Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Carry Them With You in Your Heart"

This poem is spillover from the October 4, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] redsixwing. It also fills the "Character-building: past trauma" square in my 8-1-16 card for the Group Dynamics and Character-building Bingo Cards. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This is mostly positive, but Turq is still emotionally fragile and gets overloaded on family stuff. Ansel takes care of him.

"Carry Them With You in Your Heart"

Once Ansel had a good chunk of time
to devote to the search for Turq's family,
it was surprisingly easy to find them.

Turq's mother had made a website
in hopes of finding her lost children.

The older two, Andeana and Benedict,
were marked found while the younger three
were still listed as current location unknown.

Ansel stared at the picture of a preteen boy
with dark blond, floppy hair and tried
to compare that image with Turq.

He seemed so terribly young.

Ansel checked and double-checked
his findings, and when he was sure of
the match, he went looking for Turq.

It didn't take long for Ansel
to find Turq in the gazebo with
a blue plaid shirt spread over his lap,
carefully sewing a denim patch over
the torn flannel at the elbow.

"Can we talk?" Ansel said.
"I've got some important news."

"Sure," Turq said. He tucked
the needle into the cloth and
set his mending aside.

"I found your family," Ansel said
as he sat down on the bench
beside Turq. "Your mother
made a website in hopes of
finding you and the other kids."

Turq's hand flew to his mouth,
teeth biting into his knuckle
in an effort to keep silent.

Ansel waited a minute to see
if Turq would quit on his own, and
then gently tugged his hand
away from his mouth.

"If you need something to bite on,
you have chew toys for that,"
Ansel reminded Turq.

When he'd seen the caney
gnawing on a stick, Ansel had
given him a length of deer antler
and an organic cotton tug rope.

When he'd caught Turq,
in human form, chewing on
the collar of his shirt, Ansel had
bought a donut-shaped pendant
made of jade-green silicone.

The reminder was enough
for Turq to pull the pendant
out from under his shirt and
put that in his mouth, instead
of trying to bite his hand again.

Ansel waited patiently while Turq
worked through whatever had tied up
so much of his mental energy. Apparently
the caney's habits spilled over enough for
chewing to help the boy process things.

At last Turq let go of the pendant and
asked, "What does the website say?"

"It says a little about how your family
got split up," Ansel explained. "It has
pictures and descriptions of you and
the other kids. You were really cute."

"I, I don't know ... I don't have anything
left from when I was little," Turq said.

"Would you like to see?" Ansel asked.

Turq glanced at him, looked away,
and fidgeted with his pendant.

Then he nodded. "Yeah."

Ansel brought up the website
on his tablet computer and
then passed it to Turq.

A soft whimper escaped as
Turq ran his hand over the screen.

"They're my family," he said, "but
I don't know if I can ever go back
to them. I'm such a monster now."

"You can't go back to the way
things were, but you can go forward,"
Ansel said. "I can't agree about you
being a monster. Just because
some bad things happened to you,
doesn't make you a bad person."

Turq sniffled and wiped his nose
on his sleeve. "It's just so awful."

"I know," Ansel said, handing Turq
a handkerchief. "But it doesn't matter
how far apart in time or space you are,
how terrible you feel -- family is family.
You carry them with you in your heart,
just as they carry you in theirs, and
nothing can ever change that."

"I miss my mom," Turq admitted,
then used the hanky to blow his nose.

"She misses you too," Ansel said.
"She put her contact information on
the website so people could reach her
with any news about the kids. Do you
want to get back in touch now?"

Turq wrapped his arms around himself
and rocked back and forth, bumping
against the wall of the gazebo.

"Careful there," Ansel said as
he slipped an arm behind Turq
to cushion the impact. "Can you
tell me how you're feeling?"

"Terrified, homesick, confused,"
said Turq. "I don't know what --
why -- she's my mother, and I'm
too scared to talk with her!"

"Okay," Ansel said. "This is
a big step. It's natural to have
mixed feelings. Do you want
to work through this yourself, or
may I help? I could call her for you."

