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Poem: "The Limits of My World" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Limits of My World"
This poem came out of the July 3, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] sweet_sparrow, [personal profile] gingicat, [personal profile] janetmiles, Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "loss of limb / amputation / mutilation" square in my 6-23-18 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


"The Limits of My World"


Cheersquad had cleared a space
in his schedule so he could talk with
a teenaged girl, Nastunye Becke.

While running away from bullies,
she had manifested Super-Speed
and fallen down a flight of stairs.
Now paralyzed from the waist down,
she was struggling in school and
needed help with those challenges.

Nastunye arrived with her older sister;
Ivanna helped her transfer into a chair
and then took a seat beside her.

"Welcome to SPOON. I'm
Cheersquad, and I'm here
to help you figure out how
to cope with superpowers
and disability," he said.

Nastunye started crying.

Cheersquad passed her
a box of kleenex and said,
"It's okay to cry. If you want
to talk about that, we can,
but we don't have to."

Nastunye grabbed some
and waved a hand at her sister.

"It's easier for her to get a handle
on things if we just ignore it for now,"
Ivanna said. "How about we get started,
and she can catch up when she's ready?"

"Whatever works for the two of you,"
Cheersquad said amiably. "It would
help me to know more background
about your family life and so forth."

"Well, Mom is Ukrainian and Dad was
German with American citizenship,"
Ivanna said. "We moved here
a few years ago after Dad died
in some industrial accident."

"So it's been a rough ride
already," Cheersquad said.

"Yeah, family life was just
starting to feel normal again
when this happened," Ivanna said.

Nastunye sniffled something
into a handful of tissues.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear that,"
Cheersquad said. "Could you
repeat it for me, please?"

"I said, I don't want to be
normal," Nastunye huffed.
"I want to do something special
with my life. I got superpowers,
but I didn't even get to try them out
before I lost everything in the fall!"

"I thought you still had Super-Speed,"
said Cheersquad. "It was in the note
I got requesting a meeting today."

"Yeah, but --" Nastunye thumped
a hand on her knee, "it doesn't work."

Cheersquad trilled a call for bids.

Both girls stared at him with
their mouths falling open.

"That's auctioneering," he said.
"It's right at the upper range of what
supernaries can learn to do with a ton of
practice. For speedsters, it comes naturally --
all I had to learn was the patter. You can
still use your speed, Nastunye, just for
different things than most speedsters."

"Oh," she whispered. "I didn't know that."

"Now you do," Cheersquad said.
"There are plenty of opportunities
that capitalize on speed without
needing motion. Take my job --
I'm a counselor. Anything that
relies on quick thinking or
speed-reading would work."

"I like reading," Nastunye said.
"Anything with languages, really."

"Now we're talking," Cheersquad said
with a grin. "What about languages?"

"I speak English, German, and Ukrainian,"
said Nastunye. "I don't know the difference
between Low German and High German,
but my father did. I want to learn more."

"That's a terrific goal," said Cheersquad.
"Knowing several languages can get you
all kinds of interesting opportunities. Just
as an example you could use right now,
Mapuche Mail gives discounts to anyone
who learns the Mapuche language."

"Coooool," said Nastunye. "Shopping
is so much harder now, I'm ordering
a lot more stuff online, but the shipping
for those packages runs up the cost."

Cheersquad used his working thumb
to bring up a website. "This page
explains the language discounts,"
he said. "See how they get bigger
as your fluency grows? It's never
as high for outsiders as tribe members,
but if you work hard, it still adds up."

"I'll put that on our list of things
to explore," Ivanna said, making
a note on her laptop computer.

"If you like South America or
Central America, consider
translation as a possibility,"
said Cheersquad. "I started out
as a linguist, and I can tell you that
Still Small Voices had open ads for
both of those areas. The need is
especially dire for translators of
indigenous Central American ones."

Ivanna's fingers tapped briskly
against her keyboard. "Got it."

"What is Still Small Voices?"
Nastunye said. "I haven't
heard of anything like that."

"It's an organization for
disabled people who work on
preserving endangered languages,"
said Cheersquad. "If there are only
a few speakers left, even one person
can have a big impact on the chances
of that language surviving."

"Wow," said Nastunye.
"I didn't realize that people
could still do so much." Then
she blushed. "Sorry. I didn't
mean to be rude, it's just ..."

"That's okay," Cheersquad said.
"After my accident, I couldn't see
anything but the hole for months.
It took me a long time to see
any doughnut at all."

"Thank you," she said.
"Everyone else wants me
to cheer up, but ... it's hard.
I'm floundering in school,
and I just feel so useless."

