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Poem: "A Curve That Sets Everything Straight" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "A Curve That Sets Everything Straight"
This is the free epic for the June 5, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl, as chosen in an audience poll. It came out of the January 2, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] bairnsidhe and [personal profile] antisocialite_forum (Tom). This poem also fills the "magic" square in my 1-1-18 card for the Apocalypse Bingo fest, and the "bodyguards" square in my 6-16-17 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. It belongs to the Marionette thread of the series Polychrome Heroics and follows "Pinballs in a Broken Machine."


"A Curve That Sets Everything Straight"


Elonso hated Italy.

He wanted to love it,
because it was beautiful,
but he hated it anyhow.

He hated the quiet cluster
of quaint little cottages that
shared a common yard
and a swimming pool.

He hated the tiny kitchen with
cartoon magnets on the fridge
and the living room full of books
in Italian that he could actually read
thanks to some scary superpowered stuff
that he tried really hard not to think about.

He hated the master bedroom because
he didn't want to sleep with Davide right now,
and the tiny spare room with twin beds for the boys.

He hated the cupola with its open space and
its warm hardwood floor, and especially
the little roomlet with a teleport pad
inlaid in the floor "just in case"
they needed a quick escape.

Elonso wasn't a soup,
even if he had married one,
and he didn't know what to do
about any of this. It scared him.

He had the boys back, though, and
for the sake of Seamus and Scooter
Elonso would grit his teeth and
deal with all of the upsets.

Davide and Elonso were
barely speaking after Davide had
kidnapped the boys from their sperm-dad,
then jumped Elonso to Italy without
so much as a by-your-leave.

It had been a miserable week.

So when their bodyguard Edoardo
"suggested" that they drive into
downtown Velletri to relax,
Elonso went along with it
because frankly he needed
some sort of distraction.

They had a bodyguard.
How terrifying was that?

Velletri was splendid, though,
with tall buildings of stone or
stucco and many fountains
whose splashing water lifted
Elonso's spirits a little bit.

"A smile is a curve that
sets everything straight,"
Edoardo said, watching him.

"I suppose," Elonso said.
The tug at his lips felt unfamiliar
after going so long without.

The boys, of course, made
a beeline for the water, but
Edoardo scooped them up with
expert hands and said, "No, you
may not play in the public fountains!
You have a whole swimming pool at home."

Elonso learned not to read the plaques
after the horrible one about executing brigands.

Velletri had many streets in its shopping district,
and the ones just outside the center had rows of
small shops at street level with apartments above.
Planters lined the sidewalks, and windowboxes
full of flowers hung over the balconies.

They stopped at a toy store, but
the boys clung to Elonso instead of
exploring the strange new place.

Edoardo helped Elonso sort through
the unfamiliar offerings. "These are
some things my children enjoyed
when they were that little."

So Elonso picked out
a stuffed cat for Seamus
and a bilingual book for Scooter.

The boys smiled a little, but not much.

Not long after that, they came to
another plaza where something made
Edoardo say, "Ah, we are in luck!"

Elonso followed his pointing hand
and saw a street entertainer
attracting a small crowd.

He looked ridiculous --
he was wearing a black cap,
a red-and-white shirt, a green sash,
a skirt of black and gray rags, gray tights,
and red slippers with bells on the toes.

He had a whistle in his mouth,
tweeting along as he danced,
the sharp blasts accenting
the bing-ting-jingle of the bells.

He was juggling umbrellas
at the moment, but nearby
lay a pile of hula hoops
and other accessories.

Now and then, a spray of
multicolored sparks would
spurt from his fingers.

"You see, not all of us
are so very scary,"
Edoardo murmured.

The juggler certainly didn't
look all that frightening.

The boys stopped hugging
Elonso's legs long enough
to look around a little bit.

"Do you want to go closer?"
he asked when they began
to tug at his trousers.

"Yeah," Seamus said,
so they all went over
to watch to show from
one of the stone benches.

"Silly man," said Scooter.

"His name is Ilario. He is
very popular," said Edoardo.
"He can do just a little magic, and
he makes funny things happen."

Ilario made a fountain come out
of his cap and push balls in the air.

He picked up the hula hoops and
made all of them spin at once, then
slipped out and one kept spinning
until he stepped on it to stop it.

He drew on the ground with chalk,
using the squares of the plaza like
frames in a cartoon strip, then
animated the tiny characters.