"Not today -- I'm too -- I need
to calm down," Turq said.

"Calm is good," Ansel said.
"We can contact your parents
later, when you feel more settled."

"Tomorrow?" Turq said wistfully.

"Yes, if that's what you want,"
Ansel said. "I'll be here for you,
whatever support you need."

Turq pressed against him.
"Yeah," he whispered.

"What would help you feel
more calm now?" Ansel said.
"How can you start to sort
through your feelings?"

"I need -- I can't do this
anymore," Turq said. "It hurts
too much to stay human."

"Okay, then go ahead and shift to
a more comfortable form," Ansel said.

Turq leaned forward to give himself
more room -- and then froze, making
a low desperate sound in his throat.

"What's wrong?" Ansel said, alarmed.

"I can't," Turq said. His breath
quickened. "I'm stuck. I can't
change my shape. What am I
going to do? I can't sleep like
this, it gives me nightmares!"

"Let's work it out," Ansel said,
rubbing Turq's back. "Has this
ever happened to you before?"

"I don't know," Turq said miserably.
"I've got so many holes in my memory,
and sometimes the transformation
really messes me up. Maybe?"

"If it has happened before, then you
must have gotten past it, since usually
you can shapeshift," Ansel reasoned.
"Feel inside yourself. What could be
causing this? That might help us
to figure out a solution for it."

"It feels like I have a monster inside
of me, tearing me up," Turq said.
"Sometimes I think there might be
another shape in there, trying to claw
its way out. But I don't want to be that."

"That sounds scary," Ansel said.
"Maybe you're having difficulty with
the shift because what your body wants
and what you want aren't the same."

"Yeah, that sounds right," Turq said.

"That's okay, everyone feels that way
sometimes," Ansel said. "It's your body,
and you can learn to control it."

"How?" Turq said. "It's all jammed up!"

"Think about the difference between
shifting in panic, and shifting on purpose,"
Ansel said. "When you panic, you're tense;
when you plan it, you're relaxed. Right now,
you want to shift, but you're freaked out over
the family thing. Your body ties itself in knots.
So the harder you pull, the more stuck
you get, like a Chinese finger trap."

"Huh," Turq said. "That makes sense.
"It feels like I'm pulling on something
that won't budge. But I still don't
know what to do about it."

"Stop fighting it, and try to relax,"
Ansel suggested. "Perhaps if you
unwind a little, you'll be able to shift.
It's risky when you're stressed anyhow."

"Yeah," Turq said. "Shredding my body
wouldn't really help matters any."

Ansel thought that the problem
might simply be that Turq was trying
to get away from being human, rather
than move toward some other form.

Maybe what he needed was
something to entice another shape.

"Would you like me to brush you?"
Ansel offered. "That usually
makes you feel better."

"Yeah," Turq said, snuggling closer.
"I hate being trapped in human skin."

"You're not trapped, you're just
temporarily stuck," Ansel said.
He reached into the storage bench
to find Turq's baby brush. "Don't
worry, we'll get you unstuck."

He stroked the brush over Turq's skin,
careful to follow the direction of the hairs.

Turq sighed, leaning into the touch.

"You like that, huh?" Ansel said.
"I'm happy to help, any time."

"Mmmyeah," Turq murmured.
"When you brush me, it feels like
taking all the tangles out of my head."

"That's good to hear," Ansel said.
"Let's go with what works."

"I'm sorry I'm such a wreck,
that you have to keep taking
care of me," Turq said.

"I'm sorry that you feel bad,"
Ansel said. "I'm not sorry
that you come to me for help."

"It's just so hard for me to do ...
anything, these days," Turq said.

"I know," Ansel said. "I can see
how hard you're working at this.
You survived a lot of trauma, Turq.
Don't expect that you can just get up
and walk away from that, any more
than you'd expect to walk away from
a bad car crash without a scratch."

"My wreck of a life," Turq said,
turning his face away.

"You'll get through it," Ansel said.
"It's already a lot better than it was,
now that you have a support network."

