Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "To Keep Growing"

This poem came out of the June 2, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] mdlbear. It also fills the "socialize" square in my 5-20-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Danso and Family thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, this time featuring Cassandra and Groundhog.

"To Keep Growing"

It was a struggle for Cassandra
to let Aidan help her, but the choices
were either that or live with the wreck
that the clipper had left of her superpower
and the rest of herself around it.

Sometimes his gentle charm lulled her enough
that she could forget about the embarrassment
of having him know everything about her all at once,
the resentment that nobody had helped her before
her parents paid people to hurt her so badly.

Other times the awful feelings welled up
until she threw things at him, rage and grief
and the worst memories from suppression therapy.

There was a place inside him that he showed her,
a forest thick with mist and mossy trees, where
the leaves made a brown mattress on the ground
that could swallow up memories no matter how harsh.
In one forgotten grotto, a sapling as thick as her thigh
grew through the hood of a rusting car.

"You can learn to do this too," Aidan assured her.
"Visualization is a skill, not a superpower. I just happen
to have a power that lets me share mine with people."

Cassandra looked down at the thing she had meant
to throw at him -- the realization that flight was
turning her parents against her, manifested as
a broken jar of strawberry jam -- and bent down
to lay it on the ground instead. The sweet red sauce
still stuck to her skin and the sharp shards of glass.

"I don't feel any better," she said.

"It takes time," Aidan said, "but look."
He pointed to a sprig of green at the base of
a nearby tree. "Those are wild strawberry plants."

The whole first three days that she stayed with Groundhog
were a blur of wandering from couch to kitchen to bathroom
and then back to the couch to sleep some more.

The blue chamomile helped, though, and
so did whatever Aidan was doing inside her.

By the fourth morning, Cassandra felt
more restless than sore and tired, and
the raw edge where her superpower had been
now felt like the itchy stage of a recovering sunburn.

"I'm bored," she complained.

"Do you want to go exploring?"
Groundhog asked.

"I thought you didn't like going out,"
Cassandra said, one foot
kicking the couch.

"I don't feel like going outdoors today,
but there's a whole apartment building
that you haven't seen yet," he said.
"It's not good for me to stay in here
for very long. It gets too tempting to hide."

"Why do you push yourself so hard?"
Cassandra asked. "I mean, you have
a nice place here; you could just stay in it.
You've got teleporter friends who would even
carry you to and from your job. Why go out
when it's rough on you, when you don't have to?"

"I believe that we have to keep growing,"
Groundhog said, "like sharks have
to keep swimming, or else we'll die."

Cassandra shivered. She used to be
always moving until the counselors
had punished her for fidgeting.
"Yeah, I get it," she said.

"Get dressed," said Groundhog.
"I'll give you the grand tour."

He brought her a charcoal shirt that said
Wild Spirit above a bedraggled feather,
which went with her least-dirty pair of jeans.

"I need to do laundry," she muttered.

"Bundle it up, and I'll grab mine,"
Groundhog said. "There's a Laundromat."
He led her out the door into the hall.

Cassandra caught her breath in wonder.
The inside of the apartment building opened up
into a vast atrium with ferns and palm trees
down below, and above, panels of clear glass
with a stained glass medallion in the center.

"I thought you picked this place because
it had the least-viewy kitchen!" she said.
"This is beyond viewy, it's cinematic."

"But I only have to look at it when I choose to,"
Groundhog said gently. "This way, I have
a safe place indoors that doesn't feel cramped.
I used to be terrified of open spaces too, but
I feel really secure in here, because even if I
could fly, I couldn't disappear into the sky.
It has a lot of amenities too. Come on."

He had to tow her by the hand because
she kept rubbernecking at the glass ceiling
and the curling banisters of the gallery.
"How can you even afford to live here?" she said.

"Well, it's complicated," said Groundhog.
"SPOON pays me handsomely, so that helps.
This place actually favors fliers, which gets me
a discount even though I can't actually fly now.
The apartments are great, but the location is not
convenient to mass transit. Many of the amenities
are either run by some of the tenants or paid for
based on what you want to use, so they don't drive up
everyone's rent. Not all the fixtures are modernized --
it gets voted down because it would raise the rent."

"It's still amazing," Cassandra said.

"Also there's only one elevator," said Groundhog,
"so this is a walkup except for people with disabilities
or more packages than they can carry in one trip."

"Okay, that would cut the rent a lot," she agreed.

Groundhog led Cassandra to the front entrance.
"It's easiest to orient from here," he explained.
"First aid station on your left, post office on the right."

