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Poem: "Those Who Are With You" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Those Who Are With You"
This poem is spillover from the June 5, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "taking care of someone" square in my 6-4-18 Mixed card for the Winteriron Bingo Adventure fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] daisiesrockalot. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics and directly precedes the story "Together With You" (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer.


"Those Who Are With You"


The closest pocket park
to their new house was
Stairgrange Park, which
Joshua liked for its simplicity.

It consisted of little more than
a large oval of mowed grass
surrounded by benches of
poured concrete forming
a set of low terraces.

Native trees and flowers
filled the edges, dotted with
wooden park benches, and
the far ends held amenities like
water fountains and garbage cans.

It gave the children a place to run
without getting lost -- Joshua could see
most of the park at a glance -- and
the terraces made easy climbing.

Pips had taken the little ones
to the family restroom for changing.
Meanwhile Joshua watched Griffin
fill water bottles at the fountain
to beat the August heat.

Just then he heard a rumble
like a van passing by, and
a young man appeared
with a little girl in tow.

They did not seem to be
getting along with each other.

"Hey! Leave her alone,"
Joshua shouted as he
bounded over to them.

"You deal with her,"
the younger man said,
pushing the girl forward.

Joshua tried to grab him,
but he dodged aside.

Then he yelled "15-love!"
and teleported away.

"I hate it when he does that,"
the little girl said. "It's making him
very unpopular in some circles."

"Excuse me?" Joshua said,
trying to make sense of all this.

"Whitevan," she said.
"He is so on my shit-list."

"Okay, that's his name,"
the cop said. "Mine is
Joshua. What's yours?"

"I'm Alicia," she said.

"Pleased to meet you,
Alicia," said Joshua. "Can
you tell me what happened?"

She wrinkled her nose.
"I'm not sure whether he was
trying to rescue me, take me
out of the fight, or just make
himself look important."

"Dad?" Griffin said, arriving
with his arms full of water bottles.
"Is everything okay here?"

"We're still working
that out," Joshua said.
"Meanwhile, meet Alicia,
who's visiting for a little bit.
Alicia, this is my oldest son,
Griffin. He's sixteen."

"I'm seven ... ish,"
Alicia replied.

That was when
Pips returned with
the toddlers in tow like
a row of ducklings.

When he saw the
girl, though, he froze.

Joshua frowned. It
wasn't like him to do that;
normally he was more resilient.

Pips had gone a whiter shade of pale.

He darted forward, reaching for
the girl with one hand while steering
the toddlers toward Griffin with the other.

"Are you all right, ma'am?" he asked.

Alicia rolled her eyes at him.
"I'm fine, really," she said. "We
can skip the Scottish play."

Pips touched two buttons on
his vidwatch to make a call.

"I found her, she's with
me and Joshua," Pips said.
"No need to start a war."
Then he hung up.

"What war?" Joshua said.

Pips lowered his voice.
"When she goes missing,
it tends to end up with bodies
all over the place. Sometimes,
lots and lots of bodies."

"That does not sound good,"
Joshua said, deliberately
not looking at his kids.

"Yeah, that's why we call it
the Scottish play," Alicia said,
and then chirped something in
a language that made Pips wince.

"Corpses all over the stage,"
he said. "Can we please
try to avoid that, ma'am?"

"Of course," Alicia said.
"We're in Mercedes, Pips.
Nobody with a brain wants
this place to go kerblooey again."

"You two know each other?"
Joshua said with a frown. "Pips,
tell me what is going on here."

Pips gave a graceful bow.
"Officer Tull, may I present
Alicia Martins, Dr. Infanta."

Joshua blinked. He knew
those names, of course, but
he had a hard time reconciling
them with the little girl who had
bent down to pick a dandelion.

Then she blew on the yellow flower --
and a cloud of white seeds floated away.

"That's a pretty neat trick," Joshua said.
"You must have practiced really hard
to learn that kind of control."

Alicia smiled at him, bringing
dimples to her cheeks. "I
did. Most people wouldn't
realize that, though."

"Well, I have some friends
who teach about superpowers,"
he said. Then he shook his head.
"Somehow, that did not prepare
me for the likes of this."

