Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Best Teach It to Dance"

This poem is spillover from the February 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] technoshaman and [personal profile] stardreamer. It also fills the "aggressive" square in my 12-1-15 card for the Defining Character fest, and the "nurture self-worth" square in my 1-23-16 card for the Valentine's Day Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] clockworklady and EdorFaus. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem is mostly fluff, but contains some intense emotions. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. The Finns take Shiv to Pennsic War for a day. It includes anxiety over expectations, being in a totally unfamiliar place, feeling overwhelmed by people and social activities, touch aversion, (wildly inappropriate) accusations of racism, other people ignoring rules, which drives Shiv up a wall, so he starts stealing contraband off people, scavenging for supplies, performance anxiety, panic over social connections, physical exhaustion and overheating, discussion of supervillain philosophy, educational comparisons, and other challenges. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before moving onward.

"Best Teach It to Dance"

Shiv clung to Dr. G on one side
and the teleporter on the other.

It had taken some careful negotiation
to get a day pass for out-of-state travel,
even this close to his release, and only
Dr. G's persistence had worked through
Warden Lincoln's 'reasonable precautions.'

So Shiv was going to spend a day
with the Finns at their history fair thing,
and try to avoid getting into too much trouble,
which made the whole prospect nerve-wracking.

As soon as the teleporter deposited
his passengers, Heron handed him a tin with
embossed swirls on the lid and popped it open
with a flourish to display ... tiny painted fruits?
"Hi, Leapfrog. Here is your tip in marzipan,
as previously agreed," Heron said.

"Sweet," said Leapfrog, and disappeared.

"You folks really do that with everyone," Shiv said,
bemused at the Finns' constant generosity.
"No," Heron said evenly. "We only do that
with people we care about. I know
some people I won't feed."

Shiv wondered what the hell 'some people'
had done to piss him off that much, then
decided that he'd rather not know.

Dr. G lugged out a heavy canvas bag.
"We always carry some spare garb for
people who need it," he said. "Pick out
something you'll feel comfortable wearing."

Shiv rummaged through the unfamiliar clothes
in search of things that wouldn't stand out too much.
He found a long gray-brown shirt and a pair of
black pants that laced at the fly and ankles.

There was also a plain belt made of
black leather, and a belt pouch in
a rich blue stamped with a star.
Surely it wouldn't hurt for him
to have just one fancy thing.

"What about shoes?" he asked,
looking down at his sneakers.

"Check the side pockets," Dr. G said.
"You can change inside our tent.
I'll stand guard for you; rennies
can be a bit ... clothing-casual."

Shiv found a pair of black rope sandals,
and then hustled through a quick change.
The long shirt was surprisingly comfy,
and he loved the texture of the sandals.
The unfamiliar style still made him feel
uneasy and out of place, though.

Everyone else was already dressed
for the occasion, most of them in
clothes tailored to their own tastes,
and much more at ease in them.

Molly was firm and practical in
her chirurgeon outfit. "If you get
injured, even a little bit, you come
to me," she told Shiv. "Best not
let random people mess with you.
Also I've heard about your Dr. Bloch
from Da, and I do not want him
chewing my ears off -- or yours! --
for you coming home 'damaged
in transit' in any way. Agreed?"

"Fine," Shiv grumbled.

"Great, give me your arm," Molly said.

Shiv scrambled out of reach so fast
that he knocked Dr. G off balance.
"Don't fucking touch me!"

"I really do not like whoever's been
handling him," Molly said evenly.

"That's not recent damage," Dr. G said.
"Just talk through anything that
you want to do, carefully."

"I want to make sure you wear
the right sunscreen and monitor
your exposure," Molly said to Shiv.

Grudgingly he came back into range
and offered her his arm. He'd survived
enough sunburns and definitely
did not want another one.

"So the first thing we need to do
is gauge your skin tone," Molly said,
holding a strip of colored dots
against Shiv's forearm.

"Oh, I can't believe you just did that,"
he snapped, but it was Dr. G he glared at.
Shiv had thought better of the Finns, which
just meant he'd forgotten how common racism
could be outside his own gang. "Why don't
you just whip out a brown paper bag?"