"Did that use to be a door?" Cassandra asked,
looking at the glitter of dichroic glass paneling ahead.

"Yeah, closing it off made people slow down," he said.
"It boosts socializing and reduces accidents.
Ladies' room to the left, gents' to the right, and
both hallways lead into the atrium." They went right.

Inside the atrium, Cassandra could see why
Groundhog liked it so much. A wide brick path
held tables and chairs, even a few sky chairs,
amongst clusters of plants. People strolled by,
occasionally stopping to chat with each other.
From the skylight overhead, sunshine filtered down
through the lacy green leaves of the indoor trees.
It was airy without being actually open.

"It must cost a lot to maintain this," she said.

"Remember what I said earlier?" Groundhog said.
"A tenant who raises hothouse plants rents
that big cluster of palm trees, and another
who raises fancy goldfish rents the fishpond.
They take care of those amenities, which make
good advertising for their businesses, and then
the rest of us can enjoy them without extra cost."

"That's really smart," Cassandra said.

"Down the left side, that's mostly business,"
Groundhog said, waving a hand at it.
"Jack's Magic Beans is our coffee stall,
rented and run by a collective of residents.
Curly Q's is a multipurpose salon, also collective.
Reach for the Sky is a boutique selling all kinds
of stuff made by different people who live here.
The Conference Room is rentable space.
Beyond that it's all offices, except for the one
that Waverly Varo has turned into an art studio."

"It's almost like a little village," Cassandra said.
She wondered if any of the places might be hiring,
but didn't think she was quite up to working yet.

"It gets better," said Groundhog. "On the right
we have the Reading Room, paper and electronic both.
The Contemplation Room is open to any quiet activity.
Then comes the Laundromat. The Music Room
hosts a lot of socializing. The Teen Lounge and
the Children's Playroom give younger residents
some space where they won't bother busy adults."

"We need to do laundry," Cassandra said,
remembering the pillowcase of grungy clothes
that she had slung over her shoulder.
She headed toward the Laundromat.

Then she heard the music.
Someone was playing the piano.
Cassandra peeked into the Music Room
to see a blonde woman sitting at the keyboard.

"That's Rachael Banigan," said Groundhog.
"She's a nurse who often volunteers
in the first aid station here."

The music was light and lilting,
enough to lift Cassandra's spirits.

Then they had to step aside for
a young woman with short chestnut hair
and a paint-spattered t-shirt that said,
The Earth without art is just "eh."

"Waverly, this is Cassandra, who is
staying with me for a while," said Groundhog.
"Cassandra, Waverly is the artist I told you about."

"Hi, nice to meet you, I really need to let the art out,"
Waverly said as she eeled between them,
sketchbook tapping against her thigh.

"Okay, we won't keep you," Groundhog said.
As they headed back toward the Laundromat
he explained to Cassandra, "Waverly has labile moods.
When she needs to create, it can get pretty urgent.
She probably wants to sketch Rachael."

"It's good to have another artist around,"
Cassandra said. Maybe Waverly
would let her watch some time.

When they reached the Laundromat,
Groundhog held up a plastic card.
"The machines run on coins for
occasional use, or cards for regulars
which is a lot cheaper. What say
I pay, and you do the laundry?"

"Oh. That's fair," Cassandra said.
She had been prepared for
an embarrassing discussion
about her continued lack of funds.

Then she noticed that the man
bending over a basket of laundry
was very distinctly pear-shaped.

"Is he pregnant?" she whispered
to Groundhog. That was rare,
but not altogether unheard-of.

"Yes, that's Yona," said Groundhog.
"He lives here with his wife Bryony
and their husband Troy and five kids.
Troy is a blue plate, goes by Highliner --
he's my Flight mentor too."

Yona straightened up and smiled at them,
his long brown ponytail falling to his hips.
His black t-shirt said, I grow people.
What's your superpower?

"Good morning, Eunan," he said.
"Got a new couch guest, or
is she just visiting?"

"This is Cassandra, and she's welcome
to stay as long as she needs," said Groundhog.

"Do you hug?" Yona said, opening his arms.

Cassandra usually didn't, but he looked
as comfortable as a couch, so she nodded.
Yona hugged her very gently and very warmly.
He was soft and squashy except for
the prominent baby bump.

It made her wish that she could have
someone in her life who would
hug her like that and mean it.

Quickly Cassandra turned her attention
back to the laundry so that she wouldn't
start crying and make a scene.

