Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Elbow Room"

This poem is from the June 2016 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] alexseanchai, [personal profile] chanter_greenie, ng_moonmoth, and rhodielady_47. It has been sponsored by EdorFaus and daisiesrockalot. This poem belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features homophobia, stereotypes, extremely vulgar language, in front of children, attempted assault, nonconsensual minor restraint, verbal abuse, duct tape gag, which Hefty lectures Stan about and then abruptly changes his mind to agree with, stress, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"Elbow Room"

Stalwart Stan and Antimatter were
patrolling the Mall when they came across
a costumed man doing a presentation.

"Whoops, fashion accident coming up,"
Antimatter said with a snicker.

Stalwart Stan looked at the guy standing
over a group of kids who held worksheets.

He wore a red dexflan suit with
red-white-and-blue biking shorts
over that, bright orange ski goggles,
a green cap that said Oregon, and
a cape in a different shade of blue.

"Is that a pillowcase?"
Stalwart Stan muttered,
staring at the mismatched cape.

"Seems to be," Antimatter said.

"Hi, everyone," Stalwart Stan said
as they approached the group.
"What's the topic today?"

"How to Choose a Hero,"
said the instructor.
"I'm Cho-Cho Glow."

"You're a show soup?"
Antimatter said.
"That's pretty smooth."

"He can glow pink," a girl said.

"I glow blue, white, or red,"
Cho-Cho Glow corrected.

"It's pink," she insisted.

He turned on the glow and said,
"See, I told you it was red."

It was pink.

"It looks like a light red,"
Stalwart Stan said diplomatically.

Cho-Cho Glow narrowed his eyes.
"Well, I can see why you two
would be so fashion-conscious."

Stalwart Stan looked down at
his very practical superhero uniform
inspired by his Activity Scout one.

Antimatter sighed. "Let's keep
this smooth," he suggested.
"Everybody needs elbow room
to be themselves, so that society
doesn't tangle up all the time."

"Problem?" Stalwart Stan said.

"The problem is that I'm trying
to teach kids how to be good,
and you're cozying up with
a supervillain faggot,"
said Cho-Cho Glow.

Antimatter flinched.
Stalwart Stan growled.

"Mommy Jane, he said the F-word,"
one of the boys whispered as he
tugged on a woman's skirt.

"Why don't we take this discussion
somewhere else," Stalwart Stan said
as he caught the man's shoulder and
propelled him away from the kids.

"Get your hands off me,
I'm not a pervert like you!"
snapped Cho-Cho Glow
as he tried to pull away.

"I hear that kind of talk in high school,"
said Stalwart Stan. "I wasn't expecting
to hear it from another superhero, though.
SPOON has pretty inclusive policies about
sexual orientation and gender expression."

"You're a disgrace to superheroes
everywhere, being in an open relationship
with the bad fairy over there," said Cho-Cho Glow.

"Actually we have an exclusive relationship,
not that it is any of your business,"
Antimatter said evenly.

"And you, what do you think you're doing,
corrupting a superhero? You think that
makes you one too?" said Cho-Cho Glow,
throwing a punch at Antimatter.

It never connected.

Instead his fist thwapped
into Stalwart Stan's palm.

"That will be enough of that,"
said Stalwart Stan. "I think you
should come down to the police station
and have a chat about what kind of behavior
is expected of citizens and superheroes.
Now we can do this the easy way --"

Cho-Cho Glow tried to punch him again.

"-- or the hard way," said Stalwart Stan
as he draped the other man over his shoulder.

"Put me down, you ass bandit!"
yelled Cho-Cho Glow.

"Antimatter, see if you can find
something to muffle the verbal abuse,"
said Stalwart Stan. "There's no point
risking the chance of splattering
innocent bystanders with it."

"I'm on it," said Antimatter.

He looked around and spied a shelf
on the side of a nearby pavilion labeled
Basic Repairs with a ball of string, a cutter,
a can of WD-40, and a roll of duct tape.

"You flaming buttfucker, don't you
dare touch me," said Cho-Cho Glow.