"Your skin tone simply shows how much
natural protection you have against the sun,"
Molly said. "Sunspotz come in a ten-step range
from alabaster to ebony. I'm not sure if you're
closer to alabaster or bisque, but you've been
indoors so much, I'm putting you in alabaster.
Here, stick this on the back of your hand."

She offered him a round sticker with
a background maybe a smidge lighter than
his skin, with a stoplight printed on it.

"Whatever," Shiv grumbled,
but he put the sticker on.
It felt weird for a minute, but
after that it softened against
his skin so that he couldn't feel it.

"As long as that stays green,
you can go out in the sun," Molly said.
"If it turns yellow, look for a stopping place
and get under cover. "If it turns red, then
you've got a sunburn whether you've
noticed it yet or not; come find me."

Shiv hadn't known any of that, and
it was useful, but it still itched at him.

"Can I go now?" he said.

"One more thing," Molly said.
"Skin tone also suggests how strong
of a sunscreen you need. Sorry I don't
have anything zetetic to offer you, but I'll
give you the strongest stuff I have in my kit.
Put this on over your Sunspot sticker so
the sensor strip can account for it."

Shiv accepted the bottle she handed him and
set about covering himself, even remembering
his ears because Mr. Vanburen kept nagging him
about that every time they went out in the yard.

Just as Shiv finished, Molly reached out and
offered him a bit of soft, grayish fabric with
a stiffer rim of black leather and a tuft
of pale feathers pinned to the side.

"You'll also need a hat," she said.

Well, at least it didn't have an ostrich plume.
Shiv jammed the silly thing on his head.
"Are you happy now?" he said.

"Ecstatic," Molly drawled, but
her eyes were laughing at him.

Shiv felt sorry for her little siblings.

"Let's take a walk," said Dr. G,
and led him on a tour of places that
Shiv didn't recognize, people whom he
didn't know, and things he couldn't afford.

The fighting and jousting looked interesting,
but they made Shiv hesitate. "Am I
allowed to watch stuff like that?

"You may watch," said Dr. G.
"You may not participate until
after you have watched for a while,
so that you understand exactly
what you'd be getting into."

Shiv shook his head.
"I don't like getting hit."

"There are archery tournaments,"
Dr. G pointed out. "Also knife throwing,
hatchet throwing, and darts. We apply
the same house rule to all of them."

Okay, that was even more interesting.

Dr. G also showed him the privies,
the chirurgeon station, and the troll booth.
There were hidden tents for people in need
of some quiet time, bright silk ones for adults
and gauzy green fairy tents for children.

Exploring offered something to do,
but it was exhausting to learn new names
for everything, and there were so many people.

They stopped briefly to watch Tolli and
Simon running some kind of workshop at
the blacksmith's forge. Simon was in
his dirt-bike wheelchair, and his clothes
were cut to fit close and not snag on it.

That and his strappy leather sandals left
his scarred calves bare, but oddly enough,
nobody was staring. They were all fixated
on Tolli's talk about weird old machines,
as Simon rolled around helping people
who got stuck with their projects.

Of course Edison promptly abandoned
his handful of wood and string to scamper
over and say, "Hi, can I have a hug?"

"Go ahead," Shiv said, then counted,
"One potato, two potato, three potato, hot."

Edison let go right on cue.

Shiv was really glad that he
had come up with the counting idea
based on his own fondness for hot potato
and other throwing-catching games.
It helped Edison remember not
to hang onto him for too long.

"We're learning about windmills
and siege engines," Edison said,
holding up a half-assembled model.
"See, I'm making a catapult."

"Smooth," Shiv said. The wood was
too soft for him to feel clearly, but he
could find the two tiny metal eye screws
probably meant to control the string.

Dr. G admired the model, gave
Edison another hug, and then sent
the boy back to the workshop.

Shiv and Dr. G continued on
through the ramble of tents,
booths, and other structures.