The big blue-and-white room
held a respectable selection
of washers and dryers surrounded
by ample countertop space for folding.
It only took Cassandra a few minutes
to figure out how to set up the washers.

Then she felt a tug at her pocket,
lifting the phone that Aidan had given her.
"Hey! Give that back!" Cassandra exclaimed.

The thief was less than three feet high.

The tiny girl giggled as she scampered away,
trying to unlock the screen as she ran,
her brown curls bouncing around her shoulders.

Yona gave them a look of fond exasperation.
"Miriel, honey, give back the phone," he said.

"Shiny!" said Miriel. The phone chimed.
She'd actually gotten into it somehow.

"Yes, I know it is, but it's not ours,"
Yona said as he plucked it away
and handed it back to Cassandra.
"Sorry about that. She doesn't really
understand personal property yet,
and anything electrical fascinates her."

"Don't stand near her on a carpet,"
Groundhog said dryly. "She'll zap you."

Instead of throwing a tantrum,
Miriel had switched to playing with
the controls of the nearest dryer,
fortunately not one in use.

"Do you want to go downstairs
and see the basement amenities
while we wait for our clothes to wash?"
Groundhog asked Cassandra.

"You mean there's more?" she said.

"Yes, the less-physical stuff is up here,
with the more-physical activities down there,"
said Groundhog. "I like being able to get
exercise even if I'm not up to going outdoors."

"Sure, show me the works," said Cassandra.

Once again Groundhog started at the same end
of the building. "This is actually the extra entrance.
The main entrance on this floor is in the middle and
lets into the lobby near the elevator. Here we have
the Game Room on the left and the Exercise Room
on the right." As they walked, the narrow hall
opened up into another wide space dotted
with clusters of chairs and tables.

"Auxiliary Gym and Main Gym?" she said.

"Yeah, the little one has two handball courts
and the big one is for basketball and stuff,"
said Groundhog as they strolled past.
"Here's the elevator and the locker rooms
on the left, and then the Computer Lab."

Cassandra missed having a proper computer.
"Can I come down here, or is it tenants only?"

"Tenants and guests," Groundhog said.
"I can get you a card for the facilities.
The big glass room on the right is the office,
and to the left is the classroom."

"What kind of classes do they have?"
Cassandra asked, looking at the schedule.
"Oh, it's all civics stuff ... I was hoping for art."

"Waverly does arts and crafts sometimes too,"
Groundhog said. "On the right there's the Social Hall
with a kitchen in back. That's where they offer
cooking lessons, and bake the pastries for
Jack's Magic Beans upstairs."

"Cooking could be fun," said Cassandra
as they walked past stairs and more bathrooms.

"I wouldn't mind attending with you,
if you want company," he said.
"To the left is the community lounge,
and then at the end that little room
is for yoga and aerobics classes."

"No wonder you don't need to go out,"
said Cassandra, admiring the options
as they turned around to walk back.

"Some of the teens and seniors
hire out to run errands or do odd jobs,"
said Groundhog. "If I need something,
it's easy to get people to bring it to me."

"They don't mind?" she said.
"You don't mind them knowing ...
about all your problems?"

"It's not really a secret that can be kept,
or is safe to keep," he said. "If I crash,
my neighbors need to know why,
what to do to help me, and then
who to call if I don't bounce back fast."

"I guess that makes sense," Cassandra said.
She hadn't really thought about how limiting
those fears could get if he just let them go,
or how much planning it took so that he
could stretch his boundaries safely.
"Do you ... want me to do that stuff too,
or should I just stay out of the way?"

Groundhog smiled at her, a little shy.
"Give me your phone," he said.
Cassandra did. He poked at the screen
and then said, "See, Aidan already
loaded everything so all I had to do was
unlock it for you. Triggers and symptoms,
short list and long list for what helps,
and my emergency numbers."

"There's a flying list?" Cassandra said,
frowning at the unexpected page.

"Highliner insists that I still have Flight,
I just can't access my superpower now,"
Groundhog explained. "So yeah, he made
that checklist for me just in case it kicks
back on. Anything people see could
help us learn more about my gift
and what's going on with it."

"Good luck, for whatever you want,"
Cassandra said softly.

When they came to the Game Room,
she looked inside and found a wealth of
plain tables plus dedicated ones for
games like pool and pinball, a couple
of multipurpose gaming tables, and
even two more gizmotronic ones.
One wall held shelves of games
and gaming handbooks.

"If you want to meet people, this is
a great place to come in the evenings,"
Groundhog said. "It's usually empty
in the mornings like this, if you
would rather play solitaire games."

