Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Who Overlooks Your Broken Fence"

This poem is spillover from the January 2016 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] alexseanchai. It also fills the "respect limits" square in my 11-3-16 card for the Disaster Bingo prompt. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Who Overlooks Your Broken Fence"

When Ansel got up in the morning,
there was no sign of Turq.

So he washed and dressed,
ate breakfast, and then went out.
He stopped at the supermarket and
bought several memory foam dog mats,
then spotted a bag of assorted tulips
and added those as well.

He returned home to find
Turq -- now in human form --
lounging on the gazebo bench.

"Are we planting?" Turq asked.

"Yes, and look what I found,"
Ansel said cheerfully, showing him
the tulips. "I think that these will
go well with our daffodils."

"I can dig," Turq said.
"Just show me where."

"We have a big clearing
in the yard, so anywhere
around here should be good,"
Ansel said, waving at the house
and the gazebo. "I thought that we
could put some flowers along the path
and scatter others around the gazebo.
Where do you want the daffodils?"

Turq circled around the entrance,
then stopped where the solid pad
under the gazebo turned to grass.

"Here," he said -- then abruptly
shifted to caney form and began
digging with his forepaws.

Dirt flew in a long spray behind him.

Ansel quickly realized that with Turq
spreading the soil all over the grass,
there would be no way to recover it
for burying the bulbs. That was okay,
though, because he had compost bins.

"Daffodil bulbs need to go at least
six inches underground, so you'll need
to do some serious excavating," he said.

Turq redoubled his efforts, creating
a deep trench that curved along
the edge of the gazebo.

"All right, that's enough," Ansel said
when the hole reached the proper size
for the amount of bulbs they had.
"Step aside and let me put
the daffodils down."

Turq got out of the way so that
Ansel could position the bulbs, but
he started whining and circling
over the scattered dirt.

"Don't worry about that,"
Ansel said soothingly. "I've got
plenty of compost to cover them."

Turq trotted alongside him to
the row of handsome wooden bins
that Janie had built, then watched as
Ansel shoveled compost into a bucket.

"Since we're covering the bulbs
with compost, they won't need
extra fertilizer," Ansel explained
as he smoothed the black stuff
over the waiting daffodils.

Turq sniffed at the filled trench,
then sneezed and backed away.

"Ready to dig again?" Ansel pointed
at the path between house and gazebo.
"I want to put the tulips along here."

Turq obligingly put his paws to work
digging a long furrow beside the path.

While Ansel laid bulbs in the first section
and filled it in, Turq dug the matching trench
on the far side of the path as well.

Finally Ansel brought out the hose
and watered the new flower beds, then
covered them with a layer of fallen leaves.

"Are you up for another project?"
Ansel asked, looking at Turq.

The caney whuffed at him,
nodding his blue head.

"Come see what I got
for you," Ansel invited.

Turq tagged along as Ansel
took the dog mats from the car.

"I think that if we line one of
the gazebo benches with these,
that will make a nice soft bed for you,
and the foam will also act as insulation
against the winter cold," said Ansel.
"Is that something you'd like?"

He knew that Turq was skittish
and didn't want to come indoors,
but with the season turning, Ansel
hated the idea of leaving him outside
and unprotected in frigid weather.

Hopefully this was a compromise
that they could both live with.

Turq sniffed at the thick mats
covered in tough sueded fabric.
Then he grabbed one in his mouth
and trotted to the gazebo.

Ansel sighed in relief.

"I guess that's a yes," he said
as he carried the rest of the mats
to where Turq was trying to stuff his
into the space under the bench.
"You'll probably want your hands
for this job, though, if that's okay."

Blue fur blurred and changed into
a gangly young man in a teal cardigan
and blue jeans ripped across both knees.

"Okay," Turq said softly.

"Get your blanket out,"
Ansel suggested, and Turq
pulled out the gray wool cloth
wrapped around several items
that he couldn't identify. "Is this
the bench that you want lined?"

"Yeah," Turq said.

Together they measured
the dog mats against the inside
of the bench. Ansel had done
a pretty good job of estimating
the dimensions, so they only
needed to do a little trimming
of the memory foam to make
it fit into the narrow space.

Then Ansel brought out
vrip strips from his workshop
and used those to fasten the mats
to the interior of the bench.

"What do you think?" he asked.

"It's nice," Turq said, licking
his lower lip. "You don't have to
keep doing things for me."

"I know that I don't have to,
I just want to," Ansel said.
"Is that okay with you?"

Turq looked away, then
looked back. "Maybe."