Shiv soon learned that he could
point to absolutely anything edible and
Dr. G would buy it for him, without hesitation.
Fruit cups. Pickle-on-a-stick. Some kind
of fried pepper marketed as Dragon Eggs.
Cream ices. Apple cider. Cold mint tea.

Then they walked past a booth in front of
several fires, each with a spit over it holding
a different whole animal. A fat man stood
underneath a sign that read Roast Beasts.

"Is that a cow?" Shiv said.

"Used to be," said Dr. G.
"You haven't had much protein.
What say we buy a hunk of meat?"

"Okay," Shiv said, still staring at
the slowly rotating carcasses. They were
cleaned, of course, but still looked like critters.

"What'll you have?" the cook asked.
"We've got cow, pig, and sheep in
your choice of tender or tasty."

Shiv remembered that the cheap cuts
were chewier but often tasted better.
"Cow, and something tasty," he said.

"Tender sheep for me, please,"
said Dr. G and opened his belt pouch.

What arrived on a pair of tin plates
was like nothing Shiv had seen before --
truly a rough chunk of meat with some
random slivers piled around it.

They found a picnic table.
Dr. G used a handsome belt knife
to cut up the meat on his plate, then
passed it to Shiv without a word.

Shiv did the same with his,
then handed the knife back.

The flavor, oh, that was delicious.

"This is really good," he said aloud.
"I've gone camping before, but never
anything like this. The food was
mostly store stuff, except we got
fresh fish if we caught any."

"If you like this, you should try
the cottage pie for supper,"
Dr. G suggested. "It has bits
of beef and vegetables under
a layer of mashed potatoes."

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

After they finished the food, they
walked onward through the fair.

Shiv appreciated that Dr. G only
introduced him to a few people
instead of constantly pressuring him
to socialize with everyone in sight.

Crowds shifted around them,
waxing and waning, thicker and thinner,
a presence itchy but not unbearable.

It was the rule-breaking that
ultimately drove Shiv nuts.

Dr. G had read him the rules
for the event three times, and
then insisted that Shiv recite back
as much as he could remember.

There were people carrying soda
in modern cans, which they weren't
supposed to do; the rules said to put
everything in period containers.

There were at least two men with blades
that weren't peacebonded and were
longer than belt knives should be.

There were people talking on their phones.

Shiv gritted his teeth and counted to ten
and dammit, none of that helped a bit.
Why the hell did he have to follow
the stupid rules if nobody else did?

So he started stealing things.

The first time it happened on accident,
a dropped music player that Shiv picked up
only to find the owner gone before
he could hand the thing back.

The second time, it was on purpose,
one quick swipe palming the kind of
tiny camera that men often used to take
rude pictures with nobody noticing.

The third time, he boosted a vidwatch
right off the oblivious owner's wrist.

For a while it was fine -- his outfit was
surprisingly useful for concealing things --
but eventually he ran out of room.

"Is something bothering you?" Dr. G said,
watching him shuffle around awkwardly.

"What should I do with the things that
people aren't supposed to have?" Shiv said.

Dr. G looked at the double handful of
purloined items and raised his eyebrows.
"What in the world have you been up to?"

So Shiv explained about the rules and
the contraband and how hard it was for him
to keep behaving when other people weren't.
"I had to do something," he muttered.
"Otherwise it'd just get ... worse."

"You mean that you noticed something
bothering you, identified the problem,
and worked out a solution that, while
technically against the rules, was
less harmful than the alternatives,"
Dr. G said thoughtfully.

"I guess," Shiv said, wondering
how much trouble he was in.

"Why do some of these have
tape on them?" Dr. G asked.

"I couldn't remember all the names of
everyone whose stuff it was, so I found
some tape and a pencil in the garbage and
started writing down what I overheard," Shiv said.

"Good solution," said Dr. G, without
giving away anything more.

"I thought maybe I could put everything
into the lost-and-found," Shiv said, "but I
don't know where that is, and somebody else
might mess with things they shouldn't
if I just dumped stuff there."

Dr. G's eyes crinkled at the corners, and
his mouth twitched, and Shiv realized
that he was trying not to laugh.

