The next time Ansel went to visit Skippy,
he found the teen at the gazebo in the back yard
with his sister Dawn puttering in their small garden.
Skippy had evidently constructed a miniature skatepark
on the picnic table in the gazebo, using an assortment
of cans, bricks, and long strips of frictionless plastic
cut from jugs and shaped into various ramps.
"That looks like a great setup," Ansel said as he
sat down across from Skippy. "Can I play too?"
"Sure," Skippy said, waving a hand the toys.
"If you're careful, you can actually get these
to roll even with solid-cast wheels, it's why
I used the frictionless plastic. This series
is pretty well balanced. Indoors I have
some with wheels that really move."
Ansel tried a few of the ramps, and
quickly discovered that each figure had
certain tricks that it did better than others.
He particularly liked the girl cruising and
the boy doing the tailgrab, both of them
versatile enough on several ramps.
A breeze fluttered the little flyer that had
come with the toys, and Ansel picked it up.
It illustrated each of the figures, naming the pose
and diagramming how to perform that trick on
a skateboard of your own. "Did you learn
any of these?" he asked Skippy.
"Not this time, because I already know
these moves," Skippy said, "but yeah,
skate figures first got me into rollerskating
and skateboarding when I was younger.
What about you -- hobby figures, toy soldiers,
or were you into something else instead?"
Ansel blushed a little. "Ah, you'll laugh," he said.
"Promise not to," Skippy said.
"I used to play a lot of cops-and-robbers,"
Ansel said. "I always liked the first responders.
I had a whole bunch of police, several sets
of firefighters, one of paramedics, and
a particularly sweet SPAZMAT set with
their uniforms all done up in pearly paint."
"Oh yeah?" Skippy said, leaning forward.
"I've got the astronauts cast in silver plastic.
My sister Dawn has the construction workers
that she used to play with in the dirt barrel,
but now she's gone to fairy gardens and
bonsai that have little ceramic monks."
"I used to set up my emergency workers
in big dioramas, covering the whole kitchen table or
the floor in my grandmother's bedroom," Ansel said
with a fond smile. "My cousin Billy-Jay used to do
model railroads too. It was fun." Then he frowned.
"At least it was until Billy-Jay thought it would be great
to set my cardboard hotel actually on fire with
half of my fire crew still inside it."
"Your cousin sounds like a jerk,"
Skippy said, not for the first time.
"Yeah, but he's still family," Ansel said.
He chuckled. "Grandma made Billy-Jay replace
my firefighters and buy me a bag of civilians
by way of apology, so it worked out okay."
"So no soldiers, huh?" Skippy said,
tipping one of his skaters down a ramp.
It made a neat loop-the-loop and then
landed smartly on the wheels. "My aunt
gave me some, I just don't play them much."
"Same here," Ansel said. "The only soldiers
that I'm really into are the yoga joes. I have
the original set of nine that Jacoby made in 1968 --
yes, really, it was gift from an uncle."
"Wow," Skippy said softly.
"That must be worth a lot."
"To me the value is mainly sentimental,
because of the family ties," said Ansel.
"I would never sell them. I find it soothing
to handle the figures and set them up. Off and on
I pick up new ones if I see a series that I like.
The last one was Salute to the Sun, with half
of the figures female and the others male."
"I think Dawn got that one too," said Skippy.
"She's got all kinds of athletic ones because
she likes the exercises. She can't decide
whether she wants to study plants, or
something more active, in school."
Ansel shrugged. "She's still young.
She's got plenty of time to explore.
I started out more interested in
firefighting, and look at me now."
"You kind of wound up putting out
a different kind of fire," Skippy said.
"Good point," Ansel agreed. "We all have
plastic futures, malleable, subject to change
based on our choices. None of it is really
carved in stone. I like that about life."
"I've been thinking about what we
discussed earlier, and the stuff that I
got from the Corner Joint," said Skippy.
He reached out and fiddled with the position
of one ramp before launching a skater down
a quarter-pipe and along a wave. "I don't
think that college is right for me."
"Okay," Ansel said. He had wanted
to follow up on that topic. "It's not for some,
which is exactly what we talked about.
Any ideas on what you'd prefer?"
"I'd probably do better in a trade school or
an apprenticeship, where I could benefit from
more teacher attention and a program tailored
to my needs, like the handouts explained," Skippy said.
"I also want to talk it over with Leapfrog sometime."
"That sounds like a good plan," said Ansel.
"You mentioned that he didn't go to college."
"Yeah, he took training from a bunch
of different programs to become
an all-purpose first responder,"
Skippy said. "College didn't
teach what he needed."
