Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Massaging the Heart"

This poem is from the February 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chanter_greenie, [personal profile] janetmiles, and Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "runaway pet" square in my 11-3-15 card for the Disaster Bingo fest, and the "hurt/comfort" square in my 1-4-16 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Massaging the Heart"


When Holden put a tub into the microwave
that wasn't vented quite enough, and it
opened itself with a dramatic BANG! --

Paulina found herself falling back into Afghanistan.

All she could hear was the thunder of explosions
and the drone of choppers approaching.
The smell of smoke stained the air.

Minutes later Paulina came back to herself
and a very worried Holden who was reciting
the street address of Laguardia Residence Hall,
the group kitchen of which reeked of burnt macaroni.

"What can I do to help?" Holden asked
when he realized she was more aware.

"I don't know," Paulina said miserably.

"In the event of an emotional breakdown,
place cat here," Holden muttered,
reading Paulina's t-shirt.
"I'll go get Flopsy."

But Flopsy was nowhere to be found,
and when Paulina realized that
her therapy cat had gone missing,
she fell apart all over again.

She curled up in the quiet room and cried.

The other veterans organized a search party
and swept the premises from top to bottom.
Flopsy did not reappear despite their efforts.

Finally Timone armed herself with
a can of hair spray and a lighter
(in case of berettaflies) and braved
the courtyard outside the building.

There she found Flopsy, less than
ten feet from the door, asleep in a sunbeam.

Flopsy, who was well trained, came at once
when called -- now that she could hear it.

When Timone came into the quiet room
and placed Flopsy in Paulina's lap,
then Paulina finally began to recover.

She didn't like to be grabbed
or even hugged anymore,
but she liked petting the cat.

Flopsy was a Ragdoll, and
the next best thing to boneless.
She curled up in Paulina's lap
and purred, loud and deep.

Paulina's fingers moved through
Flopsy's warm, heavy coat.
The rhythm reminded her
that she was in Easy City,
not in Afghanistan.

Petting the cat gave her
something to do other than
ruminate on the past.

She felt like Flopsy's purr
was massaging her heart.

Eventually Paulina felt well enough
to go back to her own room and
put out some fresh cat food.

Flopsy couldn't make the PTSD go away,
but she could make it more bearable.

* * *

Notes:

Holden Morrisett -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and light brown hair. He is missing his left leg near the hip and uses a wheelchair. He served in the Marines for three and a half years prior to his injury. Now he lives in Suite 107b of the Laguardia Residence Hall in Easy City. He enjoys playing wheelchair basketball and memorizing the stats of other players.
Qualities: Good (+2) Marine Veteran, Good (+2) Followship, Good (+2) Honorable, Good (+2) Memory, Good (+2) Wheelchair Basketball
Poor (-2) Choosing His Own Path

Paulina Contreras -- She has light brown skin, brown eyes, and straight black hair to her shoulders. Her favorite color is olive green, such as her "Believe in Heroes" t-shirt from the Wounded Warriors Project. She excels at spotting patterns and imagining how things will turn out. Paulina has PTSD from her service as Airman First Class in Afghanistan, primarily from heavy gunfire and explosives. She does not deal well with loud sudden noises anymore. To cope with this, she has a therapy cat named Flopsy. As long as she's holding the cat, she feels relatively okay. Paulina is working hard to overcome the trauma and hopes to go into civilian search and rescue eventually. She is currently taking classes one at a time at Loyola University.
Qualities: Good (+2) Agility, Good (+2) Air Force Veteran, Good (+2) Cat Lover, Good (+2) Civic Duty, Good (+2) Extrapolation
Poor (-2) PTSD

Flopsy -- She is a Ragdoll cat, primarily light brown with white face, underbelly, and feet. She weighs 15 pounds. Flopsy is gentle, compassionate, and wise. She loves people and enjoys lying in someone's lap or draping over shoulders. She is smart enough to walk on a leash. As a therapy cat, Flopsy belongs to Paulina Contreras and helps soothe her PTSD.
Qualities: Master (+6) Therapy Cat, Expert (+4) Cats Are Liquids, Good (+2) Leash Walking
Poor (-2) Sense of Self-Preservation

Timone Evans -- She has medium brown skin, brown eyes, and curly brown hair. She is homosexual but bisensual. Her favorite color is pink, especially the deep hot pinks that look good with her bold coloring. Timone served as a Staff Sergeant. She has extensive burn scars across her chest and belly, with a few others scattered beyond that, from an incendiary device. They impair her flexibility a little, although she does exercises to minimize those effects. This scarring has wrecked her body image, and she has trouble feeling beautiful now. She keeps trying different ways to fix that problem, such as buying herself a pair of diamond stud earrings.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Army Veteran, Good (+2) Conversationalist, Good (+2) Logical/Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Body Image

* * *

A meow massages the heart.
Stuart McMillan

PTSD is common in veterans. Understand how to overcome it or help a friend with PTSD.

Flashbacks are a primary symptom of PTSD. Know how to manage your own or help someone through a flashback.

Mood swings and other emotional problems are typical of PTSD. Various treatments are available. There are ways to control your mood swings and improve your emotional health. Also know help a friend through an emotional crisis.

Paulina's cat t-shirt looks something like this.

Cats make effective service or therapy animals for certain conditions, such as PTSD. They have many healing qualities, especially the purr. A good therapy cat needs particular traits. T-America has more advanced parameters in this regard. Service animals are mainly about actions; therapy animals are mainly about comfort; and both are protected for the benefit of individual owners. Animal therapists are highly trained in emotional support and provide comfort to clients in institutional or professional settings such as a hospital or counselor's office. The requirements for assistance animals like these include: good health, public manners, obedience to commands, control (like walking on a leash or riding in a crate), and performance of specific tasks. The primary determination is whether or not an animal makes a material improvement in a person's ability to function. It is not tied to breed or species, although some are far more popular than others, and there are recommendations on which animals do best for what conditions. Read about certification for therapy cats.

Cats can be trained to do things such as come when called, walk on a leash, sit, enter a carrier, or close doors/drawers. Flopsy can do all of those, and is further conditioned to provide comfort when Paulina is upset or demand attention when she is despondent. But Flopsy is still a cat, thus occasionally distracted by open doors and cozy sunbeams. Learn how to train a cat.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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