"Very well done," Dr. G said finally.
"It's not ideal, but it suits you. If you decide
that you like this kind of event, consider
working it into your persona -- you'd make
a wonderful rogue. Meanwhile, I can
show you the lost-and-found box."

"You're not mad?" Shiv said.

"Well, you know what they say," Dr. G replied.
"If you can't get the skeleton out of your closet,
then you had best teach it to dance."

Shiv laughed, because Dr. G's sense of humor
could turn wry or sharp at the most unexpected times,
but there was truth to it, too. Shiv was a supervillain;
it was in him deep, right down to the bones of him,
and that core shaped everything else that he was.

He was still caught by surprise when,
after getting rid of the contraband,
Dr. G led him to an actual dance.

The pavilion tent was huge, with
its front made from gauzy curtains
tied open along the support poles.
The roof was heavy white cloth
embroidered with gold medallions
that glinted in the sunlight.

A cheerful banner supported between
a black gryphon and a white unicorn said,
Pennsic Dance Hall -- All Are Welcome!

"Why are we even here?" Shiv asked.

"You need something fun and constructive
to do, and with your spatial intelligence,
I think you'll enjoy this," said Dr. G.

Someone in a herald's uniform shouted
a schedule of upcoming activities.

"Perfect timing," Dr. G said cheerfully.
"A novice class is about to begin."

"I can't dance!" Shiv protested, already
starting to panic. His last dance lesson
in gym class had ended in disaster.

"Neither can anyone else," Dr. G said.
"That's why they call it a novice class."

The dance currently in progress
looked anything but easy, although
it was quite fascinating to watch.
The men and women swirled over
the grass in time to the lively music,
passing flowers back and forth.

At the end of the dance, they
parted company, most of the men
bowing to the ladies they had partnered.
Shiv had to admire their grace.

Suddenly Dr. G grinned.
"We are in luck," he declared.
"One of the organizers here is
a family friend. I'll ask her if
she's willing to partner you."

That turned out to be a girl
even younger than Shiv, wearing
a simple mustard-yellow dress
with glossy red-and-gold trim.

"Lowdy, this is my friend --" Dr. G began.

"Hugo Lightfingers," Shiv interrupted,
mimicking the bow he'd seen the men
doing a minute ago. He'd gone by Hugo
in one family because the littlest kid
couldn't wrap his mouth around 'Egon.'

Lowdy smiled at him, dipping her knees
and swishing her skirt the way the ladies had.
"Pleased to meet you," she said. "Do you
dance? I hope you dance, we always
wind up with more ladies than lords."

"I'm here to learn," Shiv said.
Maybe it wouldn't be as bad as
his gym experiences had been, and
even if it was, that was Dr. G's fault
for dragging him here in the first place.

The class started with a lecture, which
only almost made sense to Shiv, but he
listened to it anyhow. Blah blah sorta like
contradance, blah blah historic tradition,
blah blah courtly love and graces.

Then they passed around the handouts
which explained how to dance "The Black Nag."

Suddenly it all leaped into focus for him,
the illustrations showing the body positions.
The diagrams were harder to understand,
but once he remembered to read the keys,
then he could figure them out just fine.

Shiv wiggled in place, squeezing his toes
against the ridged rope of his sandals as he
tried to wait patiently for the dancing to start.

Then the people organizing the class
gave a demonstration of the moves,
and it made even more sense.

When it was finally time to take their places,
Shiv bounded over to Lowdy and bowed eagerly.
She swished her skirt at him -- curtsey,
that's what the lecture had called it.

They started by going through each step
as a separate mini-lesson to learn the moves,
so that people could feel how it worked.

For the dance itself, they formed up
in sets of three couples, facing each other
across the center in two straight lines.

Double and back, twice, then they
galumphed up the hall and back again,
like stacking and unstacking the lines.

Siding meant the pairs coming forward
shoulder-to-shoulder with each other.
The eye contact seemed as startling as
a touch -- but nowhere near as unpleasant
as someone's sweaty hands all over
his body like that horrible waltz.

"The Black Nag" didn't require
much touching, just holding hands,
and Shiv was okay with that.

