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Poem: "A Challenging Family" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "A Challenging Family"
This poem came out of the May 1, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] kyleri and [personal profile] dreamwriteremmy. It also fills the "challenge" square in my 5-1-18 General card for the Pro Wrestling Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


"A Challenging Family"


Keras has a challenging family,
and that is not an accident.

His oldest child Alex
is intersex and rides in
an electric wheelchair
due to muscle weakness.

His middle son Calderon
has been severely abused,
leaving him to struggle with
a variety of behavioral issues.

His youngest daughter Katherine
has feline features including
parabolic ears and a tail.

Keras himself has the horns,
ears, and tail of an angora goat
and both of his hands are shaped
differently than human ones.

Even their therapy cat Marmalade
has his own issues, a fear of things
larger than himself that Keras
is helping him overcome.

When Alex gets frustrated
by thon's limited mobility, then
Keras says, "Let's go for a ride."

He puts thon in the bicycle chair
and pedals around Rain City looking
for new things for them to explore.

When Calderon screams and
throws wooden blocks at everyone,
Keras reminds him, "Those are blocks
for stacking, not for throwing."

Then he brings out cloth blocks
with numbers, letters, or signs.
"Here are blocks you may throw."

When Katherine pounces at
birds in the park, then cries
because they fly away,
Keras comforts her.

"What do we say?"
he prompts gently.

"We all have instincts,
but we are not our instincts,"
Katherine recites. "We all have
toenails, but we are not our toenails.
It's okay to be what we are, but
remember all that we are."

When Marmalade balks on
the leash, Keras bends down
to pet him and say, "It's okay
to be scared, but the alley
won't eat you, even though
the buildings are big and tall."

It's scary, yes, but Marmalade
is slowly learning to cope with
the things that frighten him.

When Keras gets spooked by
something coming up behind him
too quickly, his children are there
to remind him, "We have instincts,
but we are not our instincts."

It helps, it really does,
to have a reflection of that
coming from outside himself.

It's not just that his family
has challenges, but that they
face those together -- they
challenge the fate before them.

Keras is fertile, he knows that,
but he has decided to adopt
because so many children need
love that their parents can't give.

He has more than enough to share.

He wants to make a difference,
so he takes in the children
that nobody else wants.

Keras knows what it's like
to be the odd one out, and
so he wants to create a world
in which nobody gets excluded.

When it gets hard, he calls up
Dr. Gaines and asks for more ideas
on how to integrate animal traits
into their everyday lives.

Dr. Gaines advises them
to consider what kind of things
their animal counterparts enjoy
and try exploring some of those.

Well, goats and cats both love
climbing, so Keras takes Katherine
to Family Scramble where they
try out the climbing walls.

Keras is amazed to discover
that his thick, stubby fingers
give him a fantastic grip.

Katherine is delighted
to find how much her tail
improves her balance.

"We are not our bodies,
but our bodies are awesome,"
Keras tells his daughter as
they head to the locker room.

"So totally awesome," she agrees,
and gives her father a high five.

Keras has a challenging family,
and he wouldn't trade it for the world.

* * *

Notes:

Keras (Dwight Brecken) -- He has fair skin marked with darker tan, hazel eyes, and long straight brown hair. He also has a pair of tiny goat horns on his forehead, goat ears with full parabolic function, a moist nose and partially divided lip, and short wattles. Once the human parts of his facial hair grew in, he learned how to trim his beard so it looks more human and hides the wattles. Although his horns are small now, they will grow backward and then out in slow spirals. Keras also has a brown-and-white goat tail, which requires all his trousers to be custom-tailored so it can stick out, and his penis has a full furry sheath instead of just a foreskin. Fauns are prone to syndactyly; he only has three stubby digits on each hand. His legs and feet are normal, though.
His heritage is primarily Greek, a little Italian, and some American. His sister has distinctive, squiggly hair striped in shades of brown and black but has declined to check whether it comes from goat or human DNA. Keras has three children, all adopted from the special needs list -- one disabled, one survivor of severe abuse, and one superkid. Because he needs some adaptive equipment, and so does one of the kids, it runs down the family budget. Their family lives in Rain City.
Keras works as a counselor with troubled populations. He lives at Pacific Ridge Community Farm on the edge of Rain City, which is staffed about half-and-half by people with special needs and their caregivers in a model called lifesharing. Its brother farm in Easy City, Downbeat, provides live-work space for musicians with Down Syndrome. His specialty is teaching people that it's okay to be different, but it's not okay to be mean. So he often appears as a "show soup" to let people meet someone with superpowers. Graham Finn brings him to the Nebraska State Penitentiary so the inmates can meet someone who's just a regular soup, not involved in cape politics. Keras came to the attention of Kraken as a teenager but chose not to join. He does occasionally alert them to troubled youth who seem like a good fit.
Keras enjoys historic recreation, and attends SCA events as a faun. He is a particularly agile dancer and much liked by the pipers and other musicians -- he teams up with whoever seems like a good match for stage performances or just for fun.
Uniform: Keras likes casual, comfortable men's wear. A challenge is that all of his bottoms and hats need to be modified for his unusual body. His SCA persona is a faun; he goes topless and wears goatskin chaps, allowing his natural tail to show. In front he wears a priapic codpiece styled according to period fashion.
Qualities: Master (+6) Adaptable, Master (+6) Father, Expert (+4) Counselor, Expert (+4) SCAdian, Good (+2) Dancer, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Intrapersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Sense of Humor
Poor (-2) Adaptive Equipment Is Expensive
Powers: Good (+2) Goat Features, Good (+2) Super-Immunity
Keras has the horns, parabolic ears, penis, and tail of a goat. The horns (and the reinforced skull underneath) give him an advantage in headbutting attacks, or resisting concussions. He has Agility, Iron Stomach, Sex Appeal, Super-Hearing, and Super-Smell at Good level. However, he dislikes anything moldy (like blue cheese) and won't eat mushrooms either. He has a strong body odor, which some people (mostly heterosexual women and gay men, plus a few who like soups) find very appealing and some others (mostly lesbians and straight men) dislike.
Motivation: To show people that it's okay to be different, but it's not okay to be mean.

