"A Life by What We Give"
"Let's do something fun today,"
Ansel suggested to Turq.
"Like what?" Turq asked.
"We enjoyed biking together,"
Ansel said. "We could go to
Cerulean Recreation Park. They
have a skatepark there for skateboards,
rollerskates, and stunt bikes. Besides,
there's someone I'd like you to meet,
if you think you're up for that."
"Who?" Turq said as he
stepped out of the gazebo.
"My soup mentor," Ansel said.
"His name is Skippy. I think
you'll like each other."
Turq tilted his head, thinking
about it. "Okay," he said.
"Great," Ansel said. "We have
a spare bike that you can
borrow, if you like."
"Yeah, thanks," Turq said.
So they went to the park,
where Ansel found Skippy at
the skatepark and flagged him down.
"Skippy, this is my friend Turq,"
said Ansel. "Turq, this is
my soup mentor Skippy."
"But he's even younger than
I am!" Turq blurted.
"Yeah, we get that a lot,"
Skippy said, rolling his eyes.
"Skippy's had his superpowers for
two years; I've only had my own
for a few months," Ansel said.
"He has taught me a lot."
"Sorry," Turq said. "I didn't
mean to be rude, just ...
wasn't expecting that."
"What about you?" Skippy said.
"You don't have to talk about
your superpowers if you don't
want too, but I'm interested."
"I've had mine for a while, but
it's been ... rough," Turq said,
looking away. "I don't usually
talk about it unless I have to."
Skippy's eyes narrowed, and
he looked at Ansel. "This one?"
"Yes, and we're smooth with
our history, so please don't make
a fuss over it," Ansel said.
"It's your call," Skippy said.
"You wanna hang some wheels?
There's not a lot of activity at
the skatepark today, most of
the crowd's out at the ball fields."
"We'd be delighted to," Ansel said,
and Turq tagged along willingly enough.
The skatepark was a fine stretch of pavement
near the recplex, full of ramps and railings
and steps in assorted shapes.
Ansel's dirt bike was optimized for
trail riding, but the shock absorbers
made it nice for tricking around
on the ramps as well.
"Start with the easy stuff until
you get a feel for the skatepark,"
Skippy said to Turq. "I don't want
to have to dig out my first aid kit."
The layout had a straight path painted
over several of the easiest obstacles,
to help novices find their way around,
so Turq started with that part.
Ansel staked out the ripple ramp
alongside the beginner strip, and
Skippy ratcheted his skateboard
up and down the staircases.
For a while, Ansel looped back
and forth along the ripple ramp
while keeping an eye on the boys.
As Turq got tired of the easy path
and started trying to hop his bike
onto the benches, Ansel switched
to one of the half-circle ramps and
practiced spinning in the air. He could
manage a 360 but not much more yet.
When Skippy started running firecrackers
down the stairs with kickflips before and after,
Turq and Ansel stopped to watch him.
"If I tried doing that," Turq said,
"I would kill myself to death,
superpowers or no."
Ansel chuckled. "Me too,
but it sure is a beautiful thing
to watch. He's gotten better,
just since I've known him."
Skippy glided to a stop
in front of them, then took a bow
as they both applauded.
"Anybody hungry besides me?"
he asked. "Concessions is open,
and there's a row of food carts too."
"After that exercise, I need food,"
Ansel said. "Let's go."
They were halfway from
the skatepark to concessions
when the wind shifted, and
suddenly Ansel realized that
Turq wasn't beside him anymore.
Turning around, Ansel saw
Turq standing as if frozen stiff
in the middle of the sidewalk.
Skippy got to him first.
"Hey dude, are you okay?"
he asked, his voice pitched low.
Turq shook his head minutely.
"Bench," Skippy said, pointing out
the nearby pavilion, as his hand
cupped the air over Turq's shoulder.
In that manner, Skippy steered Turq
to a sheltered seat, all without ever
making actual skin contact.
Ansel followed them, then sat down
on the far end of the bench and
waited for Turq to respond.
Eventually Turq sighed and
rubbed his hands over his face.
"What happened?" Ansel asked.
"The food," Turq said. "It smells
like my -- like Mingxia's cooking.
I just got so homesick."
"I'm looking," Ansel said.
"I'll find your family for you."
Turq had given him enough details
to find them, but not instantly.
"Hmm?" Skippy said, without prying.
"They're Chinese, my foster family,"
Turq said. "We got split up, and I
want them back, even though I'm
a mess. I smelled the peanut oil,
the stir-fry and the egg rolls, and
it just -- hit me pretty hard."
Skippy leaned out to see which
food carts were lined up
along the pavement.
"It looks like Wok & Roll is here,"
he said. "Would you rather
go eat somewhere else?"