"Maybe a little of each?" Cassandra said.
"I still don't feel all that well, but I don't
want to become a hermit either."

"Have I kept you out too long?"
Groundhog said. "Our washing
is probably done by now."

"I'm getting tired," she admitted.
"This is the most I've walked
since before I got to SPOON."

"Need to take the elevator?"
he asked. "It's okay if you're sick."

Cassandra shook her head.
"I can handle a few stairs."

Once they got back to the Laundromat,
she pulled armloads of wet clothes
out of the washers and put them
into the dryers to tumble.

Then she noticed that Yona
had spread his legs like
a giraffe trying to get a drink
as he stretched for a bra
that had landed on the floor,
still a handspan away.

"Here, let me get that,"
Cassandra said as she knelt
to retrieve it for him.

"Thank you," he said fervently.
"My little helper has abandoned me
in favor of a friend with blinky things."
He tipped his head toward where Miriel
sat beside an older boy, gazing at
the tablet computer he held out.

"Want some help folding?" she asked.
"We've got nothing to do while ours dry."
As much as she loved the amenities,
Cassandra really wanted to sit down.

"Sure, thanks," said Yona. "Listen,
you can tell me to mind my own business ...
but you both look kind of tired.
Anybody want to talk?"

"Yona's safe, so it's up to you,"
Groundhog murmured to Cassandra,
then turned to Yona. "Yeah, it's been
a rough few days for me. There was
a shakeup at work that left me
really wanting to dig in for a while."

"I'm sorry to hear that, and happy
to see you walking around again,"
Yona said as he paired socks.

Cassandra listened to the two men
talking while she folded an assortment
of brightly colored children's clothes,
hoping she was doing it right.

Yona sounded like a mother.

Well, technically, he was a male mother,
baby on board and everything, but the way
he talked just reminded Cassandra of
the soccer moms gathering around
when one of them had a hard time.

As she listened, she learned that Yona
taught part-time at a school for at-risk children
and was planning to take paternity leave
to be a househusband while the baby was little.

Maybe he wouldn't freak out if she mentioned
some of the things she'd gone through ...
or then again, maybe he'd freak out worse.

Cassandra would wait and see.
Meanwhile, his voice was soothing.

Then a cheer went up from the handful of people
sitting at tables outside the glass wall of the Laundromat.
Everyone immediately set aside their laundry or books
as if they all recognized the sound as interesting.

"Come on, let's go see what they're up to
before they stop," Groundhog said with a grin
as Yona hoisted Miriel onto his hip and they
urged Cassandra toward the door.

High overhead, a man was flying.

He swooped gracefully under the glass ceiling, and
a hot pink streamer fluttered from one ankle.

Behind him flew a white bird speckled with black,
a neon blue streamer trailing from her leg.

As the small crowd watched, the bird
darted forward to snatch the pink ribbon,
a small piece of which broke off.

"Streamer tag," Yona explained.
"First one to tear all the paper
off their opponent is the winner."

"The man is Yona's husband Highliner,
and the bird is Gyre in her gyrfalcon form,"
Groundhog said, watching them.

"You okay looking up today?" Yona asked
as he put a hand on Groundhog's shoulder.

"Yeah, I'm good," said Groundhog,
though he leaned into the touch
as if they did this often.

Cassandra looked up, following them
with her eyes as they spun and dove.

It made her heart ache, wishing
that she could join them, that just once
she could have played with another flier.

"Hey, Cassandra, are you all right?"
Groundhog asked, looking worried.

"Yeah. Why?" she said, without
taking her eyes off the show.

"You're crying."

She touched her cheek.
It was wet.

"I'm happy to see them --
to see someone getting
to do that," she said.
"I just wish -- I'd gotten
to try it myself --"

Her throat closed around the words.

They were beautiful and free,
but she couldn't keep watching them
or she would fall apart completely.

Cassandra slipped back inside
the Laundromat and sat down.
She concentrated on smoothing out
her breathing, the way Aidan showed her.
It helped a little bit.

To her surprise, Groundhog
and Yona both followed her.
"Too much excitement?"
Groundhog asked.

Cassandra nodded.

"Go on upstairs," Yona said gently.
"I'll drop off your laundry when it's done.
You helped fold mine, so it's fair trade."

"Thank you," said Groundhog
as he coaxed Cassandra
toward the door.

As soon as they reached the apartment,
she flopped onto the couch.
"I feel like an idiot."