"I've got some plastic sheeting
in the workshop too," said Ansel.
"If we tack that over the open spaces
in the gazebo walls, it would cut down
on the amount of weather getting in."

"Don't block the doorway,"
Turq said anxiously.

The 'doorway' was actually
one of the gazebo's six sides
left open, the others built with
half-walls and posts to hold up
the peaked roof overhead.

"I won't block it," Ansel said.

"And don't nail down the flaps
all the way," Turq added. "Leave them
open along the sides and bottoms."

"Whatever makes you comfortable,"
Ansel said. "As long as we put them
on the outsides, the wind should
press them against the walls
and make a decent seal."

So they got out the rolls of plastic,
a cutter, and Ansel's heavy-duty stapler.
Together they measured and cut flaps
to put over the empty spaces.

Turq held up the sheeting
while Ansel stapled it in place,
leaving it partly loose as requested.

"You're doing so much for me,"
Turq said, his voice wavering.

"Too much, too soon?" Ansel asked.
"I don't want to push you like that."

Well, he wanted to, but he knew
that it would do more harm than good,
so he held himself in check.

"I don't know," Turq said.

"How about if you do something
for me in return?" Ansel said.
"There's no end of yardwork
available if that would help."

"Put me to work," Turq agreed,
holding out his grubby hands.

"Together," Ansel said gently.
"Let me get some rakes. We
can gather up fallen leaves and
put them in the compost bin."

He brought out rakes and
leather gloves to protect
their hands, and they
set to work on the yard.

It was so comfortable
working together, sometimes
talking and other times silent,
that Ansel was startled when
a car pulled into the drive.

Turq nearly panicked.

"It's okay," Ansel said,
catching him before he
could flee. "That's Janie,
my girlfriend. Would you
like to come meet her?"

"Does she, does she know
about me?" Turq whispered.

"Only in vague outline," Ansel said.
"I didn't mention much detail, just enough
that she wouldn't be surprised to see you."

Turq clung to him on the way to the car.

"Hi, sweetie," said Janie.
"Who's your friend?"

"Janie, this is Turq," Ansel said,
coaxing the young man forward.
"Turq, this is Janie. Say hi."

"Hi," Turq said in a barely-there voice.

"Nice to meet you," Janie said,
thankfully not trying to shake hands.
"Are you two ready to come inside
and make supper? It's getting dark."

Ansel realized that the shadows
were creeping into the yard, and
Turq was shivering against him.

"Supper sounds great, but
let's make it a cookout," Ansel said.

"Ooh, I think we still have all the stuff
for making s'mores," said Janie.
"Hot dogs, hamburgers, yeah
we can make this work."

She even found several apples
and half a bag of caramels, which
she wrapped in aluminum foil
to go into the campfire.

The hot dogs were wrapped
in dough and skewered on forks,
and the hamburger patties laid out
on a grill over one edge of
Ansel's big firepit.

Meanwhile Ansel and Turq
had gotten the fire started
with soft wood that would
soon burn down to coals.

Then they stacked up a pile
of hard wood to feed the fire
as the evening went on.

One branch snagged on
Turq's tatty jeans, ripping
the big hole even bigger.

"Damn it," he whimpered.

"Hey, it's okay," Janie said.
"I'm hard on my clothes too.
I can fix that for you, if you like."

Ansel held his breath, hoping
that Turq might agree.

"I don't have any other pants
to wear," Turq protested.

Ansel wasn't sure whether
that meant "not here"
or "not anywhere."

"I can get you something
to wear," he offered.

"Okay," Turq said.

"Get your rag bag while
you're at it," Janie said.
"I'll get my sewing kit."

Soon they returned with
the necessary supplies.

Turq disappeared into
the gazebo to change clothes,
then came back and handed
Janie his mangled jeans.

"Choose your patch fabric,"
Janie invited, waving a hand
at Ansel's rag bag.

"Denim?" Turq said.

"There should be plenty,"
Ansel said with a nod.

Turq rummaged through
the contents and found scraps
that more-or-less matched his jeans.

"I can reinforce the repairs with
some fancy stitching, if you like,"
Janie said. "It'll last longer that way."

"Please," Turq said. He flitted
around the campfire, rarely coming
close to either of them, but held
in loose orbit by the smell
of the cooking food.

The flames gave off enough light
for Janie to trim the patches and
begin basting them into place
behind the knee holes.

By the time she finished that much,
supper was ready to eat, so she
set aside the mending and
started filling plates.

