Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Patience with the Limitations"

This poem came out of the June 7, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] janetmiles, [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron, [personal profile] sweet_sparrow, [personal profile] alatefeline, [personal profile] chanter_greenie, [personal profile] lone_cat, and LJ user Moonwolf1988. It also fills the "playing with hair" square in my 6-1-16 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Patience with the Limitations"

Ansel rapped politely on the side
of the gazebo with the back of his hand.
"Morning, Turq," he said when
the young man peeked out.

"Morning," Turq said,
and then looked down at
the fluffy tortoiseshell cat.
"Oh, hi, Boots. What's up?"

"I wanted to let you know
that Boots and I are working
from home today," Ansel said.
"We're expecting a litter of
telepathic kittens who need
some coaching in manners."

"I thought telepaths were
mentally fastidious?" Turq said.

"Human ones tend to be," Ansel said.
"Other species, not so much. That's
why I wanted to warn you first."

"I guess that makes sense,"
Turq said. "Things feel different
when I'm not human. I like it better.
The caney's a lot more relaxed
and playful than I am now."

"I think you'll get it back eventually,"
Ansel said. "They're all still part of you,
after all. So are you up to meeting
some new friends today?"

"Okay," Turq said. "I think I can
hold my own. If not, well,
there's plenty of woods."

He looked out at the expanse
of bare, gray-brown trees dotted
with lawns and cabins that
surrounded the lake.

He was still nervous, though.

"Want me to brush you?
Ansel asked when Turq
leaned against him. A hand
came up to ruffle the blue hair.
"Then you won't work yourself
into a tizzy while we wait."

"Mmyeah," Turq murmured,
dropping into caney form.

Boots plopped down beside him
and promptly began purring.

Then Ansel brought out
the hedgehog slicker brush
that had long plastic pins and
shorter bristles to dig through
the caney's thick, fluffy coat.

Turq made happy noises,
his long pink tongue lolling out.

They were still piled together
when the peacock-colored SUV
pulled into the driveway and
a cheerful young man got out.

"Hi, I'm Riposte," he said as
he opened a triple cat carrier.
One at a time he released
three rangy, half-grown kittens.

"This is Cayenne," he said.
The orange female hissed at them.

"This is her brother Napoleon,"
said Riposte, adding a brown tabby.

"And this," he said as he revealed
a white female, "is Mrrhow the Mercurial."

"That's an interesting name," Ansel said.

"She didn't see a need to change it,
so after some negotiation, we agreed
on a translation," Riposte said.

"I'm Ansel and these are my friends
Boots and Turq," said Ansel. "Boots
is a therapy cat. Turq is just sitting in,
if that's all right with everyone; he is
a person, even though he's furry now."

Boots uncurled and came to meet
their guests, his fluffy tail held high.

"Sure," said Riposte. "Come on,
guys, be friendly for once."

Pet me, Napoleon demanded.

"I like to be asked nicely,"
Ansel said. "Try saying please."

PET ME, Napoleon said, this time
backing the thought with a wave
of telepathic compulsion.

To Turq, it felt like water in
his ears, and Ansel swayed
but didn't reach down.

Boots simply sat on the kitten's head
until Napoleon quit doing that.

"Well, that's a new solution,"
Riposte said with a chuckle.

"Boots is trained in trauma-informed care,"
Ansel said. "He understands how
to solve problems without violence."

"Now if we can just teach
Cayenne that," said Riposte.

"That's part of the goal for today,"
Ansel said. "Manners, telepathic etiquette,
de-escalation skills, conflict resolution --
we can focus on whatever's needed."

He talked about that for a while,
and Turq let him ramble, keeping
a sharp eye on the kittens.

Napoleon and Cayenne were
determined to be pesky, while
Mrrhow the Mercurial was
little more than a ghost around
the edges of the meeting.

Feed me, Napoleon sent.

"I have treats," Ansel said.
"If you want one, ask politely."

FEED ME, Napoleon ordered.

This time Turq reached out a paw
and mashed the kitten to the ground,
not hard enough to hurt, but enough
to break his concentration.

"Put him back in the carrier
for a few minutes, while
everyone else has treats,"
Ansel suggested, and
Riposte did that.

They all ignored the yowls of protest.

When Ansel brought out the packet,
though, Cayenne yelled, Treats!
and climbed him like a tree.

"Carrier," Ansel said as he
peeled her off by the scruff,
and Riposte put her in there.

Mrrhow the Mercurial
licked her shoulder at him
and then stalked away,
waving her wild tail.

"I guess nobody wants treats,"
Ansel said, crinkling the packet.

Turq couldn't figure out how
to say please in caney form,
so he tilted his head and whined.

Boots simply stropped himself
against Ansel's legs.

Oh, that would work.

