Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Centered on Food and Family"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, inspired by the "bonfire" square in my 11-1-16 card for the Fall Festival Bingo. It is posted here as my Thanksgiving gift to my audience. <3 It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Centered Around Food and Family"

When Ansel stepped outdoors
on Thanksgiving, he found that Turq
had not only started the bonfire already,
but had done so early enough that it
had built up a fine bed of coals.

The boy looked up at Ansel's approach,
his long blue-and-green scarf fluttering in
the autumn breeze. "Hey, good morning,"
Turq said. "I wanted to get a head start on
the cookfire, in case I'm not much use later."

"Turq, we didn't invite you to Thanksgiving
so that you could make yourself useful,"
Ansel said gently. "We invited you
to hang out and have fun with us."

"I thought everyone was pitching in?"
Turq said, looking away to poke the fire.

"Generally, yes," said Ansel, "but if
someone can't, that's not a problem."
He chuckled. "Couple years back, I broke
my ankle and it was still stuck in a cast.
Guess how much use I was then."

"Not much?" Turq said with a fleeting grin.

"Not at all," Ansel said. "Grandpa
told me to park my butt on the couch
and not get up unless I had to pee."

That made Turq laugh out loud.

"You didn't want to spend
Thanksgiving with them this year?"
he asked after a moment.

"No, they don't host every holiday,"
Ansel said. "The farm's a bit of a mess
right now, some new kid backed a combine
into the corner of the tractor barn. You can
meet them some other time, if you like."

"Yeah, maybe," Turq said.

Janie came downstairs with
the sugar pumpkins that she'd
bought at the farmer's market for
the campfire roasted pumpkin rice,
and they started cleaning those.

After that came the turkey, and
setting up the deep fryer for it
always made Ansel nervous.

"Are you okay?" Turq asked.

"Mostly," Ansel said. "I just
don't really trust those things."

"Ansel, the deep fryer is not
going to explode," Janie said.
"This bird has never been frozen,
I reserved it in spring and picked it up
fresh from the farm yesterday -- and I
dried it with my hair dryer."

"I know, I trust you," Ansel said with
a rueful laugh. "It's only that I've seen this
go wrong in person -- at the firehouse fall fling,
no less, when someone's boyfriend dumped
a frozen turkey in a fryer -- and also I'm the one
who gets called to deal with unruly bystanders
while the firefighters put out the flames."

"You have to stay on call for holidays?"
Turq asked. "That can be rough."

"Sometimes," Ansel said. "I'm at
the bottom of the list today for work,
but if anything goes wrong right here in
the neighborhood, people tend to call me
because I can reach the problem faster."

"Yeah, Dao was on block safety
as well as his regular job," said Turq.
"There were times he had to bail out of
family events for emergencies."

"So that left your mother in charge?"
Ansel said, watching Turq instead
of the fryer full of boiling oil.

"Most of the time," Turq said.
"Mingxia's job wasn't that exciting,
but one time she got called in after
a tree fell on a greenhouse, and they
needed to move a lot of delicate plants
to safety as fast as possible."

"Life is a lot easier when you have
people whom you can call in a crisis,"
Ansel said. "It's just important to spread
the weight around, because nobody
can stay on call all the time."

They watched Janie lower
the turkey carefully into the fryer,
which steamed and bubbled
and did not explode.

Ansel gave a small sigh of relief.

"How come you deep-fry the turkey
if you're afraid of it?" Turq asked.

"Because I love fried turkey, and
Janie enjoys making it," Ansel said.
"We don't want to give up something
we like just because it's a little scary.
We simply take precautions."

Just then, Jasper arrived, and
like Turq, he was looking for
something useful to do.

"I brought creamed cornbread,
so my cooking is already done,"
he said, setting the cast iron skillet
with its golden treasure onto the table.
"How else can I help out here?"

Turq gave Ansel an I-told-you-so look
that Ansel discreetly ignored.

"Wash and sort," said Janie. "We need
to clean the cranberries and the green beans."

That occupied both Jasper and Turq
while Janie helped Ansel assemble
the other things that he needed
for his respective recipes.

Ansel talked through the steps
so that Jasper could keep track
of an unfamiliar dish, and Janie
told jokes that kept Turq amused.

Soon the cranberries went onto
the grill and the green beans
went into their pot in the coals.

Turq added more wood to the fire.

As Janie put together the dressing
in the big cast iron skillet, Ansel
pulled Turq aside for a moment.