Efficiently Antimatter ripped off
a piece of tape and covered
the man's mouth with it.

Blessed silence.

"Please tell the class that
their guest speaker had to leave,
and give them a card," Stalwart Stan said
to Antimatter. "They can ask us to cover
the same topic, or we'll help them
find another presenter."

Stalwart Stan watched from
around the corner of the pavilion
while Antimatter went back
to deal with the class.

The lady referred to as Mommy Jane
asked him, "Are you okay?"

"I'll do," Antimatter said. "It's
nothing I haven't heard before,
and it hasn't killed me yet."

"You watch out for yourself,"
she said. "People can be mean."

"Thank you, ma'am, I'll be careful,"
Antimatter said. Stalwart Stan
was proud of him for remembering
the superhero manners they'd been
reviewing. "Here's a card if you would
like to have someone else talk about
virtues and superheroes and stuff."

"Thank you," she said.

Getting to the police station
with a squirming bigot in tow
was tedious, but they managed.

Stalwart Stan and Antimatter
were learning to ignore the stares,
and at least people gave them
plenty of elbow room.

They headed up the steps
just as Hefty was coming down.

"You two want to tell me what
in the world is going on?" said the cop.
"We've had three calls already about
a cape confrontation in the Mall!"

"It's not much of a fight," said Stalwart Stan.
"This is Cho-Cho Glow. He was telling kids
about choosing a hero, and then he started
in with some dirty talk, so I pulled him aside
to explain how that's not okay. Then he
tried to hit Antimatter and --"

"-- did hit you, twice," Antimatter said.

"I'm Invulnerable," Stalwart Stan said mildly.

"That's still assault, if you want to press charges,"
Hefty said. "Meanwhile, take that tape off him.
Don't you know duct tape is bad for skin?"

"No sir, sorry sir," said Stalwart Stan.
"But he's being verbally abusive, and
someone should make sure he quits it."

"Then sign up for the SPOON class
on restraint safety if you're planning
to do things like this," Hefty said.
"Now take the tape off."

"Yes, sir," Stalwart Stan said glumly,
and peeled the duct tape away.

"Get your hands off of me,
you freak faggot!" the man spat.

Hefty's face went as blank as a refrigerator door.

Taking the tape from Stalwart Stan's hand,
Hefty carefully smoothed it back into place.
"Welp, I'm about to get the hairy eyeball from
our citizen safety monitor, but I think that had
better stay in place until we can get this guy
into a secure interview room," he declared.

"Thanks for taking care of this,"
Stalwart Stan said as he set
the captive on his feet.

"You're welcome," Hefty said,
taking charge of Cho-Cho Glow. "I'll
make sure he gets a thorough lecture
about disorderly conduct, and see if
any other complaints come in."

"What would you recommend for
safe tape?" Antimatter asked, shifting
his vidwatch to notetaking mode.

"Try B&B Capery Tape," Hefty said.
"Brooklyn Superhero Supply carries it,
and they sell through mail order."

"Got it," said Antimatter.

"I hate it when people are
disagreeable just because they
disagree," Stalwart Stan said as
they headed down the steps.

"Disagreement on issues doesn't
have to mean disrespect of people,"
said Antimatter. "Even back when we
were fighting all the time, you never
made me feel like ... less of a person."

Then he giggled.

"What's so funny?" asked Stalwart Stan.

Antimatter elbowed him teasingly in
the ribs. "I don't think that guy realized
that you are the one who corrupted me
out of my former allegiance!"

"Oops," Stalwart Stan teased back.
"Nah, on second thought, I'm not sorry."

"Neither am I," Antimatter said
as he twined their fingers together.