Turq followed suit, rubbing
along Ansel's shins.

"Polite folks get treats,"
Ansel said, bending down
to divide the liver snaps
between the two of them.

Boots purred.

Turq trilled.

"You're welcome,"
Ansel said, chuckling.

"That's impressive,"
Riposte said. "All that I've
managed to do is discourage
mine from trying to roll
everyone they see."

"It's progress," Ansel said.
"Let the kittens back out
and we'll try this again."

Cayenne hissed at them.
Napoleon growled.

Mrrhow the Mercurial was
still sulking somewhere.

Boots gave the kittens
an unimpressed look and
groomed his whiskers.

Turq merely watched.

Ansel started up a funny story
about a young telepath named Echo
and how differently all of the people
around him behaved depending
on how he treated them.

Turq flopped onto Ansel's feet,
and Boots curled up with him.

There was something about Ansel
that made Turq's ears twitch, though,
because he could feel it nudging him
just a little -- had for a while now,
but today it was stronger than ever.

It didn't feel like a shove or a yank,
just a subtle inclination, as if everything
somehow tilted toward Ansel
and what he was saying.

Turq thought he might mention this
to Ansel later, when it would be easier
to think in words and talk out
what was happening.

At least the kittens had quit fussing,
and even Mrrhow the Mercurial
had reappeared from wherever
she had gotten off to.

When the story ended, Ansel said,
"Thank you for listening. Now,
who wants a liver snap?"

The kittens didn't say please, but
neither did they try to manipulate him,
so Ansel handed out one apiece.

Turq savored his, and butted
his head against Ansel's hand.

Ansel scratched the place
behind Turq's ears that
made him feel all melty.

Suddenly there was Mrrhow,
tunneling between Boots
and Ansel's shin.

"Would you like to be petted?"
Ansel said, offering her his hand.
"I like to be petted, as long as
people ask me first."

Turq remembered what it
had been like, those early weeks
when he found Ansel appealing
and terrifying in equal measure.

It was still scary, but not as much
now as it had been before.

He gave Mrrhow an encouraging nudge.

She sniffed Ansel's fingers,
then winked at him, closing
first her blue eye and then
the yellow-green one.

He stroked a hand over
her white coat before scratching
around the base of her tail.

Mrrhow arched into the touch
and purred, leaning against him.

"Wow," said Riposte. "It took
a week before any of them
would purr for me."

"Remember that I'm building
on your excellent foundation,"
Ansel pointed out.

So the day went, back and forth
between talking and treats and petting.

The kittens were only horrible
about half the time, which
according to Riposte was
a big improvement.

Boots provided a good example,
and Turq ... did his best to follow it.

Riposte yawned, then said,
"Excuse me. Long drive, long day."
He sat down beside Ansel.

Boots simply shifted to cover
Riposte as well as Ansel, leaving
more room for Turq on the other side.

"This is what I love most about cats,"
Ansel said as he dug his fingers
into the soft layers of Boots' fur.
"They have enormous patience
with the limitations of the human kind."

Turq wasn't all the way there yet,
but with a little help from Boots
and Ansel, he was getting closer.

* * *


Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) -- He has ruddy skin and hazel eyes. His hair starts out light brown but he has it changed to pink by Paintrix, after which it also tends to stand straight up. He discovers that the pink color just feels right for him, and decides to keep it. Ansel is tall and athletic, with a rectangular face, wide shoulders, and trim hips. He is heterosexual and has a girlfriend. He sleeps so deeply that he's easy to sneak up on after he's asleep.
Ansel works on the Bluehill police force. He often volunteers for youth outreach and other public speaking. His pink hair helps other soups identify him, breaks the ice at presentations, and encourages people to ask him for help. On the downside, it also makes forks and other bigots hate him.
Origin: Upset by the increase in bullying, Ansel starts doing presentations at schools in Bluehill. The kids give him the idea of coloring his hair pink so he can see firsthand how people treat someone who is visibly different.
Uniform: On duty, Ansel wears the Bluehill police uniform. Off duty, he likes casual, sporty clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Compassion, Expert (+4) Citizen, Expert (+4) Cop, Expert (+4) People Skills, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Jigsaw Puzzles, Good (+2) Kindness, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Problem-Solving Skills
Poor (-2) Deep Sleeper
Powers: Average (0) Moral Compass, Average (0) Wild Pink Hair
Motivation: To make the world a kinder place.