"Overload is not fun," Groundhog said.
"We made it through both amenity floors,
though, even got the laundry washed and
into the dryer. Those are accomplishments."

"Laundry is an accomplishment?"
Cassandra asked.

"It's more than we did yesterday,"
Groundhog pointed out. "Does it
make you think less of me for
counting things like that?"

Something in his tone pulled her
out of her wad of self-pity.

He was serious, she realized,
which meant that somebody really had
put him down for ... what? Needing
to stay home once in a while because
a lousy childhood experience sometimes
whacked him over the head? It wasn't
like he had let it keep him inside.

That pinged against her own experience.

Maybe it didn't matter that she'd gone out
and gotten a bit overwhelmed at the end.

Maybe the important thing was simply that
she'd made the effort to keep growing.

"No, it doesn't make me think less of you,"
Cassandra said firmly. "It makes me think more.
This calls for chocolate and a movie."

Groundhog smiled at her,
that edge of wariness melting away.
"I'll get the chocolate, you pick the movie?"

"Deal," said Cassandra.

She put in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.
It had a little flight, a big sky, and a lot of freedom.

Groundhog came back with two chocolate bars
from the assortment of goodies that various friends
had been sending to him over the last few days.
He really had the most amazing friends.

Then he handed her the Theo Coffee Dark Chocolate.

"Thank you," said Cassandra, letting
the rich flavor roll over her tongue
as she started the movie.

Groundhog sat down beside her
with his own Scharffenberger Extra Dark.

Cassandra snuggled against him.
If she couldn't be a superhero herself,
well, at least she could be friends with one.

* * *


Rachael Banigan -- She has pinkish-fair skin, blue eyes, and shoulder-length blonde hair. She is married with two young sons. She and her family are Jewish; her appearance sometimes makes people doubt her ethnicity. They live in the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City. Rachael often volunteers at the building's first aid station.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Nurse, Good (+2) Citizen Responder, Good (+2) Confidence, Good (+2) Pianist
Poor (-2) I Am TOO a Real Jew!

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. Her "business" area is actually a converted closet, with doors that close to protect it from flying paint. She uses movable, folding screens for privacy and protection of other things in the 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. 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, fuchsia, 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

Gyre (Beverly Raz) -- She has fair skin, dark eyes, and short straight white-blonde hair. She is middle-aged. She lives in the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment where Groundhog lives. Her apartment is on the level just below the penthouse; those top two floors are reserved for fliers first, although others can rent them if no fliers are currently interested. Gyre works as a messenger and a scout, primarily in the business realm, although she also volunteers at SPOON sometimes. She lives alone, but works in shapeshifter rescue so she often has someone crashing with her on a temporary basis.
Origin: In college, she started out studying nature. While surveying a gyrfalcon nest, she lost her grip and fell -- then transformed in mid-air. After that, she began doing odd jobs with her talent, such as carrying packages, and switched her major to business so as to develop the necessary skills for marketing her talents.
Uniform: Usually businesswear in human form. In gyrfalcon form, she may go nude or wear equipment for securing a message or other small package.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Businesswoman, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Naturalist, Good (+2) Reliable
Poor (-2) Tolerating Vegetarians
Powers: Good (+2) Shapeshifting: Gyrfalcon
Motivation: To help other shapeshifters.

Highliner (Troy Carris) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair that throws a five-o-clock shadow across his face not long after lunchtime. He is married with a wife, Bryony; and a husband, Yona. He is bisexual and bisensual. Troy is the biological father of Bryony's three daughters (ages 11, 8, and 2) and Yona's two sons (ages 14 and 5). His husband Yona is pregnant again (yes, really; the boys have two biological fathers). The oldest son has just entered high school and is also pursuing zetetics; he wants to work for a police department, as the demand for zeteticists far exceeds the supply there. The youngest daughter, a toddler, is fascinated by electricity and keeps trying to explore it, so all the electrical fixtures in the penthouse have child-safety covers and Troy is trying to get all the public parts of the building kitted out too. They live in the penthouse floor of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment as Groundhog.
He enjoys hiking and rock climbing as hobbies, always free-climbing because he dislikes the hassle of ropes. (He has an ongoing argument with a friend who's a climbing instructor: "It's not like I can fall if I lose my grip." "And what if you crack your head? You can't fly if you're out cold!")
Highliner works as a lineman for the Onion City electrical services, traveling around if necessary to deal with situations where his Flight is particularly useful. He tends to fly up to a trouble area, but usually uses a belt seat while working so that he doesn't push himself away from the pole. Sometimes he volunteers at SPOON when they need a flier or a zetetic consultant. He is currently studying zetetic theory in an attempt to expand his knowledge of electricity into true gizmology, or better yet, super-gizmology, but he's not quite there yet.
Origin: While repairing electrical lines during a storm, he was electrocuted by a power surge caused when lightning struck a nearby part of the system. Paramedics were able to revive him, and when he recovered, he had superpowers.
Uniform: For linework and most superhero tasks, he wears blue-collar work clothes. At home, he favors casual wear -- in warm weather, t-shirts with characters or slogans on them; in cold weather, flannels with fun patches on the pockets.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Family Man, Expert (+4) Lineman, Good (+2) Communication Fetish, Good (+2) Compassion, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Zetetics
Poor (-2) Can't Swim
Powers: Good (+2) Control Electricity, Good (+2) Flight
Motivation: To keep watch from above.