"Would you mind keeping
Jasper company?" he asked.

Turq nibbled on his lip. "Do you
mean just keep him company,
or actually keep an eye on him?"

"What makes you ask that?"
Ansel said, not wanting this
to get too deep, too fast.

"Because I've seen you
prompting him, and Jasper
follows you around the way
I do, because you're like
a walking safe zone,"
Turq said quietly.

"You know that Jasper is
absent-minded," Ansel said.
"One of his coping methods
is to stay in one place."

"So if everyone else wanders off,
then he gets lonely," Turq guessed.

"Exactly," Ansel said. "We usually
ask someone to sit with him. If you
don't want to, you don't have to."

"It's not that. I don't mind," Turq said.
"Some people just say company
when they really mean babysitter,
and those things are different."

"Yes, they are," Ansel said.
"You seem very ... alert to this."

Turq shrugged. "I've seen it before,"
he said. "I don't know why Jasper
is like that, but he's got one heck of
a donut hole in his executive function.
I know a little about how to cope with it --
and that it's rude to hover over anyone
who hasn't asked for your help."

"Jasper generally lets people know
that he's forgetful, and has friends who
help him keep track of things," Ansel said.
"So how would you handle this?"

"Ask Jasper what he wants, unless
he specifically told you to find people
for him so he doesn't have to worry
about it himself," Turq said.

"Actually, you jumped ahead of us,"
Ansel said. "We typically ask for
company first, and if that works out,
mention the backstopping later."

Turq ducked his head. "Sorry,"
he said. "I didn't mean to skip steps."

"It's okay," Ansel said. "Shall we?"

"Yeah," Turq said, and followed him
over to where the other man was sitting.

"Here we are," Ansel said as they both
climbed into the gazebo and sat down.

"Hi, Jasper," Turq said. "Ansel asked if
I'd keep you company, and I asked if he meant
just that or wanted me to keep an eye on you,
so now it's your pick which you want."

Jasper flinched, the motion almost hidden
under the folds of his patched coat.

"You don't have to babysit me
if you don't want to," he said.

"Nah, it's fine, I just wanted
to know how far to take it,"
Turq said. "We can just sit."

Ansel cleared his throat. "Turq
noticed us prompting you, and how
you stick close to me," he explained.

"Most people don't see it," Jasper said,
"or if they do, they think I'm disabled
instead of just a bit glitchy."

"I'm a foster kid, I've seen it before,"
Turq said. "I know a little about how
to compensate for other people's quirks.
But you're an adult, so you have to say
what you want, or it's rude to butt in."

"Okay," Jasper said. "Let's start with
company and see where it goes from there.
The main points are that I forget where I
put things, and I'm iffy on some safety stuff.
Like the fire, I can see it's there but I may
forget how much clearance to give it."

"Keep you company, don't let you
lose stuff or fall into the firepit,"
Turq echoed with a firm nod.
"Yeah, I can keep track of that."

"Smooth," Jasper said. "I brought
my rag bag to make shaggy rugs.
I like to have something to do
with my hands while I'm talking."

"Me too," Turq said. "I've been
scavenging for things to mend."

"Do you want to learn how to make
shaggy rugs?" Jasper said. "I've got
plenty of scraps, and I could show you."

"I don't really have anywhere to put
a rug," Turq said, looking away.

"Sure you do," Ansel said. "You could
put it inside a bench for padding, or
on the gazebo floor if you use fabric
that wicks moisture or dries fast."

"Oh yeah, like sport fabrics," Jasper said.
He pawed open the bag, revealing a wad
of autumn-colored scraps in yellow, orange,
and brown. "I think I have some in here."

Turq started sorting out the colors
that Jasper wasn't already using,
mostly watercolor shades of blue
with a few purples and greens.

Jasper brought out the roll of
rubbery mesh that he used as
a base for tying the knots, and
let Turq cut off as much as he
needed to make a rug.

They chattered happily as
their fingers flew over the fabric,
making rapid headway on it.

Ansel was glad to see Turq
relaxed and smiling for once,
which left Ansel and Janie free
to watch over the feast as it cooked.

A flurry of snowflakes left Janie
standing over the deep fryer with
an umbrella, until Jasper and Turq
could rig a canopy above it.

Five minutes later, the snow
had dried up, and the weather
was actually getting warmer.

"Missouri weather," Jasper laughed.