At the end of the show,
Elonso reached into his wallet
for some of the Italian money
that he had been given so
he could leave a tip.

"Would you like to meet him?"
Edoardo asked, tilting his hand
toward the street performer.

"If it's not too much trouble,
then yes," Elonso said. Ilario
looked harmless enough.

Edoardo led them over
to the pitch and said, "Ilario,
this is my friend Elonso and
his sons Seamus and Scooter.
They're new to the Family."

"Then welcome to Velletri!"
Ilario said with a flourish.

He opened a wooden trunk and
out sprang several marionettes,
capering around his feet.

"Look, it's Pinocchio!"
Scooter said, pointing.

"And he's even dancing
without strings, like he's
supposed to," Seamus said.

Then a white goat hopped out
and interrupted the performance
by butting the other marionettes until
they fell over in a tangle of arms and legs.

Seamus and Scooter burst into giggles,
enchanted by their silly antics.

It was the first time that Elonso
had heard them laugh since
the family found out that
their sperm-dad planned
to take the boys away.

"So, was it worth the trip
into town?" Edoardo asked.

"Absolutely, and thank you
for dragging us out of the house,"
Elonso said. "It's been hard."

"Big changes often are,"
the bodyguard agreed.

Elonso began to think that
Italy might not be so bad after all.

Maybe the family coming here was
the curve that sets everything straight.

"This is the first time I've seen anyone
use superpowers just for fun," Elonso said
as the marionettes untangled themselves.
"It doesn't look like much compared to what
some people can do, but it's ... special."

"It isn't how much power a person has,
but what we do with it that matters,
don't you think?" Ilario said.

Elonso looked at his laughing boys.
"I think," he said to Ilario, "that you are
the most powerful person in the world."

* * *

Notes:

Edoardo De Santis -- He has light olive skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He comes from Roma, Lazio, Italy. He is married with two sons and two daughters. When they all reached school age, he switched from quiet shopkeeping jobs to bodyguard work. Currently Edoardo serves as a bodyguard for the Guerra family. Tough and strong, he makes an intimidating figure. He can't swim, though, which is unusual in Italy.
Origin: His superpower grew in gradually.
Uniform: Edoardo typically wears a business suit in blue or gray.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bodyguard, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Family Man, Good (+2) Intimidation, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Can't Swim
Powers: Good (+2) Toughness
Motivation: To keep people safe.

Ilario (Elmo Mancini) -- He has light olive skin, hazel eyes, and short ash-brown hair. He comes from Roma, Lazio, Italy. He is the funniest performer ever to fun. He is so funny that he can get a laugh out of people who are moping for perfectly good reasons. However, a downside of Ilario's superpower is that weird things often happen around him.
Origin: As a boy, Elmo found an ancient ring with a cryptic engraving, which gave him superpowers.
Uniform: On duty, Ilario wears ridiculous costumes. One has a black cap,
a red-and-white shirt, a green sash, a skirt of black and gray rags, gray tights, and red slippers with bells on the toes. Off-duty, he still dresses in a whimsical fashion, but it's a little less conspicuous.
Qualities: Master (+6) The Funniest Performer Ever to Fun, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence
Poor (-2) Chaos Magnet
Powers: Average (0) Sorcery
He has just enough juice to perform classic illusions with real magic -- sprays of light, dancing scarves, that sort of thing.
Motivation: To make people laugh.

This is Ilario's ring, dating from the 1st century C.E.

* * *

"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."
Phyllis Dill

In Terramagne-Italy, Davide and Elonso share this 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom cottage which belongs to a Marionette compound just outside of Velletri, Lazio, Italy. See the exterior. The kitchen, dining room, and living room occupy one side of the downstairs while the master bedroom, boys' bedroom, and bathroom occupy the other. Stairs lead up to a large open space with smaller storage areas and a roomlet with a teleport pad. Clusters of cottages share a grassy yard and an olympic-size pool, each cluster about 2 1/2 acres altogether, although the compound itself is considerably larger.

This is the fountain at Piazza Mazzini in Velletri, Italy. Here is the fountain at the Piazza Cairoli (once Piazza del Trivio), the site where brigands were executed, and a plaque mentioning some executions.

See the toy store in Velletri. Where Are the Baby's Shoes? is a bilingual book in English and Italian.

Ilario has a set of marionettes including Pinocchio characters and a white goat.

Major life changes happen to everyone, but they can leave people feeling overwhelmed. Know how to cope with change and help children cope with it.

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