Swapping meant trading places
across the different couples,
and then there was the arming,
which was like holding hands
higher up the forearm while
skipping around each other.

The hard part was the heying,
three people in a line weaving
in and out and around each other,
first one line and then the next.

Then it was done, bow and curtsey
to your partner, and clear the floor.

Shiv was breathless and excited
and restless and confused.

It hadn't been all that great
of a dance, because none of them
except the teachers knew what
the heck they were doing, but
it had been fun anyhow.

"Huzzah, lords and ladies!"
Lowdy said, clapping her hands.
"You made a great beginning.
Take a moment to catch your breath,
and then we'll try it again, now that
you have a better idea how it goes."

The second dance felt like flying.

Shiv had always been light on his feet;
now he had the pattern of the thing,
he could see the lines of it in his mind
and feel the beat with his body.

Lowdy seemed to sense the change
in him too; it made her smile and
nod in time with the music.

When they touched, now, he was
more confident; and when they moved,
their bodies kept pace with each other.
It still wasn't perfect, but it was a lot better.

Even the heying turned from a mad scramble
to a graceful twine of paths, like making a braid.

Shiv was amazed at their progress,
how they had gone from stumbling to dancing.

"Well done, everyone, that was splendid,"
Lowdy said after the dance. "Next on
the schedule is Scottish country dancing
with 'The Haunt of the Gnomes.' The next
novice session will be in two hours with
'Hole in the Wall.' Remember to take
your scrolls with you on the way out."

It took Shiv a minute to realize that
'scrolls' meant the handouts. They were
very helpful, and he made sure that
he had all of the pages for his.

"Do you have any more of these things
with the good pictures?" he asked Lowdy.

Something sparked in her eyes, and Shiv
was reminded of talking steel with Tolliver,
who shared his passion for metalwork.

"Allow me to fetch my tome, good sir,"
Lowdy said, and went to the end of the tent.

Shiv watched her go, bouncing a little in place
as he tried to mimic her springy steps.

She came back with a heavy leather book,
actually a binder full of bundled pages.
"These are the easy dances," she said,
slipping out several more sheets for him.
"When you get home, use this incantation
in your crystal cube --" Her forefinger
tapped the website address. "-- and
you'll find a whole archive of dances."

"These are amazing," Shiv said.
He wondered what Wacker would
make of them, and seriously considered
showing him just to see the look
on his thrash coach's face.

"I'm glad you had so much fun,"
Lowdy said. "I hope you come back
for some of the later sessions." Then
she turned to Dr. G and added,
"I like him. Can I keep him?"

Shiv started to panic again,
but Dr. G came to his rescue.

"Let's take it one step at a time,"
Dr. G said firmly. "For now, I think
that a rest break is in order."

Suddenly Shiv realized that he was
soaked in sweat, overheated, thirsty,
exhausted, overwhelmed by the people,
and starting to get a headache.

"Yeah, that's ... probably a good idea,"
he said, following Dr. G out of the tent.

The sun landed on him like a load of bricks,
making him wince and shade his eyes
with his hand, even with his hat.

Dr. G caught his free hand and
checked the sticker. The green dot
was fading; the yellow was just starting
to darken. Two fingertips pressed discreetly
against the inside of Shiv's wrist.

"You've still got some sun time
left, but your pulse is up enough
that resting in the shade would
probably be wiser," said Dr. G.

"Whatever," Shiv said. He just
wanted to sit down, or better, lie down.
Somewhere. Anywhere, really.

Dr. G led him to one of the hidden tents,
the inside of which was lined with lit lanterns,
its peaked roof lined with burgundy silk and
its fancy wall panels embroidered all in
shades of gold, raspberry, and blue.

Shiv sank onto a pile of cushions,
soft and thick, made in different styles.
His fingers found satin and velvet,
cool smooth beads, tassels and
twisted fringes to play with.

He lay there, not thinking,
not moving anything but his hands,
trying to slow down his breathing.

He felt like he was floating.

"Will you be all right here if I duck out
for just a moment?" asked Dr. G.
"These tents always have monitors,
so I can send someone to fetch
drinks for the two of us."