Then Ethan arrived on the arm
of a handsome black man who
teleported in and out so silently
that Turq yipped in surprise.

"Hi, Ethan, glad you could make
it today," Ansel said as he stood up
to welcome his newest guest.

Ethan looked around at the fire
and the crafts, then said, "Am I late?"

"No, we came early," Jasper said.
"Actually, you're early too. We just
finished putting the last of the food
on the fire. I think it's, what, at least
fifteen minutes before suppertime?"

"About that until the food comes off
the fire," Janie said. "Then the turkey
needs time to rest before we carve it.
I'd rather not serve the other dishes
while they're still boiling, so I'll want
to take the lids off and let them sit."

Ethan gave a rare smile. "Well, we can
open mine now, if you don't think it will
spoil everyone's appetite," he said, and
popped the lid off of a round tin with
a cornucopia printed on top of it.

Inside lay a jumble of autumn candies --
buckeyes, truffle acorns, and leaves
made of multicolored chocolate.

"Score," Jasper said, and grabbed
a handful. "Thanks, man."

Ethan passed the tin around so
everyone could take some. "See,
this way I can contribute up front,
in case I have to leave early."

"Oh, you're on call tonight?" Janie said.
"Let me know if you want a go-bag. I can
pack servings for you in portable containers."

Ethan blinked at her. "Wait ... what?"

"Most of our friends are first responders,"
Janie said. "Somebody's usually on call."

Ansel chuckled. "Remember the time
we both got called across the road?"
he said, then filled in the details for Turq.
"Drunken argument knocked over a fish tank,
so I went to deal with the rowdy relatives and
Janie went to patch up the living room."

"I'm always on call," Ethan said.

Conversation stilled for a moment.
"That's ... not ideal," Ansel said.

He worried about the young healer,
who never seemed to take care of
himself, only other people -- but
Ethan hated to be coddled, which
limited how much Ansel could help.

"There's nobody else who can
cover some of the things I do,"
Ethan said, but Ansel saw how
his gaze went right to Turq.

Not just things, then, but people:
those like Turq who were too wrecked
to tolerate care except from a few close allies,
or who had rare issues that ordinary medics
wouldn't understand and couldn't help.

That not only left Ethan without time off,
but his clients without backup as well.

"I've done support networking for
emergency services before. It's part of
our community outreach program," Ansel said.
"I teach people how to make crisis plans for
their household or block. The same techniques
should work for building soup networks so that
nobody has to stay on call all the time."

"Tempting thought," Ethan admitted,
which was more than Ansel hoped for.

"We could talk about it some time,
if you like," Ansel said, deliberately
keeping the pressure low."

"I'll think about it," Ethan said.

"So Jasper was teaching me how
to make a shaggy rug," Turq said.
"Do you want to try your hand at it?"

Ethan leaned over to look at the little bit
of blue and lavender that Turq had already
tied into the rubbery background mesh.

"I've made something similar, but I
did mine with sewing," he said.

Jasper reached into his coat and
passed Ethan a sewing kit. "Here,
now all you need is some base fabric."

"I'll get our rag bag from the garage,"
said Ansel. "I think it has towels."

He found those right on top, but
then decided to bring the whole bag
since several people were crafting.

By the time Ansel got back, Ethan
already had a lapful of scraps in
foggy shades of gray and beige,
carefully cutting more strips.

At first they seemed drab, but on
closer inspection he could see
subtle patterns on some pieces.

"Here, pick a towel, and you
can have whatever other scraps
you want, too," Ansel told Ethan.

"Thanks," Ethan said. He chose
a pale blue towel that almost matched
the lighter shades of gray in his lap,
then starting sewing down strips.

Ansel smiled as he watched people
crafting, glad that everyone had
a chance to enjoy a quiet holiday.

Then Janie's vidwatch jingled
a familiar triangle sound.

"Turkey should be done,"
she announced, and went
to lift it out of the fryer.

Ansel couldn't help tensing
a little, which made Turq
and Ethan look up at him.

Turq silently leaned against
Ansel, like a hug without hands.

Janie got the turkey onto its platter
and the deep fryer turned off,
so Ansel could relax again.

Turq returned to his rug.

Janie stirred the stuffing,
frowned, and put the lid
back on the big skillet.

Ansel found his green beans
done, though, and the cranberries
on the grill had cooked down into
a beautiful crimson sauce.