"We can talk about that if
you want," Cheersquad said.
"I totally understand it."

"Yeah, I guess you would,"
Nastunye said. "I think I need
to find things that I can do.
I've tried other counselors,
but just talking doesn't
seem to help much."

"Some people are
like that," he replied.
"It's okay. There are
lots of things you can do."

"I hope so," Nastunye said.
"I'm not great with people.
That's kind of how all this
happened in the first place."

"It's not your fault," Ivanna
and Cheersquad chorused.

"I hear that a lot," Nastunye said,
"but it's hard to feel it. How can I
do all this great stuff if I choke up
every time I try to meet people?"

"Well, you have lots of options,"
Cheersquad said. "You could take
a counseling course on confidence
or people skills. If that sounds boring,
you could join a fun club instead."

"I'm in Sankofa," Nastunye said,
perking up. "I was so lonely when
we moved to America, I joined that
and it helped me make new friends.
I don't always understand it, but
that's okay, I still enjoy going."

"They loved your presentation
on pysanky for Easter," said Ivanna,
then explained to Cheersquad, "Those
are eggs decorated with wax to make
patterned before they're dyed."

"I've seen pictures," he said.

"It's not as hard being around
people if I have something to do,"
Nastunye said. "I just get nervous
if they're staring for no good reason."

"Have you considered drama club?"
Cheersquad said. "That opens up
a whole different range of hobbies,
college majors, and eventually jobs."

Nastunye hit her twisted knee again. "I'm
supposed to go onstage like this?"

"Don't do that," Ivanna said,
gently tugging her wrist away.
"You'll make bruises you can't feel."

"Drama clubs in public schools are
legally required to be inclusive,"
Cheersquad said. "There's even
a publisher called Roll 'Em that
specializes in scripts for performers
who have various disabilities. It's
quite popular for student plays."

"Yeah, but that's just high school,"
Nastunye said. "It won't last."

"It will last if you want it to,"
Cheersquad said. "Most towns
have an amateur theatre. If you
want to become an actress, then
you can check out Jabberwockies
for languages or Cattle Annie's and
We The People for diversity. There
are actresses who make a living
just from doing crowd scenes."

"Really?" Nastunye said,
waving a hand at herself.
"You believe that I could
be a professional actress,
even though I look like this?"


"When it comes to diversity,
you've got a lot going for you --
two heritage groups, three languages,
female, and disabled," said Cheersquad.
"That opens you up for many cattle calls.
What you make of them is up to you."

Nastunye drummed her fingers on
the arm of her wheelchair, probably faster
than anyone but Cheersquad could see.

"It's tempting," she said. "I just feel so ...
limited, you know? Like the whole world
is collapsing around me, walls closing in."

"Yeah, that happens, but there are ways
out of it," Cheersquad said. "The limits of
my language mean the limits of my world.
I speak nine. After that much expansion,
I don't really have many limits left!"

Nastunye stuttered a laugh. "I think,"
she said, "that I would like to try
expanding the limits of my world."

* * *

Notes:

Cheersquad -- Chuck Collins has short sandy hair, green eyes, and tawny skin. His body is crumpled and mostly paralyzed from an accident, so he uses an electric wheelchair to get around. He has very limited use of his left thumb and forefinger, not much else. Given his current job as a counselor, he knows many other people with superpowers and/or handicaps. Most people pronounce his code name as "Cheer Squad." If you listen closely, however, you can hear that he says "Cheers Quad." If asked which it is, he smirks and says, "That's a state secret." (It's the Hellspark joke.) Chuck is popular as a charity auctioneer, one of the few ways he can still use his super-speed.
Origin: Chuck started out as an ordinary college student studying linguistics. While on a field trip in Guatemala, he was struck by a mysterious clay pellet from a blowgun that left him shivering and delirious for weeks. Chuck emerged from the ordeal with super-speed and a new interest in emergency medicine. So he got his Class Z license and drove a zoom ambulance, sometimes also serving as a translator. His girlfriend Jocelyn, a cheerleader at the local college, threw a fit but stuck with him.
Then a drunk driver T-boned the ambulance at an intersection, killing everyone but Chuck. He broke his neck and a bunch of other bones, leaving him mostly paralyzed. At this time Jocelyn finally dumped him. Chuck fell into a depression, but eventually started to claw his way out. A local charity contacted him, intending to put him on their list of recipients. Instead, he proved such an engaging conversationalist that they hired him and trained him as a counselor. Now he works primarily over the phone, helping people deal with personal trauma, especially things related to superpowers. He has subsequently begun working at the Eastbord SPOON Base as well.
Uniform: Light blue jumpsuit with a red cross on each lapel, modeled after his old ambulance uniform. His electric wheelchair is a bright metallic blue with the same emblem on both sides and the back.
Qualities: Master (+6) Cheerful, Expert (+4) Ambulance Driver, Expert (+4) Constitution, Expert (+4) Counselor, Expert (+4) Contacts in Soup/Disabled Circles, Good (+2) Games, Good (+2) Linguist, Good (+2) Science Fiction Fan, Good (+2) Trivia
Poor (-2) Mobility
As a linguist, Chuck is fluent in 9 foreign languages: Esperanto, French, German, Japanese, Láadan, Latin, Nahuatl, Russian, and Spanish.
Powers: Average (0) Super-speed (Spin-off stunts: Auctioneering, Speed-reading)
Motivation: Keep your chin up and do your part.

