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Poem: "Working Outside in the Elements" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Working Outside in the Elements"
This poem is spillover from the November 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] lone_cat. It also fills the "random acts of kindness" square in my 2-28-18 card for the Slice-of-Life Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series and follows "Defeating Tough Weather."


"Working Outside in the Elements"


When they reached the meeting point,
Janie introduced Turq to the other Snowbirds
as Hardison started planning their route.

Kimmilee Meador lived in Cambridge Commons
and ran a lot of programs for women and girls.

Martin and Luther Tarbeck were brothers,
sharing a house in Walnut Place along with
Luther's wife and two young children.

Milosh Begolli had come from Kosovo
as a refugee, and now he had a place in
the Garden Square Public Housing Project.

Kimmilee laughed and joked with Janie,
while Martin and Luther encouraged Turq
to take it easy and not overdo his first day.

Milosh helped Turq pick out a snow shovel
from the equipment brought for the group.

Soon they started clearing snow.

A cluster of veterans had gone out
and marked their sidewalks and
driveways with little flags to make it
easier to see where to shovel.

Each one came to the door
to thank them after his or
her space was clean.

Albern Achtermann was
actually out walking, with
a cane for extra balance,
when they got to his house.

"Hi, Albern," said Martin.
"Want us to pick up the cans?"

"Yes, please," said Albern.
"They tend to freeze like that."

Turq looked around, and saw
that wind or snowplows had
knocked over the trash cans.

He helped pry them loose,
set them upright, and then put
them back where they belonged.

Soon they moved to the next house.

Turq worked at a steady pace,
earning warm looks of approval
from the other Snowbirds.

Despite the storm, they didn't
have to shovel everywhere.

"What's up with the front walks?"
Turq asked, looking at a bare stretch.

"Basalt paths only need shoveling
where sun doesn't reach," Janie said.
"See, some people have a stone
in their birdbath to help keep ice
from forming over the water."

Turq looked, and yes, there
were black rocks in the birdbaths
that didn't have electric heaters.

He was still skittish from having
to sleep indoors last night, but
working outside in the elements
helped him to feel better now.

Then he slipped on the ice.

Janie caught him, but Turq
couldn't stop his reflexive flinch.

"It's okay," she murmured
as she let go of him. "I know
not to take anything too personally."

Nobody else laughed at him or
scolded him for being too sensitive,
the way some of Turq's foster families
had done in the past. That was nice.

Milosh's eyes were kind and gentle
as he waved Turq toward a spot
that was less slippery underfoot.

The familiar work soothed
Turq's rattled nerves, and it
didn't take long for him to get
back into the rhythm of the task.

When they reached the house on
the corner, a two-story one with
extra bedrooms upstairs, Turq
could smell something cooking.

"All right, Turq, you're up,"
Janie said. "Front and center."

Turq froze. "Wait, what?"

Janie put a hand on his back
to coax him forward. "You're about
to take one for the team," she said.
"Mrs. Chlebek bakes amazing treats,
but she always feeds us too much.
You can use the extra calories,
and so you need to go first."

"Yeah, she's gonna love you,"
Kimmilee said. "Wait and see."

"Under no circumstances
are you to eat everything on
the platter," Hardison warned.
"Otherwise she'll make more
next time, and it's already a lot."

An old lady with short gray hair
opened the door backwards,
pushing it out of the way as
she turned to face them.

She held a huge platter
piled high with sweet bread
and some kind of fried roll.

The latter turned out to be
stuffed with either mushrooms,
or sauerkraut and minced meat.
Turq wolfed down four of them before
he turned his attention to the bread.

That was rich and sweet, with
some kind of spicy, sticky filling.
Turq went back for another piece.

"More krokiety? More povitica?"
she said. "Eat, eat, I made plenty!"

Turq took one more of each, and
so did some of his teammates,
but then the others backed off.

Following their lead, Turq did
the same, although he felt tempted
to stuff the last ones into his pockets.

"Thank you, ma'am," he said sincerely.
"We've had enough now. My father is
a paramedic and he says that it's not
a good idea to overeat while working."

"Well, I suppose that makes sense,"
said Mrs. Chlebek. "Thank you all for
shoveling my front walk. It doesn't
get enough sun to melt on its own --
the back is almost clear already."

Janie sent Hardison back
to make sure there wasn't any ice
laying in wait, but he came back in
minutes and reported it clear.

They moved on to the next block,
where a team of teenage girls
were out shoveling snow.

"Hello!" called Kimmilee.
"Where have you worked?"

"Down the even side of
the street," their leader said.

"Great, we'll take the odds,"
Kimmilee replied, waving
the Snowbirds to that side.

Lunch lay warm and sweet
in Turq's belly, giving him
the energy to keep working
despite the cold weather.

He wasn't completely comfortable
being this close to so many people,
but then, neither was Milosh and
he seemed to manage okay.

It was enough to be well fed and
warm in his winter coat, working
beside Janie and her friends.

Someday, Turq would heal
enough feel comfortable
with things like this again.

Until then, he would give thanks
for the progress he'd already made.