Turq went over to check on
his campfire roasted pumpkin rice.
"It's tender enough, but it tastes
a little bland," he said.

Janie looked up the recipe
on her smartphone and said,
"The base recipe was Armenian,
and they don't use many spices,
but they do use some herbs."

She rummaged around the supplies
that she'd brought downstairs and
tossed Turq a spice shaker.

"Here, this has oregano and thyme
in it," she said. "If you want basil or
savory, I'll have to go upstairs."

"These are fine," Turq said
as he shook the suggested herbs
into each of the pumpkin bowls.

As Ansel started setting out
the tableware, he saw that Ethan
had brought his own mess kit
of sturdy gray titanium.

"You said it was a cookout,"
Ethan said. "Was I not
supposed to pack for that?"

"It's fine," Ansel assured him.

"Supper is served," Janie said,
spreading her hands over the table.

"Shall we do a little gratitude?" Ansel said.
"I love Thanksgiving because it's a holiday
centered around food and family, two
of the things that I value the most."

"I'm grateful for having a chance
to cook with people I care about,"
Janie said. "It's more fun that way."

"I'm just glad to be out here," Turq said.

"Second that," Jasper said. "This place
is so beautiful and so peaceful."

"Peace is good," Ethan agreed, and
that closed the loop so they could eat.

The food was delicious, and
even though they only had
five people, three of those
had super appetites, so they
made rapid headway.

The turkey came out crispy
and a perfect golden-brown,
surrounded by its stuffing.

The pumpkin and rice blended
to make a subtle, complex taste.
The cornbread was rich and fluffy.

The fruit flavors in the cranberry sauce
and the orange-spiked green beans
helped tie everything together.

Halfway through the feast,
Ethan's vidwatch shrilled an alarm.

"That's Snatcher, I have to go,"
he said, cramming the last of
his food into his mouth.

"Leave behind everything
you don't need," Ansel said.
"We'll clean up, and you can
retrieve your stuff later."

"Thanks," Ethan said as
Snatcher appeared and
whisked him away.

"Darn," Jasper said. "I was
really getting to like that guy."

"Ethan's a good person,"
Ansel said. "I like him too."

"Time to make dessert,"
Janie said as she stood up.
"Who wants to help with this?"

"What are we having?" Jasper said.

"Glorious pecan pudgy pies,"
Janie said. "We have pie irons."

"I can load them, if someone else
will put them in the fire," Jasper said.

"I can do that," Turq offered. So Janie
brought out the bread and the filling,
Jasper assembled the pudgies,
and Turq put them in the fire.

It didn't take long for them to bake
into crispy blobs of delight. Ansel
loved pudgy pies of any kind.

After supper, they put away
the leftovers and Janie took
those up to the kitchen.

Turq piled more wood onto
the bonfire to build up the flames
in a cheery, colorful display. Then
folks returned to the gazebo.

"This was in your coat pocket,"
Turq said as he handed Jasper
the portable sewing kit.

"Thanks," Jasper said, putting it
it away. Then he picked up his rug.

Turq went back to his own pile
of blue and lavender scraps,
knotting them into the mesh.

"Those are turning out really well,"
Janie said. "Like fire and water."

"Yeah, I wanted an autumn theme
for mine," Jasper said, waving a hand
over the yellow, orange, and brown bits.

"I was thinking of the lake," Turq said.

Beyond the edge of the yard, they could
hear the water lapping against the shore.

Ansel leaned back against the wall
of the gazebo, starting to feel
a little drowsy from the feast.

He listened to Turq and Jasper
discussing the colors of their rugs and
Janie offering her own insights on crafts,

and gave thanks for everything he had.

* * *


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

[Added Finding and Fixing Things]
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, but he also likes the blue-to-green range.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adaptable, Good (+2) Chess Player, Good (+2) Comforting When Fuzzy, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Finding and Fixing Things, 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.