"Yes it did," she said quietly.

"It's just weird," Joshua said.
"First Cash, then Maddie,
and now here you are."

She giggled, then twirled
in a circle. "Lucky you!"

"Did someone pin a sign
on me that says Savior of
Supervillains?"
Joshua said.

Pips touched the frame
of his glasses and gave
Joshua a long, careful look.

Then he shook his head.
"Not that I can see."

Joshua raised his eyebrows.
"That was a rhetorical question."

"Not when you hang out with
supervillains," Pips replied.

Joshua let that thought
slide off his tilting sense
of reality and said, "Okay,
what do we need to do next?"

He glanced over his shoulder
and found that Griffin was
keeping the little ones busy
a short distance away.

"Do your Guardians
know where you are,
ma'am?" asked Pips.

Alicia shrugged. "I'm
sure that your message
has gotten passed along
to them by now."

"Then we just need
to wait for them to come
pick you up," Joshua said.

"I don't want to leave yet,"
Alicia said. "You're interesting.
Not many people are, anymore."

"Thank you for the compliment,"
Joshua said with a smile.

Pips pointed at the fountain.
"Why don't you get a drink,
ma'am, while I explain
a few things to Joshua?"

"Okay," she said,
and skipped away.

"She looks so young,"
Joshua said. "It's hard
to believe that she's a lot
older than she looks."

"Until she does something
astounding," Pips said.
"Then you can see it."

"That makes sense,"
Joshua said. "But what
does she want with me?
I'm nothing special."

Pips stared at him,
the gesture clear even
through the peacock lenses.

"Yes, you are," Pips said.
"You don't realize it, but that
doesn't make it less true."

"I guess I'll have to take
your word for it," Joshua said.
"Again, why does Alicia want
to spend time with me?"

"She just needs more people
who treat her like a little girl most
of the time, instead of a world leader,
or worse, a supervillain," Pips said.
"She doesn't get much of it."

"That's an interesting way
to put it," Joshua said, but it
made a strange kind of sense.

Dr. Infanta was the leader of
the supervillain community, and
even had influence with heroes.

"Yeah, so remember that she's
carrying a lot of extra weight on
her shoulders," Pips said. "She
thinks like a little girl, but she's
not only a little girl, understand?"

"So ... kind of like Maddie,
but with more politics?"
Joshua said slowly.

"That's a good way
to frame it, yes," said Pips.

"Okay, I can do that,"
Joshua said. "Pips, call
Bennett and ask him to come
pick up the little ones, please."

"You don't trust me," Alicia said,
her voice cooling like frost as
she came up behind them.

Joshua crouched down
to look her in the eye.

"This is not about my trust,"
he said. "My younger kids have
seen a lot of scary things recently that
make it hard for them to trust anyone,
even me. So I'm sending them with
someone they know, because they
don't deal with new things well yet."

The frost melted as quickly as it
had come, and Alicia wrapped
her arms around his waist.

"Thank you," she said.
"It's nice that somebody
gets to have that."

"Now we just need
to settle how long you
want to visit, and then let
your people know where you
are and when you'll come
home," Joshua said.

"They know I'm safe,"
Alicia said with a shrug.
"I only want one night."

"Nope, not good enough,"
Joshua said firmly. "We have
a house rule about telling people
where we're going, and that applies
to grownups as well as kids. Then if
anything goes wrong, we know where
to start looking. You can stay, but
only after you make the call."

Alicia huffed at him, but
she relented enough to call
and chatter in a language
that Joshua didn't recognize.

"That was interesting," he said
after she finished the call.

"What?" Alicia asked.

Joshua smiled. "I'm
just trying to figure out
what language has
Spanish loan words
but doesn't sound
anything like Spanish."

Her eyebrows went up.
"Oh, really?" she said.

"We are in California,
ma'am," Pips pointed out.

"Actually, it's Basque,"
Alicia explained. "It's in
Spain, now, but it has
no living relatives left."

Like me, Joshua heard
the unspoken addition.

"I called Bennett," said Pips.
"He'll be here in a few minutes
to pick up the little ones.
What about Griffin?"

