Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "The Softness of the Sounds"

This poem is spillover from the May 1, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "alter ego" square in my 5-1-18 General card for the Pro Wrestling Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.


"The Softness of the Sounds"


Sometimes it's not about being
a superhera or a supervillain.

Sometimes it's just about
being music lovers.

Sintonizao knows that
Shuffleboard is a supervillain,
and Shuffleboard knows that
Sintonizao is a superhera, but
today they don't have to care.

Pentatonic Park in Onion City
has two main music venues
along with several busk stops
scattered around the park.

It's just random chance that
both Sintonizao and Shuffleboard
wind up at Whole Note Podium.

The pop-rock band currently playing
has a singer, an acoustic guitarist,
a banjo player, an electric bassist,
and a drummer -- not the usual mix,
but still interesting to listen to.

The bass notes are electric blue,
and the tangy banjo is neon yellow.
Between them, the acoustic guitar
strums out lines of grassy green.
The drummer's beat is blue-violet
slashed with brassy yellow cymbals.

The singer has a rich, mellow voice
that flows over the music like water,
blurring the other colors together.

After they finish playing,
the food carts come around.
A sandwich cart starts out on
Sintonizao's side and ice cream
on Shuffleboard's, then they switch.

Sintonizao gets a Tune-a-Piano sandwich
and Shuffleboard has some sort of cone.

The next scheduled performance features
a jazz band with a saxophone, trumpet,
keyboardist, bass guitar, and drummer.

The horns sound tawny and bold, while
the keyboard tonkles tiny blobs of color.
The bass guitar thrums out blue notes
with the drums throbbing in purple.

They swing into a slower song, then,
in which the beauty of dreaming
and the reality of life blur into
a blissful swath of colors.

On the clear bright day, even
the softness of the sounds is golden.

When the jazz band finally wraps up,
the audience breaks up and
scatters into the park.

Sintonizao overhears
an argument, and she knows
better than to bring their alter egos
into this, but she can't resist.

They're sitting on the far side of
the arc of seats facing the podium.

Shuffleboard is scowling and
has her knees pinched together.

Chiyo would be crossing her arms
if she had any, but she doesn't.
Instead, she has her legs crossed,
one foot bouncing angrily in the air.

Unhappy little sparks spill away
from them like those sandburrs
that could stab through denim.

"You don't have to keep
tormenting yourself, applying
for jobs that you're never going
to get!" says Shuffleboard.

"I appreciate you helping
to support me, but I don't
want to lean on family forever,"
says Chiyo. "I want to get a job."

"Hey, I know this is none of
my business, but I couldn't help
overhearing you," Sintonizao says.

Shuffleboard glares at her and
says, "You stay out of this. We're
not doing anything wrong!"

"I don't need to be rescued,
she's my sister," Chiyo adds.

"It's not like that," Sintonizao says.
"I just think people with special needs
should stick together. Everyone who
wants to work deserves a job. Do you
know a guy named Cheersquad?"

"Never heard of him," Chiyo says,
but Shuffleboard looks thoughtful.

"He works as a dispatcher at
the Eastbord SPOON base,"
Sintonizao says, "and he
is also a quadriplegic."

"Wow," Chiyo says softly.
"How does he do that?"

"Well, Cheersquad started
as an ambulance driver before
the wreck, so he already had
a lot of the relevant training,"
says Sintonizao. "Dispatch is
almost entirely phone work, so
it doesn't need much mobility."

"I could probably do something
like that," Chiyo says, then slumps.
"If anyone would give me a chance,
that is, but they just won't do it."

"Here, let me give you his card,"
says Sintonizao. "Cheersquad does
a lot of outreach for other people with
physical or mental disabilities. He might
be able to help you find the right job."

Chiyo takes the card quite delicately
with her toes and tucks it into
her pocket. "Thank you."

Sintonizao turns to look at
Shuffleboard and says, "I'm
glad you came to the concerts.
Music is good for everyone. I hope
to see you here again sometime."

Then she walks away.

Cheersquad is right:
people who see the world
differently should stick together.

There's no need for cape politics to interfere.

* * *

Notes:

