Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "A Corresponding Clarity of Purpose"

This poem is spillover from the November 6, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "reputation" square in my 11-5-18 card for the Family Ties Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] fuzzyred. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. It follows "Unless You Let Us Know You're Down There," so read that first or this will make no sense.

Warning: This poem contains intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features the aftermath of sexual assault from the perspective a support person, hostile language, worry, vulgar language, reference to boundary violations leading to violent behavior, trust issues, ulterior justice systems, holiday stress, family issues, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"A Corresponding Clarity of Purpose"

[Night of Monday, December 22, 2014]


Tolli waited until
the house door
and the barn door
had both closed.

He stalked around
the corner of the garage
so that sound wouldn't carry.

Then he made the call.

"Hello, Blues Moon --"

"I need to talk to Boss White,
right now," Tolli said.

"I'm sorry, he's with --"

"Dymin. You do not want
to fuck with me tonight. I don't
care what he's doing, tell him
to get his ass on this phone,"
Tolli said through his teeth.

"Is Shiv with you?" she said
in a much smaller voice. "I don't
know what's going on, but Boss White
lit out of here like his tail was on fire,
and it has something to do with
our boy, and I'm worried."

"He's here," Tolli admitted.
"Shiv asked me to handle this
for him. You can imagine
how much that worries me."

Shiv never asked for anything.
He must be bleeding-out desperate.

"Yes," said Dymin. "I'll put you
through on the emergency line,
but I can't promise you that
Boss White will answer."

"Understood," Tolli said.
"Sorry I snapped at you,
Dymin. This isn't your mess."

"Forgiven," she said. "I'm
ringing you through now."

Tolli marched back and forth
as he listened to the phone ring,
every unanswered buzz winding
his nerves tighter and tighter.

"Hello --"

"What in the name of God
is going on over there?"

Tolli barked at him.

"Is Shiv with you?"
Boss White asked,
voice careful and even.

"Yes, he's here," Tolli said.
"He called me and asked if he
could hide out with us for a bit.
I sent a teleporter. He asked
me for one who didn't need
to make physical contact."

"Fuck," Boss White said crisply.

"That's what I said, as soon as
he couldn't hear me," Tolli said.
"Then when Shiv got here, he didn't
want to talk about whatever happened.
He told me just enough that now I'm
tempted to come to Omaha and kick
Chyou's ass up between her ears."

"How much do you know?"
Boss White said. "Boy didn't
give me many details. Out loud."

Tolli remembered that Boss White
was a telepath. That could be ... useful.

"You planning to dig up your own details?"
Tolli wondered. "Or you need help with that?"

Boss White sighed. "I picked up enough already,
just from the ambient, to know that I'm not
going to enjoy that little excursion."

"I'm sorry," Tolli said. "I don't
envy you that responsibility."

"Shiv is mine, and I'll stand up
for him," Boss White said. "I try
not to pry, but I'm thinking this time
things got more than a little out of hand."

"Definitely," Tolli said. "Chyou made
a pass at him, and wouldn't take no for
an answer. So Shiv said no at knifepoint.
Which he did not need another person
reinforcing is the only way that works!
I don't think he cut her, but still."

Boss White swore, long and low.

"No, I don't think he did either, or
somebody would've noticed," he said.
"I've been shaking down the family, but
most of them don't know a thing about it.
Her mother's not here at the moment,
and Chyou already split -- probably
as soon as Shiv got rid of her."

"I can't say I'm surprised," Tolli said.
"What she did was actionable. It could
make quite a blow to your reputation. I
thought you ran a family establishment --
I've been letting my civilian brother and
his kids spend all hours at your club --"

"I know," Boss White said heavily.
"It shouldn'ta happened, and it did.
I'll do my best to figure out what
went wrong and how to fix it."

"Well, you can start by teaching
that Chyou to keep her hands
to herself," Tolli said hotly.

"That's up to Shiv," said Boss White.

"No, it's up to us, because he doesn't
want to deal with it himself, and he
shouldn't have to," said Toll.

"All right, you got a point there,"
Boss White said. "We'll handle it."

"Does she have any way of
stalking him here?" Tolli asked.
"We'll be on guard, just in case,
but it would be nice to know that."