"It doesn't for most soups," Ansel said
with a sigh. "I've been trying to splice together
some training for police work that incorporates
superpowers, and all most people tell me is
that I should get a soup mentor."
Skippy gave a wry chuckle. "I'm afraid
I don't know much about police work,
but I actually do have a few ideas."
Dawn chose that moment to plop herself
on the bench beside her brother.
"So did you ask him?"
"Naw, we're just small-talking," Skippy said.
"Well, ask him!" Dawn said,
bumping Skippy with her shoulder.
Skippy glared at his sister,
pushing her farther away.
"Don't be so bossy," he said.
"I don't want him to feel like
he has to agree to it."
"Now that we've established that,
it might help if I had some idea what
we were discussing," Ansel said mildly.
"Our Activity Scout troop is planning
to do a superpower safety demo," Dawn said,
tucking her strawberry-blonde hair behind
one ear. "It's going to be a blast."
"Let me guess, you need someone
to play the Antagonist," said Ansel.
"Actually no, we have her lined up already,"
said Skippy. "I just had a new idea, that it would
be fun to run two sessions on the same day." He
twirled a tiny skater in his fingers, then sent her
down a ramp. "First do one that turns out badly,
and then another that goes well. I thought that
you might consider playing a super cop for us.
I don't think anyone has done it before."
"If they have, I haven't heard of it,"
Ansel said. He traced a fingertip along
the line of a half-pipe. "What gave you the idea?"
"Well, you did," Skippy said. "You're always talking
about work and how you can use your superpower
to reach out to people. With two sessions, we can
show the audience what works and what doesn't,
so that folks could compare them."
"We thought you'd be perfect for it,
because of the hair," Dawn said.
"There's a lot more people who have
a visible superpower like that, but not,
you know, special powers. Maybe if we
hired more of them, it'd be easier to handle
supervillains because at least they'd know
the city is soup-friendly, and we could
cover peacetalking skills too."
"All right, that's a promising idea,"
Ansel said. "I'll ask the Chief what
he thinks about this. Meanwhile,
let's discuss blocking and scripts."
Dawn cast a critical eye at the skaters.
"These are all the wrong color for an Antagonist,"
she said, pointing to the mellow sage-green plastic.
"What do we even have that would work?
Plus we'll need someone for the cops,
preferably in a contrasting color."
"I've got that carton of breakdancers,"
Skippy said. "They're green, orange,
pink, and blue. I'll go get them."
He dashed away toward the house,
all teen bounce and eagerness.
"Thanks for considering this,"
Dawn said, more serious now.
"He needs to feel like he can
still do things, you know?"
"He can do things," Ansel said.
"Skippy's ideas about superpowers
are very insightful, and as a soup mentor,
he has helped me in a lot of ways."
Dawn hugged him impulsively,
then tried to brush dirt crumbs
off his shirt. "Sorry, I didn't
mean to get you all grubby."
"No big deal," Ansel assured her
as Skippy returned with a box of figures.
"Here's a blue guy who looks kind of like he's
directing traffic, so he can be Officer Ordinary.
Then this one seems like he's sneaking, and we
can use him for Officer Pink," said Skippy. "This is
our Antagonist, holding herself up on one hand."
Skippy set up the figures, blue and pink and green.
"Finally, the orange ones are our audience."
"What about the Activity Scouts?" Dawn said.
"This project will need support crew."
"Got 'em," Skippy said, pulling a baggie
from his pocket. It held an assortment of
yellow Girl Scouts and brown Boy Scouts.
"Pretend the genders are mixed in both groups,
but we can use the colors to show different
kinds of event support if we need it."
"The ramps can stand in for the stage
and outbuildings," Ansel said as he scooted
most of the plastic structures to one side
of the white wooden table.
"Start with these two," Skippy said,
putting Officer Ordinary at one end and
Officer Pink at the other. "Now sort
the other figures into two groups."
Dawn quickly halved the audience
and the Activity Scouts between
the blue and pink scenarios.
"Okay, that's done," she said.
"We need a way to take notes,"
Ansel muttered, examining the ramps
for possible tactical applications.
"I have my smartphone," Dawn said.
"It has a doodle function that Skippy uses
for laying out complicated tricks, as well as
a notetaking app for saving text."
"Those will come in handy," said Ansel.
"We can save our notes from this discussion,
and send them to Leapfrog for his input."
"I think he took some cop classes?"
Skippy said, frowning as he lined up
the audience in front of Officer Ordinary.
"Not like arresting people, but crowd control
and traffic directing, stuff that anyone could do."
"Maybe I'll ask him for ideas on my training too,
while we're at it," Ansel said. "I need help.
"It's worse than making your own major in
college -- there isn't even a framework."
