Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Key to Your New Home"

This poem is spillover from the April 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] technoshaman. It also fills the "Cedar Chest" square in my 4-1-17 card for the Month of Rainbows fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"The Key to Your New Home"

It was a good thing
that Boss White came
to pick him up from the bus,
because Shiv could hardly
string two thoughts together.

What the fuck do I do now?
Shiv wondered, nibbling his lip.

"First things first, let's get you
signed in at Public Housing
like your exit plan calls for,"
Boss White said as he led
the way to his big black van.

Then he tucked Shiv into
the passenger seat and drove
to the little cluster of buildings.

The Abbot Center for Public Housing,
read the sign in the parking lot.

When they arrived, Boss White
opened the back doors to reveal
a cedar chest wedged between
the bench seats. He pulled it out
on a little handtruck and started
towing it toward the entrance.

"Uh, boss? What's that?"
Shiv asked, eyeing it.

"That's your stuff. I grabbed
what I could from your old place
and stashed it in this," Boss White said.
"We want people to see you movin' in,
and it'll stick better if you've got things
to put into your new apartment."

"Thanks," Shiv said, fingering
the strap of his backpack. "I don't
have much, just this and what's
getting shipped to me later."

"This'll do for now," Boss White said
as they headed into the building.

The interior was done in wood
with touches of brick like the walls
outside. The common room had
some dining tables and couches
around a large viewscreen, with
a big open window at one end
that looked like it let into a kitchen.

A handful of people lounged
in the chairs, black and white and
one dude who looked Hispanic.
That made Shiv relax a little.

It's not a bad place, he thought.
as he looked around the entry.

Boss White pushed him gently but
firmly up to the reception desk where
Shiv signed in with the legal name
that he hardly ever used.

"Welcome to the Abbot Center,"
said the plump black lady behind
the desk. "I'm Novanna Frahm, and
you can ask me if you need any
help. The key to your new home
signifies a new chance at life."

As Shiv took the key, he realized that
it came with a multitool keychain.
"Wow, thanks!" he exclaimed.

"You're welcome," said Novanna.
"The keychain is a gift for new tenants
from a local business. So is this."
She heaved a huge laundry basket
full of stuff onto the desk.

Shiv stared at the jumble of
cleaning supplies, coat hangers,
kitchen bits, and other household items.

A first aid kit, that's useful, he thought.
Then something else caught his eye.

"Oh! A jade plant," he said, carefully
picking up the little pot to check the soil.
It was barely damp, as it should be.

The label stuck in the potting soil read,
A New Leaf on the front and then had
information about the plant on the back.

"You recognize it," Novanna said.
"Do you know how to take care of it?"

Shiv remembered that from playing
a video game that Dr. Bloch had
given him, called Desert Dreams.

"Yeah, they need plenty of sun
and a little water, but not too much,"
Shiv said, tucking the pot back in place.

Beside it in the basket lay a booklet
titled, Moving In, which listed amenities
including the common room and its kitchen,
mail room, exercise room, reading room,
and laundromat -- plus the plazas and
parklets that lay outside the building.

Congrats on your new home,
said the tag tied to one handle.

From there, they made their way
to Shiv's apartment. Because
he was young and single, he had
been assigned a studio apartment --
just a great room with a kitchen and
bathroom bracketing the entryway.

It was beautiful, though,
with warm wooden floors and
huge windows filling most of
the south wall, which jutted out
like the prow of a ship.

"Well look at this, you got
a Murphy bed," said Boss White.
He tugged on a cabinet, and
a whole bed fell out of it.

"It's so big," Shiv said.
"My sheets won't fit."

"This is a full-size bed,
not a twin," said Boss White.
"You can get more sheets.
Put some stuff away -- hang
clothes in the closet and sort
the cleanin' supplies into
the kitchen and bathroom."

Shiv obeyed. This place
is nicer than I expected,

he realized as he worked.

The tiny kitchen came with
a dishwasher, and the bathroom
had a whole tub, not just a shower.

"Here, look through your old stuff,"
Boss White said next, opening
the cedar chest. It had a tray
in the top for small things, while
the bottom held larger items.

It wasn't really full, though,
because Shiv didn't own much.

He rubbed his hands over the wood,
which was a bright red-brown outside
and almost pink inside. A spicy smell
rose up from the unpainted surface.

Just looking at the contents
made him feel half-numb.
Shiv wasn't sure if he was
even the same person who
used to own those things.

"Now here's a decision
for you," Boss White said.

Shiv groaned. "Oh,
that's just what I need."

"I do believe it is," Boss White said.
"Do you want to stay here for real,
or move in above the lair? We got
an apartment open, with a bathroom
closed in behind the bedroom, and it's
already stocked with a few basics."

That's really tempting, Shiv thought,
but he worried about appearances.

"I thought I was supposed to stay here,"
he said. "Won't they get mad if I don't?"

"Only if you ignore the place,"
said Boss White. "You'd need
to drop by a few times a week,
make sure folks see you comin'
and goin' then. You would have
a bit more privacy here than at
the lair -- or you could turn this
into a real studio, bring in
some of your art stuff."