Yona Carris -- He has fair skin, golden-brown eyes, and wavy brown hair clear down to his butt. He is of Jewish heritage but not observant, a refugee whose family escaped from Israel when he was a toddler, because his older brother developed Healing powers. Because of his family's traumatic background Yona is sensitive about how badly Israel treats soups in particular and gentiles in general. He teaches part time at a school for at-risk children.
Yona has a husband and a wife, Bryony. He is homosexual and bisensual. He is the biological mother of two sons (ages 14 and 5) and is pregnant again, plus a social parent of Bryony's three daughters. He's never managed to lose all the baby fat before getting pregnant again, and doesn't care that it makes him a little squashy. (His wife and husband think it's adorable.) Unlike the common tendency for soup pregnancies to be difficult and/or delicate, Yona's superpowers make his easy and safe. He enjoys being pregnant. They don't know yet whether either of his sons will inherit his superpower (or a different one). While on paternity leave, he is the househusband, and even while working he does a lot of the cooking and other homemaking. They live in the penthouse floor of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment as Groundhog.
Origin: As far as anyone knows, Yona was born with the potential for Male Pregnancy, although it did not become physically obvious until he conceived for the first time. (Surprise!) The Super-Immunity came from the Aegis vaccine base.
Uniform: While pregnant, Yona consistently wears t-shirts that advertise the fact. His favorites include "Under Construction," "Loading ... Please Wait," "I grow people! What's your superpower?" and "I'm not fat, I'm pregnant!" modified with fabric pen to read "I'm not fat, ^ AND I'm pregnant!"
Qualities: Expert (+4) Nurturer, Expert (+4) Teacher, Good (+2) Cooperative Games, Good (+2) Cuddler, Good (+2) Emotional First Aid, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Mediator,
Poor (-2) A Shonda for the Goyim, Israel!
Powers: Good (+2) Male Pregnancy, Average (0) Super-Immunity
Motivation: Raise children to become good citizens.

Bryony Carris -- She has fair skin, green eyes, and straight brown hair that hangs just past her shoulders. She is left-handed. She is heterosexual and bisensual. Carris is her family name; her two husbands Yona and Troy both took her name, as she was already established in business and is the dominant spouse anyhow. Bryony is the biological mother of three daughters (ages 11, 8, and 2), and also a social parent of Yona's two sons. They live in the penthouse floor of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment as Groundhog. Bryony is a businesswoman who does consulting for SPOON to help manage some of the projects they use to make money for supporting their activities.
Qualities: Master (+6) Businesswoman, Expert (+4) Assertive, Expert (+4) Head of the Household, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Fighting Fair, Good (+2) Orchid Breeder, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Messy

Miriel Carris -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and curly brown hair to her shoulders. Her biological parents are Troy and Bryony Carris; she also has another social father, Yona Carris. She has two older sisters with the same mother, and two older brothers borne by Yona who is also pregant again. They live in the penthouse floor of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment as Groundhog. Miriel is fascinated by electricity and keeps trying to explore it, so all the electrical fixtures in the penthouse have child-safety covers and Troy is trying to get all the public parts of the building kitted out too.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Adorable, Expert (+4) Smart, Good (+2) Fast
Poor (-2) Electricity Is Fascinating

* * *

"The key to success is to keep growing in all areas of life - mental, emotional, spiritual, as well as physical."
-- Julius Erving

Accepting help and being vulnerable can be difficult things to learn. There are tips on how to welcome assistance and cope with vulnerability.

Visualization can be a spiritual or psychological skill. Working with images can help people to relax. Explore some visualization exercises.

