Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Love Unflinching"

This poem is spillover from the January 8, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from DW users Capriuni and Fuzzyred. It also fills the "experiment" square in my 6-4-18 Dark Fantasy card for the Winteriron Bingo Adventure.  This poem belongs to the Berettaflies thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $0.50/line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: DW user Capriuni, janetmiles

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Love Unflinching



[Week 12, Day 1]

Phylicia Du Chienne
was delighted by the offer
to move from Shreveport
down to Easy City.

After the berettaflies,
Easy City was where
all the exciting things were
happening in the field of ethics.

Her relatives were displeased,
but Phylicia couldn't afford to care --
their tastes were too different anyway.

She managed to acquire a buggle puppy
from Amelia Dunbar, the proud owner of the
Popcorn Puggles Kennel and Canine Academy.

Phylicia also got to meet Stylet himself
at the police station, and he was
nothing like the monster that
the Shreveport newspapers
had made him out to be.

"Um ... hi," Stylet said,
looking everywhere but at
the buggle puppy chewing
on the toe of his sneaker.

"Marzi, quit," Phylicia said firmly,
picking her up and putting
the puppy on her lap.

"Why would you want one?"
Stylet whispered. "They're
just so ... they're monstrous."

"I think they're cute, and besides --"
Phylicia shrugged. "-- buy a pup and
your money will buy love unflinching."

Stylet watched the puppy lick her face
and said, "Okay, you got me there."

"See, Marzi will grow on you,"
Phylicia said with a smile.
"She already stole my heart."

"So what did you want
to talk about?" Style said.

"This," Phylicia said, sliding
a picture across the table to him.
"Someone sent me a snapshot of
this dog, wondering if it was a mistake
or a hoax, and raising ethical concerns."

"That's not a mistake," Stylet said.
"It's also not a dog. It's an enfield.
The O'Kelly clan paid me to make it,
working from the original heraldic specs."

"O ... kay," Phylicia said slowly. "I've
never heard of that. What were the specs?"

"An enfield has the head of a fox, forelegs
of an eagle, chest of a greyhound, and
body of a lion," Stylet explained. "It varies,
but that's the version I used. It occurred
to me that those features could combine
to make a long lean animal who would
excel at both running and climbing."

"Did it work?" Phylicia wondered,
leaning forward in her chair.

"Oh yeah," Stylet said. "Enfields
are hell on rabbits and rats. They love
to climb up and eat sparrow eggs too.
For a while we worried that they
might bother the sheep, but nope.
Sheep bore them to tears."

Phylicia laughed. "Then
I'm glad it turned out so well.
I know that some people aren't
exactly fans of your work."

"Making a good chimera is
a lot like cooking ethnic fusion,"
Stylet said. "You have to think
about how the pieces fit together,
how they work,  and what that
means for the finished piece."

"And the berettaflies?"
Phylicia asked quietly.

"Were never meant to be
deployed outside,"  Stylet said.

"That explains a lot," Phylicia said.
"So, since Easy City invited me
down here as an ethics advisor,
would you like to take a walk and
chat about your perspectives?"

Stylet looked at her sideways.
"People don't like my perspectives."

"Then I'm guessing they go on
mistaking an enfield for a dog,"
Phylicia said with a smirk.

Stylet laughed. "Yeah, probably."

"See, I'm not that stupid," Phylicia said.
"What are some of your favorite places
in Easy City? Parks? Theaters? Which
of the local wineries puts out the best wines?"

"I have no idea," Stylet admitted. "I've been
to the parks, I guess, but not wineries."

"Seriously? You've been in Easy City
for months and you haven't even
tried the muscadines?" Phylicia said.

She pulled out her smartphone to show him
rows of grapevines in a small vineyard, then
zoomed in on bunched of big round grapes
in shades of black, red, bronze, and green.

"There's some interesting history because folks
have had a hard time growing European grapes
around here, but local ones thrive," said Phylicia.
"For a while, folks talked about breeding muscadines
to make them more like Old World grapes, but that
would ruin their best qualities, so they gave it up."

"You have to work with what you have," Stylet said
with a nod. "Those traits are there for a reason."

"Exactly!" Phylicia said. "The thick skin protects
muscadines from diseases that kill other grapes.
So it would be wrong to breed out that trait."

He looked at her through his eyelashes,
and the red ends of his shoulder-length hair
twinkled like a curtain of fairy lights.

Good. He was thinking it over.

"Do you like sweet things in general?"
Phylicia asked. "Muscadines make
the sweetest wine you can imagine."

"I love sweet things, but we have to be
careful about them now, because of
the berettaflies," Stylet reminded her.
"No open cokes outside, and so on."

"Understood," Phylicia said. "I guess
that's why all the wine tasting has
moved indoors this summer."

"Yeah, everyone's worried
the bugs will spread," Stylet said.

"Will they?" Phylicia said. "That's
another ethical consideration."

Stylet dragged his hands through
his hair. "I hope not. A lot of them
have died already. We're taking steps
to kill off the ones that remain."

"That's good," Phylicia said. "We
don't need to worry for the moment."

"You really want to walk around
Easy City and gossip about grapes
and ethics while we sample wine?"
Stylet said, sounding dubious.

"Yup," Phylicia said. "I do a lot
of walking, so I can go all day.
How are your walking shoes?"

Stylet blushed and looked away.
One toe nudged at the sole of
the opposite shoe, making it
flap away from the inner layer.

"Not so good," he admitted.
"Could we just catch a bus?"

