Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Start Acting Like Neighbors"

This is the free epic for the October 6, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl reaching its $200 goal, as selected in an audience poll. This poem was inspired by the story "Accident and Opportunity" (Part 1 and Part 2) by [Unknown LJ tag]. It also fills the "random act of kindness" square in my 5-20-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest.

"Start Acting Like Neighbors"

Cassandra clung to the half-familiar ritual
of the tea party, trying not to panic over
the fact that she'd broken Eunan's sink.

Aidan had everything neatly in hand,
having fixed the faucet quick as you please
and then moved on to the mess in the kitchen.

Saraphina and Darja were adorable,
presiding over the cups and saucers
and the tasty little tidbits that Aidan
had made for them to nibble on.

Cassandra couldn't shake the feeling
of waiting for the other shoe to drop, though --
surely someone was bound to yell at her
for tearing up the kitchen sink.

The doorbell rang, making her jump.
Saraphina and Darja both looked up
from their impromptu tea party.

"I'll get it," Aidan said, wiping his hands
on a towel. He opened the door to reveal
a handyman complete with toolbelt.
"Hello, Larry. I've already fixed the sink.
I have the receipts if you need them."

"Yes, please," said Larry. "Eunan
should get a credit against his rent."
The handyman leaned around Aidan
to look at Cassandra. "I'm sorry that I
missed your call earlier -- I was working
on somebody else's oven at the time."

"It's okay," Cassandra said, dropping her gaze
to her lap. "You have important things to do."

Aidan handed over the receipts. "You might
want to check the apartments under this one
to make sure that nothing leaked down
where it could cause more trouble."

"I'll do that, thanks," said Larry,
and left to take care of it.

"All settled," Aidan said to Cassandra.
He ducked into the kitchen again,
then came back with another plate.
"The next course, miss."

Watching someone as capable as Aidan
play Roger-the-butler for a tea party was
amazing. Cassandra had no idea how
he managed to navigate the different
levels of reality with such fluent grace.

"Cookies!" Darja exclaimed, pouncing
on the plate that held two styles of
lemon-ginger tea cookies.

Cassandra picked up a spritz cookie
and nibbled it. She couldn't help wondering
what kind of superpowers the girls had.
All Cassandra knew was that Saraphina's
matched Aidan's in some way, and
less than that about Darja's.

She could almost feel something, though,
like the play of faint summer breezes
over her skin, coming and going.

It was different from what she felt
from Eunan, like the way she could
breathe the air on a calm day,
but it wasn't moving.

Aidan ... would probably always
feel like flying to her, as if she could
fall up into the sky and float forever,
lost in its vast expanse.

Then the doorbell rang again.

Aidan answered it to find
Yona and his daughter Miriel,
along with an old lady whom
Cassandra eventually recognized
as the grandmotherly Marsha Farley.

"I heard about the leak while I was tending
Mr. Baumgarden's palm trees," said Marsha.
"We thought it would be neighborly to drop by
and see if anyone needed a hand cleaning up."

"That would be welcome, thank you," said Aidan
as he ushered them inside. "I fixed the sink and
tidied up around it, but the rest of the kitchen is
still a bit damp in places, if you'd like to pitch in."

"How did this turn into a, a party?"
Cassandra asked, looking helplessly at Aidan.
The random act of kindness caught her off guard.

He smiled at her. "I think you'll find that
this building has a healthy community.
So when something goes wrong, people
usually show up to help put it right again."

Oh. That sounded ... nice, if a little weird.

"Are we having a tea party?" Yona said,
his tone brightening as he surveyed the scene.
Today's t-shirt, its ash-gray fabric stretched taut over
his pregnant belly, read, Loading ... please wait.

"Yes," Darja said. Then she clapped her hands and
called, "Roger, we have ... one, two! ... new guests."

"I will bring more dishes, miss," said Aidan,
falling back into his butler role.

Cassandra could hear the clink and rustle
of his preparations as she helped Yona settle.
Miriel plunked herself fearlessly between
the other two girls, her curls bouncing.

Aidan set out tiny crustless sandwiches
that seemed to be filled with butter and lettuce,
or maybe it was that watercress stuff.

"A broken sink, a new faucet, a flooded kitchen,
a horde of helpful neighbors -- what am I going
to tell Eunan when he gets home?" Cassandra said.

She had that overwhelmed feeling again,
as if the world was going too fast
and she had to run to catch up.

"We hadda venture!" Miriel crowed.

"Breaking the sink is not an adventure!"
Cassandra said, waving her hands.

"Sure it is," Yona said. "Something
went wrong, so you had to figure out
what happened and how to fix it. That is
the very definition of adventure."

"But I didn't fix it," Cassandra said.
"Aidan did all of that himself."

"How did Aidan find out that
the sink needed repair?" Yona asked.

"Well ... I called and told him, because
maintenance wasn't answering and I didn't
know what else to do," Cassandra said.