"He's not having trouble
coping with challenges, so
it's up to him," Joshua said.

Cove toddled over to them
and presented Alicia with
a fistful of dandelions.

"Ooo, those are pretty,"
she said. "Watch this."

Deftly she braided them
into a bracelet and then
slipped it over his wrist.

"That was nice of you,"
Joshua said as Cove
ran back to show Griffin
his new bracelet. "Have
you thought about how you
want to spend the day?"

"I don't know," Alicia said.
"Whatever you want is fine."

That worried Joshua a little.

"You know, your job and
my job are a lot alike," he said.

She gave a bright peal of laughter.
"I think that your idea of the law
and mine are very different."

"When it comes to following rules?"
Joshua said. "Yeah, probably,
but that's not what I meant."

"What, then?" Alicia said,
tilting her head. "Most people
just call me a supervillain
and leave it at that."

"Most people don't pay
attention," Joshua grumbled.
"Okay, I see you keeping an eye
on things and squashing bad guys.
You're a lot rougher than I am, but
maybe you've got reasons for that."

"More than you want to hear,"
she whispered in a dark voice.

"I don't need to hear them,"
Joshua assured her. "What
really matters is that both of us
see some pretty stressful stuff.
That means we need to take time
off from work to relax and recharge."

Pips made a wordless sound of approval.

"That could be fun," Alicia said.
"What's there to do around here?"

"Oh, all kinds of things," Joshua said,
and started listing family favorites.

That kicked Pips into gear, and
he brought out his smartphone
to show pictures and websites.

Soon Bennett and Jules arrived
to pick up the younger children.

"What's this I hear about
a sleepover?" Bennett said.

Joshua wrapped an arm
around the little girl and said,
"This is Alicia. Her travel plans
got a bit mixed up, so she's
spending the night with us."

Her laugh tinkled in
the air, high and sweet.

"I guess that means we'll be
having a Candy Corps marathon
tonight," Jules said with a grin.

"You sound better," Alicia said.
"That's so good to hear."

"Um ... do I know you from
somewhere?" Jules said.

"We've been out to pasture
together," said Alicia. "I'm
Poppet on BlackSheep."

"Ohhh," Jules said. "Yeah,
things are okay for now." Then
he turned to Pips. "Can I have
the baby bump? Dad will
have his hands full with
wrangling the toddlers."

"Sure," Pips said, and
transferred the sling with
a peacefully gurgling Dylan.

Bennett fished in his pocket and
took out a bright pink gift card
for the local Sundaes shop.
"Here," he said, handing it
to Alicia. "Travel mishaps
go better with ice cream."

"Thank you!" she said as she
slipped the card into the pocket
of her pink-and-white play dress.

Only then did Joshua notice
the tiny ninjas hiding among
the girlish flower petals.

Bennett and Jules gathered
the rest of the kids and left.

"Have you made up your mind
yet about where you want
to go?" Griffin asked.

"Not yet," Alicia said.
"What places do you like?"

"My favorite is the butterfly house,"
Griffin said. "There are paths
outside, too, and flowerbeds.
Do you like butterflies?"

"I love butterflies," Alicia said.

So Joshua drove over there, and
when Alicia produced a black card
at the gate, he waved it off.

"We have a family membership
here, which allows us to bring
a certain number of guests,"
Joshua explained, showing
his card to the attendant.

They strolled around outside
for a while first, and Griffin
pointed out the names of
the flowers and the slips
that you could take if you
wanted to buy some when
you visited the gift shop.

"Can I borrow Pips?" Alicia said,
tugging on Joshua's sleeve.

"For what?" Joshua asked.

"Recordkeeping," she said,
pointing to the flowers.

"If he's willing, I don't mind
sharing," Joshua said.

"I'm always happy to help,"
Pips said, and took out
his smartphone to log
the flowers of interest.

There were a lot of those.

"Do you have a big garden?"
Joshua wondered. "These are
mostly California natives, too,
so they don't grow everywhere."

Alicia laughed. "Oh, I have
plenty of garden space,
in all kinds of places!"

Next they went to visit
the butterfly house.