"We could, but it wouldn't be
nearly as fun," Phylicia said.
"How about this -- you agree
come along and listen to me, and
I'll buy you a new pair of shoes."

"Before or after I get blisters
on my feet?" Stylet asked dryly.

"Before," Phylicia said. "If you're
prone to blisters, I'll throw in
a first aid kit for hiking."

"That's probably not
a bad idea," Stylet said.
"I don't get out a lot, and if I
come back with blisters, then
my advocate will lecture both  of us."

"Fair enough," Phylicia said. "Here,
let's run a search for likely shoes
and first aid supplies, so we don't
waste steps on the boring stuff."

"You sound like an enfield,"
Stylet said, but he leaned over
her smartphone to look anyway.

Soon he had picked out a pair
of ventilated walking shoes in
black and red, plus a first aid kit in
a fanny pack to leave his hands free.

"Those look like good choices,"
Phylicia said, "and we can find
them in places close to here."

"Why are you doing all this?"
Stylet whispered, nibbling his lip.
"Taking a hike and talking about
wine and pets won't fix  anything."

"First, I'm a simple woman. I like
wine, walking, and dogs. Two of
those can fix a lot of what ails you --
though I don't recommend the other
for self-medication," Phylicia said.

"No argument there," Stylet said.

"Second, dogs aren't the only creatures
capable of love unflinching," Phylicia said.
"My family told me it was a mistake
to come here, but I don't agree."

Stylet looked down, then back up again.
"Okay," he said, "let's go for a walk."

Phylicia and Stylet signed out of
the police station and headed
toward the nearest shoe store.

Marzi danced around their legs,
tangling her new pink leash, but
neither of them really minded.

"By the way," Stylet said, "if you
think the enfield and the buggles
are something, just wait until you see
my experiment with the guinea raptors."

"I can hardly wait," Phylicia said, and meant it.

* * *

Notes:

Phylicia Du Chienne -- She has praline skin, brown eyes, and nappy brown hair to her chin.  Her hair forms big squiggly puffs that stand out in a loose mane.  Phylicia belongs to a big family, but she doesn't get along with them very well.  They're snobby, and she dislikes snobs.  Her own tastes are much simpler: American wines, dogs, and going for long walks.  Her relatives are especially displeased when Phylicia moves to Easy City to serve as an ethics advisor after the berettaflies incident.  She acquires a female buggle puppy, Marzipan or Marzi for short, and she gets to meet Stylet.
Qualities: Good (+2) American Wine Fan, Good (+2) Dog Lover, Good (+2) Ethics Advisor, Good (+2) Walking
Poor (-2) Can't Stand Snobs
Motto: "I am a simple woman.  I love wine, walking, and dogs."

* * *

"Buy a pup and your money will buy love unflinching."
-- Rudyard Kipling

Puggles are a "designer dog," actually a crossbreed between pugs and beagles.  They are popular for the reasons listed here; they make a good balance between the two breeds that produces a fine family dog.  The disadvantage is that crossbreeding is a crapshoot.  See a young puppy, older puppy, and adult puggle.

The breeder at Popcorn Puggles is trying to turn them from a crossbreed into a stable breed.  She feels that pugs are overbred and way too brachycephalic.  So she selects for puggles that have a moderate amount of wrinkles, a medium-short muzzle, and a curly tail.  Colors include black, fawn, lemon, red, tan, particolor (any of those colors with white), or tricolor (black, fawn or tan, and white).  Puggles often have a black mask on the face.

The name "buggle" comes from "bug" and "puggle" (itself a portmanteau of "pug" and "beagle"). Buggle eyes look much like this.  These are compound eyes, such as insects have; rather than simple eyes, such as mammals normally have.  Read about the different features for each type of eye.

An enfield is a heraldic beast.  The exact description varies, but Stylet's version falls within it.  An enfield appears in the crest of the O'Kelly family.  Stylet's enfield looks like this -- an odd creature, but graceful instead of a mishmash.  He may not have a conventional grasp of ethics, but he builds damn well.

Louisiana has a variety of vineyards.  Among its notable productions are muscadine wines, like this recipe.

Muscadine is a type of wild grape, typically black to red, with a green to bronze version called scuppernong. Muscadine grapes make an intensely sweet, aromatic wine that sophisticated wine drinkers often find overwhelming. It's a country wine that appeals to many people who consider European wines too sour, and it makes a perfect match to the hot spices and briny seafood of Cajun cuisine.  Enjoy an activity guide or shop for muscadine vines.

Unlike here, T-America is not trying to breed muscadines to resemble European grapes. Instead they're capitalizing on the unique features of muscadines and giving away free samples to attract people to them. Muscadine wine is much more popular in T-America than here, touted as the most American of all wines because it comes from native grapes. This is bitterly disputed by fans of other native grapes, but muscadines hold the edge in popularity. Because Easy City sprawls over many miles, it includes a lot of green space. There are microvinyards no more than a few acres in size scattered throughout, some for table grapes and some serving the wineries.  Some growers only have a few rows.

A walking tour is usually a self-guided tour, but it can be a guided tour. It has the advantage of providing exercise as well as entertainment. In T-America, most towns have at least one tour marked with signs or paint, and cities tend to have multiple tours in different styles.  New Orleans has some on a pay-what-you-want basis.

Walking shoes make the process much nicer.  Stylet has cheap, worn-out sneakers.  These are his new walking shoes.

You can make your own first aid kit for hiking or buy one.  This is always prudent, but extremely important if you don't get out much and suddenly decide to take a walking tour.  You are going to need something to cover the hotspots before all the skin peels off your feet.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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