Jasper Cornwall -- He has fair skin and green eyes. His curly auburn hair hangs past his ears, and he has a full beard and mustache. Jasper lives in Bluehill and is friends with Janie Newcastle and Ansel Nicholson. He works odd jobs, mostly making or mending things. He is quite good at repairing clothes and toys, or finding cheap solutions to problems. This makes him popular with Bluehill's bohemian crowd. Because he's so absent-minded, though, he winds up leaving stray items all over town. Usually he just makes himself another of whatever he has lost.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bohemian, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Generous, Good (+2) Kind-hearted Man, Good (+2) Making and Mending Things, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box
Poor (-2) Absent-minded

Ethan Wheeler -- He has pale skin, brown eyes, and short dark hair. He can't always get to the facilities he needs, so he often has five-o-clock shadow, and his oily hair soon sticks into messy tufts. He enjoys music, especially buskers. He carries cheap paperback books to trade with other people, and will read pretty much anything.
Ethan serves as a street medic, going along with whomever will hire him. He often works for supervillains and other people of questionable ethics, but he's just as willing to work for superheroes. People on both sides have repeatedly offered him permanent jobs, but he keeps turning them down because he feels unworthy. He is even more attached than most people to medical neutrality, and he refuses to take sides on cape politics or any other moral issue. He's gotten burned badly enough that he doesn't go there anymore. He just wants to make up for the damage he's done. Other people tend to view him as a tragic figure. He gets into a lot of rough situations. Ethan is not a combat medic in the military sense, but neither does he have anything like a sense of self-preservation.
Origin: Ethan started out taking premed in college, where he got an excellent job working as a lab assistant on a zetetic project designed to enhance human health in hopes of making the world a better place. A terrible lab accident happened, quickly killing several of the assistants and wounding others. Ethan's bench partner Hermanigildo managed to drag him to safety before triggering the alarm, which sealed the other nonmobile victims inside, where they all died. Hermanigildo died in the hospital a few days later.
Ethan recovered swiftly and now bounces back well from almost anything. However, he blames himself for the accident because he was the safety supervisor for the assistants, he had reported several concerns but not pursued them more vigorously, and the problem started at one of the assistant benches. More fault actually lies with one of the senior researchers, who falsified some of the data in attempt to attract more people to the project. Since that scientist also died in the incident, the truth is unlikely to come out. Ethan left school and became a traveling medic, purposely seeking out dangerous people and situations where most medics refuse to go.
Uniform: Typically supplied by whomever he's working for at the moment, so it can vary a lot. At minimum, Ethan always wears an armband with the red cross (or other local emblem) for medical staff, and carries a backpack that contains a heavy-duty first aid kit. He favors practical clothes and dark colors.
Qualities: Master (+6) Friends on the Street, Expert (+4) Neutral Stance, Expert (+4) Soup Contacts, Good (+2) Busker Fan, Good (+2) Compassion, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Medic, Good (+2) Reader
Poor (-2) Traumatic Guilt
Powers: Average (0) Healing, Average (0) Regeneration
Motivation: Atonement

Snatcher (Darkeem de Rei) -- He has chestnut skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair buzzed almost down to nothing. He is strong with well-defined muscles. A supervillain who captures superheroes or other authorities and teleports them safely away from the conflict zone. He enjoys traveling the world, seeing the sights, talking about them and comparing favorites with other travelers. He's very gregarious. Although he can hold down a job, he likes to move around and switch activities often. He is not good at sticking with projects that take a long time to complete.
Origin: Growing up in rough neighborhoods, he worked as a lookout for drug peddlers. One day a speeding car lost control and headed right for his boss. Snatcher knocked his boss out of the way -- and they landed on the far side of town.
Uniform: Men's activewear, mostly in dark colors with occasional accents of something brighter. On duty, Snatcher prefers dexflan and capery; off duty, he may choose ordinary fabrics.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Athletic, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman, Good (+2) Tourist
Poor (-2) Lengthy Projects
Powers: Master (+6) Teleportation
His range is global. His speed and finesse are excellent. However, his weight limit isn't very high; he can rarely take more than two passengers at a time, and prefers to carry singles. When startled or injured, he tends to teleport back to the last place he teleported from, which means that on dangerous missions he likes to make interim jumps to a secure landing pad in a hospital. That isn't always feasible, which can cause problems.
Motivation: "I've never lost a passenger."

* * *

"I love Thanksgiving because it's a holiday that is centered around food and family, two things that are of utmost importance to me."
-- Marcus Samuelsson

This is the home of Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) which used to be part of a resort alongside a lake. When the resort closed, the rental cabins were parceled into individual lots and sold, while some of the resort's main facilities -- such as the lodge and the main boating dock -- were set aside as neighborhood resources. See the outside, lower level, and main level. Here you can see the caney door, protected by a flap of clear plastic, and to the right is part of the workshop area.