"Mmmhmm," Shiv said lazily,
tugging on one of the big beads.

Dr. G stepped out, but he didn't go
more than about twenty feet. Shiv could
track his progress by the feel of the belt knife,
short thick blade sturdy enough to pry with,
long thin tang extending through the hilt.

It only took a minute for Dr. G to return,
and this time he settled onto the cushions
alongside Shiv, careful of his stiff knees.

"You see, there are things that you can
do well and enjoy," said Dr. G. "What kind
of things you choose to do, well, that's up to you."

"I'm a supervillain," Shiv muttered.
Sure, the dancing had been fun, but
that wouldn't put any beans on the table.
In his experience, thieving and fighting were
much more effective means of support.

"It's still up to you what type of supervillain
you want to be," said Dr. G. "Do you want
to steal diamonds, pick fights with superheroes,
take over the world, or tie women to railroad tracks?"

"Now that was just embarrassing,"
Shiv groaned. "The Dastard made
all of us black capes look like kooks."

"So maybe you'd rather be the type who
makes amazing knives and snitches
things that people aren't supposed
to have," Dr. G suggested.

"Maybe," Shiv said.

Someone dingled the bell that
was tied to the tent's tassel outside.

Dr. G got up to answer it, and came back
with two blue-and-green ceramic mugs full
of something cold and pink and frothy.

"You're bringing me girly drinks?"
Shiv said as he accepted his.

"It's non-alcoholic," Dr. G said.
"I just asked for strawberry slush
because it was the closest thing
that was cold, wet, and sweet.
Sip it slowly so you don't get sick."

The stuff was half ice and half liquid,
so cold that it made Shiv's teeth ache, but
it went a long way toward reviving him.

"You know, there are plenty of opportunities
to continue, if you decide that you are
enjoying yourself here," Dr. G said.

"Like what?" Shiv said,
batting idly at the idea.

"You're certainly welcome to attend
more of these events with us, or on
your own if you prefer," Dr G said,
waving a hand at the colorful refuge.
"Most community centers also offer
dance classes, although the style does
vary. Folk and court dances are popular
because they're pretty and some of them
are easy to learn. If you look around,
you should be able to find some."

Shiv thought about that. He had
some vague notion of community centers,
and he knew that people liked dancing --
although what he'd seen at home was
more powwow or square dancing.

He had seen jazz dance too,
because a few of his gangmates
were into the old freeform style,
and Boss White had occasionally
booked professional jazz dancers
to perform at Blues Moon.

Shiv didn't think he could do
that kind of dancing, though;
it didn't have enough of a pattern
for him to get a solid grip on it.

He patted the blue leather belt pouch,
feeling the embossed star design and
the added thickness of papers that
crinkled under his touch. "I liked that
they had pictures to show us and
not just a lecture," Shiv said.

"That's called integrated learning," said Dr. G.
"Lecture for listening, handouts for reading text
and seeing pictures, demonstration and dancing
for body motion -- that engages different senses
and learning styles. Good teachers mix things up
to help students learn better, but not all schools
are that good. If this is new to you, then you
haven't been getting a very good education."

"Well, duh," Shiv said, rolling his eyes.

"Now compare this to the things that you've
been doing with me and Tolli, or the rest of
your support team," Dr. G suggested.

Shiv thought about the metalwork with Tolli,
the creme pastels with Dr. G, and the workouts
with Wacker and Mr. Vanburen. He thought
about how Rosie and Dr. Bloch would explain
things to him, more than once if he needed it, and
the way Dr. Bloch had found anatomy pictures
for Shiv to color as he studied them.

They even let him fidget or doodle
if that helped him to concentrate
and remember things, instead of
yelling or smacking him. So more of
the lessons stuck with him, and he was
slowly getting less panicky about learning --
or more like, he still panicked but it wasn't
as bad and went away faster now.

"It's kind of the same?" Shiv said,
twisting a tassel around his fingers.
"I like having all the different things
to look at and move around in and do.
Then when I'm busy with something,
it's a little harder to get into trouble, so
the fun lasts longer before I fuck it up."