"I'm sure Leapfrog would be happy
to help if he can," Skippy said. "He's
been a real lifesaver for me."
Ansel placed the figure of Officer Pink
on the little stairstep ramp that
Skippy called an "ollie box."
It felt a bit strange to think of himself
in the third person, but Ansel tried to stretch
his imagination to draw out possible scripts
for a harmless but educational incident.
He liked the idea of plastic futures, though,
the sense of infinite possibilities which lay in
realizing that his life was nowhere near as
close to complete as he had thought it was.
He could still have adventures and take it
in exciting new directions by seeking out
classes that would capitalize on how
to use his superpower at work.
"So we thought we'd start by having
this strongwoman at the park, and she's
kind of a hinny," Dawn said as she carefully
balanced the picnic table ramp on top of
the Antagonist. Then she added a pair
of orange figures to the table. "You'll
have to imagine the guys screaming."
Ansel laughed. His future
got more interesting every day.
* * *
Dawn Seinfeld -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long wavy hair of strawberry blonde. She is tall and rangy, with a long face and pointed chin. Dawn is the younger sister of Skippy Seinfeld, and she is currently 12 years old. She enjoys gardening, fairy gardens, bonsai, and other activities with plants. She also likes the mudrunning type of obstacle course.
Qualities: Good (+2) Activity Scout, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Playing in the Dirt
Poor (-2) Hates Wearing Makeup
* * *
Skippy's family has a white gazebo with a round table inside it for outdoor living.
Toy skateboarders like this set can illustrate different moves. Here you can see the local-America packaging and poses. In Terramagne-America, they have more details about what the tricks are and how to do them.
Skateboard tricks include the ollie and many others. Watch a video of some moves.
Frictionless bottles are new in L-America but T-America has had them for a while, although their styling is a bit different. Stuff just slides out of them without leaving anything behind. Naturally people take advantage of this for other purposes.
Skateparks come in different types which may be sorted by size, material, or style of equipment. Ramps can have many shapes, cast from concrete or built from other materials such as steel or wood. While concrete is more durable and can be seamless, other materials may be more affordable and some can be moved around. Skateboard-friendly sculptures are common in cities throughout T-America as a way of encouraging physical activity and social interaction.
T-America offers sets of first responder figures for all professions: police, firefighters, paramedics, search-and-rescue, SPAZMAT, etc. They may be sold in assortments or in series by individual profession. Although there isn't yet an official "generic" class of first responder, diverse classes already exist, and superheroes have used that to make their own training program for all-purpose crisis response.
Other professions also have figures, such as this set of astronauts. Construction workers make a great addition to a dirt bin.
Fairy gardens are miniature landscapes with imaginative figures and plants. Learn how to make your own.
Bonsai figurines may be added to a pot of miniature trees to create a scene. Different criteria influence the selection and arrangement; use your own taste. There are tips for growing bonsai.
In Terramagne, plastic figures may be sold in series or assortments. Usually the emergency responders, citizen responders, and civilians will be in different colors so they can be identified at a glance. While supervillains and superheroes are usually sold individually or in small teams and produced at higher quality, there are minion series available in bulk. Here's an example of a mixed pack of police and civilians.
The Yoga Joes in this set of nine demonstrate various yoga moves. Yoga came to the Americas some decades ago, and the Beatles helped draw attention to their guru. So in T-America, that's about when the first Yoga Joes emerged. Salute to the Sun is a popular routine with various different styles, which you can learn to do. In T-America, the figures alternate female-male beginning with figure #1, so that each of the identical poses has a female and a male version, #6 is male, and #7 is female.
Peacetalking incorporates verbal de-escalation and coping skills. Peacetalk is a book on nonviolent communication by Suzette Haden Elgin. The storytelling in that one didn't grab me, but the underlying principles are sound. The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense is an excellent nonfiction guide.
Activity Scouts sometimes stage demonstrations on how to cope with supervillains. The Antagonist always appears in a virulent shade of neon or acid green. It's gotten into the culture so pervasively that supervillains generally won't wear that color! Here a set of breakdancers is supplying figures for the Antagonist, Officer Ordinary, and Officer Pink. See the whole box. Nonhuman supervillains such as this set of three also occur.
Boy Scouts such as these and Girl Scouts similar to this predate the merger into Activity Scouts, which are currently sold as mixed-gender bags.
Roleplaying provides a valuable training opportunity for law enforcement and other contexts. Understand how to do it right.
Smartphone apps are small programs that let you do things like doodling and notetaking.
Hinny is a T-American slang term for a female ruffian. It derives from the offspring of a stallion and a female donkey, the counterpart to a mule.