Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Pebbles in the Path"

This poem is posted as a belated birthday present for [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It came out of the March 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, [personal profile] technoshaman, [personal profile] callibr8, [personal profile] alatefeline, [personal profile] redsixwing, [personal profile] alexseanchai, and [personal profile] librarygeek. It also fills the "peacemaking" square in my 2-1-17 (Platonic) card for the Valentines Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series, and directly follows "Ruts in the Road."

"Pebbles in the Path"

When Sandy and Danys pulled
into the driveway of Sandy's cottage,
the teenagers had already recovered
from their slump and bounced out
of the car like two tennis balls.

Bethan followed with a tolerant smile.
"Thank you for offering this lesson,"
she said. "It means a lot to us."

"Any time," Danys said. "We like
encouraging kids to learn safety skills."

First Sandy took the Rapid Incident Crew kit
from the back of the truck and said, "I'll be
teaching you some new rescue techniques
you might find useful -- say, if you're at work
and some stuff collapses onto your coworker."

"Then I'll step in with a first aid lesson,"
Danys said, hefting the Marine 1000 kit.

"After that, we'll both go over teamwork
and set up some drills," Sandy said.
"Does everything make sense?"

"Yeah," said Jules, and Mariset nodded.
"That's a good plan," Bethan added.

Sandy unpacked the RIC, naming each tool
as she went along. "Some of this is stuff that
you won't need, but other things are available
almost everywhere, and useful lots of ways."

She stacked sandbags and showed the teens
how to use a crowbar or a fire axe to pry
heavy things off of a trapped victim.

She explained how a probe could be used
to search for people or objects, and held out
to reach someone who was drowning.

She showed how to use webbing to create
an improvised harness, to fasten gear together,
to stabilize loose objects in an area of collapse, or
provide a safety tether when searching a smoky room.

"Can we do a ladder drill?" Jules asked. "I know,
I didn't mention it before, but it's been a while."

Sandy looked at the excited teens, and
retrieved a ground ladder from her entryway.
Jules and Mariset happily scrambled around
setting up, climbing, and taking down the ladder
in tune with the instructions she called out.

When they were tired enough to sit still for
five minutes, Danys showed off the first aid kit.
"See how it has pouches for different things?"

They were all color-coded and labeled in
large print: Wound Care, Medications, Bleeding,
Burns, Fracture/Sprain,
and CPR Instruments.

"That's a good idea for medium to large kits,"
Bethan said. "Not only does it let you find things fast,
if you have lots of help and lots of casualties, then
you can break down the kit and assign each type
of problem to a different caregiver." Then she
glanced at Danys. "Sorry to butt in."

"No no, it's great," he said with a grin.
"Two paramedics are better than one!"

He went on to explain why the kit
was packed the way it was, what it held,
and how to treat various complaints.

"Nice ink," Danys said when Jules
reached for one of the pouches
inside the first aid backpack.

Jules tilted his hand to show off
the little arc of orange flames framing
a firefighter outlined in black. "Thanks,"
he said. "I'll tell my dad you like it."

Next Danys described how to scout out
the scene of an incident, assess victims,
and then handle the emergency.

"What if it's dangerous?" Jules asked.

"Remember Rule #1," Danys admonished.
"Do Not Make Yourself Another Casualty!"

"If it's dangerous, hang back and wait for
the experts," Bethan said. "You can still be
a big help by calling in the problem, staying safe,
watching what happens so you can report it
to the rescue squad, and flagging them down
when you see them approaching."

"Yeah, okay," Jules said.

"Time for teamwork!" Sandy said,
clapping her hands together. "We've got
some fun exercises to get you moving."

She pulled out her binder of drills,
showing Jules and Mariset some of
the ones she thought would help them.

Jules wanted to try the rope toss.

Mariset gave a silent laugh and
pointed to the cardboard drill.

"Think about your strengths and
weaknesses," Bethan said. "Jules
isn't very graceful yet, and Mariset
prefers not to speak. How are you
going to compensate for those?"

They looked at Sandy, but she said,
"Figure it out yourselves. Danys and I
will give you hints if you get stuck, but
we're not going to be there immediately
when something goes wrong for real."

The teens put their heads together, and
somehow or other discussed it with gestures
and nudges and a few words from Jules.

They'd been friends for ages;
they knew how to get by.