* * *


Cho-Cho Glow (Joe Ainsworth) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair with a beard and mustache. He is a show soup who travels around giving lectures about ethics and civic duty. Unfortunately his moralizing tends to annoy more people than it impresses.
Origin: Caught in an avalanche as a teen, he survived because he started glowing under the snow, which enabled rescuers to find him.
Uniform: A red dexflan suit with red-white-and-blue biking shorts over that, bright orange ski goggles, a green cap that says Oregon, and a pillowcase cape in a different shade of blue. His fashion sense is no better off duty; he tries to look good, but something's always off-kilter.
Qualities: Good (+2) Determination, Good (+2) Public Speaking, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Moralizer
Superpowers: Average (0) Glow
He can glow white, pale blue, or pink. He says it's red, but it's pink.
Motivation: To make people be good.

Cho-cho — small boy
-- Oregon Slang

Jane Jacobsdotter -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and dark blonde hair that bleaches lighter in the sun. She is tall and slender. Jane is the wife of Augusta "Gus" Jacobsdotter and the mother of their son Cayden. They live in Omaha, Nebraska. The family often goes out together, exploring parks and museums around the city.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Mother, Expert (+4) School Secretary, Good (+2) Lesbian, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Softball Player
Poor (-2) Neatnik

Cayden Jacobsdotter -- He has fair skin with freckles, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He is the son of Jane and Augusta "Gus" Jacobsdotter. They live in Omaha, Nebraska. He enjoys visiting local parks and meeting new people. Unlike many little boys, however, he finds rude language off-putting instead of amusing.
Qualities: Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Sankofa Club
Poor (-2) Scandalized by Foul Language

* * *

Fashion sense is an awareness of clothing and style. On average, straight men are much less likely to care about this than gay men. A key reason behind this tendency is that queerfolk have long used fashion to signal each other discreetly in a hostile environment. That doesn't make it okay to hype the stereotypes, though. Lawrence has quite a lot of fashion sense; Stan has about enough to recognize a pillowcase and different shades of blue. Here are some more sensible tips about cultivating your fashion sense.

Children choose heroes in different ways, sometimes good ones but other times bad ones. Heroes offer many benefits to us in our quest for greatness. There are worksheets on heroic traits, writing a poem about heroism, and a superhero job application. Think about how to choose a role model. Here is a lesson on choosing heroes.

Being a hero is a choice, not an obligation. A cape or a movie title don't make a hero, actions do -- so consider carefully whether you're acting like a hero or a villain. There are plenty of ways that you can be a hero in everyday life.

(These links are sad.)
Homophobia is an unreasoning fear and hatred of queerfolk. It poses a serious threat to gay teens, raising the risk of depression, suicide, and other problems. It's also a grave concern with regard to superpowers, because this is where homophobia leads. Understand how to handle homophobes and how to fight homophobia.

A basic repair kit can be very simple. The one Lawrence finds is a slight expansion on the classic duct tape and WD-40.

(Some of these links are kinky.)
While duct tape is not toxic "under normal usage," it was not designed or tested for use on human skin, and can cause various problems. Gaffer's tape is sometimes recommended as a less-tacky alternative. Bandage tape comes in hypoallergenic brands and is explicitly designed to be safe on skin. Bondage tape has no adhesive at all, and only sticks to itself. Although popular in kink, tape gags can be risky due to obstructing the breath.

(Some of these links are disturbing.)
Police brutality is a serious problem in local-America, rather less so in Terramagne-America. While most of the news focuses on murder and assault, police have also made extremely inappropriate use of duct tape. T-American cops are expected to follow safety protocols. Hefty has had training that Stan hasn't, although after this, Stan won't consider duct tape a good bondage material. Among the ways to reduce police brutality is citizen oversight, which is common and respected in T-America. Everyone has limits. Exceeding Hefty's results in the use of a duct tape gag and, yes, probably earns him a lecture from citizen safety ... but it doesn't involve anyone getting beaten or murdered.

B&B Capery Tape is a special tape made for use on people with superpowers. The B&B stands for Bandage and Bondage. The backing material is capery, to withstand superpowers, and the glue is designed to hold securely without damaging the skin. It is available from Brooklyn Superhero Supply.

Verbal abuse is hostile language. Know the signs and symptoms of it. There are constructive ways to respond to verbal abuse. T-America takes a similar view on language as on bodies: your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.
Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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