"No, I don't want to risk turning
a good memory into a bad trigger,"
said Turq. "Let's see what they have."
What they had was a set of woks
and a seemingly endless variety of
meats, vegetables, and other tidbits
that could be stir-fried or made into rolls.
"They have stinky tofu!" Turq said happily.
"I want some, I haven't had it in years."
The vendor was staring at him.
"I don't see it on the menu?"
Skippy said, frowning.
"It's in the Chinese part,"
Turq said as he pointed to it.
Ansel scanned the menu and
realized that the English part
was incomplete. "It's a bit rude
to leave part of your menu without
translation," he said to the vendor.
"White people don't like those items,
they're for the immigrants," the man said.
"I can translate for you," Turq said.
"I know ... well, some of the words. Oh,
they have duck too ... pickled quail eggs ..."
"Order a mix of plain and interesting food,
we'll trust your judgment," Ansel said.
Then he turned to the vendor. "Finish
that menu posting, please. I don't want
to have to write you a ticket when I'm on duty."
So Turq ordered a giant pile of food
in his careful Chinese, and Ansel paid.
Meanwhile Skippy had gone over
to the next cart, Get Creamed!
and brought three smoothies.
"I know which one you want,"
he said, setting a pink cup in front
of Ansel. "Turq, would you prefer
the plain orange or tropical blend?"
"Which one is less sweet?" Turq said.
"Probably the tropical one, it has
more fruit," said Skippy. He
pushed the cup to Turq.
Ansel's smoothie turned out to be
strawberry creamsicle, sweet with
a savory base note that hinted
at some kind of greens.
It made a perfect counterpoint
to the spicy stir-fried shrimp dish
and the crispy egg rolls.
Ansel tried one bite of
the stinky tofu and declared
that Turq could keep the rest.
"Most white people really don't
like this stuff," Turq said.
"That's not the point," Ansel said.
"I wanted to try it, and I wouldn't even
have known they had any if you hadn't
read the Chinese menu for us. That
amounts to discrimination, and it's
not appropriate for vendors."
"Yeah, they have to serve everyone
equally," said Skippy. "It would be
like not having a Braille menu.
The food is great, though."
"I guess my later foster parents
rubbed off some of my manners,"
Turq said glumly. "Figures."
Ansel reached out to pat Turq's knee,
but Turq's power had its hackles up,
making Ansel draw back and rub
his hand against his pants.
Skippy frowned. "Are you two
having problems with skin contact?"
"Yes," Turq said.
"No," Ansel said.
"Well, which is it?"
Skippy wondered, looking
back and forth between them.
"It comes and goes for me," Turq said.
"Sometimes contact helps, other times
it makes me feel worse. How'd you
know not to touch me, earlier?"
"I've taken some EFA classes,"
Skippy said, then hesitated. "Also
you felt kind of ..." He waggled a hand
in the air. "... to my superpower. So
I didn't want to take chances."
"Good instincts," Turq said.
"What about you?" Skippy said,
turning to Ansel next.
"It's not that kind of issue,"
Ansel said. He wasn't about
to try explaining Turq's history
in any more detail, especially not
to someone Skippy's age. "You
don't need to worry about it."
Skippy reached out lightning-fast
and grabbed for Ansel's wrist.
Ansel yanked his arm out of reach
just in time. "What the heck was
that all about?" he said.
"Yeah, that's what I thought,"
Skippy said. "You're wearing
more of a reaction than you think.
I may not be as old as either of you,
but that first year, I spent a lot of time
in group therapy. I know PTSD when
I see it, and the little stress-quirks too.
You weren't hand-shy when we met,
Ansel, that's fresh from the nerve-burn."
Automatically Ansel rubbed his fingers
over the mark. The handprint had faded
to a pale brown outline now, but it hadn't
gone away as quickly as predicted.
"Sorry," Turq said, hunching
into his teal sweater.
"Forgiven," Ansel reminded him.
"Listen, I know you think it's nothing,
but you ditched and it shows," Skippy said.
"You better clean it up before it gets worse."
Ansel opened his mouth to argue.
"Hair," Turq said quietly.
"Okay, okay," Ansel said.
"I get the point already."
"What about your hair?"
Skippy said. "I can't help
if I don't know what's going on."
Ansel sighed. "I got groped,
and it really freaked me out,"
he admitted. "But that's different
than what happened with Turq,
and he helped me through it.
Crayon stuff isn't your thing."
"Tactile hypersensitivity or
echo effect?" Skippy said. "I've
done my homework. And yours."
"Ah ... echo effect, actually,"
Ansel said. "We've taken up
brushing as a coping skill."