"Not that I know of," Boss White said.
"Her family did say that they came
to Omaha in her own company jet."

"Shit," said Tolli. "How much
money are we talking here?"

"They're rich," Boss White said.

"We're not poor," Tolli pointed out.
"I just want to gauge the threat level."

"Luci told me that her sister could
buy the city, while their father or uncles
could buy the whole state," Boss White said.

"That's more than enough to buy a judge,"
Tolli said grimly. "We may have a problem."

"You and I both know that Shiv ain't gonna
file charges," Boss White said. "He don't
trust the cops, and I can't blame him."

"He barely trusts anyone," Tolli said.
"That just means he has to rely on us
to deliver some justice for once."

"That we will," Boss White said, and
Tolli could hear the teeth in his voice.

That Chyou was about to get hers.

"Shiv needs people to stand up
for him, to put him first, to act
like he matters," Tolli said.

"Sounds like you appointed
yourself," Boss White said.

"I think all of us have had
little glimpses of that power,
often when we're actively loving
someone and feel that eradication of
self that comes of feeling protective,"
Tolli said. "I associate that feeling with
a corresponding clarity of purpose
and a disappearance of confusion."

"True enough," Boss White said.

"So when does Shiv need to come
back to work?" Tolli asked him.

"He doesn't," Boss White said.
"I told him that he's off duty until
further notice, and I'd talk to him
tomorrow. I need to make sure
he's back in working order before
I put him on the floor, and holidays
are hard on that boy anyhow."

"We noticed," Tolli said. "It took
some negotiation to work out
how much family festivity he
could tolerate from us."

"If it's more than zero, then
you're ahead of the game,"
Boss White said. "He's been
tetchy about that all along."

"He's getting better, though,
he really is," Tolli said, his words
half statement and half prayer.

"That's so," Boss White agreed.
"We'll back him up as best we can.
I'll keep digging on this end, and
you make sure he's safe on yours."

"Can do," Tolli said in a steely tone.
Then he softened enough to add,
"I'm sorry I took it out on you.
I snapped at Dymin too."

"We're all on edge tonight,"
Boss White said. "I done
bit Janeel's head off just
for walkin' too slow."

"We need to get a lid on
this shit before it spills over
on Shiv," said Tolli.

"Well, that's what
a heavy bag is for,"
Boss White said.

Tolli thought about
the home gym downstairs
and the gun that he kept
ready for target practice ...
or more serious duty.

"Yeah, I better put in
a little extra too," he said.

"That's a plan," Boss White said.
"All right, I need to get back on
hunting down Chyou. You go
take care of our boy, eh?"

"I will," Tolli promised,
and put his phone away.

Despite tonight's trouble,
he still admired Boss White.

The man had been among
the first people to see something
in Shiv, and that counted for a lot.

That, more than anything else, gave
them a corresponding clarity of purpose.

Whistling softly, Tolli headed for the house
to see what he could do to help Shiv
find some semblance of safety.

* * *

Notes:

"A sort of fearlessness -- the notion that a person could be comfortable with (even interested in) whatever arises. I sure can't do it, but I think all of us have had little glimpse of that power, often when we are really actively loving someone or something and feel that little eradication of self that happens when we are engaged in feeling protective or especially fond of someone else. I associate that feeling with a corresponding clarity of purpose and a disappearance of confusion."
-- George Saunders

Asking for help can be confusing. This post about an autistic child explains the process of asking for help, with a flow chart, and includes a list of very practical reasons why people often resist asking for help. Shiv has difficulty asking for help, due to ineffective or harmful results from trying that in his past, but he's desperate enough to reach out this time. Follow the steps to ask for help.

Protection is a quality associated with manhood, but not limited to that. In the immediate aftermath of trauma, survivors need protection from further harm. Because they may still feel unsafe, the next task is to establish a sense of safety.

Difficult conversations come up in everyone's life, so it's essential to know how to communicate on touchy topics. Troublesome feelings can lead to hostile language. It may help to consider the levels and follow a checklist. These skills help in negotiation, mediation, at home, and at work. Tolli, Dymin, and Boss White all have pretty good communication skills, but the current stress is right around their coping threshold, so they waver back and forth.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing
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