Danys talked about team skills
while Sandy ripped up cardboard
to form squares that each partner
would have to keep under one knee.

She used marking tape to lay out
a maze on the ground, where the teens
took turns leading each other through
the route, crawling with one hand
on the other person's ankle.

It was awkward, and hilarious,
and it might save lives if they were
ever trapped in a smoky building.

The rope toss involved marking out
several targets to represent victims
fallen into a body of water. The teens
had to find a rope bag, bring it to the "pool,"
and then throw it past each victim so that
the trailing rope would land within reach.

They figured out that Jules was faster
and Mariset was more accurate, so they
quickly divided the tasks into him fetching
the rope bag and her throwing it.

Then Danys made Jules and Mariset heave
some sandbags into the Stokes basket and
carry their victim around the tiny front yard.

It was a disaster. Jules kept tripping
over the uneven ground, or his own feet,
or the fact that Mariset wasn't telling him
about what she intended to do.

"You need to communicate,"
Bethan reminded them. "Try
using the basket itself -- it's rigid,
it'll carry a pressure signal just like
pushing on your partner's hand
when you're dancing together."

"Step at the same time," Danys said.
"Think about how a horse trots, and then
imagine yourself as the front and back legs."

Sandy took the opportunity to sneak away
and stash a surprise in her cottage.

It took the teens a while, but eventually
they learned how to walk together.
Panting but proud, they finished
the circuit and set the basket
smoothly onto the target.

"We did it!" Jules crowed,
throwing his hands in the air.

"I knew you could," Danys said.
"You both showed a real interest in
going beyond the school tour stuff.
I had faith you'd figure this out."

"Your friend Rudy has been a dimwit,"
Sandy announced. "He had a few drinks
and a few smokes, came home, and got himself
into trouble. Because he wasn't paying attention,
he also left his lit cigarette on the couch, which
is now starting to smoulder. Your job is to find
Rudy and get him safely out of the house. Go."

The chirp of her vidwatch timer engaging
sent the teenagers sprinting into the cottage.

"Jules told me about you two confronting
the fire chief," Bethan said to Danys
and Sandy. "That was brave."

"Just part of the job," Danys said with
a shrug. "The desire to serve, the ability
to perform, and the courage to act."

"Being the pebble that jars the wheel
out of the path is great for changing direction,
but hard on pebbles," Bethan observed,
favoring him with a brilliant smile.

"Sometimes you just have to speak truth
to power, even when you know you'll
take heat for the result," Sandy said.
"We're firefighters. It's what we do."

"I'm glad that somebody's doing it,"
Bethan said. "It's been rough here."

"It's important to speak out against
injustice," Danys said. "That can give
others the courage to stand with you.
When no one speaks out, then it gets
bad -- very bad." He shook his head. "I
don't want Mercedes to remind me of Haiti."

Bethan shifted just enough to brush
against him. "People like you make
all the difference," she said. "Someone
has to do the hard work of peacemaking,
and I for one am glad to have you here."

Danys' sorrel skin wouldn't show a blush,
but from the way he ducked his chin,
Sandy would bet that he had one.

"I wish I could do more to help, but
I don't know anything about soup care,"
he said. "None of the academy classes
cover it, and Soup to Nuts is for
new soups and their families."

Bethan's fingers drummed so fast
that they blurred against her hip.
"We could work up something at
professional level, though," she said.
"Let me talk to the rest of the crew.
You've raised a good point about
the need for continuing education."

"That would be great," Danys said.

Just then, a piercing whistle sounded
from the loft, three short tweets to signal
come together. Evidently Mariset had
discovered Rescue Rudy pinned under
a barbell on Sandy's weight bench.

They could hear Jules galloping up the stairs.

Danys smirked and dialed Mariset's phone.
"Surprise, it looks like poor Rudy broke a rib,"
he said. "You won't want to carry him over
your shoulder. Have fun explaining it to Jules."

Bethan cracked up laughing. "You are evil,"
she said. "You are an evil genius."

Danys preened.

Mariset and Jules came down
the stairs. They had solved
the challenge of coordination by
placing Mariset in front to steer
while carrying the feet, and Jules
following her with the heavy torso.

"Your turn," Jules gasped as they
deposited the dummy at Sandy's feet.
"Crushed under a barbell. Broken rib.
Gonna need ... an ambulance."

"Well done," Sandy said.
"Four minutes, thirty-one seconds."
She picked up the dummy and
put him into the truck bed.