Sintonizao (Shirley Macalister) -- Shirley is short and plump. Her brown hair falls just below her shoulders. She has green eyes and ruddy skin. She wears thick glasses. Knock said glasses off and she's got a problem. Shirley comes either from the northern Midwestern U.S. or the Canadian parkland; she doesn't like to expressly say which. Her accent when speaking English can weight either way. She's Scotts Irish but bilingual in English and Portuguese, and she knows snippets of a few other languages as well; she loves code-switching and obscure references. "Anybody makes a Shirley McLain reference gets a poke in the eye."-- Sintonizao, jokingly, on her real name
She is panromantic asexual, somewhat kinky, and proud of it. Her superpowers and personality make her very much a square peg, but Shirley is slowly coming to terms with that too. She generally likes people, which shows in her knack for conversation. She is flippant and lighthearted in speech. Her high nerd quotient is sometimes connected to the gab thing, sometimes not. This helps her notice things that other people overlook. Shirley is exuberant, gregarious, and eccentric; a magpie distracted by shiny things. She has one l-o-n-g memory, and holds grudges. She urgently wants people to like her, but she can miss social cues and conventional references, sometimes causing tension. Her dayjob lies in commercial radio; she also does communication work for SPOON, especially relaying emergency messages.
Origin: Her powers started manifesting at an early age, roughly three or four. The perfect pitch came down from her mother's side, the synaesthesia may or may not have done the same, and apparently the genetics were just right. Bingo, a soup in the family. They've gotten progressively stronger with time, and Shirley has grown pretty creative with them. She mainly used them as unique parlor tricks at first: showing people the colors of their names, projecting along with songs, etc. The memory and intent aspects of her powers really started to strengthen when she was in her late teens.
Sintonizao first took on her codename late in college, while working at the campus radio station. It means "tuned in" or "tuning in," and it's apt. To her, musical notes and musical keys have colors, as do letters, numbers, and words. Her powers actively link her synaesthesia, her memories of concepts and ideas, and direct thought, then translate it all into energy she can use in very specific ways. If she thinks the word 'shields,' for instance, connected with the concept or memory of shielding and the color she associates with the word -- then she has a forcefield-type shield directed wherever she (or somebody else) needs one. This may sound like a lot of deliberate mental work, but it's almost instantaneous to her. She has also learned to create highly specialized energy beams powered by intent.
Uniform: This includes a silver mask decorated with musical notes in shades of blue from turquoise to midnight. The matching capery duster also has an embroidered border of staff lines and notes. Usually its colors are blue-lake for the fabric and silver for the embroidery, but capery responds to superpowers. With that amplifier effect, it can perform as chameleon camouflage, provide sound effects, cover scent, and do other synaesthetic tricks. A drawback is that if Sintonizao's power goes out of control, the capery reflects that by going haywire in color and effects. Out of uniform, Shirley looks like somebody's version of a library lady.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Gift of Gab, Good (+2) Bilingual in English and Portuguese, Good (+2) Multi-variety Synaesthesia, Good (+2) Nerd Is the Word for a Word Nerd, Good (+2) Support Network
Poor (-2) A Twitchy Elephant Never Forgets
Powers: Expert (+4) Synaesthetic Energy Manipulation (Signature Stunts: Shielding, Messages Coded to Recipient, Intentional Energy Beam; Spin-Off Stunt: Capery Display), Average (0) Pattern Recognition, Average (0) Perfect Pitch
Limitation: Prolonged use of her powers can leave her giddy, prone to unintentional discharges of energy in some form or other. Alternatively, it can drop her like a rock, similar to sub drop plus nightmare elements. In a worst-case scenario, the backlash knocks her out entirely; this has only happened once.
Motivation: To speak up fairly for those who can't. Everybody deserves to have a signal.

Shuffleboard (Yuuko Parker) -- Of Japanese-American heritage, Yuuko has golden skin and tilted brown eyes. Her straight brown hair hangs to her shoulders. She is short and slender, with almost no curves. Yuuko has strong synaesthesia, which can make ordinary tasks confusing and everyday metaphors incomprehensible for her. Her willpower has developed from constant practice on concentration and dealing with insensitive people. Yuuko is a supervillain henchwoman with telempathic shielding. Her own telempathy is decent, but her real strength lies in her ability to combine mental powers with synaesthesia and project a psychic shield over herself and other people. The effect is so disorienting that few mind readers can get through it. Yuuko is paid well for her work, and sends half the money to support her sister Chiyo, who was born without arms.
Origin: Yuuko's Japanese ancestors were nijū hibakusha. They survived the bombing of Hiroshima, fled to Nagasaki, and survived that bombing also. But ever since then, the family has spawned some superpowered people in each generation, and not dealt with it well. The powers tend toward ephemeral: telepathy, empathy, luck control, illusion, etc. Disabilities also appear, from physical birth defects to mental issues.
Qualities: Master (+6) Iron Will, Good (+2) Limber, Good (+2) Pretty
Poor (-2) Easily Confused
Powers: Expert (+4) Shuttlethinking, Good (+2) Telempathy
Vulnerability: Yuuko is very protective of her sister Chiyo, worries about her, and reacts dramatically if she is threatened.

