Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Most Powerful Force Available"

This poem came out of the August 2015 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by the "disability (temporary)" square in my 9-29-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by EdorFaus. This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

Warning: Cash continues to deal with his new disabilities, which causes some angst, but for the most part he's making great progress.

"The Most Powerful Force Available"

Cash no longer resisted going
to counseling appointments, because
Graham had proven so useful in
coping with everything.

He let Dylan walk him down to
the office at the end of the hall
and shook hands with Graham,
welcoming the warm touch.

"It's good to see you again, Cash,"
said Graham. "How are you doing
on the goals you set earlier?"

"Well, you were right about the massage,"
Cash said as he sat down. "It took me
a few tries, but I found a therapist who
used to work at a martial arts gym, and
he does it just the way I like. I don't
know if it's helping the tremors much,
but it still feels nice to get some hands
on my skin in a good way."

"I'm happy to hear that," Graham said.
"What about the other goals?"

"The door trick helps, but it's boring,"
Cash reported. "I haven't had much luck
with the time -- I can set it on the tablet,
but it's such a pain to work with that
usually I don't bother with it."

Graham made a note. "I'll look for
less-boring awareness exercises,"
he said. "Meanwhile, I brought you
a goodie bag, and one of the items
is a solution to your timer problem."

He pulled out a snow globe and set it
on the little table beside Cash. Inside
the clear dome stood the two heras
from the movie Frozen, surrounded
by trees and flakes of artificial snow.

Cash reached for it, then hesitated.
"How fragile is that thing?" he asked.
"It's pretty. I'd hate to break it."

"It's sturdy little gizmo -- made from parts
cannibalized from aquarium decorations,
old clocks, and so forth. The shell isn't glass,
it's high-impact plastic," said Graham.
"You can handle it safely."

Cash picked it up and turned it
in his hands, stirring the snowflakes.
"What's this on the back?" he said.

"That's your control panel," Graham said.
"The left button turns on the blower that
makes the snow fly. The right one turns on
the lamp, if you want to use it as a nightlight.
The central screen lets you select a song to use
as a timer, anything from one minute to ten.
Longer songs can be added if you want."

Cash managed to sort through the menu.
"This is -- this is great," he said hoarsely.
"Thank you. It must have cost a lot."

"Not really," Graham said. "Scavenged parts,
and I know some gizmologists who don't mind
contributing their talent to a worthy cause."

"Then thank them too, please," said Cash.

"Of course. Since you're concerned about dropping
things, that brings up the next item," Graham said.
He brought out a pair of black fingerless gloves.
"Those are grippy gloves; try them on."

The dexflan fabric stretched enough
to provide a snug, comfortable fit but
the palms were covered with a honeycomb
of some unfamiliar rubbery substance.

A little experimentation showed that
the gloves adhered quite well to the globe,
but peeled away without leaving any residue.

"These are amazing," Cash said with a grin.
His hands still shook embarrassingly, but
at least now he could hold onto something.
"Where did you get the idea for these?"

"You said the occupational therapist wasn't
meeting your needs, so I resorted to science
and social connections," Graham said. "I asked
gizmologists what kind of adaptive equipment they
would recommend, and asked some friends
with mobility issues what they find useful."

Cash flexed his hands, wincing a little
as the scars on his left wrist pulled tight.
He actually had a support sleeve that he
was supposed to wear, but the spandex
bugged him so he usually left it off.
Maybe this would work better.

"So what else did they suggest?"
he asked, curiosity piqued.

"The last item is actually a set,"
Graham said, laying out several items.
"Two gyroscopic handles plus silverware --
spoon, fork, butter knife, and steak knife."

Cash raised an eyebrow. "You're really
trusting a supervillain with a sharp knife?"

"I think we both know that you're capable of
doing more damage without a weapon than
with one," Graham said evenly. "So yes, I'm
trusting you with a steak knife so that you can
feed yourself like a grownup. I believe that
this kind of independence matters to you,
so it should aid your recovery."

Cash nodded. "Yeah. That,"
he managed before his throat
clenched around the words.
Then he fumbled the spoon
into one handle, barely thicker
than regular silverware.

It held steady, hardly wavering in the air
as he mimed scooping up something.
The small achievement curled his lips.

"I heard about the finger foods, and
that's a great interim solution, but you
need more options," Graham said,
waving at the spoon. "That should
help. If you like those, there are
also generic handles for holding
things like a pen or a toothbrush."

"I love the gizmos, but ...
I hate needing them," Cash said,
the smile of accomplishment
slipping off of his face.