Inside it lay a jungle
of flowers, ferns, and
other tropical plants.

Butterflies drifted through
the air like living rainbows.

Pips took more pictures
of the butterflies and
their favorite plants,
busily making notes
with a small stylus.

Griffin pointed out
the butterfly feeders.

One held a swarm of
drab brown butterflies.

"Watch," Griffin whispered,
draping an arm over Alicia.

A leaf fell onto the plate --
and the butterflies burst into
flight with a flare of metallic blue.

Alicia squealed in delight.
"Ooo, what are they?"

"Blue morphos," Pips said,
reading from his phone. Evidently
he had opened the website that
listed what species they kept.

One butterfly fluttered
awkwardly and then
landed in Alicia's hair.

"Aww," she said,
gently scooping it out.

Joshua could see where
something had taken
a big bite out of one wing.

No wonder the poor thing
couldn't fly very well.

Alicia cupped her hands
over the tattered insect
and hummed a little song.

When she opened her hands,
the butterfly fanned its wings, perfect
and bright as the day it was born,
then flew up to a flowering tree.

"That was very kind of you, Alicia,"
said Joshua. "The butterfly must
be happy to fly so easily again."

The smile she gave him was
as brilliant as the butterfly's wings.

Then Griffin said, "I'm going to rent
some chalk and color on the sidewalk.
Do you want to play with me?"

"Sure," Alicia said, scampering
down the path after him.

Joshua watched them
collect some chalk from
the dispenser and then
crouch over the shapes
pressed in the pavement.

It worked like a coloring book
and kept little fingers busy.

"If anyone ever asks
if you've saved the world,
you say yes," Pips told him.

"What do you mean by that?"
Joshua said, staring at him.

"She's having a wonderful time,
just being a little girl today, and
making some fun memories,"
Pips said. "Things like this
help keep her sane for when
she has to deal with ugly stuff."

"I guess that makes sense,"
Joshua said, although he hated
to think of Alicia getting stuck
with the kind of problems
that he saw as a cop.

Then again, maybe
hers were worse than his.

That thought made him shudder.

"So if you ever wonder whether
you have made a difference,"
Pips said, nodding at the two who
were coloring on the pavement
with chalk, "there it is."

Joshua decided that he
would just take Pips' word
for it, since the younger man
had more experience with
supervillain culture.

After Griffin and Alicia
finished their pictures,
they went to the gift shop.

There Alicia picked out
a beautiful glass plate on
a stake as a butterfly feeder.

When she reached for her card
again, though, Joshua clucked
his tongue at her. "I'm the host,
so I pay for souvenirs," he said.

They took it to the clerk and
soon had it wrapped to go.

Then Joshua declared that
it was time for ice cream.

"Oh, good," Alicia said. "I'm
down a few thousand calories."

Pips groaned. "We can't take
good care of you, ma'am, if we
don't know what you need."

"Ice cream," she said simply.

So Joshua hustled everyone
into the car and over to Sundaes.

"Will that be one kiddie cone,
or two?" the waitress asked.

"I am an adult," Pips said
through his teeth. "I just
happen to be rather short."

Alicia tugged on Joshua's sleeve,
and he leaned down to listen.
"I need the Sundaes Super Bowl,"
she whispered into his ear.

That consisted of one scoop
from each of the 24 flavors that
the ice cream shop carried.

Joshua opened his mouth
to protest, then remembered
how much energy soups could use.

"Okay," he said, and made the order.

The waitress gave them a dubious look
but didn't argue as she dished it up.

"Now you can use the card that
Bennett gave you," said Joshua,
and Alicia put it on the counter.
He made up the rest himself;
the Super Bowl wasn't cheap.

Pips carried the bowl in
the curve of his arm as
they all piled into a booth.

Sticking four spoons into
the ice cream, he said,
"Choose your side, ma'am."

Alicia spun the bowl until
she had the Black Cherry and
the Sour Cherry facing her
like two pink moons.

Joshua grabbed a spoon
and dug into the Birthday Cake
on the opposite side of the bowl.

It was delicious, but soon he
realized that he'd better hurry
if he wanted his fair share.