Ansel's version of this gazebo has built-in storage benches where the seats lift or doors open to access the cabinets underneath. The two end benches have end doors that open at the entrance of the gazebo. The two middle benches have seats that lift up. The center back bench has front doors.

Ansel's firepit is typical of the small ones found in many of the larger yards. It's a comfortable gathering spot for about a dozen people. You can build your own, and in fact this plan is very similar to ours -- although we put a brick pentacle in the bottom.

Read a recipe for Erick's Deep Fried Rosemary Turkey. Here is why Ansel is nervous; in addition to seeing this sort of thing in person, he keeps getting called to help the firefighters deal with the drunk idiots who try to deep-fry a wet or frozen turkey. Understand how to deep-fry a turkey safely.

Sustainable turkeys come in several varieties, so think carefully about which you want. Organic, pastured and fresh-killed birds all have advantages. These are available in my area, but out of our price range. Search for farm-fresh turkeys in your locale, or if you're ambitious, you can raise your own.

Enjoy recipes for Classic Sage-Sausage Dressing, Grilled Cranberry Sauce, Orange-Spiked Green Beans, and Campfire Roasted Pumpkin Rice. Armenian cuisine uses more herbs than spices. You can buy full or empty spice shakers with multiple compartments, or ideally, fill one with herbs and another with spices. Browse recipes for Creamed Corn Cornbread and Glorious Pudgy Pecan Pie.

This is Ethan's cornucopia tin. Indulge in recipes for Buckeyes, Truffle Acorns, and Autumn Chocolate Leaves.

Campfire cooking is easier if you have the right equipment. Ansel's set includes a support frame, assorted hooks and chains, a hanging grill, a big skillet (with a lid that isn't shown), a cauldron with a domed lid, and a stockpot. His set of Dutch ovens has a large, medium, and small pot. Learn about Dutch oven cooking. Pie irons are used for cooking pies, sandwiches, and other smallish items. Read how to cook with pie irons. Ansel's cooking utensils include tongs, slotted spoon, lid hook, fork, spatula, spoon, and ladle. The looped handles allow them to be hung from hooks on the cooking rack. This type of utensil rack can be hung from a campfire cooking frame or on a wall.

T-America has some very different rules about first responders. In local-America, police officers aren't even obliged to protect citizens while on duty, which basically makes the "protect and serve" motto a lie. (Why do we even pay these people? It's "Protection.") Policies vary regarding off-duty officers; this one seems fairly sane. In Terramagne-America, officers have a legal duty "to protect and serve." Off-duty officers are not obligated to intervene in a crime, because everyone needs protected downtime, but they are required to report it immediately. If they choose to intervene, they are considered to have gone on emergency duty, and from that point until a relieving force arrives, they are obligated to continue serving per on-duty requirements. It is common for officers to step in when conflicts occur, to prevent things from getting entirely out of hand. Rather than focusing on arrests, the goal is to minimize misbehavior in the first place.

Soft off-duty means that an employee is not scheduled to work and cannot be called in for ordinary issues like someone else skipping out. (The latter is what on-call personnel and shifts are for, and T-American rules for that are saner.) They can be called in if there is an emergency, according to the employer's or town's surge plan. Those wishing extra hours always go at the top of the soft off-duty list to reduce the chance of bothering less-available staff. The expectation is to have enough employees to cover routine needs, so if surge calls happen often, they need to hire more people. First responders not on the clock are typically considered soft off-duty unless otherwise specified.

Hard off-duty means that an employee can't be called in for any reason. This is most often used for medical leave, family leave, or major life events such as weddings and funerals. It can also be used for vacations or other trips out of town when the person obviously couldn't respond fast due to being out of reach and/or range. First responders who were soft off-duty and got called in due to an emergency on a holiday or other special occasion are customarily offered hard off-duty for the next one, to avoid disrupting their family life so often that it falls apart.

Surge capacity is the ability of a system to absorb a sudden increase in demand beyond the usual levels. It may be somewhat predictable (like fire season) or wholly unpredictable (like accidentally lighting a barge full of fireworks and thence nearby buildings). A robust system has ways of expanding quickly to accommodate surges, without wasting idle resources most of the time. So far the best instructions I've seen on developing a surge plan are in health care, but really, all emergency services need this and so does any large organization or municipality. In Terramagne, a serious soup incident can surge the entire emergency services system for the surrounding locale.

