Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Sucking Brew"

This is the free epic for the August 7, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It is spillover from the July 3, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] curiosity. This poem fills the "generosity" square in my 7-1-18 card for the Winter Fest in July Bingo. It belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Sucking Brew"

As a liaison for superpowered refugees,
Mohammed Dualeh saw some weird cases,
not all of them caused by immigrants.

He eyed the Italian man seated
across from him, noting the droop
of eyelid and shoulder on the left side
that suggested nerve or brain damage
of some sort, which meant that Mohammed
should handle him gently if possible.

"My name is Mohammed,
and I represent refugees with
superpowers," he began.

"Bruno the Brewer," the man said.
"I'm not a refugee. I'm here on
medical leave since my mindhealer
thought that a tropical vacation might
help with my low self-confidence and
depression. I'm going back to Italy."

"That confirms my paperwork.
I have received a complaint
from one of my refugees about
a certain ... nonstandard product
of your making," Mohammed said.

"It's not my fault!" Bruno said,
throwing his hands in the air.
"I only did what he asked me!"

"What was that?" said Mohammed.

"So this guy, he's from Somalia but he's
not a pirate, right? He's having a hell of a time
in the Maldives because he doesn't speak
Dhivehi or Arabic or English. Xidig knew
Italian from another sailor, so we got
to talking and I told him I could help."

"By brewing an alcoholic potion that
can teach languages?" Mohammed said.

"I warned him that it required sucking brew,"
said the man. " Xidig told me he's the kind of
Muslim who believes that medicinal alcohol
is okay if there's no nonalcoholic alternative.
There's not. My superpower needs something
to stick to. He said nothing made from grapes
or dates, so I used light beer instead of wine."

"And yet, he came to my office complaining
of serious psychological side effects,"
Mohammed said. "This is why Islam
considers alcohol as forbidden."

"It's not the beer that's the problem,
it's the Dhivehi," Bruno said. "I only need
a little bit as a carrier, and a cup of beer isn't
enough to get anyone drunk. Language is different.
What I do is like -- like swallowing a dictionary with
your brain, not like learning it the way a baby does
which some mindhealers can set up. But there's
always gonna be new ideas in the culture, once you
understand it, which can throw anyone for a loop."

Mohammed spoke eight languages already,
and was learning two more, Chinese and Dhivehi.
Certainly he would not want to be without them,
so he could understand the temptation of learning
a new one so easily. Then again, perhaps that
was the problem -- he'd had time to absorb
the new concepts slowly and safely. Chugging
them might not be such a good idea.

"I can see how that might cause
a problem," Mohammed said.
"However, Xidig is still upset.
What shall we do about that?"

"Call a mindhealer?" Bruno said.
"I know one who can usually patch up
the language shock. It only happens about
one time in fifty or a hundred customers
when it's bad enough to need help. Unless
they knock back several languages at once,
which I do not recommend doing."

"All right, give me the contact information
for that," Mohammad said, and Bruno did.
"This should clear up most of the mess."

"Does that mean I have to stop
brewing, though?" Bruno asked.
"I thought that the Maldives was
a soup-friendly country, and I've
been sharing my gift with friends
because so many folks don't
have a language in common.

"While I appreciate your ...
exceptional generosity ... I think
some safety precautions are in order,"
Mohammed said carefully.

"Okay, that makes sense,"
Bruno said. "Like what?"

Mohammed tapped his fingers
on the top of his desk. "First, let's
check with the Ministry of Health
and the Ministry of Public Safety.
They can help us find safe ways
to distribute what you can do."

"All right," said Bruno.
"Do I owe you anything
for taking up your afternoon?"

"Well, I wouldn't turn down
a few bottles of Dhivehi, if
we can make sure it's safe,"
Mohammed said. "You're
right that people often have
difficulty with languages here."

"Deal," Bruno said with a nod.

"What about your friend Xidig?"
Mohammed asked gently. "He's
still pretty upset about this."

"Like I said, mindhealer, and ...
I don't know what else," Bruno said.

"Just offer to do something nice for him,"
Mohammed said. "Take him somewhere
new to eat, if you like -- his home doesn't
have a kitchen, he eats at the resort."

"Oh yeah, he mentioned that,"
Bruno said. "Private island with
lots of fruit growing in the yard, but
if he wants to cook, it's on the beach."