Turq (Drustan Moreau) -- He has pale skin and hazel eyes with hints of blue, green, and gray. His hair was originally brown, but is turning turquoise from the top down. His eyebrows, beard, and mustache are still brown. His ears are pierced. He is slim and muscular with a heart-shaped face. He is left-handed. Drustan is Scorpio with Pisces as a moon sign. His heritage includes Welsh, French, and German. Following incidents of child abuse and neglect, he grew up in the foster care system, so he has no real family support. The results of that have not been very good.
Sold by his foster parents, Drustan fell prey to a mad scientist whose disturbing experiments gave him superpowers. The body horror from his ordeal has left him full of dread and melancholy, making it difficult for him to connect with people. He also gets anxious about being tied up, locked in, or confined in any other way. That has given him a nasty set of striationary marks, more than once.
Turq works as a supervillain; he is a capable thief and a useful distraction, but iffy in a real fight. Most often he uses the shapeshifting, although his neural blast allows him to disorient people or shock them unconscious depending how much force he puts into it. He does his best to conceal the drawbacks of his superpowers, because he doesn't want anyone to take advantage of him. He is fatalistic about injuries and resistant to help. His cape name is a double tap. It's short for turquoise, in reference to his hair. It also touches on the Turk chess machine, which in Terramagne was not a hoax but an early gizmo.
Origin: Mad science torture. The supervillain Carl Bernhardt locked Drustan in a strange metal chamber and bombarded him with mysterious energies that caused his body to warp. He escaped when he finally manifested teleportation. Now he works as a henchman for hire.
Uniform: Street clothes. He prefers clothes with stripes, spots, or other patterns because they hide bloodstains better. Usually he wears dark or neutral colors.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adaptable, Good (+2) Chess Player, Good (+2) Comforting When Fuzzy, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman
Poor (-2) Body Horror
Powers: Average (0) Teleporting, Average (0) Neural Blast, Average (0) Regeneration, Average (0) Shapeshifting
His alternate forms include caney, deer, and ferret. In caney form he has a violet gland with a pronounced floral scent, which is less intense but still present in his other shapes.
Vulnerability: Turq has difficulty controlling his superpowers. Shapeshifting screws up his body in ways that leave him coughing and vomiting blood afterwards. However, he can heal the damage -- anything that doesn't kill him instantly probably can't kill him at all. Teleporting can leave him disoriented and twitching from misconnected nerves, or scrambled inside, or all of the above. He actually travels by disintegrating and then reintegrating somewhere else, rather than by blinking from one place to another the way most teleporters do.
Motivation: Get through the day without screaming too much.

Boots -- He is a rare male tortoiseshell cat with Scottish Fold ears. He is mostly a mix of brown and orange tabby, just a bit of white on his face and feet. He has long fluffy fur that is delightfully warm and snuggly. Because of this, once he's wet, it's very difficult to get him dry again. Whereas many Scottish Folds look sad or guilty, Boots wears an expression of perpetual concern. He works with Officer Pink and others at the Bluehill Police Station.
Qualities: Master (+6) Therapist, Good (+2) Cat, Good (+2) Sooooo Warm
Poor (-2) Takes Forever to dry

Riposte (Jacob "Coby" Wade) -- Coby has fair skin, light brown hair, and blue eyes. He is average height with considerable muscle. He grew up in a family of superheroes but never developed powers himself. His mother is a strongwoman and his father is a telepath; his oldest brother has super-strength, middle brother has super-speed, and his older sister has telepathy. Coby's fashion sense is such that he can put together the wildest outfit and still look good in it instead of ridiculous. He wore a glass-green smoking jacket to his senior prom and had girls hanging all over him. His specialty is fighting supervillains with telepathic, empathic, or other abilities that allow them to manipulate people. He is still touchy about lacking real powers, though.
Origin: Coby is the youngest of four children in a super family, and the only one without powers. So he pushed his ordinary abilities until he could compete on a super scale, finding ways to accomplish the same things.
Uniform: Colorful and expressive, the details change but the flair remains similar. Riposte likes poet shirts, fancy coats, and hats. The most common color is yellow-green contrasted with blue-violet and red-violet. He wears a tricolor half-mask.
Qualities: Master (+6) Armor of Iron Will, Expert (+4) More Than One Way to Skin a Cat, Expert (+4) Soup Culture, Expert (+4) Family Connections, Expert (+4) Strong, Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) College Student, Good (+2) Deduction, Good (+2) Speed-reading, Good (+2) Unusual Fashion Sense, Good (+2) Wrestler
Poor (-2) I Can TOO Keep Up With You!
Powers: None.
Motivation: To be effective as a supernary hero.

Cayenne -- She is a ginger female kitten with amber eyes. She is the daughter of Macavity, older sister of Napoleon and Mrrhow the Mercurial. Currently they live with Riposte.
Origin: She was born with her superpowers.
Uniform: None. She goes nude.
Qualities: Good (+2) Fighter, Good (+2) Kitten
Poor (-2) Aggressive
Powers: Average (0) Telempathy
Motivation: To fight for what she wants.