"Yeah," Turq said softly, and
turned back to look up at Ansel.
"You really don't mind the extra work?"

"I really don't," Ansel assured him,
brushing over Turq's belly.

Just like that, he had a lapful of caney.

"I knew you could do it," Ansel said
with a grin. The caney slobbered a kiss
along the back of his hand. "Let me up
so I can get the other brush. This one
will never go through all that fur."

Turq rolled off, landing neatly on his feet.
He nosed open the storage bench and
returned with the hedgehog slicker brush
held delicately between his teeth.

"Thank you, that's very thoughtful,"
Ansel said as he took the brush.
Then he patted his knee.

Turq climbed back into his lap,
rolling onto his back to present
Ansel with his blue-white belly.

"Everything will be all right, Turq,"
Ansel said as he brushed the caney.
"I know that things seem scary and
overwhelming right now, but that will
pass. You'll feel better in the morning."

Turq gave a gusty sigh, his eyes
beginning to close as the brushing
made him relaxed and sleepy.

Ansel looked down at him,
amazed that the survivor was able
to trust anyone this much, even as
the brush moved gently through
the luxurious pelt of mottled blue.

He realized that he had come
to carry Turq in his heart too.

"You're not a monster," Ansel said.
"You are a beautiful creature and
a very fine young man. I'm sure
your mother will be delighted to hear
from you again. I can hardly wait
to meet her. She sounds wonderful."

Turq lolled his tongue in a caney smile.

"All right, time for bed," Ansel said
as he finally finished brushing Turq.
"If you actually fall asleep on me,
I'll have to wake you up to move you."

Turq sat up and stretched, his mouth
opening in an enormous yawn.

Then he hooked his chin over
Ansel's shoulder, like a grateful hug,
but without using any hands.

"You're welcome," Ansel said softly.

* * *


I have reconfigured Turq's character sheet to account for his superpowers all coming from the same source, so instead of being listed separately, they're all bundled into the meta-power of Cryptid Shifter.

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) Cryptid Shifter
In Turq's case, the meta-power of Cryptid Shifter includes Average (0) Blue Hair, Average (0) Neural Blast, Average (0) Regeneration, Average (0) Shapeshifting, and Average (0) Teleporting. 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.

Mingxia Liáng -- She has golden skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and short wavy hair that grows in brown but bleaches to auburn in the sun. Mingxia's family moved from China to America when she was a teenager, as religious refugees because they practice Falun Gong. She is the older sister of Mingmei and Mingyu, wife of Dao Liáng, sister-in-law of his younger brother Fang who is a lawyer, and mother of several children. Mingxia speaks Chinese and English with equal fluency, using Chinese as the home language so that the children can learn it. Her day job is raising endangered plants native to Missouri.
Mingxia's first daughter Baozhen was born with serious medical problems, which required her parents to give up the foster children they had at the time -- including Turq -- because all the time and money went into taking care of her. Mingxia still feels sad and guilty about all of those losses. She has been trying ever since to track down all the foster kids they let go of. The oldest girl, Andeana, was happy to reconnect with them and is currently in college. The next-younger boy, Benedict, refused to have anything to do with them. They haven't found the girl Jada, who was just older than Turq, or the infant boy Seth. Mingxia has done diligent therapy to cope with what happened, but the uncertainty of the missing children has made it hard to finish processing.
Qualities: Master (+6) Mother, Master (+6) Horticulturalist, Expert (+4) Emotional First Aide, Expert (+4) Falun Gong, Expert (+4) Sensitive, Good (+2) Comfort Food, Good (+2) Holistic Thinking, Good (+2) Multicultural Awareness, Good (+2) Stone Painting
Poor (-2) Maternal Guilt

See the childhood pictures for Andeana, Benedict, Jada, Turq, and Seth.

* * *

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
-- Frederick Buechner

Tracking of children in local-American foster care is terrible. T-America does better, but clearly still loses track of some children. When foster families get split up, they often lose touch. Reunion is possible, but rare. There are some places to search, like WhitePages.