Nastunye Becke -- She has pale skin, blue eyes, and long straight blonde hair. She is short with a round face, and uses a wheelchair. She is currently 15 years old. Her mother is Ukrainian, and her father was German with American citizenship. Nastunye's older sister Ivanna is 18. Nastunye speaks English, German, and Ukrainian. The family moved to America a few years ago after her father's death in a mysterious industrial accident. They live in Eastbord. Nastunye struggles to understand social interactions, so she joined the Sankofa Club, which she enjoys a great deal even if the activities don't always make sense to her. Now she is struggling to adapt to new superpowers and a new disability.
Origin: Nastunye often suffered from bullying in her high school. One day some boys chased her, and she manifested Super-Speed. In the process, she fell down a flight of stairs. That broke her back, legs, and various other bones. The incident left her paralyzed below the waist.
Uniform: Casual girl clothes. She hasn't yet found the adaptive clothes that are more comfortable in a wheelchair. She wears pants or long skirts to conceal her damaged legs.
Qualities: Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Linguistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Sankofa Club
Poor (-2) Interpersonal Intelligence
Powers: Average (0) Super-Speed
Limitation: Nastunye is paralyzed from the waist down, and cannot walk or otherwise use her legs. She can only use Super-Speed for things like talking or writing that don't require lower-body mobility.
Motivation: To find some way of being useful.

Ivanna Becke -- She has pale skin, blue eyes, and long straight blonde hair. She is tall with a round face. She is currently 18 years old. Her mother is Ukrainian, and her father was German with American citizenship. Ivanna's younger sister Nastunye is 15. Ivanna speaks English, German, and Ukrainian. The family moved to America a few years ago after her father's death in a mysterious industrial accident. They live in Eastbord. Now in her last year of high school, Ivanna hasn't chosen a career yet but wants to attend college. Since Nastunye's accident put her in a wheelchair, Ivanna has helped her sister with many things. This has turned Ivanna's interest toward helping professions. However, she so consistently puts family ahead of school that she worries about getting into a college.
Qualities: Good (+2) Helpful, Good (+2) High School Student, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Tall
Poor (-2) School-Life Balance

* * *

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein

Traumatic manifestation is the development of superpowers during or after a crisis. In many cases, the energy emerges in a way that offers protection from the specific threat(s) encountered. Superpowers gained in this manner may seem "panicky" in response to perceived threats that aren't actually dangerous. Sometimes they are much harder to control than powers which arrive in safer ways. Occasionally, though, the crisis causes them to manifest fully developed, control and all.

Loss can make people sad for a long time, not just death but also grieving an acquired disability. A particular challenge for Nastunye is that paralysis prevents the iconic use of Super-Speed: running really fast. There are tips on supporting a bereaved person, coping with grief and loss, and a self-help guide to resolution.

Adjusting to disability has social and physical aspects. There are tips for the newly disabled. A good occupational therapist can help you figure out what you can do now, what you would like to do, and how to get from here to there. Counseling needs to focus on seeing potential, not disability.

Handicap etiquette includes ways of enhancing daily life for people with disabilities.

A "bid call" is when an auctioneer asks the audience to promise money for an item. To get people excited, he rattles off a fast trilling chant. Just understanding that takes some practice, let alone doing it! Now imagine a speedster -- he doesn't have to "speed up" his voice. He has to slow it down so ordinary people can hear it. To Cheersquad, that barely-intelligible trill is just closer to his natural high-speed voice. I haven't shown it much, but if a bunch of speedsters gather in private, some of them will probably speed up until it just sounds like a whine or a squeal to most ears. Listen to videos of a sample bid call and a lesson in auctioneering, or read instructions on how to become an auctioneer.