"That's understandable," Graham said.
"You have relied on your dexterity, and
now you miss it. Remember that some
of this damage is temporary -- the tremors
are getting better slowly, so you probably
won't need all the extra gear forever."

Cash clung to that hope more
than he wanted to admit.

"My power isn't what it used to be,
either, and that bothers me, too,"
he said, rubbing over the scars.

"It's natural to mourn what you've lost,"
Graham assured him. "There are exercises
to help, if you'd like to talk about that."

Cash grimaced. "Not really my thing,"
he said. "I just ... feel like ... less."

"You still have the most powerful force
available to humanity," Graham pointed out.

"What?" Cash asked, looking askance.

If this turned into one of those 'positive thinking'
routines, he was so out of here.

"Communication," said Graham. "You
can use it constructively or destructively.
Words have the power to heal or to harm,
to lift up or to tear down. How you choose
to use them is entirely up to you."

"I guess," Cash said. "I've never been
all that great with words, though. I'm --
I was -- better with my hands."

"Okay," Graham said easily. "What else
would you like to work on today?
We have plenty of time."

"I've been thinking about what happened
at the mall," Cash said. He looked down
at his hands, turning the spoon over and over.

"You can't stop thinking about the incident,"
Graham said. "That happens to a lot of folks
after a traumatic experience like that."

"Yeah," said Cash. "I trashed
the whole food court there, including
the Tastee Shack which is my favorite --
and I hurt someone, not even the guy
who stabbed me, just another dude in
the wrong place at the wrong time.
The shocks bitched up my aim."

"I heard about that," Graham said.
"You did everything you could
to minimize the damage, but
you still feel responsible?"

"I keep feeling like I should fix it,
but I don't know how," Cash said.
He set the spoon down, carefully,
beside the snow globe. "I'm stuck."

"You could begin with an apology,"
Graham said. "It's public knowledge
that you didn't start that fight, but you
can still be sorry for your part in it,
and help deal with the aftermath."

"I doubt anyone else involved
really wants to talk with me,"
Cash said, his mouth twisting.

"That's possible," said Graham.
"In such cases, a written apology
is perfectly valid. Besides, it's not
about convincing anyone to accept
the apology -- it's about doing what
is right, to restore the balance."

Cash held up a shaking hand.
"Can't write, either," he said,
"and buying a card seems ...
just fucking cowardly."

"Now that I can help with," Graham said,
activating the hospital communication system.
"I need an electronic speech board, please."

A few minutes later, Dylan brought what
looked like an overgrown tablet computer,
large enough to cover Cash's lap.

"Usually we use these for people
who can't talk clearly, but they have
other applications too," Graham said.
"Just as an introduction, this is
the emergency board."

It had the alphabet at the top,
numbers down the side, large pictures
of a man and a woman, along with
other smaller pictures in a grid
labeled in English and Spanish.

"People use this for basic communication,
pointing to whatever they want to say,"
Graham explained. "Then there are
customized boards for other topics."
He brought up one for Thanksgiving.

"I don't get it," Cash said. "I mean,
I guess it makes sense for someone
who can't talk, but that's not my problem."

"This is the assistance program for
stroke survivors," Graham said.
The new screen showed a list of words,
a vertical alphabet, space for typing,
and assorted function keys.

"Why not just use a regular keyboard?"
Cash said. "The rest just gets in the way."

"It does that too," Graham said.
"Touch the Keyboard button."

Cash brought up the keyboard and
began typing, but his hands shook
so much that he couldn't get the words
to come out right. "This is hopeless."

"That's why I thought the program
might help," Graham said gently.
"It's meant to compensate for that."

"Okay, get that one back," Cash said.

"You can learn to control that board
for yourself," Graham said. "Go to
the menu bar and look for Stroke Board."

It took a little poking around, but soon
Cash got the display to back up. Then
he discovered that Graham was right --
the computer tried to figure out what
he was typing and fill in the blanks,
with an autocorrect to fix mistakes.

He pecked out an awkward apology
to Tastee Shack, reread the message,
and then groaned in defeat.

"This is stupid," he said,
putting his head in his hands.
"I don't know what I'm doing."

"Would you like me to check?" Graham said.
"I might be able to help with that."

"Go ahead." Cash passed him the board.

Graham read the apology, then
returned the board. He offered Cash
a few thoughtful suggestions based on
the parts of an effective apology.

Cash typed in the corrections,
then said, "Now what should I do
with this? Email seems rude."

"The hospital has printers for
patient messages," said Graham.
"Send it there, sign it, and then
I can drop it in the mail for you."

He leaned over to show Cash
the more complicated set of commands
necessary to access a printer, and
sent the message for printing.