Pips and Griffin were putting
their own dents into each side,
but Alicia was inhaling ice cream
as fast as she could move the spoon.

Before long, the four of them
had emptied the entire bowl.

"Did you get enough, or
do you want something more
to eat?" Joshua asked her.

Alicia belched and sat back.
"No, I'm full," she replied.

"That's good," Joshua said.

They climbed out of the booth.
Griffin took the bowl back to
the counter, while Pips
wiped down the table.

Alicia just held her arms up.

"You want me to carry
you?" Joshua said.

"Well duh," she said,
flapping her hands at him.

"I need to hear that
in words, please,"
Joshua insisted.

Alicia grumbled over it.

"Hey, go easy on him,"
Pips said. "Joshua is just
being extra careful about this
because I made a big deal
about not getting picked up
without my permission."

"I like to be asked nicely,"
Joshua suggested.

"Pick me up, please?"
Alicia said, leaning in.

"Gladly," Joshua said,
scooping her onto his hip.

For someone with the weight
of the world on her shoulders,
she didn't seem heavy at all.

Alicia fell asleep at once.

"She's so cute like that,"
Griffin said, smiling.

"She sure is," Joshua said.
"It's been an interesting visit."

"Thank you for taking care of her,"
Pips said seriously. "Alicia has
her Guardians, a few friends, and
a lot of allies, but it's not like she
can just show up anywhere and
find this kind of acceptance."

"When people show loyalty to you,
then you take care of those who
are with you," Joshua said simply.
"It's how it goes with everything."

"Yeah," Pips said. "It's why we love you."

* * *

Notes:

Whitevan (Jadrien Clare) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He lives in the San Francisco suburb of Westbord. Whitevan works for the Westbord branch of SPOON, transporting superheroes all over California and sometimes elsewhere in the western United States. He has excellent memory for places and can visualize even ones he's never been to accurately enough to teleport there. He's one of those people that SPOON talked into becoming a superhero, and now he has all the passion of a true convert. Whitevan has an annoying habit of keeping score when he gets the better of a supervillain. He'll shout "15-love!" and teleport away.
Origin: At a high school tennis competition, a rival attempted to take him out of competition by spiking his water bottle. Instead of making him too sick to play, it gave him superpowers. However, popping around the court disqualified Jadrien from the sport, forever. He's still upset about that. And they never did find out who did that to him.
Uniform: Trendy menswear, usually in light colors.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dodging, Good (+2) Tennis Player, Good (+2) Trendy, Good (+2) Visual-Spatial Intelligence
Poor (-2) Judgment
Powers: Good (+2) Teleportation
He can only travel about 800 miles at a time, but he can carry up to 15 passengers in reasonable comfort.
Motivation: To carry the day.

white-van man
Someone who drives a nondescript white van for work,especially when driving in aggressive, reckless, ordangerous ways. Alludes to the perception of suchdrivers (typically male) being ignorant or rude. I used to cycle to work, but after nearly being knocked over three separate times by white-van men, I decided to start taking the bus.
-- The Free Dictionary


