "So what
are you planning to do with the rest of the veggies?"

"How about soup?" Heron suggested. "If we
use canned beans, we can stick it in the crock pot
and have it ready by suppertime, without anyone
needing to stand over it in the kitchen. I chop,
you find things in the pantry and cabinets?"

"Deal," Mallory said, already thinking ahead
to the cannelloni and canned tomatoes and
the familiar sound of Heron's hands at work.

* * *


Enjoy a Belgian Waffle recipe.

Massachusetts Maple Syrup comes in several grades. Here's what Mallory is having.

Birch Syrup is hard to find in stores, but you can make your own.

Blackberry Syrup is another tasty waffle topping. Make your own, and you get both a clear syrup and stewed berries.

Healing after an assault can be complicated because humiliation often makes people feel dirty. Housecleaning and bathing help people feel good and clean again. So do body-cleansing foods and activities. Purifying rituals appeal to some people, and there are other ideas too. When you feel dirty, try different solutions until you find something that helps.

Household chores typically get divided based on frequency and who is responsible for doing them.

Natural floor cleaner and furniture polish are available. Many nontoxic solutions improve living for people with allergies. Know your triggers! For some people, harsh chemicals cause a reaction; for others, it's citrus fruits or something else. Mallory reacts badly to many chemicals but is fine with citrus.

The household has a floor plant and hanging plants in the living room, more in the kitchen (left picture) and Danielle's bedroom (right picture), plus the front porch. There is also a plant stand in the second-floor bathroom.

Thundarr the Barbarian is a classic of science fantasy.

Many easily digestible foods make great lunches.

Human cloning and male pregnancy complicate body autonomy in Terramagne. Consider the legal ramifications of cloning. Some people believe that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

Tuscan Vegetable Soup can be made on the stove or in a crockpot. Since dried beans take a long time to soak and cook, switching to canned beans is a great time-saver.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, food, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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