"Eat as much as you want,"
Ansel murmured to Turq as
they accepted their plates.
"You worked hard today,
and we made plenty."

In fact, they had made
a whole package of hot dogs,
half a dozen hamburgers,
and the caramel apples --
plus assorted condiments --
with s'mores yet to come.

Turq tucked into the food
with great enthusiasm,
switching between hot dogs
and hamburgers as long
as they held out, and then
claiming two of the apples.

"Hollow legs?" Janie whispered
to Ansel. "Or is Turq really
as starved as he looks?"

"Something like that,"
Ansel said vaguely,
and she let it drop.

"I'll get started on dessert,"
Janie said, turning around.

They had a bag of chocolates,
two boxes of graham crackers, and
two different flavors of marshmallows,
plain and strawberry, for making s'mores.

Turq wrinkled his nose over the strawberry,
but Ansel loved those things, and happily
kept most of them for himself. Janie
had a few, and Turq enjoyed the plain.

It still surprised Ansel how much food
he needed now, and from the look of
Turq's ribs, the boy needed at least
that much, maybe even more.

After supper, Janie said, "I need
more light for the next part
of the mending. Shall we
move to the gazebo?"

It had a large dome light
in the center of the roof and
smaller lightbulbs near the top
of each supporting post.

The soft, warm light was
plenty for doing simple crafts.

Janie brought the jeans
and her sewing kit. Ansel
chose a seat on the bench
next to the one that Turq
had built a nest inside, and
Janie sat down beside him.

Turq perched on his own bench,
still wary, but weighed down by
all the food he had eaten, so
that he finally stayed put.

Janie returned to weaving
her needle in and out of the cloth,
its silver flashing in the light.

She laid down a pattern of
running stitches in one direction,
then crossed over them sideways,
and finally did the diagonals.

It created a pattern of tiny starbursts
all over the knees of the jeans,
holding the patches in place
and reinforcing the fabric.

While Janie worked, she and
Ansel exchanged stories about
what they had done that day
and other things they recalled,
inspired by the current context.

"Turq, would you like to tell
a story too?" Janie asked.

Turq winced. "I don't have ...
many good stories."

"It can be something simple,"
Ansel said, "but you don't
have to if you don't want to."

Turq tilted his head in thought.
After a long moment he said,
"One of my foster mothers,
Mingxia, used to grow things,
but mostly rare stuff, instead of
common things like daffodils."

"That's nice to hear," Janie said.
"Thank you for sharing."

Turq scrunched in on himself,
plainly at the limits of his comfort,
but still unwilling to retreat.

Ansel filled the air with soft stories
of his family and his childhood
and the things that he enjoyed
doing outdoors. If nothing else,
at least Turq could listen to
what normal sounded like.

Eventually Janie finished
working on Turq's jeans.
She shook them out and
announced, "There you go."

Turq accepted them, then
held them up against himself.
"These are beautiful," he said,
"but why all the extra stitches?
It wouldn't have taken so long
if you just sewed the edges."

Even though Janie had explained that
before she started, Turq had trouble
believing that anyone would bother
spending more time on him
than absolutely necessary.

"There's a Japanese tradition of
repairing fabric called boro," Janie said,
and the embroidery is sashiko. It makes
the clothing stronger by joining the patch
and the original garment more closely."

"Thanks for ... for ..." Turq's voice
trailed away as he rubbed a hand
over the pattern of starbursts.

"You're welcome," Janie said,
leaning over to pat his knee.

Turq flinched away, hard,
and then cringed in anticipation
of some angry response.

"What did I do wrong?" Janie said,
hand still hovering in midair.

"Turq has had a rough time, and
sometimes it catches up," Ansel said.
"Try to be gentle with him."

"I'm sorry," Turq said, hanging
his head. "I don't meant to be
so broken and awful. You
shouldn't have to put up
with it, you're nice people."

"We're friends," Janie said,
"or at least we'd like to be."

"What does that even mean
anymore?" Turq said.

"A friend is someone who
overlooks your broken fence
and admires the flowers in
your garden," Ansel said.

Turq sniffled and rubbed
his sleeve over his nose.

"I don't know about anyone else,
but I'm ready to call it a night,"
Ansel said. "It's late and I'm tired."

Turq cast him a grateful look.
"Yeah," he said. "Is it okay if ...
if I maybe stick around a while?"

"Sure, just keep an eye on
the campfire as it burns out,"
Ansel said with a nod.

Then he and Janie gathered up
the remaining supplies from
around the firepit, and went
into the house together.