Burnout is especially common in police, medics, and other first responders. Know how to prevent, recognize, and recover from burnout. There are self-care tips for first responders in particular. A drawback is that all this great advice presupposes that people have the ability to make such changes, when in fact, if they had that then they wouldn't get burned out in the first place. It usually happens because people are overworked, underpaid, and/or have more responsibility than authority. The way to solve burnout is by creating healthy workplaces, not harassing worn-out employees to fix themselves. You can see a lot of subtle little ways in which T-America works to prevent this very expensive problem.

Superhero burnout is even worse. When you tell people that their powers make them responsible for saving people, but you fail to provide training or pay or other support, you tend to wind up with Chronic Hero Syndrome and/or Samaritan Syndrome. The resulting overwork tends to wreck relationships, employment, and personal finances. A few significant others and jobs are suited to this life, but most aren't. The result is Heroic Fatigue. These problems are endemic throughout mainstream comics although rarely acknowledged. They are shown in graphic detail, as in Civil War -- a ghastly example of what happens when you leave people on duty 24/7 with no mental care.

In T-America, block safety programs identify local resources such as storm shelters, spare rooms, and residents with first responder training. They often appoint a block captain to oversee safety, community, and other concerns. While most problems are best handled by calling official services, time-critical or large-scale emergencies benefit from mobilizing the nearest resources. A broken leg can wait for an ambulance; a heart attack victim is often dead by the time help arrives. One house fire needs a firetruck; a town beseiged by sparks from a nearby wildfire needs everyone to help put them out. There are materials on crime reduction and emergency preparedness. First responders may be celebrated at a block party. Think about who counts on you and who you can count on in an emergency. Here is a more detailed manual.

Executive function consists of several organizational skills. Executive function disorder describes a broad-spectrum disability in performing these activities. Jasper isn't that bad off. He just has trouble with his working memory, otherwise known as absent-mindedness, which poses common problems for him. There are ways to compensate for this.

Backstopping is an important life skill. It means giving people a chance to do things on their own, but taking over if they can't. Although described for autism, it applies to everything you or someone you know does badly. There are tips for babysitting a special needs child, supporting adults with a developmental disability, and supporting people with mental illness. Turq had age-appropriate lessons for siblings of children with special needs, because all foster children have challenges. Ansel had training for police officers about interacting with citizens who have mental issues. So they have slightly different perspectives and skills, but a common ground of trying to be helpful without smothering anyone. Notice that this is another example of T-American folks tending to tell friends and neighbors about areas in their life where they need some help, and the kind of support that ensues.

Upcycling is the process of using old stuff to make new stuff. This saves money and resources, while providing a fun activity you can be proud of doing. It's one reason why T-American folks are better off. Here are some projects to consider.

Rag rugs offer a good way to use up old cloth. There are many different methods and projects for you to try. Shaggy rag rugs have a lot of fluffy loose ends. You can make these by knotting fabric strips onto a mesh backing, prodding strips into a cloth background, latchhooking them onto mesh, sewing them onto cloth, or threading them on string and sewing it into a spiral. If you don't have string to use as a base, you can make some by cutting fabric into narrow strips and looping them together. Another method, if you have plenty of rags but nothing else to hold them together, is to make a braided or knotted rug as the base, and leave the loose ends long or knot extra strips into it. See some shaggy rag rugs, including Jasper's autumn rag rug.

Ethan's foggy rag rug is made by sewing strips of cloth onto a towel. This example shows it on a sewing machine, but you can do it by hand. See the back of a finished rug, similar in style to Ethan's although the colors differ.

Turq's watercolor rag rug is made by knotting strips of fabric onto a mesh back. To back a rug, you can use latchhook canvas. With non-slip rug mesh, look for a brand with thick strands to hold knots and holes large enough to fit fabric strips through. Sport fabrics are meant to disperse moisture and dry quickly. While not as soft as cotton, they work well for a bath mat or indoor-outdoor rug -- and it's a way to upcycle a category of cloth that suits very few of the typical rag applications.

Jasper's sewing kit holds a variety of tools in a compact space. See the right side, left side, outside, and pattern. If you want more detailed instructions, here's a tutorial for a different sewing kit. Once you know the basic concept, you can design whatever style you want.

Ethan's titanium mess kit includes a cup, skillet (which doubles as a plate), pot (which doubles as a bowl), and silverware.

Thanksgiving is fundamentally about gratitude. Here are some blessings and other ways to celebrate the holiday.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, food, holiday, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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