See Aidan's forest, the rusted car, and the broken jar. Compare the simplicity of this interaction, where Aidan's talent carries all the weight, to the complexity that happened with Danso's compatible talent.

Staying home all the time tends to be bad for physical and mental health. There are ways to get out and interact with people, some of which lend themselves very well to the Skylark Apartment Building, which has smallish private space and generous public space.

See Cassandra's feather t-shirt.

Choosing an apartment requires various considerations such as size, age, and level of luxury. Think about which amenities are most important to you, because they tend to run up the rent. Here are some nice amenities and a look at popularity rankings.

Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City is old and full of character. Its advantages and disadvantages balance out to a rate that is neither bargain nor extravagant. This hallway extends from the front entrance of the ground floor toward the atrium. On the left as you come in is the ground floor reception desk. Next to that is the official bulletin board with building rules, announcements, the shuttle bus schedule, etc. On the right as you come in is the mail room. This decorative piece of dichroic glass fills in what used to be the central door to the atrium. The hall tees off like this to make people stop and think, not just rush into the building. The left branch goes past the women's room and the right branch goes past the men's room. Both let out into the atrium. The social bulletin board is inside the atrium, where residents can post pretty much whatever they want to communicate with other folks. Here you can see part of the gallery that gives access to the upper apartments. The chandeliers provide extra light to the atrium on cloudy days or at night. Most of the apartments take the form of narrow strips, sometimes called a "shotgun" or "bowling alley" floor plan. Groundhog's apartment is similar to this one. His entry is at the front of the living room, without losing space to stairs/foyer. The bathroom has a small frosted window. Instead of the washer/dryer he has a pantry. There is no garage.

A large, long open space in the center of the apartment building lets in light. This is covered by a glass ceiling, primarily clear with a stained glass medallion in the middle. The shape of the glass looks something like this. The medallion resembles this one. The floor of the atrium is brick, with an assortment of large potted plants, tables and chairs scattered throughout. Toward the far end from the entrance stands a cluster of palm trees surrounding a goldfish pond. In addition to the ordinary tables and chairs, the atrium also holds some sky chairs of various styles. This kind is made from canvas and comes with a footrest.

The atrium also holds the less-physical amenities. It has a row of shops and offices down the left side as you come in the main entrance, and a row of function rooms down the other side. Jack's Magic Beans Coffee Stall is on the left side of the atrium on the ground floor, rented and run by a collective of residents. The pastries offered in the display cases are cooked downstairs in the communal kitchen, as the coffee stall itself has none. Curly Q's is a multipurpose salon on the left side of the atrium, rented and run by residents. Reach for the Sky is a boutique selling resident-made crafts and other items. The Conference Room contains a large whiteboard, a long table with office chairs, and cabinets full of standard business materials. It occupies the space between the retail slots and the office slots on the left side of the atrium. Waverly Varo rents one of the office spaces on the ground floor, which she uses as an art studio. Her "business" area is actually a converted closet, with doors that close to protect it from flying paint. She uses movable, folding screens for privacy and protection of other things in the studio. This type of team office layout has a built-in wrap-around desk to accommodate multiple users. One of these is currently shared by several graphic designers. This type of private office has a corner desk and executive chair, plus a lounge area with guest chairs and a coffee table.

The Reading Room is on the right side of the atrium. Residents leave books that they like and want to recommend to others. The Contemplation Room serves as a combination meditation, prayer, and quiet room. The Laundromat provides space for people to wash, dry, and fold clothes. The glass front looks out on the atrium. The Music Room includes an upright piano and bookcases with music books along the back wall. The Teen Lounge is a communal amenity, but only the space is provided. It is furnished and maintained by the teenaged residents themselves, who are expected to meet community standards but otherwise free to stock and modify it as they see fit. An "Odd Jobs" board outside the lounge is divided into "I need someone to..." and "I can do..." sections. This arrangement is typical of teen lounges in Terramagne, which are used as "adult-in-training" opportunities for youth to learn life management skills such as housekeeping and budgeting. The Children's Playroom has a smooth floor with landscaping patterns, walls decorated with cloud patterns, and a pale blue ceiling. This room caters to residents aged 12 and under. Outside the Children's Playroom is a "Helping Hands" bulletin board listing simple tasks that the kids can do to keep the space nice.

This is Waverly's art t-shirt.

Figuring out who pays for what is part of living with a roommate, and there are tips for splitting expenses. Dividing chores with a roommate requires a similar discussion about tasks and buying supplies. One person pays and the other does the work is a popular split, especially if one roommate has more money than time and the other vice versa.