Mapuche Mail is a Terramagne corporation similar to Amazon.com. It was launched out of Araucanía, which lies between North Chile, South Chile, and Argentina. What began as a fair trade initiative to give local crafters wider reach has grown into a global sales and shipping business. Later on, it added the teleportation-based VORP Mail service. That one can't ship live or volatile products, but does well with stable items.

Still Small Voices is an organization for disabled people who want to make a big difference in the world. They work to preserve endangered languages. After all, you don't need to be able-bodied to learn new languages or study linguistics. If a language only has a handful of speakers left, just one person can have a tremendous impact on its chances of survival. The organization has programs for ages 0-5, 6-12, 13-17, and 18+ to support language learning. It also offers assistance in finding opportunities in higher education and employment. Learn how you can help preserve endangered languages and explore some of the quirky methods.

A cattle call is a big open audition for the performing arts. Sometimes anyone can try out, other times only members of a certain union can. Local-America allows fake cattle calls where most or all the roles are already assigned and it's only done because the union requires it, which wastes everyone's time. In Terramagne-America, that's illegal because it constitutes fraud. There must be a certain number of roles available, and unions frequently require that number to be published in the ad itself. Some casting directors love combing the masses for undiscovered talent, and will use it for even major roles, but most use it to fill bit parts and crowd scenes that aren't so demanding.

Jabberwockies is an organization in T-Hollywood that brings together speakers of many different languages. Some members are professional actors, others dedicated amateurs. Film studios call there to hire people to hold random conversations in crowd scenes, so that each location's unique demographic soundscape will be represented. Jabberwockies can also be hired to portray bit parts or recurring characters who speak a certain language -- it's an easy way to find some of the more obscure ones.

Cattle Annie's is a company that calculates demographics of different places for film productions. They also have contacts among agents and organizations to help casting directors find suitable actors to match the recommendations. For an added fee, they'll even host the cattle call and present the customer with a complete cast list for crowd scenes and the like.

For example, in Los Angeles, 40.2% of people speak English, 43.6% speak Spanish, 7.0% speak other Indo-European languages, 7.9% speak Asian or Pacific Islander languages, and 1.3% speak something else. That means an accurate crowd scene of 100 conversations would be almost half-and-half Spanish and English, with several each of Indo-European and Asian ones, and one or two of something else like Cherokee. That's what a typical movie would sound like in T-America; in L-America it'd probably all be English, and not sound like LA at all.

We The People is a union of performers dedicated to representing diversity. Members can tag all the identities they have, enabling agents and casting directors to search the membership list for desired traits.

Meanwhile over in Terramagne, it's common to consult demographics and put that in the cattle call for crowd scenes. For example, here's Los Angeles again:
Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 47.5%
Non-Hispanic Whites: 29.4%
Asian: 10.7%
Black or African American: 9.8%
Two or more races: 2.8%
Native American: 0.5%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.2%
Other: 25.2%

So the crowd scenes would be almost half Hispanic, then a big chunk of white folks, with a handful of black and Asian, and finally a smattering of other races.

Gender balance is aimed in the vicinity of 50/50. They try to include some people with visible disabilities in approximate proportion of the populace. Same with age mix. T-Hollywood has a whole cadre of actors and actresses who make a decent middle-class living just from doing background characters like this.

Roughly 20% of Americans have a disability, and 10% have a severe one. (This varies depending on how "disability" is defined.) Disabled characters are rare in entertainment: only 2.4% of speaking/named roles. Only 5% of those are played by performers with a genuine disability; 95% of the time, it's an abled person faking it.

Roll 'Em is a T-American publisher of scripts for plays, screenplays, and other performances. They specializes in scripts for performers who have various disabilities. In addition to individual playbooks, they also publish some periodicals. The Rostrum is a magazine about how to write, direct, and perform scripts that feature disabilties along with short plays and skits with disabled leads. Phantom Power is a newsletter about superpowers and superdisempowers that includes tips on how to portray them, acting with powers, and skits with soup themes. Because T-American drama clubs in public schools are legally required to be inclusive, such materials are quite popular for student plays. Community centers, church groups, theatre clubs, and many other social groups also like them. Many of the writers, editors, and sponsors of Roll 'Em also have disabilities, although it's not required.

Pysanky are Easter eggs popular across much of central and eastern Europe, including Ukraine. Designs are drawn on the egg with a tiny funnel full of melted wax, then the egg is dyed in layers. When the wax lines are remelted and wiped off, a multicolored pattern appears. I made these in Russian class; it was very challenging, but a lot of fun. Enjoy a gallery of pictures.

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