Finding lost relatives is difficult. Here are some general tips on searching. I couldn't find anything specifically on searching for lost fosters relatives; I suspect that few people care enough to write about that.

Reunion with lost relatives tends to bring strong, often mixed, emotions. This roadmap to reunion focuses on adoption rather than fostering, but the journey is similar. Many factors influence the results of a reunion, for good or ill. Some people find counseling helpful.

Adding elbow patches can save a favorite shirt. This is Turq's flannel shirt.

Trauma often causes regressive behavior in foster children. While they are often diagnosed with PTSD or PDSD, a more accurate diagnosis has been proposed as Developmental Trauma Disorder. That means miserable childhood experiences damaged the victim's ability to grow up as expected, often leaving them with behaviors typical of a much earlier age. (You can really see this with Turq and Shiv, also somewhat with Cassandra and Danso's family.) Foster children often wind up with their emotional, mental, and chronological ages widely spread. While this can be frustrating for everyone, it also offers adults a precious opportunity to meet the unmet needs which are driving the behavior. Sometimes those injuries can be healed, other times not, but you definitely won't know unless you try. Just the fact that Turq is able to show his feelings, instead of hiding or fleeing, is a tremendous amount of trust. Ansel has correctly intuited that the way to handle regression is to deal with the person on their current level, without criticism. Here is a detailed guide to child development, the effects of trauma, and recommended responses.

Repetitive behaviors, which may cause injuries, can occur for many reasons including PTSD and neurovariance. These are related to, yet distinct from, the wider field of self-harm. In this case, Turq's behavior is absent-minded (he often doesn't realize he's doing it) and the harm is incidental (not a goal of his actions). That's very different from people who cut to relieve emotional strain, to punish themselves, or to break through numbness. Turq dislikes pain, but his experiences have disconnected him from his body enough that he doesn't always realize when he's hurting himself. Because self-harm is not his goal, however, he is easily redirected to safer activities. He's just not far enough along to remember them consistently by himself, and he's comfortable enough with Ansel now that this form of support is welcome.

Antler chew toys come in various sizes. Made from shed antlers, they are organic, renewable, and healthy for canine chewing. In caney form, Turq loves these things. Ansel simply makes them out of spare antlers left over from hunting, so they're from deer.

Rope toys are more often intended for tug play, but they need to have good mouthfeel. Here are instructions for a rope chew "bone" and a rope-and-ball tug toy. These instructions are for cotton rope, which Turq prefers. Most rope toys are made from hemp, but Turq doesn't like it -- hemp is much scratchier than cotton. You can also buy rope toys, such as this three-knot tug rope.

Many people like to chew on things too, so companies have invented "chewlry" for them. Here are some tips on selecting a suitable chew toy for people. Notice that Turq is a moderate to heavy chewer in caney form, but only light to moderate in human form. When he's thinking, he tends to nibble; when he's upset or gets marrow cravings, he bites harder. This is Turq's pendant. The simple donut shape makes it suitable for moderate chewers.

Backstopping is the skill of giving someone an opportunity to solve their own problems, then stepping in if they miss. It is crucial for allowing someone to cultivate independence, while preventing them from getting hurt. By this point Ansel knows Turq well enough to spot a lot of the issues, know some solutions, and prompt when needed.

Sometimes people feel like a monster, or that other people are treating them as one. This is especially true with PTSD and depression. Other times there is a disconnect, where people feel like their panic attacks or depression are monsters inside them. Here are some useful questions about badness and tips to stop feeling bad about yourself.

The Chinese finger trap is a clever little toy that epitomizes the problem of trying too hard. While reflexive shapeshifting is often a panic reaction to some type of tension, that increases the chance of things going wrong. Optimum results require relaxation. This relates to a problem that multiples sometimes have with Fronting, where one headmate may get stuck in Front when they don't want to deal with the outside world. Watch the classic video of Data struggling with a Chinese finger trap.

This is Turq's baby brush, and here is the hedgehog slicker brush for dense fur.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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