"Will he be able to get home okay?"
Janie asked, looking out the window.

"Turq can take care of himself,"
Ansel said, "well, sort of anyway.
I don't know where he's staying,
so I let him crash in the gazebo
whenever he feels like it."

"The gazebo?" Janie said,
frowning at Ansel. "What's wrong
with the couch in your office, or
even the futon in the loft?"

"Turq prefers the gazebo,
so it's his choice," Ansel said.
"Don't crowd him, okay? If he
feels like coming inside or
telling us more, let that
be his decision."

Janie gave an unhappy sigh.
"Okay, but I don't like leaving
him out there in the open."

Turq needed the open,
after his awful imprisonment,
but that wasn't something that
Ansel could tell Janie.

"I don't like it either," Ansel said,
which was also the truth.

As Ansel curled up in his big, soft bed
with his warm, cuddly girlfriend
he wished that Turq had someone
to snuggle with and somewhere
better to go than a gazebo.

That was all Turq could handle
for now, though, so it would have to do.

At least now it had a bench lined
with memory foam padding, and
walls somewhat protected by
plastic sheets against the wind.

Ansel was willing to overlook
broken fences if he had to, but
that didn't stop him from thinking
about ways of mending them.

On that note, he snuggled
into Janie and went to sleep.

* * *


Janie Newcastle -- She has pinkish-fair skin, brown eyes, and wavy blonde hair to her chin. She is average height, with a heart-shaped face and softly curving body. She enjoys biking, jogging, tennis, and other athletic activities.
Janie is the girlfriend of Ansel Nicholson (Officer Pink). The youngest of three girls, she grew up as a bubbly, gregarious child in a quiet, reserved family and just never really fit in at home. Her parents always worried that she'd hurt herself romping in the woods with friends or trying to fix things around the house. Her sisters thought she'd never find a job or a boyfriend spending half her time looking like a tomboy and the other half like a cheerleader. Janie doesn't dislike her relatives, just doesn't have much in common with them, so they don't speak often. Instead she has focused on finding family of choice.
During the week, Janie hires out doing repairs and minor renovations in house and yard. She has an apartment in the heart of Bluehill. She and Ansel are trying to decide where they'd rather live, both of them torn between the downtown convenience of her place and his quiet, spacious yard.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Handywoman, Good (+2) Activity Scout Leader, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Warm-hearted Woman
Poor (-2) Family Background

* * *

“A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires the flowers in your garden.”
–- Unknown

Gardening is a good way to make friends. There are tips for planting a spring flower garden and for gardening with teenagers.

Gardening has many benefits for mental health. It can soothe anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Here are some exercises for horticultural therapy.

Daffodils are good for naturalizing as well as flowerbeds, and the bulbs sold for that purpose are hardier. That way you don't have to make a whole bed, you can just dig through the sod. This mix produces beautiful daffodils. They should be planted about 6" down.

Tulips also naturalize well, and are easy to find in big bags. See some bulbs and flowers from a tulip blend. Covering them with compost is a good trick when planting tulips.

Compost is beneficial and easy to make. A three-bin system allows you to separate stages. You can buy or make your own compost bins.

This is the kind of memory foam dog mat used to line the benches.

Resolving family conflicts requires tact and compromise. Since Turq is a wreck and can't talk when furry, a lot of the compromise in this relationship comes from Ansel learning what Turq wants and then suggesting a plan partway between their points. Turq isn't hostile or unwilling, just damaged badly enough that he can't accommodate all of Ansel's wishes. Know how to make compromises and teach the art of compromise. Ideally, you want a win-win situation; at minimum, it needs to be something everyone can live with.

Reciprocity is part of relationships. Friends exchange favors for various reasons. Favor trading is also a big part of the Terramagne economy. Some people do favors with no thought of return, while others strive to keep their emotional bank account in balance. Ansel has minimal expectations of Turq and happily does things to help him, while Turq feels uneasy about owing anyone. Balance in relationships will ebb and flow over time, and contributions don't have to be identical. Know how to help a friend and balance relationships.

Enjoy recipes for Campfire Crescent Dogs, Campfire Hamburgers, Caramel Apple Packets, and S'mores.

Boro and sashiko are part of Japanese traditions in mending. Here are some decorative mending methods.

See Turq's mended jeans.

Gazebo lighting comes in several styles.

Friendship can mean various things, and incorporates complex aspects. In general it helps people enjoy life more and withstand hardships better.

Family storytelling has many benefits. Learn how to do it.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, gardening, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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