"Our noble hera discovered that
the magic fountain was broken, so
she went on a quest to find someone
who could repair it," said Yona. "That
sounds like an adventure to me."

"It was definitely an adventure," Aidan said.
"Look at the nasty old thing that I pulled
out from under the sink." He displayed
the remains of the former faucet rig.

"Damfing," Miriel said.

Yona groaned.

"New word?" Aidan asked.

"New word," Yona said.
"Her other daddy is sleeping
on the couch this week, for that."

Miriel repeated the comment.

Aidan chuckled and said,
"You have the context right, sweetie,
but that term is pronounced darn thing."


"Well, it's an improvement," Yona said.

"Delighted to oblige, sir," Aidan said
with a wink. Then he returned to the kitchen
to help Marsha with the ongoing cleanup.

Cassandra watched them, wondering
whether she was supposed to join them
or stay with Yona and the children.

"Did Eunan show you the emergency numbers?"
Yona asked as he picked up a sandwich.

"Yes, they're on the refrigerator," Cassandra said.
"Onion City emergency services, then Skylark stuff:
the supervisor, maintenance, front office, first aid.
Then SPOON and Aidan and Eunan's parents.
Some teleporter friends in case he gets stranded."

"That's a good start," Yona said. "We also have
sort of an informal help list around here. So if
your houseplants are dying, then you can ask
Mr. Baumgarden, or for childcare you get me,
and so on. The teen lounge has a bulletin board
that shows what odd jobs the youngsters like to do."

"Thanks," Cassandra said. She took a sandwich for
herself and discovered that the butter had some kind
of herbs added. "I guess ... I felt kind of lost when
the water sprayed and I didn't know what to do."

"You did well enough this time, and
next time you'll know more," Yona said.
"I'm sure Larry would be happy to give you
a few tips about dealing with this beautiful
but rather cantankerous old building -- he does
presentations in the conference room sometimes --
or you could check at the community center
for some classes to explore this summer."

"Aidan offered to show me on the old faucet,"
Cassandra said. "It just feels like I'm being
a bother. I don't know why everyone is
making such a fuss, when I'm only a guest ..."

"I think you'll find," Yona said gently,
"that when people start acting like neighbors,
they tend to become neighbors, and not just
people who live in the same general area."

Cassandra closed her eyes, just for a moment,
listening to the swish of the mop in the kitchen
as Aidan and Marsha chattered over their work,
the soft whir of the fan that kept the air moving,
and the muted giggles of the toddlers as Miriel
disassembled a sandwich cookie and then
a sandwich to compare their insides.

Yona's superpower whirred busily,
like a pinwheel turning in a brisk wind,
as it built a tiny new person inside him.

Nobody was yelling at Cassandra or
anyone else over the mishap or the mess,
and apparently they weren't going to start later.
They just wanted to put everything back to rights
and make sure that she knew how to handle
this sort of thing if it happened again.

Cassandra realized that she liked
this quirky old building and its nosy,
gregarious, warmhearted residents.

She wanted neighbors like this,
who would help take care of things
and look after each other, sharing
the ups and downs of their lives.

Cassandra opened her eyes.
"Yes," she agreed. "It's important
to have good neighbors."

* * *


Larry Rierden -- He has fair skin, golden-brown eyes, and dark hair starting to go gray. He is tall and sturdy. Larry works as a handyman at the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, where Groundhog lives.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Handyman, Good (+2) Pleasant, Good (+2) Tall, Good (+2) Teacher
Poor (-2) Cook

Marsha Farley -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and short curly white hair. She has four children and twelve grandchildren, with her first great-grandchild on the way. Her husband passed away a couple of years ago, and she still misses him very much. So Marsha keeps busy with her neighbors instead. She has a one-bedroom apartment in the Skylark Apartment Building where Groundhog lives.
Qualities: Master (+6) Homemaker, Expert (+4) Grandmother, Good (+2) Lovingkindness, Good (+2) Needs Little Sleep, Good (+2) Puzzle Books
Poor (-2) Widow

* * *

"When strangers start acting like neighbors... communities are reinvigorated."
-- Ralph Nader

Common household problems can cause tension. Know how to stay calm while you solve problems.

Neighbors help to build community in a neighborhood. Here are some ways you can foster communal ties and be a good neighbor.

These are the lemon-ginger cremes and the spritz cookies.

See Yona's t-shirt.

Watercress sandwiches are a popular item in tea parties.

Baumgarden is the neighbor who keeps the palm trees in the Skylark atrium.

Life skills are the things everyone should know how to do when heading out on their own. Here's a general survey of adult skills. However, some people have gaps in their knowledge, especially if they had a disadvantaged childhood. Colleges and community centers may offer classes so people can learn something new. Opportunities like this are ubiquitous in Terramagne-America, either free or cheap. Understand how to become a lifelong learner.

Coping skills are strategies for handling stressful situations. There are ways to develop coping techniques such as anger management and asking for help.

Emergency numbers are part of a household safety plan. You should also know how to handle common home hassles.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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