"That's a good one," Skippy said,
brightening. "We tried it for a while
to see if it would help my skipping.
Didn't, but it was soooo relaxing.
Now I mostly use it for test anxiety.
Brushing puts me right to sleep."
"It helps me with -- with the mess
in my head," Turq said. "I didn't realize
I was rubbing off on Ansel, though."
"Well, you didn't know him before
you met him," Skippy pointed out.
"It's not a big change, but it's there.
I'd rather not see it get bigger."
"I'll see what I can do," Ansel said.
"You're a cop, the department must
have someone on EFA," said Skippy.
"Yes, but I don't want to bring it up
at work if I can avoid that," Ansel said.
"I don't want to risk getting Turq in trouble."
"Community clinic, then, or self-help,"
Skippy said. "It doesn't matter where
you go, just don't ignore it."
"Ethan," said Turq. "He
thought of the brushes."
"And if he says it's something ...
between ... us?" Ansel said, waving
a hand to suggest their energy flow
and Turq's touchy abilities.
Turq shrugged. "Then I add it
to the giant, steaming pile of
crap I need to deal with."
Skippy giggled, still young enough
to find potty jokes funny.
"Okay, I'll get off your case
now you've got a plan," he said.
"Who wants some dessert?"
"Me," Turq and Ansel chorused.
So Skippy went to Get Creamed!
and came back with a whole bucket
full of creamsicles, including rainbow ones.
"There's a bunch of different flavors,"
Skippy said. "The pink one is strawberry
again, the darker red is raspberry, obviously
orange is orange, the white is grapefruit,
and I forget the other ones."
"That's a lot," Turq said.
"We'll eat them all," Skippy said.
"No point going back five times.
Unless your appetite is slowing?"
He looked at Ansel.
"Still going strong," Ansel said.
"I asked Paintrix about it, and it's not
typical, but not unheard of either."
"So eat up," Skippy said.
Ansel took raspberry for variety,
while Turq grabbed the grapefruit,
and Skippy had something that
was swirled purple and cream.
The creamsicles were delicious,
made with real fruit and cream,
although some of them seemed
to have yogurt or coconut milk,
and Ansel was pretty sure they
had protein powder too.
"How are things going with
you, Skippy?" asked Ansel.
"School is hard," Skippy said,
wrinkling his nose. "I spend most
of my time studying, but then I forget
a majority of what I learned."
"You're lucky to have it," Turq said.
"I miss school. I never got to finish.
If you need a study partner, I could
help. You shouldn't have trouble
keeping up with me, I'm a mess."
"Yeah, maybe," Skippy said.
"Leapfrog is helping me explore
things I'd like to learn as a soup,
and how to make a plan for
"We can do that?" Turq said,
looking at Ansel.
"Sure, there are lots of ways
that people can learn things,"
Ansel said. "Just think of what
you'd like to know and how you
could study that. Make a plan."
"I should probably see about
finishing high school," Turq said,
"if there's anything left of my records."
"I'll add that to the search," Ansel said.
"Were you in Bluehill before, or at least
in Missouri?" Skippy said. "I kept most
of my old textbooks because I still need
to refer back to them a lot. You could
come over and read those."
"Not Bluehill, but Missouri," Turq said.
"I spent most of my time in River City
before ... everything fell apart."
"It's getting better now," Ansel said.
"You have new friends. We'll help you
pick up the pieces of your old life."
He went back for another creamsicle,
this time grabbing a rainbow one.
The bowl was almost empty.
"Yeah, I know what that's like,"
Skippy said. Then he turned to Turq.
"Couple years ago, I got hit by a truck.
I woke up with traumatic brain injury ...
and superpowers. It's been tough,
but I'm learning to cope with it."
"Wow," Turq said. "I don't think I've
been hit by a truck. Hit in the head,
yeah, plenty of that though."
"I kept all the TBI stuff too,"
Skippy said. "Come over and
I can walk you through it."
"I don't do well indoors,"
Turq admitted, blushing.
"I don't do well in heavy traffic,"
Skippy said. "We'll manage."
Turq looked around at the park,
sprinkled with people and the sounds
of far-off fun being had in the fields.
"It's nice to get out and do things,
you know ... normal stuff," Turq said.
"Yeah, otherwise your life becomes
one big bucket of suck," Skippy said.
Ansel just listened, because he hadn't
gone through that kind of major upheaval,
just a few minor scares that might have
left him dinged up a bit but didn't
interfere with everyday life.
"One thing I learned in group therapy is
that it helps to pay it forward," Skippy said.
"Look at your life skills, job skills, coping skills,
and then think how those can help people.
We make a living by what we get, but
we make a life by what we give."