Napoleon -- He is a male kitten with brown classic tabby fur and hazel eyes. He is the son of Macavity, younger brother of Cayenne and older brother of Mrrhow the Mercurial. Currently they live with Riposte.
Origin: He was born with his superpowers.
Uniform: None. He goes nude.
Qualities: Good (+2) Kitten, Good (+2) Persuasive
Poor (-2) Holds Grudges
Powers: Average (0) Telempathy
Motivation: To manipulate people.

Mrrhow the Mercurial -- She is a white female kitten with odd eyes; her left eye is blue and her right eye is yellow-green. Like many white cats, Mrrhow has impaired hearing, but she refuses to believe it, because she can typically 'borrow' someone else's hearing via her superpowers. But when she's alone, she can't hear well. She is the daughter of Macavity, younger sister of Cayenne and Napoleon. Currently they live with Riposte.
Origin: She was born with her superpowers.
Uniform: None. She goes nude.
Qualities: Good (+2) Elusive, Good (+2) Kitten
Poor (-2) Hard of Hearing
Powers: Average (0) Telempathy
Motivation: To get away with things.

* * *

"As anyone who has ever been around a cat for any length of time well knows, cats have enormous patience with the limitations of the human kind."
-- Cleveland Amory

Telepathic ethics can be a touchy topic, especially because so many portrayals are negative.

Traumatic stress can change brain chemistry in ways that cause problems. Flashbacks (fear of the past) and/or anxiety (fear of the future) may get severe enough to impair everyday life. While animals can get PTSD too, the rates are much lower than for humans: around 10% of war dogs compared to anywhere from 15-80% of human veterans with a likely average around 30%. Animals think differently than humans do, and tend to live in the present more than the past or future, which probably reduces their risk of PTSD. Turq has found that spending plenty of time in animal form lowers the impact of his traumatic experiences, which makes it a good coping skill. Other helpful techniques include mindfulness and making happy new memories.

Grooming should be a pleasant experience for animals and people. Physical contact is soothing, especially over fur or hair. This is another healthy coping technique for Turq and Ansel. A hedgehog slicker brush includes long pins and short bristles to get through a thick, fluffy coat.

Riposte's SUV looks like this. Here is the triple cat carrier.

Naming cats can be more complicated than it seems. They have different types of names, some they are given and others they discover for themselves. Mrrhow the Mercurial has already discovered something like a tail name -- one that expresses her true nature -- and that's why she won't accept a substitute, no matter how hard it is for humans to pronounce her name. Unlike most cats, she isn't hiding hers.

Positive discipline relies on mutual respect. The techniques include explaining what someone has done wrong and offering better alternatives.

Dogs and cats both use similar techniques of discipline for their young, one of which is sitting on or pushing down an unruly baby. See a dog sitting on a kitten, and a cat sitting on a kitten.

Telepathy typically requires concentration. Therefore breaking a telepath's concentration is one of the better known ways of thwarting this ability. Weaker and/or less-experienced telepaths are easier to distract.

Trauma-informed care helps people recover from damage without making it worse, through the use of best practices. This is far more common in Terramagne-America than here.

Animal therapists such as therapy cats can help with many problems including PTSD and abuse. Read about the process of becoming a therapy cat. While some benefits can be produced by any animal therapist, others are unique to a particular species. Only cats purr, one of their many health benefits.

T-America handles animal therapists as a separate though related category compared to service animals and other assistance animals. Therapists are trained in species-appropriate techniques of safe travel, nonanxious presence, comfort, listening skills, trauma-informed care, nonviolent conflict resolution, and interspecies harmony. Unlike assistance animals, therapists are trained to provide specific services from a range of helpful options. They are licensed similar to service animals (although they may have more than one handler, because a prime requisite for animal therapists is the ability to work with many different humans) and may go places where pets are not permitted by virtue of their professional training.

It's cute when kittens climb people, not so much when cats do it. So encouraging the habit is not a good idea. Most people realize this the first time their kitty climbs them while they are not wearing pants.

Pet treats may be bought or homemade, and are useful training devices. Be careful to get good, safe ones because much of the supply is contaminated, sometimes dangerously so.

A moral compass is an inner sense that guides ethical decisions and influences other people. As a superpower, it can provide resistance to mind control or other outside influences, and conversely exert more direct influence over others. This began as part of Ansel's job as a police officer, but is now developing into a superpower. While people worry that superpowers would make everyone evil, that's not what happens. Power doesn't corrupt, it reveals. However, even unwitting or compassionate use can cause complications -- as in this case, hanging around Ansel so much is wearing down Turq's tolerance for a life of crime faster than he is developing other resources and tolerances. Understand how to calibrate your moral compass and how to teach moral behavior to others.

Patience is a virtue of tolerating frustration without losing composure. It is useful for handling superpowers and many other challenges. Follow the steps to improve your patience.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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