Dr. G opened his fancy belt pouch,
which was a beautiful bright green with
an owl stamped on it, fastened by
a button of bronze knotwork that
made Shiv want to touch it.

Dr. G took out his vidwatch,
turned it on, and said, "You've
been here four hours already,
and no trouble in sight except for
a little unauthorized relocating of
contraband into the lost-and-found.
What do you think of the trip so far?"

"I think," Shiv said slowly, "that I like
the idea of teaching my skeletons to dance."

* * *


Lowdy (Dreanne Lancaster) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair. She is the daughter of Rohesia (Laura Lancaster), the younger sister of Francis (Frank), Avice the Valiant (Ava), and older sister of Pask (Paulie). They all belong to the SCA and are friends with the Finn family. Lowdy is a talented dancer and often teaches the novice and intermediate classes. She's good at drawing people in, even if they are shy. She is not good at being still and quiet, which can be overwhelming.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dancer, Good (+2) Exuberant, Good (+2) Inspiring People, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Theatre Student
Poor (-2) Being Still

The Dastard (Bates Abram) -- He has ruddy skin and beady blue-gray eyes. His hair is naturally brown but he dyes it black -- badly -- and waxes his mustache into curls. He paints his fingernails black, too. The Dastard is a supervillain who enjoys doing stereotypical things like tying people to chairs or railroad tracks. He is really into bondage. He also likes death traps, although he's far more prone to monologueing than actually killing anyone. The Dastard is relatively easy to beat by outthinking him or distracting him. Other supervillains dislike him because they feel that he makes them all look ridiculous. Journalists love him because he is photogenic and easy to provoke into a rant.
Origin: Bates has always been a pervert. While playing around with date-rape drugs, he managed to poison himself. When he got out of the hospital, he had superpowers.
Uniform: Black suit with a white shirt and a sloppily tied bow tie, with a stovepipe hat.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Getting Attention, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Rope Handling
Poor (-2) Kook
Powers: Average (0) Mesmerism
He can daze people into doing what he wants, but it doesn't last very long and he has to concentrate in order to make it work at all. That's why he prefers to tie them up after capturing them.
Motivation: To get people in his power.

* * *

"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you'd best teach it to dance."
-- George Bernard Shaw

Pennsic War is a historic re-enactment hosted by the SCA, popular among historic hobbyists. It helps to prepare in advance, although in Terramagne the event remains somewhat more casual than it has become in local-America. Creeping mundanity poses a challenge in both worlds, however. Read some safety tips for surviving a faire.

Trying to be good and nice is exhausting. Living up to expectations is nerve-wracking. Learn how to cope with these challenges.

Marzipan is an edible sculpture medium made from almonds. Learn how to make almond paste and marzipan fruits. You can also make an embossed tin such as this one to put it in.

Garb is historic clothing worn at a faire. You can make a simple tunic, similar to these examples; Shiv has the gray-brown one in the upper right corner of this picture. Medieval pants typically fastened with laces, like Shiv's black pants. Here are general instructions for making historic trousers, and a more specific pattern for short breeches that lace up. See the belt pouch and rope sandals that Shiv borrows.

The paper bag test is a horribly fraught piece of American history based on racism and skin tones. Shiv may have very fair skin, but culturally he feels more affinity for African-American culture, which is why he's happy in the Ebonies & Ivories.

Descriptions of skin tones often reference sun resistance. This is a reasonable approximation of the ten shades. Sunspotz are light-reactive stickers that indicate sun exposure. They come in alabaster, bisque, peach, amber, buff, olive, toffee, terra cotta, mahogany, and ebony. They recommend going a step lighter than your base skin tone if you have been completely out of the sun for a while, and if you already have a tan, you may prefer a step darker. There is also one with a pure white background, bordered in red with a white cross, for people with medical conditions that produce photosensitivity. It has a shorter exposure time even than the alabaster, and the design functions as a medic-alert for first aid.

Sun safety helps people avoid sunburns. You need to understand skin types, UV index, UV exposure, and SPF. Then there are equations for choosing the right sunscreen.