Dr. Infanta -- Alicia Martins is a world-class supervillain who looks like a little girl about 7 years old, but is actually centuries old. She has hazel eyes, shoulder-length wavy hair of light brown, and slightly tinted skin. She has a heart-shaped face. She admires altruism and loyalty, hence the makeup of her minion contingent. She isn't malicious, just ruthless. She is effectively asexual, due to her biological age. Alicia speaks many languages including Basque, English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Pictish, and Spanish. In French she is called la Petite Mort ("the Little Death"); in Italian, la Angioletta ("the Little Angel"). She is Poppet on BlackSheep.
People tend to mistake her title for nothing more than a cape name, but it is real -- Dr. Infanta earned her first medical degree at the Schola Medica Salernitana in Salerno, Italy. Small wonder people forget; the school has languished in obscurity for centuries and has been a Mob facility in recent decades. Her other degrees come from schools including the Medical College of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, England; the University of Montpellier in Montpellier, France; the University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria; and the Studium Generale in Alcala de Henares in Madrid, Spain. Dr. Infanta is currently working with the Maldivian government and health care industry to establish both a full-scale medical school and way to incorporate healers into the mainstream system instead of the fringes.
Dr. Infanta is extremely well-protected by other super-villains and many wealthy naries because of her powers. She always travels with a "nanny" and bodyguards, masquerading as a rich young heiress. She can't be killed, has rarely been captured, and it never takes long for her to escape. She is that powerful and connected.
Dr. Infanta often uses her influence to quash legislation that could harm soups. She is a key reason for how little institutionalized oppression there is, given the amount of informal oppression. This makes even some superheroes secretly appreciate her, if they haven't personally had to fight her or watch her give their archenemy a new face.
Origin: Alicia was a peasant child purchased by a noblewoman for experiments to extend life. They worked. She killed her owner and ran away. When Alicia discovered what she could do with her powers, she soon gathered adult protectors and traded her skills for what she needed.
Uniform: street clothes, usually whatever is fashionable for children of her apparent age.
Qualities: Master (+6) Children's Folklore, Master (+6) Wealth, Expert (+4) Intelligence, Good (+2) Cute, Good (+2) Gunplay, Good (+2) Living History
Poor (-2) Pint-sized
Powers: Master (+6) Time Control (Signature Stunts: Erase Memories, Transfer Lifeyears; Spin-Off Stunts: Danger-sense, Precognition), Expert (+4) Healing (Signature Stunts: Plastic Surgery, Regenerate Lost Body Parts), Average (0) Immortality
Average (0) Minions: The Guardians are a set of 7 trusted grownups, in charge of the collective personnel. They protect Dr. Infanta and usher her through the adult world. They are all relatives of people whose lives she has saved, thus all sharing the Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Leader quality. In addition, each has a Good (+2) profession (usually Nanny or Bodyguard), another Good (usually social for Nanny, physical for Bodyguard), and one Average (0) superpower (often Teleportation, Invulnerability, Super-Gizmology, or Sorcery). They currently include Nanette, Cheval, Lorry, and Melissa.
Motivation: Survive and prosper.

* * *

When people show loyalty to you, you take care of those who are with you. It's how it goes with everything.
-- John Cena

Stairgrange Park in Mercedes, California covers roughly two acres, much of which consists of a flat mowed lawn surrounded by an oval of poured concrete benches forming terraces. The edges are landscaped with native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses. Wooden park benches around the perimeter offer additional seating. The two ends of the park have drinking fountains, garbage cans, and a few other small amenities. The restroom building is beside the parking lot. It has a men's room and a women's room. The family restroom lies between them; not visible from this angle, there is also a changing station suited for all ages.

Taking care of children involves a variety of skills. This includes teaching them how to handle unexpected events in healthy ways.

Children need praise. It encourages caring behavior and discourages misbehavior. Here are some good ways to do it.

Basque is an isolate language in what is now Spain, spilling over a little into France. The area of coverage is larger and the number of native speakers higher in Terramagne-Europe than in local-Europe, due to Rome having a harder time expanding its empire and thus less control, especially over the farthest reaches.

The same method for making a dandelion crown works for making a bracelet, which is just a smaller project.

See the gift card for Sundaes.

This is Alicia's Hidden Ninja Play Dress. This is a cute and sturdy play dress made from cotton jersey. In this closeup, you can see the large slit pockets on each side of the skirt, along with the hidden ninjas sneaking among the flowers.

[personal profile] technoshaman tipped me to this awesome video of "The Truth About Ninjas."  I bet Alicia can sing that both in English and ASL.

Here is the Butterfly House in Mercedes. Blue morpho butterflies are spectacular. This is the damaged one that Alicia restores.

Blue morphos like to feed on fruit. You can make a butterfly feeder. This hanging feeder uses with an acrylic plate and sponge. This stake feeder uses a glass water bottle and plate for serving fruit.

See Alicia's butterfly feeder. Gifts shops often include these things because they are beautiful as well as useful.

The Sundaes Super Bowl consists of one scoop from each of the 24 flavors that the ice cream shop carries. One way to make a giant sundae is to get a new rain gutter and fill it with ice cream. Here are general instructions for sundae construction.

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