"That'd be nice," Turq said. "I'm not
ready for more than bits and pieces yet,
still haven't got my life back together,
but it sounds like a good idea."
"You know I'm here for you,"
Ansel said. "That includes
accepting your help, as well
as offering my own."
"Thanks," Turq said,
leaning against him, and
despite the earlier touchiness
this time it was warm and comfortable.
Of course that made Skippy
pile in on the other side.
"We're quite a bunch,
aren't we?" he said.
"Yeah," Turq said,
"but I think I like it."
* * *
Skippy (Ryker Seinfeld) -- He has tawny-fair skin, green eyes, and dark blond hair that fades much lighter toward the ends as the sun bleaches it out. He wears it cut short in back, longer in front to cover the scars at his temples where his helmet dug in during an accident. He has a silver ring in his left eyebrow. His body is lean and graceful. Ryker is 16. Athletic and agile, he excels at street sports such as skateboarding, rollerskating, and biking.
His traumatic brain injury has mostly healed in the two years after his accident. Salient among the lingering effects are anxiety, speech impairment, and difficulty learning new things. His lack of control over his superpower contributes to his anxiety, which often makes him stammer, repeating words. Stress makes it all worse. Plus the skips make him ravenously hungry. Although frustrated by his challenges, Ryker refuses to let them keep him at home. He uses adaptive technology to make it safer for him to go out in public.
Origin: The Super-Immunity comes from the Aegis vaccine base. For his fourteenth birthday, Ryker got a new skateboard. When he took it for a spin, a truck driver ran a red light and hit him. It took months for him to recover, and the wreck left him with head trauma and superpowers. His teleport mentor Leapfrog is helping him learn about his abilities.
Uniform: Because of difficulties with his superpower, Skippy always wears clothes that make him easy to see. He likes bright neons combined with black, gray, or white and preferably reflective material. His shoes usually have either reflectors or lights on them. He chooses other possessions for high visibility when possible.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Street Sports, Good (+2) Coping Skills, Good (+2) Earnest, Good (+2) Reading People, Good (+2) Smart
Poor (-2) Traumatic Brain Injury
Powers: Average (0) Super-Immunity, Average (0) Teleporting
Limitation: Even after two years of diligent practice, Skippy has minimal control over his superpower. The most he's managed is using a locator in his smartphone as an anchor. Sometimes his superpower activates at random or when he feels anxious, causing him to 'skip' wildly around the nearby area. It doesn't even stay in two dimensions, and sometimes he gets stranded. His smartphone and vidwatch are synchronized to make it easier for people to find and help him. He can't take passengers yet and is unwilling even to try until his control improves.
Motivation: Just hang in there, baby.
* * *
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
-- Winston Churchill
Cerulean Recreation Park in Bluehill is based on Branson, Missouri RecPlex. The skatepark is in the white space just south of the RecPlex building on the map, and is based on the Skate Park adjacent to Stockstill Park. See a photo of the skatepark. The gold trail goes around the recreational complex; the red trail circles the cloverleaf of ball fields. The silver trail extends from the southeast corner of the gold trail alongside the road, and connects with another section of the park with a small pond. Soggy spots in the park have been converted to rain gardens. This one is inspired by Wilshire Park in Liberty, Missouri. Terramagne-America tends to build multiuse facilities, not just in terms of packing several play areas into a park, but also in designing each area for multiple purposes. So the skatepark is used with skateboards, rollerblades, and bicycles; the sidewalks are good for walking, jogging, biking, chalk art, and games.
Bike tricks include basic and more advanced techniques. While some stunts require specialized equipment, many can be done with a regular bike on flat pavement, dirt trails, or found obstacles.
Skateboard tricks include a long list of options. Read about kickflips and firecrackers. For a skilled skateboarder, these two combine well.
Wok & Roll is a food cart that quick-cooks a variety of foods to be served in egg rolls or in bowls. Read about stinky tofu and learn how to make it. Here is a basic egg roll recipe and some variations. It's basically just a wrapper with chopped stuff in it; you can fill these with almost anything. Stir-fry is another approach that uses more of a formula than a recipe. Learn how to make stir-fry.
The original creamsicle is a popsicle with a core of vanilla ice cream inside a coat of orange ice. You can make a version of the orange creamsicle at home. Other flavors include raspberry, grapefruit, and blueberry. Rainbow popsicles may be made from smoothies or pure fruit. Creamsicle smoothies may be orange, pineapple, strawberry, and so forth.
You can create a personal learning plan, independent scholar plan, self-directed learning plan, or whatever you want to call it. Here are some worksheets to make a learning plan.
Another approach is to look at designing majors and professional development. Here is a form for an individualized major and some career development worksheets.