Then he snapped his fingers.
"I got it! Basket of fresh fruit
and seafood from Italy -- it'll all
be different from what's here."

"That sounds like a plan,"
Mohammed said, and
then they shook on it.

* * *


Mohammed Dualeh -- He has burnt sienna skin and dark brown eyes. His nappy black hair is buzzed short on top but with a full mustache and beard below. He speaks Arabic, Benaadir (Coastal Somali), Bravanese, English, Italian, Oromo, Somali Sign Language, and Swahili. He is learning Dhivehi and Mandarin Chinese. Mohammed is the last survivor of his birth family, the others killed by the widespread violence in Somalia. He dealt with his losses by moving first to Mogadishu, then the Maldives, to work with refugees. Now married, he devoutly hopes their union will be blessed with many children. But it still hurts when he thinks of his lost relatives.
Origin: Originally, Mohammed worked at a refugee office in Mogadishu, Somalia. He was kidnapped by pirates and forced to work as a translator, but he refused to do anything wicked for them, no matter how much they tortured him, and they didn't want to kill such a valuable asset. When the pirate ship was captured by the Maldivian Navy, Mohammed became a citizen there and went to work as a liaison for superpowered refugees.
Uniform: Muslim men's wear.
Qualities: Master (+6) Imaan, Master (+6) Interpersonal Intelligence, Expert (+4) Office Worker, Expert (+4) Muslim, Expert (+4) Tough, Expert (+4) Unsullied Hero, Good (+2) Drummer, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Water Sports
Poor (-2) Last of His Family
Powers: none
Motivation: "And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, 'Indeed, I am of the Muslims'."

The languages of Somalia include Arabic, Benaadir, Bravanese, English, Italian, and Somali Sign Language. Ethiopia includes Oromo and Kenya includes Swahili.

"Rasulullah saw (said): 'Imaan is knowledge in the heart, words on the tongue and action with the physical faculties'."
-- Ibn Majah

The concept of imaan is central to Islam, encompassing not just abstract faith but practical action. There are ways to increase it.

"And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, 'Indeed, I am of the Muslims'."
-- Quran 41:33

Bruno the Brewer (Bruno Di Caprio) -- He has olive skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He has numerous small tattoos scattered across his body, souvenirs from various experiences drawn by different artists. He likes to collect them one at a time, rather than making a large contiguous illustration. Handsome and well built, Bruno never had a hard time getting a date, but now feels so awkward that he flounders around women.
Residual nerve damage from a previous fight has left him with a droop along the left side of his face, and he walks with a limp because his left leg doesn't respond smoothly anymore. He has since retired from working as an enforcer and instead is developing his superpower, which allows him to bottle qualities in consumable form. Bruno feels self-conscious about his handicap and is determined to find new ways of pulling his own weight now that he can't really serve as muscle anymore. He hasn't quite got the hang of it yet.
Origin: Bruno was captured on a job and subjected to mad science torture. They weren't trying to get information out of him; they just wanted a human guinea pig. The lab was overtaken and he was rescued, but the experience left him with nerve damage and superpowers.
Uniform: Fashionable men's clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Enforcer, Good (+2) Life of the Party, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Wine Connoisseur
Poor (-2) Nerve Damage
Powers: Expert (+2) If You Could Bottle That
Motivation: To be of use.

Xidig (Cumar Abdullahi) -- He has sorrel skin, hazel eyes, and short nappy black hair with a mustache and anchor beard. A faint silvery glow surrounds him. He was born in Somalia. He speaks Benaadir (Coastal Somali) and Italian. His attempt to learn Dhivehi from Bruno the Brewer's superpower has left Cumar with severe language and culture shock. After a run-in with Somali warlords, he moved to the Republic of the Maldives. To accommodate his need to bask nude under starlight, Xidig has availed himself of a private island just over the horizon from the Benessere Resort. He spends most of the day at the resort. After supper, he charges their public swimming pool with stellar energy, then goes home to sleep in the starlight. In exchange for his services, the resort provides Xidig with food, entertainment, and whatever else he wants. This works great for everyone.
Origin: Warlords captured him and beat him in hopes of gaining money, but Cumar had none. They staked him out under the stars to die. Instead, he healed quickly. Breaking free of the restraints, he stormed into their camp and blew it up. Then he ran like hell, not stopping until he reached the Maldives.
Uniform: Casual men's clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Handsome, Good (+2) Existential Intelligence, Good (+2) Helpful, Good (+2) Poet
Poor (-2) Language and Culture Shock
Powers: Good (+2) Star Powers
His Star Powers include Stellar Attacks, Stellar Empowerment, Stellar Energy Absorption, Stellar Generation, and Stellar Healing. When he charges the swimming pool, everyone who goes into the water gains one Upshift on anything they can do. It's a little boost of energy, and the charge in the pool lasts for about an hour. It's extremely popular with people at the resort.
Limitation: Charging his ability requires sleeping (or at least lounging) nude under the stars. Without this, everything functions at Poor (-2) level. Two hours of starlight bring it up to Average and four to Good. It would take six to reach Expert and eight for Master, but his ability isn't that strong yet. Each significant use of his ability takes about two hours' worth of energy. So while he doesn't get stronger after four hours, he can gain more usability, up to about six charges over a 12-hour equatorial night.
Motivation: To fit in.