Historic hats come in many styles, such as this one that Shiv borrows. Learn how to make a simple "Robin Hood" hat.

There are numerous historic tents available. See the outside and the inside of the Royal Arabian Tent. The fairy tents are for children.

People often feel drained and overwhelmed by social events, sometimes even if they like the idea of the event. There are ways to withstand crowds and social occasions. Shiv isn't an empath, but he is fairly sensitive to energy and he's short on coping skills.

Read about medieval machines.

Hot Potato is a game that children play. Read some variations of it or watch a video of the game.

Here is a model of the Da Vincy Catapult, with pieces before and after assembly. While this is far below Edison's cognitive ability, it's about as much as his hands can manage at current physical development.

Dr. G carries a plain but handsome belt knife.

Arguments over authenticity debate the issue of medieval vs. medievalish. When people try to police authenticity, the results tend to be unpleasant. However, it is equally true that garish violations of period are a real buzzkill. So don't be a dick, in either direction.

Peacebonding covers a wide range of methods for securing weapons or weaponlike objects. This is used in such venues as science fiction conventions as well as faires. Sometimes people try to ban things instead, which makes nobody happy. Responsible handling is much better. T-America is much more tolerant of knives because most people apply them as tools and are sensible about their use. Longer blades are typically peacebonded for show, but permitted for use in certain events. While some venues insist on peacebonding that makes it difficult or impossible to draw a weapon, those tend to be ugly and conspicuous, such as plastic garbage ties. More commonly people want a method that fits the venue and makes it obvious when the seal is broken -- you don't want a useful tool inaccessible at need -- which leans toward methods like a cord and sealing wax.

Dance pavilions come in various styles. See the outside and the inside of the dance tent. The banner holders are a black gryphon and a white unicorn. There are simpler banner holders too; you can make this one with a cross-shaped foot. Tolliver makes the "portable hole" style from iron.

Positive discipline offers a variety of techniques for improving behavior. Distraction and redirection are valuable options to divert people from an inappropriate activity and shift them to something better. It works with teens as well as toddlers. Shiv needs a lot of help with this, because he's had so few good examples that it's hard for him to think of solutions that will not get him into trouble. Follow the steps to positive discipline.

Medieval dance is a fun activity. This resource describes the "palming" move in Hole in the Wall that doesn't appear in videos. Here is Ballo del Fiore in due: "Dance of the Flower, for two."

Hugo actually is a period name.

Historic etiquette includes the bow and curtsey. Here's a video of the right-behind-left curtsey. (I learned the right-before-left version.) This video demonstrates courtly bows.

See The Black Nag in description and video.

Dance diagrams may illustrate positions, motions, or footwork. Many people find these difficult to read, especially at first. Shiv can read these things, at first glance, easier than text.

See a diagram and read instructions for The Haunt of the Gnomes. Here is the footwork key. Shiv could probably have figured it out by comparing demonstrations to diagrams, but the key made it a lot quicker. Other symbols include the Keith Rose cribs and conventions.

Learning choreography is a challenge, but chunking -- breaking a dance into smaller parts -- can help. Folk dances are fairly easy to learn. Here is a quick introduction to SCA dancing. Dance leaders show know how to teach to a range of students.

The bow and curtsey are parts of many dances. Read instructions or watch a video on how to curtsey. Here is a discussion of bowing and a video of it.

Read about jazz dance.

Blended or integrated learning accommodates a range of learning styles and intelligences. While some people disagree with this, the plain fact is, people are not all identical and they really do learn better in different ways. It's easy to observe, and while dramatic changes are rare, they are real -- I've seen someone go from not understanding magic at all (because it's almost all described in visual terms) to making huge gains in an afternoon. What changed? I translated it into audio metaphors for a drummer, and then it clicked for him. \o/ So it helps to use different techniques for presenting material, such as these multisensory dance lessons. If you know your sensory learning style, you can also incorporate that into your study habits. T-America makes much wider use of this information compared to L-America.

Dr. G carries a black and green leather belt pouch with owl tooling and a Celtic knot concho.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, entertainment, fantasy, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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