"I'm not sure I can sign it," Cash said.

"Turn over the board," Graham said.
"It should have a signature frame attached."

Sure enough, there was a plastic frame
with slots that popped off the case.
"How does this work?" Cash asked.

"Just put the right size slot over the place
you want to sign, and brace your hand
over the frame," Graham said. "The edge
of the slot makes it easier to write legibly."

All of a sudden, Cash felt exhausted.

He thought about trying to hide it, but
Graham would doubtless notice anyhow --
the man could just about see through walls
without benefit of a superpower -- and was
generally sympathetic to the situation,
so what would be the point?

"I'm really worn out," Cash confessed.
"Can we call it quits for today?"

"Of course," Graham said,
pressing a button to call Dylan.
"Emotional work is still work, Cash.
You got a lot done. Do you want me
to bring the apology for you to sign,
or let that wait for later?"

"I think I can finish that much,"
Cash said, as the nurse tapped on
the door. "Dylan, I need a ride."

Of course that meant not only
getting a lift back in a wheelchair, but
putting up with Dylan helping him into bed,
and then enduring the anxious hands patting
over him to make sure that Cash was okay.

"Your heart rate is up," the nurse said,
frowning at him. "Any idea why?"

"Emotional work is still work,"
Cash quoted dryly.

"Ah, that'll do it," Dylan said.
"Try to relax and get some rest."

Cash had every intention of doing that.

When Graham came in, he brought
not only the printed letter but also
a canvas bag full of all the goodies
that Cash had completely forgotten.

The snow globe went beside the bed,
the other items into a drawer. Then
Graham lined up the signature frame
so that Cash could sign the page.

"There you go," Graham said
when it was all done. "You did
very well today. I look forward
to seeing you on Monday."

"Mmmhmm," Cash agreed
with a twitch of his hand that
was meant to be a wave.

Graham squeezed his hand once
and then let himself out of the room,
closing the door quietly behind him.

Cash felt tired, and his talent still
ached and sulked inside of him,
but the memory of the mall
seemed just a little lighter.

He rolled onto his side and activated
the blower in the snow globe, watching
the tiny white flakes and listening to
its musicbox until he fell asleep.

* * *


"Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble."
-- Yehuda Berg

Men may avoid therapy because they expect it to be useless or even destructive. Those things can happen, especially if the therapy is poorly matched to the client's needs and personality. Cash has experienced more of the pointless kind than the harmful kind. When he notices signs that the therapy is working, however, he becomes much more invested in it. Because Graham was able to address some issues immediately and effectively, that convinced Cash that it was worth the effort. There are ways to encourage help-seeking behavior.

Adaptive equipment helps people with everyday tasks and thus enables them to become more independent.

What Halley and Edison come up with for a gizmotronic timer is a snow globe with pieces cannibalized from old clocks and aquarium fixtures. So now it has multicolor lights, swirling snow, and a selection of tunes that play from one to ten minutes as well as the digital timer display.

Grip gloves make it easier to hold onto things.

Here is an example of a stabilizing spoon, which you can also watch in this video.  The fork and soup spoon attachments are now available.  The gizmotronic version is better.

An understanding of trust helps people discern who is trustworthy or not. Cash is a punch-clock villain with a sense of honor, so as long as he's not in the middle of a job, he's pretty safe.

Acquiring a disability initiates a grieving process. Know how to support someone after a loss.

Trauma can cause acute stress reaction, with such symptoms as intrusive and repetitive thoughts. This only becomes a disorder if it persists over time instead of healing and it interferes with everyday life. Understand how to cope with traumatic stress or help someone else through it.

Apologizing is the Ninth Step in recovery programs: making amends to people you have harmed. An interesting feature in Terramagne justice is a tendency toward tolerable amends. Feeling guilty sucks, so if the result of confessing harm is a bearable penalty, then more people will do it. If the price is higher than they can bear, however, they have no incentive to make amends so things don't get fixed without using force. This is a prevailing premise behind all kinds of alternative justice in T-America. Know the elements of an effective apology, how to apologize, and how to make amends. SPOON has resources on these steps for supervillains who want to make up for their mistakes.

A communication board is one kind of adaptive equipment. This one is useful for health care. Here is the Thanksgiving one. This computer program assists people who have difficulty speaking or typing. The keyboard screen has some extra buttons helpful for those situations too.

Writing aids include signature guide clips and writing frames. The one stuck on the back of the speech board is a big frame with many different sizes and shapes of slots to use for different projects.

Mental and emotional work can cause fatigue much the same way that physical work does. There are ways to cope with exhaustion.
Tags: creative jam, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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