* * *

Notes:

Kimmilee Meador -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and long brown hair usually worn in a braid. She is swift and graceful. Kimmilee lives in the neighborhood of Cambridge Commons in Bluehill, Missouri. She works as an athletic coach at the YMCA. As a volunteer, she participates in many programs for girls and women, along with the coed Snowbirds who shovel snow for people who can't.
Qualities: Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Sports Fan, Good (+2) Volunteer, Good (+2) YMCA Coach
Poor (-2) Impatient

Hardison Dorpinghaus -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and light brown hair. He is short and pudgy. Hardison lives in the Island Resort neighborhood of Bluehill, Missouri. In his thirties, his metabolism is slowing down and his desk job is making him gain weight. Unhappy with this, he has joined the Snowbirds and other volunteer efforts in hope of improving his fitness. On the bright side, he is making lots of new friends this way.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Determination, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Office Manager, Good (+2) Volunteer
Poor (-2) Pudgy

Milosh Begolli -- He has olive skin, brown eyes, and short curly black hair. He wears a short mustache and beard. He is small and wiry. He speaks Albanian well and English badly. He has dyslexia, bad enough to make him illiterate. Born in Kosovo, he lived with his family who hid him from the government which treats disabled people very badly. After his relatives were killed in the war, Milosh fled and eventually made his way to America. Now he lives in the Garden Square Public Housing Project in Bluehill, Missouri, where he has the upper right unit on the site map. Unable to work a regular job yet, he volunteers with the Snowbirds and other organizations.
Qualities: Good (+2) Community Spirit, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Existential Intelligence, Good (+2) Moderate Muslim, Good (+2) Survival Skills
Poor (-2) Traumatized Refugee

In the European refugee crisis, Kosovo is the second-highest source pf refugees after Syria.


Martin Tarbeck -- He has brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair with a short mustache. He is tall and broad. Martin is the older brother of Luther. They live in the Walnut Place neighborhood of Bluehill, Missouri. Martin shares a house with Luther and his family. He himself is unlucky in love, but determined to keep trying. Martin works in construction and enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He also volunteers with the Snowbirds.
Qualities: Good (+2) Citizen, Good (+2) Construction Worker, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Woodcrafter
Poor (-2) Love Life

Luther Tarbeck -- He has brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair. He is shorter and skinner than his older brother Martin. Luther is married with a son and a daughter. They live in the Walnut Place neighborhood of Bluehill, Missouri, sharing a house with Martin. Luther has worked as a delivery driver for many restaurants around town. That doesn't pay enough to support a family, and he wishes he could do better. His dream is to start a soul food truck. He also volunteers with the Snowbirds.
Qualities: Good (+2) Community Spirit, Good (+2) Delivery Driver, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Soul Food Cook
Poor (-2) Brokeass Broke

Albern Achtermann -- He has ruddy skin, brown eyes, and short gray hair. He lives in Bluehill, Missouri near Briarwood Park. Retired from the army, he volunteers in various activities around the neighborhood, with a special interest in teaching civic involvement to younger people. His balance is unreliable, so he walks with a cane.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Army Veteran, Good (+2) Civics, Good (+2) History, Good (+2) Storyteller
Poor (-2) Balance

Joanna Chlebek -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and short curly gray hair. She lives in Bluehill, Missouri near Briarwood Park. She is a widow with two grown sons and two grown daughters, plus six grandchildren. She rents out two rooms of her large house to other seniors. Joanna is a baker. She makes a wide variety of things, but among her specialties is a line of traditional Polish breads. Her lungs are weakening with age, so she can't do as much physical work as she used to. She relies on the Snowbirds to shovel her sidewalk and driveway in winter. Kind and generous, Joanna is popular in her neighborhood.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Baker, Good (+2) Community Spirit, Good (+2) Generous, Good (+2) Grandmother
Poor (-2) Weak Lungs

* * *

"I spent a lot of my youth working outside in the elements, and I kind of revel in defeating tough weather."
Nick Offerman

See Joanna Chlebek's house. Joanna has the master bedroom downstairs, which she shared with her husband before he died. Her daughters used to have bedrooms 4 and 5 with the bathroom between them, while her sons had bedrooms 2 and 3. Now she rents out bedrooms 2 and 3 to other seniors, while the whole space from bedroom 4 to bedroom 5 has been turned into a playroom for grandchildren.

Know how to choose the right snow shovel and remove snow safely.

A black basalt cobblestone in the center of the birdbath adds more thermal mass and gives birds a place to perch. Basalt has fantastic thermal mass, which is why it's so popular in T-America for paving sidewalks and plazas: it melts light snowfall, reducing the need to salt or shovel the area. This stuff is so good, you can boil water with basalt rocks.

Birdbaths provide valuable water in winter. Here are some tips for managing them.

Polish bread comes in many styles. Povitica is a holiday bread. Among other Polish foods, krokiety are crepes that can be stuffed with mushrooms, meat, or other delights. Polish etiquette calls for stuffing people. Take small servings so you can go back for more, and never eat the last bite or your hostess will think you didn't get enough. Putting the heaviest eater in front of the party like this makes people look polite and flatters the hostess. But still: don't finish everything.

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