Mpreg or male pregnancy appears in the trope Mr. Seahorse, commonly involving homosexual reproduction. This is sadly disrespected in fandom, which is regrettable because the best stories in the genre examine serious sociological implications of male pregnancy. Seahorse reproduction relies on male pregnancy, and you can watch a video of a seahorse giving birth. Men with the Male Pregnancy superpower are called "seahorses," and despite their rarity they have had tremendous impact on the legal situation in Terramagne-America.

See Yona's paternity t-shirt.

Smartphones may be hazardous to toddlers, and toddlers are definitely hazardous to smartphones. While there are some apps especially for toddlers, it is probably better to invest in a toy smartphone instead. That's plenty of trouble even before adding the potential of superpowers.

Working odd jobs allows flexibility to pick and choose among many everyday tasks done for clients. It also helps build community.

The basement is the recreational floor with the more physically active function spaces. The exercise room has treadmills, free weights, punching bags, and assorted bodybuilding machines. The auxiliary gym is subdivided into two 40x20 courts for handball, racquetball, and related games. The game room includes shuffleboard, several dart boards, pool tables, air hockey, foosball, ping-pong, and a few pinball tables. The small yellow room at the end of the hall is used for yoga, aerobics, dance practice, and other freestyle activities. Social dances usually take place in either the main gym or the social hall. The kitchen is used to bake pastries for Jack's Magic Beans, which has no kitchen of its own, just a basic coffee bar and display cabinets. The side entrance is actually the main entrance for this floor, and the handicap-accessible entrance for the whole building, whose smaller front entrance to the ground floor has steps. The side entrance is convenient to the building management office in the center; to the computer lab, locker rooms, and the building's sole elevator to the right; and to the classroom and social hall on the left. The small gray square immediately to the left of the elevator has indoor bike storage that residents can rent.

A bulletin board in the gaming room organizes scheduled activities, regular gaming sessions, and occasional tournaments. There is one round multi-table with a cabinet base. There is one rectangular multi-table that crams in 34 games! There is one gizmotronic round table with a selection of games. There is one rectangular gizmotronic gaming table with mostly different games. There are also assorted round and long tables with plain tops, for playing miscellaneous games. A bookcase holds a selection of gaming handbooks, tabletop games, cards, and other materials. An organizer contains odds and ends of gaming equipment such as dice, chips, pawns, etc. for making up games on the fly.

Disability awareness enables greater community integration. While nowhere is perfect, T-America does better than L-America when it comes to community life for disabled people. There are pros and cons to telling people about your disability. It helps to know the etiquette for interacting with disabled people. Toward the goal of mainstreaming disability, ask questions about your community's accessibility and consider how to improve it.

Mental illness or injury may cause a disability, which is just as real as physical ones. Take steps to include people with mental disabilities in the community too. Notice that Skylark residents accommodate a significant number of people with temporary or permanent challenges on physical and mental levels, primarily by just getting to know each other so they can compensate for different strengths and weaknesses.

CrapChat is one of several programs in T-America for managing disabilities. The name comes not from low quality -- it's actually a brilliant program -- but from the fact that people tend to say "Oh, crap!" when things start to go wrong. Therefore the icon for activating it is a little cloud that reads Oh, Crap! The program is highly customizable, but if you pay for it, then you get access to stock content for over a hundred different conditions plus user-submitted material for solving specific challenges. The main screen includes introductory instructions so you can hand the phone to a stranger in case of emergency. Different options will take them to a summary of your problem, a list of step-by-step instructions for helping you, and a chat function in case you can text but not talk. The contact option can dial your emergency contact(s) automatically, or take someone to a list of your emergency numbers with instructions on when and how to reach each of them. CrapChat was invented by a supervillain gizmologist, so its default chat client connects with BlackSheep, but it can be set to others. It has since spread outside its original supervillain circle and is becoming very popular with people whose disabilities make public space difficult. A less fancy but already very promising version in L-America is Emergency Chat.

Streamer tag works just as well on the ground as in the air.

Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed can happen for various reasons. Know how to calm down and get the situation back under control.

For anyone with a condition like depression, anxiety, or PTSD it is vital to count accomplishments -- even little ones.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is an animated movie about horses.

Chocolate boosts physical and mental health, the darker varieties having more strength. This is especially true for people with superpowers. Indulge in the best chocolatiers and best chocolate bars, such as Scharffenberger Extra Dark and Theo 70% Dark with Coffee.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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