Jules and Mariset watched,
then trotted back into the house.

The adults followed at a more leisurely pace,
except for Bethan who flitted around at superspeed
and had all the gear repacked and in the truck
before the other two sat down on the couch.

"Thanks," Sandy said. "It's been
a long enough day that I was not
looking forward to that cleanup."

A chime from Jules' phone made him
perk up. "Pizza's almost here!"
he said. "Perfect timing."

"Oh good," said Bethan. "I'm starved."

Soon the delivery car pulled up,
and Jules went to the door. "Don't worry,
I got this," he said. "Dad's buying; he'll
pay me back when I get home."

When Jules came back, he set
the pizzas in front of Sandy and
Danys first, and then the big box of
parmesan zucchini sticks by Bethan.

"I wasn't sure what you two like,
so I got a Black Bean Nacho pizza and
the Hungry Italian with Canadian bacon,
sausage, olives, mushrooms, and onions,"
Jules said as he opened the boxes.

"We like food," Sandy said with
enthusiasm. "Thank you for getting it."

"Thanks for treating me like a real student,
and not a troublemaker," Jules said quietly.

Sandy saw the pained look on Bethan's face
and realized that this must be a lot worse
than just what she'd heard from her boss.

"You are a fine young man, and when I
write up my class report, it will reflect that,"
Sandy said firmly. "Now eat up, before
this delicious pizza gets cold."

* * *


Sandy's house is a lovely little cottage. See the exterior, first floor plan, and second floor plan. Inside you can see the living room, bathroom, bedroom, and loft gym.

Firefighting gear includes all kinds of useful items.

An advantage of the Rapid Intervention Crew kit is that everything fits in the Stokes basket. So you can just grab that, stow it in a truck, and pull it out in one piece when you need it. T-American fire stations always have at least one of these, and usually several so that one can be borrowed for training purposes.

The Marine 1000 First Aid Kit is designed to provide care for several people in situations where professional care may be up to 12 hours away. Materials are organized into pouches designed for different types of problem.

This car first aid kit uses a similar method to sort supplies into a tacklebox.

The EMS backpack features a wide variety of disaster supplies.

Rescue Rudy is a professional dummy with African-American features for training first responders. He comes in several weights, and here they're using the 145-pound model. These cost a lot of money, so many people choose to make their own drag dummy.

Emergency Medical Systems can be complex. People need to understand how to assess emergency situations, both the surrounding environment and the distressed person. Then handle it calmly.

Teamwork is an essential skillset in school and work situations as well as disasters. Simulations and other exercises help improve teamwork. Leadership and teamwork skills are part of public services. This type of activity is typical of Terramagne-America, and in this poem you're seeing the high school level, which builds on skills the students should have gained in earlier sessions.

Firefighter training includes many drills for search and other topics. Examples shown here include the rope bag throw and the cardboard teamwork exercise.

Emergency whistle codes are useful in survival situations, and are related to steam whistle codes. Scouts use whistle codes as part of group direction; a complete guide is here.

In ballroom dance, leading and following require the use of hands to convey signals about what is to happen. T-America still teaches ballroom dance for socialization, exercise, and learning the skills of leadership and followship. Some schools even make a point of teaching very different types of dance (for example, waltz and tango) so that each gender can learn both a lead and a follow without confusing the steps. Advanced dancers may know both for the same dance.

The dummy drag test is part of qualifications for firefighters, police, and other rescue workers. In T-America it is much easier to find somewhere with test dummies. A good gym often has them, and rescue departments routinely offer citizen training days along with staff training days, typically once a month. This leads to a much higher success rate in qualifications, because most people know what they're getting into.

The fire protection motto is: The Desire To Serve The Ability To Perform And The Courage To Act.

Enjoy recipes for Black Bean Nacho Pizza and Hungry Italian Pizza. T-America generally makes healthier pizzas compared to L-America, although you can get junky ones too. Parmesan Zucchini Sticks are among the best sides for pizza. A large pizza (14-16 inches in diameter) will contain 8-12 triangular slices and feed 4-8 people, depending how hungry they are. An average adult eats 2-3 slices, while hungrier people such as teenagers can put away up to 4. A high-burn superhero may consume an entire large pizza. Add in the side dish, and two large pizzas should feed the current crowd comfortably, with maybe a slice or few left over.
Tags: #1, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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