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Poem: "Different Than Yours" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Different Than Yours"
This poem came out of the July 3, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was commissioned by [personal profile] stardreamer to fill the "Aggressively Festive Holiday Sweater" square in my 7-1-18 card for the Winterfest in July Bingo fest. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Different Than Yours"

[Monday, December 22, 2014]



Christmas season this year was ...
less awful than Shiv remembered.

After the first time he flipped out
at the Finns, Dr. G had talked to him
and worked out an agreement where
Shiv would let them do a little bit and
they wouldn't pester him for more.

Other people kept sending him stuff,
though, and he hadn't expected that.

Dr. Bloch had given him a subscription
to some kind of fruit club that would
send a different box every month,
like a magazine you could eat.

December had been pomegranates,
which Shiv absolutely adored for
their crunchy, sweet-tart seeds
and juice that looked like blood.

He had shared one with Cook
and Boss White, then Cook had
sent Shiv out to the supermarket
with orders to buy a bunch more
to make desserts in the restaurant.

The white chocolate cheesecake
came out topped with green kiwi slices
inside a ring of red pomegranate seeds.

It was incredibly delicious.

On Monday, Buttons came in
carrying a basket full of packages
from the post office. "Mail call!"
she yelled, and folks came running.
"Here, Shiv, this one's for you."

She handed him something
that was wide and flat.

Curious, Shiv shook the box,
but it didn't make a sound, and
when he slipped his power inside,
he couldn't feel anything either.

He flicked his fingernail,
turning the tiny fleck of metal
into a paper cutter, and used that
to slit the brown wrapper.

Shiv opened the box to find
a sleek black sweater made of
something soft and fuzzy.

When he lifted it, though,
a riot of color emerged.

There on the front was
a Christmas tree surrounded
by a flurry of snowflakes, with
a ridiculous pink-and-purple cat
lounging on a pile of presents.

Somehow, that was nutty enough
that Shiv could look at it without
having horrible holiday flashbacks.

There had been a movie,
and before that, a book ...

A card fluttered free as he
smoothed out the sweater,
and Shiv picked it up.

Then he laughed.
The sweater was from
Largo and Verne.

Just like that, Shiv
knew that Verne had
suggested a wild sweater
and Largo had suggested
the character on it.

Alice in Wonderland,
that was the name.
Shiv and Largo had
watched it together.

Now Shiv would need
to visit Nick's Thrifts to find
something for Verne -- maybe
they'd have a Kwanzaa sweater --
and a few movies for Largo.

He didn't mind, though.
It'd be fun to pick them out.

"That is one ugly-ass sweater,"
said Lieutenant Brown. "I think
somebody's taste in clothes is
way different than yours."

"I dunno," Shiv said, petting
the fabric. "I kinda like it."

His own Christmas tree
consisted of broken rocks
glued onto a canvas board.
He liked the rusty reds and
the soft, earthy greens.

Like the sweater, it was
different enough from
his memories that it
didn't freak him out.

Shiv was learning
how to cope with his past
one small, sharp piece at a time.

"You're crazy," Popgun said.
"You know that, right?"

Shiv snorted.

Then he remembered
a line from that book,
and oh ... a slow smirk
spread over his face.

"I'm not crazy," Shiv replied.
"My reality is just different than yours."

* * *

Notes:

"II'm not crazy. My reality is just different than yours."
~ Cheshire Cat
Lewis Carroll

(Some of these links are horrible.)
Holiday stress can be hard on anyone, but it's especially intense for survivors of foster care and/or child abuse. In fact, holidays raise the risk of child abuse. Things like this are why Shiv hates holidays. But that's also why he tends to say no at knifepoint: because nobody would listen to anything less. Unlearning those habits is hard for him. There are general tips for coping with holiday stress, along with specific ideas for foster kids and abuse survivors.

This is Shiv's Christmas tree. Terramagne-America is much more fond of alternative trees than local-America is. In fact, some are neither trees nor are they Christmas themed, but you can still see the inspiration.

Many companies offer fruit subscriptions. Dr. Bloch chose this exotic one. T-America often subsidizes these for certain buyers and recipients, to encourage better eating habits, so as a doctor he gets a big discount and often buys healthy food gifts for people based on their tastes. Contrast this with L-America, where government policy directly supports some of the most unhealthy foods.

See Cook's Christmas Cheesecase and a recipe for New York White Chocolate Cheesecake. It looks fancy, but is actually quick and easy to decorate. If you can bake a cheesecake, slice a kiwi, and scatter pomegranate seeds then you can duplicate it.

Paper cutters come in various styles, of which the safety cutter usually has a tiny blade almost entirely concealed inside its handle. Shiv keeps small flecks of metal under his fingernails for this purpose, so all he has to do is extend a sharp point to slice through paper or tape. He also uses them to spark a light for cigarettes, which does not require flint because Shiv can simply use his superpower to flick off pieces of iron small enough to ignite spontaneously.

See Shiv's Cheshire Cat sweater. I have known for a long time that it's going to be Boss Cheshire rather than Boss Shiv someday, but I had no idea how that started until I got this prompt and then suddenly it just clicked.

The Cheshire Cat actually predates both the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the movie Alice in Wonderland.

To some extent, everyone lives in their own reality, but the ability to control it varies. You can raise your self-awareness in order to untangle reality and perception in order to improve your control over what happens in your life.

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