Chiyo Parker -- Of Japanese-American heritage, Chiyo has golden skin and tilted brown eyes. Her straight brown hair hangs to her chest. She is short and slender, with almost no curves. Born without arms, she has learned to compensate by using her feet as hands. Chiyo is the younger sister of Shuffleboard (Yuuko Parker). Although Yuuko and the rest of the family pool resources to support her, Chiyo desperately wants to get a job and gain her independence.
Origin: Chiyo's Japanese ancestors were nijū hibakusha. They survived the bombing of Hiroshima, fled to Nagasaki, and survived that bombing also. But ever since then, the family has spawned some superpowered people in each generation, and not dealt with it well. The powers tend toward ephemeral: telepathy, empathy, luck control, illusion, etc. Disabilities also appear, from physical birth defects to mental issues. The family doesn't deal with that well, either, much to Chiyo's frustration.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Determination, Good (+2) Podal Dexterity, Good (+2) Japanese History
Poor (-2) Unemployed

Cheersquad -- Chuck Collins has short sandy hair, green eyes, and tawny skin. His body is crumpled and mostly paralyzed from an accident, so he uses an electric wheelchair to get around. He has very limited use of his left thumb and forefinger, not much else. Given his current job as a counselor, he knows many other people with superpowers and/or handicaps. Most people pronounce his code name as "Cheer Squad." If you listen closely, however, you can hear that he says "Cheers Quad." If asked which it is, he smirks and says, "That's a state secret." (It's the Hellspark joke.) Chuck is popular as a charity auctioneer, one of the few ways he can still use his super-speed.
Origin: Chuck started out as an ordinary college student studying linguistics. While on a field trip in Guatemala, he was struck by a mysterious clay pellet from a blowgun that left him shivering and delirious for weeks. Chuck emerged from the ordeal with super-speed and a new interest in emergency medicine. So he got his Class Z license and drove a zoom ambulance, sometimes also serving as a translator. His girlfriend Jocelyn, a cheerleader at the local college, threw a fit but stuck with him.
Then a drunk driver T-boned the ambulance at an intersection, killing everyone but Chuck. He broke his neck and a bunch of other bones, leaving him mostly paralyzed. At this time Jocelyn finally dumped him. Chuck fell into a depression, but eventually started to claw his way out. A local charity contacted him, intending to put him on their list of recipients. Instead, he proved such an engaging conversationalist that they hired him and trained him as a counselor. Now he works primarily over the phone, helping people deal with personal trauma, especially things related to superpowers. He has subsequently begun working at the Eastbord SPOON Base as well.
Uniform: Light blue jumpsuit with a red cross on each lapel, modeled after his old ambulance uniform. His electric wheelchair is a bright metallic blue with the same emblem on both sides and the back.
Qualities: Master (+6) Cheerful, Expert (+4) Ambulance Driver, Expert (+4) Constitution, Expert (+4) Counselor, Expert (+4) Contacts in Soup/Disabled Circles, Good (+2) Games, Good (+2) Linguist, Good (+2) Science Fiction Fan, Good (+2) Trivia
Poor (-2) Mobility
As a linguist, Chuck is fluent in 9 foreign languages: Esperanto, French, German, Japanese, Láadan, Latin, Nahuatl, Russian, and Spanish.
Powers: Average (0) Super-speed (Spin-off stunts: Auctioneering, Speed-reading)
Motivation: Keep your chin up and do your part.

* * *

"I fused the beauty of dreaming and the reality of life into a single blissful colour ... On a clear bright day even the softness of the sounds is golden ..."
― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Music in the Park is a popular type of program usually run in the warm season, with free concerts outdoors. Most towns in T-America that are large enough to have a park service will have something of this sort.

Pentatonic Park is a 40-acre community park in Onion City with a focus on the performing arts. The name comes from a set of giant pentatonic wind chimes at the information center just inside the main entrance. The park features the 3-acre Clef Pond with a bridge over it. Most of the area is lawn dotted with native trees. There is a 1-acre flower garden with strolling paths through it, and a 5-acre wildlife refuge with a fence around it. A shared-use path winds through the park, running about 1 mile. The playground covers 1 acre of which 1/8 acre is the Tot Lot, 1/4 acre is the Youth Playground, and 1/2 acre is the Teen/Adult Playground, the remaining fraction taken up by border space. There are two main music venues. Whole Note Podium, shown in the picture, is a low brick circle with arc seating. Half Rest Stage is a rectangular stage under a pavilion with straight seating. There are also several large pavilions and numerous small ones with various amenities.

Several busk stops are scattered around the park, just out of earshot from each other and the two main music venues.

See the sandwich cart and ice cream cart.

A pop-rock band usually has several members, but the exact instruments can vary.

Make your own Tune-a-Piano Sandwich or Music Bento. Not all the food sold has a music theme, but most of the vendors have at least one item that is.

The jazz band includes a saxophone, trumpet, keyboardist, bass guitar, and drummer.

Sandburr may refer to any of several plants with spiked seedpods, such as Cenchrus spinifex.

In local-America, only about 17.5% of disabled people have a job. Terramagne-America does somewhat better, but still not great. Disabled people must apply for many more jobs before they get one, compared to abled people. Note that in L-America, you are not required to divulge a disability, and if you do, then the employer can grill you about it in ways they couldn't if you had hidden it. In T-America, you are not required to divulge a disability, but doing so may give you an edge in some contexts like health care or counseling where employers want to show that people with disabilities can work and thrive. Employers are only allowed to ask about job-related concerns, and some states require that they give disabled employees a chance to demonstrate job skills. Some careers are especially apt for people with disabilities, including amputees.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, music, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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