* * *

benessere noun
welfare, well-being, comfort, ease, weal

See a site map of the Benessere Resort.

Canneli Restaurant includes a pavilion and a large deck looking over the ocean.

The bar serves a wide variety of beverages.

The resort employs Xidig to charge the swimming pool with starlight every evening.

A covered wooden walkway leads to the Aquarium Restaurant.

The Undersea Restaurant is in fact underwater. It can be set up with a long central table or with small tables along the sides.

The resort also offers beach dining.

Xidig's private island measures about 2 acres. The central forest includes many coconut palms along with mangoes and other tropical fruits. The villa has one bedroom/living room and a bathroom, but no kitchen. Xidig's villa includes a porch with a couch, chairs and tables, and lounges. The bedroom is also the living room. The queen-size bed and couch are actually one piece of furniture. There is also a chair, a coffee table, and an entertainment center with a large viewscreen. The bathroom features a toilet, two sinks, and a shower area with both a rainshower overhead and a showerhead on a hose against the wall. Not visible from this angle, a built-in seat fills the corner between the sinks and the wet wall. Xidig does not mind the lack of kitchen in his villa. Much of what grows in the forest around him can be eaten raw. If he feels like cooking at home, he simply lights a fire on the beach and puts a grill over it.

In general, Islam prohibits the use of alcohol and other intoxicants. A closer look reveals that the specific injunction is against alcohol produced from grapes or dates. Other types of alcohol may be permitted, so long as the amount does not cause intoxication. With medication, a nonalcoholic version must be used if available and effective; but if there is no such option, then an alcoholic version is permitted. People still argue over these points.

One drink has a negligible effect on most people. In beer, "one drink" is 12 ounces, with an average alcohol content of 5%. However, the standard range of beer is about 3% to 13% with some outliers beyond those edges. To accommodate his Muslim customer, Bruno experimented a little to find the lowest alcoholic content and smallest dose that would hold an imprint, which turned out to be 8 ounces (one cup) of 3% beer. That yielded Average (0) Dhivehi instead of the usual good, but it was plenty for the customer's needs -- he's in an immersion environment and can easily learn the rest on his own.

T-Maldives uses the five-step scale of Islamic ethics regarding human behavior: fard (obligatory), mustahabb (recommended), mubah (permitted), makruh (discouraged), and haraam (forbidden). One concession to an increasingly multicultural populace is a shift to applying Islamic rules primarily to Muslims, rather than trying to force everyone to convert or at least go along with Islamic rules while in the country. However, things which are forbidden to Muslims are discouraged for everyone else. In a legal context, this means that if two people have a conflict, and one of them is behaving at a better step, that person wins the case. Doing something which is discouraged may not be illegal unto itself, but if something goes wrong, can still get you in trouble. Alcohol is forbidden to Muslims (although some uphold an exception for medical purposes) and discouraged for everyone else, which includes providing as well as consuming it. That makes a conflict involving alcohol rather fraught, even if no law was technically broken. In this instance, the complaint went through the refugee office instead of a court, but the approach is similar.

The customer was happy with the results, until the language shock and subsequent culture shock set in. That's actually a risk for any method of learning a foreign language, but the poor guy didn't realize that. It happens a lot with immigrants, and typically develops in stages. Hitting it all at once can be more disorienting for some people, but most get over it on their own. There are ways to cope at school and at home.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, linguistics, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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