Shiv loved that idea
the moment he heard it.
This way he could follow along
without making it too easy for
anyone official to find him.

"Yeah, okay," he said.

Sorting through his old things,
Shiv left some in the apartment
that he could use if necessary
but didn't need immediately.

They put the cedar chest
in the bay window for now,
where it could serve as a table
for the jade plant. Shiv found
a dish to put under it to protect
the wood from any water.

It didn't look quite like a home yet,
or even an art studio, but Shiv
thought it could get there.

"All right, that's good enough
for now," Boss White declared.
"I got two things for you." He
handed Shiv a tiny iron key.
"This is for the cedar chest."

"I get to keep it?" Shiv said,
startled. "Thanks, boss!"

"Of course," said Boss White.
He handed Shiv another key,
older and larger, made of brass.
"That one is for your apartment
up above the jazz joint."

All of a sudden, Shiv felt
so homesick for Blues Moon
that it made him actually queasy.

I miss it,
he realized, and just like that,
Shiv knew what he wanted to do next.

"Okay, boss," he said. "Let's go ... home."

* * *


Novanna Frahm -- She has toffee skin, brown eyes, and straightened mahogany hair to her chin. She has a round face and plump body. She wears tinted glasses to protect her eyes from bright lights. Novanna works as a receptionist at the public housing building where Shiv stays in Omaha, Nebraska. She often organizes classes for cooking, singing, or other activities.
Qualities: Good (+2) Extrovert, Good (+2) Organized, Good (+2) Receptionist, Good (+2) Singer, Good (+2) Soul Food Cook
Poor (-2) Light-sensitive

* * *

"The key to your new home signifies a new chance at life."
-- Anonymous

Ebonies & Ivories have a black tac van. The front has space for a driver and copilot. The back has interior drawers and bench seat storage.

Shiv stays at the Abbot Center for Public Housing. In T-Omaha, several of these buildings cluster together. In some places they are divided by plazas which may be used for parking, market stalls, playing games, or other purposes. Elsewhere they are divided by parklets that offer picnic areas. The houses in the cluster are named Edith, Grace, Otheman, and Arthur. Each house has a common room, common kitchen, reading/meeting room, fitness room, and laundromat. There is also a building office and mail room. Buildings with families have a play room for children. Some other buildings have a computer room, tiny rentable offices, or other facilities.

A parklet between buildings in the public housing cluster offers picnic tables, grills, and clotheslines for people who like to hang their laundry outdoors. The common room has dining tables, booths, and a sitting area around a viewscreen. The common kitchen allows communal cooking. People often teach classes here. The mailroom includes locking post office boxes plus open cubbies for flyers. A bulletin board for announcements hangs over a loveseat in the back of the room. The exercise room provides space for yoga, dance classes, and other physical activities. A closet holds a few pieces of exercise equipment for people to share. The reading room is stocked with books and other media scavenged from whatever sources people can find. The tables and stools come from the Salvage Design Store. This allows the place to double as a study room. The laundromat has a utility sink, four washers, four dryers, a table, chairs, and a vending machine.

Studios, efficiencies, and bachelors can be found in all types of apartment buildings, from walk-ups to low-rise pre-war buildings to luxury high-rises, and tend to be the smallest units within a building, usually between 300 and 600 square feet (though we have seen them smaller). Smaller units tend to be in older buildings, and are often smaller than would be legally allowed if they were built today. As building codes have evolved, older units were often grandfathered in.

A Murphy bed is a space-saving device that hides a bed inside a cabinet on the wall. See Shiv's new apartment with the bed up and bed down. Looking through the kitchen window, you can see the little sink. Here is the bathroom. The bay window fills the front of the apartment.

Check out the exterior and interior of Shiv's cedar chest.

Housewarming gifts make moving in a little easier. This multitool makes a convenient keychain. Shiv's gift basket is a good example of what to give someone for their first apartment. In T-America, it's typical for local businesses to hand out swag to Public Housing or other apartment complexes as an easy way to reach new customers and help people feel at home.

Jade plant, aka lucky plant or money tree, is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Learn how to grow it. A New Leaf is a plant shop recently established in Omaha.

Desert Dreams is a video game about growing dryland plants. Many different succulents are available. You pick out seeds or seedlings, and a pot, then arrange them however you want. They need water, sunlight, and fertilizer. It's very educational, with names and other information about the different species. As you tend your pot, the plants grow. At the lower levels, they're perfectly safe, and it's a very peaceful meditative sort of game. At the higher levels, pests and herbivores arrive to provide more challenge. You begin with a modest selection of plants that are easy to grow, and as you advance, you unlock new species which are more difficult to raise. If you take care of your plants well enough, they bloom and pollinators come to visit.
Desert Dreams is similar to the local-American game Viridi, but more complex. It was created by a gizmologist who works in horticulture. The sound effects consist of music from various desert cultures, with the default set to come from the same region as the first plant selected, although users can change it.

T-American apartments typically provide a move-in booklet to help new tenants settle in. This makes it easier for people to get unpacked, find the amenities, and notify the right staffperson in case of a problem.

Housewarming supplies may also include welcoming gift tags.

This is the key to Shiv's apartment on the upper floor of Blues Moon.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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