Alex Brecken -- Thon has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. Thon is short and plump, and thon rides an electric wheelchair with mauve cushions. Thon has genetic abnormalities which include ambiguous sex and muscle weakness. Thon can stand and walk a little, but feels much more safe and comfortable in a wheelchair. Thon is currently eight years old. Alex is the adopted child of Keras (Dwight Brecken), and the older sibling of Calderon and Katherine. They live at Pacific Ridge Community Farm on the edge of Rain City. While Alex has many "cousins" around the farm and a few facetime friends, thon's real passion is penpals. Thon enjoys corresponding with people from around the world, especially other genderqueer or disabled folks. Their hobby is virtual vacations, because it's often difficult to make long trips to exciting new places in person. So each of them focuses on local attractions, for which they make photo-essays to share with their friends. Alex is currently dreaming about becoming a travel writer someday, and is researching how people with disabilities can accommodate their needs on the road. Thon is proud of showing off where
Qualities: Expert (+4) Penpal, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Planning Ahead
Poor (-2) Limited Mobility

Calderon Brecken -- He has rosy-tan skin that deepens toward copper in the sun, dark brown eyes, and short straight black hair. His father came from the Colville Reservation and his mother was an undocumented Mexican immigrant in Rain City. He is the adopted son of Keras (Dwight Brecken), the younger brother of Alex, and the older brother of Katherine. Calderon was severely abused as a preschooler and taken away from his mother, but the damage was already done; he had such serious behavioral problems that no normal family would tolerate him. So Keras brought him to the Pacific Ridge Community Farm on the edge of Rain City, where the boy has improved greatly. Calderon's goal is to overcome his past well enough to help other abuse survivors; he wants to wear the silver Sowilo pendant, but doesn't feel ready for that yet. He loves animals, and finds that working with them on the farm helps pull him out of his bad memories into the world as it is now.
Qualities: Good (+2) Animal Lover, Good (+2) Compassion, Good (+2) Work Ethic
Poor (-2) Survivor of Severe Abuse

Katherine Don't-Call-Me Kitty Brecken -- She has fair skin, dark brown eyes with vertical pupils, and curly light brown hair to her shoulders. She has large black cat ears atop her head in addition to her human ears, a black nose pad and the beginnings of tabby facial streaks coming in, and a furry black tail. Her features seem to be growing more feline over time. She is currently four years old. Katherine likes her given name and her cat aspects, but hates being called Kitty. She always introduces herself as "Katherine Don't-Call-Me-Kitty" to the point it has become her middle name. She is the adopted daughter of Keras (Dwight Brecken), the younger sister of Alex and Calderon. They live at Pacific Ridge Community Farm on the edge of Rain City, a home for people with disabilities and their caregivers.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adorable, Good (+2) Gardener
Poor (+2) Don't Call Me Kitty

Marmalade -- He is a neutered male cat in training as an animal therapist. He lives at a community farm, staffed about half-and-half by people with special needs and their caregivers. He's still intimidated by animals much larger than himself, but is friendly with anything close to his own size. He makes a fantastic legwarmer, and his loud penetrating purr soothes bone problems.
Qualities: Expert (+2) Cat, Good (+2) Legwarmer, Good (+2) Purr
Poor (-2) Daunted by Larger Animals

Dr. Hewitt Gaines -- He has fair skin and dark gray eyes. His hair was dark in his youth; now his hair is gray and receding, while his beard and mustache are white. He wears glasses, and his vision is so bad that he's legally blind without them. He is a psychiatrist who specializes in treating unusual challenges that don't fit in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the Encyclopedia of Mental Health and Maladies. After meeting Keras, Dr. Hewitt began helping him cope with goat features, which led to an ongoing interest in soup care. He lives in Rain City.
Qualities: Master (+6) Psychiatrist, Master (+6) Emotional Intelligence, Expert (+4) Bookworm, Expert (+4) Gentle, Expert (+4) Yogi, Good (+2) Animal Lover, Good (+2) Soup Care, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Legally Blind without Glasses

* * *

Families with disabilities have their own challenges and benefits. This affects parents of disabled children, siblings of disabled children, and children of disabled parents in different ways. Disabled adults can adopt children. Some people choose to adopt children with special needs. Understand how to support a relative with a disability or help other families affected by disability. The most important thing to understand is a principle from intentional neighboring: everyone has something to give and something to receive. This fundamental awareness informs much of how people handle disability in Terramagne-America.

Keras has a bike chair for driving his kids around. Enabling devices like this make it possible for people with different ability levels to enjoy activities together.

Soft blocks are suitable for babies or for older children who throw things. Check out these number blocks, letter blocks, and sign language blocks.

Climbing walls come in various challenge levels. Even toddlers can navigate a low A-frame. Climbing walls that go straight up are largely distinguished by the size and number of grips on them. Climbing walls with overhangs are more difficult, suited to experienced climbers.

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