Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Reaching Out to Rescue One Another"

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 "WILD CARD: trust" square in my 11-5-18 card for the Family Ties Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by a pool run by [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Iron Horses thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. It directly follows "Whatever You Do to the Animals," so read that first or this won't make much sense.

Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes the aftermath of sex slavery, a mostly nude girl, difficulty speaking, messy medical details, fear of health care, violent urges toward a defeated enemy, choice paralysis, references to prostitution and human trafficking, abusive boarding schools, past mad science torture, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Reaching Out to Rescue One Another"

[Tuesday, September 1, 2015]

Warshirt loped back the way
he had come, using the trail now
to make faster progress uphill.

The extra energy that he had
captured from his enemy
helped carry him along.

When he reached the part
just before the fallen tree,
Warshirt slowed and
began singing softly.

The girl popped out from
under the root ball at once.

That was a good sign.

Warshirt had worried that
she might not have stayed
where he told her to, or
that she would be afraid
of him and keep hidden.

"Hello again," he said,
and her ears flicked.
"All taken care of.
Someone else will
pick up the trash."

She gave him
a grateful hug.

Warshirt became
uncomfortably aware
that she wore nothing
but his leather jacket.

Gently peeling her away,
he said, "Let's get out of here.
You can stay at my cabin
while we sort this out."

It was tucked in the woods,
quiet and out of the way, because
he had needed that refuge when
he came back from the war.

Now it would help someone else.

The girl looked at him, looked at
the trail, and shrugged a question.

"You don't talk much, do you?"
Warshirt said. "Can you talk?"

She nodded, then gave
a breathy, hesitant reply.
"It's hard, sometimes."

"Okay, I get that," he said.
"We'll make do. My name is
Will Big Head, but most folks
just call me Warshirt."

She mouthed something
that might have been Hi.

"Do you want to tell me
your name?" he asked.

She shook her head fiercely.

"Then I guess you need
a new one ... Spotted Deer."

She smiled just a little, her lips
bright pink in a patch of bare skin
framed by fur that thickened
into sideburns on her cheeks.

"All right, let's head out,"
Warshirt said. "We've got
a long hike to get home."

Spotted Deer tucked herself
behind him, just like a fawn
following in his shadow.

Despite the earlier incident,
it was still a beautiful day.

That helped settle his nerves
after battle, and he felt better
than he had expected to feel.

The wind raised goosebumps
on his bare arms, but the polo shirt
and the exercise kept Warshirt
comfortable as they hiked.

The trail wound through
the woods, and they even
saw a few more deer.

Out of habit, his hand
went to the ranger beads,
keeping count of the deer.

Whenever the path roughened,
Warshirt looked behind to make sure
that Spotted Deer was following
without having trouble.

He didn't want to grab her,
but he stayed close enough that
she could hold onto him if she
needed to, and several times
she caught hold of his shirt
or belt to pull herself up.

Oddly enough, he didn't
mind the contact, even though
an unexpected touch tended
to ruffle his warrior instincts.

She just made him feel ... calm.

When they reached his yard,
Warshirt led her through the trees
to the pump standing by the cabin.

He pumped water into his hand,
slurped, then turned to Spotted Deer.

"Do you want a drink?" he asked.
"The water here is very good."

She cupped her hands under
the spout, catching water to drink,
then rubbed her hands over her face.

"This is my home," Warshirt said,
waving at the log cabin. "Come on in."

She followed him willingly enough
until they reached the door, but
then hesitated to go inside.

"It's okay, it's nice indoors,"
Warshirt said. He caught
her hand and tugged gently.

Spotted Deer bleated in pain
and jerked away from him.

"Whoa, what happened?"
he said, spreading his hands.
"Did something hurt you?"

She looked down at herself.

"Show me your hands,"
Warshirt coaxed. "I'm
a veteran; I know first aid."

Spotted Deer turned
her hands over and back,
revealing the scraped palms.
Bits of dirt clung to the scabs.

"It looks like you fell on the rocks,
or bumped into some trees, or both,"
Warshirt said. "Come inside and
I'll get the first aid kit for you."

This time she followed him in, and
he parked her at the dining room table.

Warshirt got the lunchbox-sized kit
from the kitchen for minor complaints,
rather than the tacklebox-sized trauma kit
that he kept in the common bathroom,
because he didn't want to scare her.

He washed his hands and grabbed
a clean towel to put underneath her.
Then he set the kit on the table.

The first step was obvious. He wasn't
about to use the herbal spray on her,
because it had witch hazel and tea tree
and it burned like blazes. So he got out
Jackson & Jason's Ouchless Wound Rinse.

Spotted Deer was shaking in her seat.

"Medical stuff is scary?" he guessed,
watching carefully for her reaction.

She nodded, hunching into herself,
but kept her hands on the towel.

"Do your hands hurt now?" he said.

Another nod, firmer this time. She
looked at him with pleading eyes.

"Let me clean up your hands,
and they'll hurt less," he said.

She pushed them an inch closer.

Warshirt used the rinse generously,
washing off as much of the grit
as he could without touching.

Then he used gauze to blot away
the softening scabs, which removed
most of the dirt stuck to them.

"Try to hold still," he said
as he picked up the tweezers.

It took a while to pry loose all
the splinters and grains of rock,
but she didn't pull away from him.

"Okay, do you prefer drugstore stuff
or herbal remedies?" Warshirt said.

Spotted Deer hesitated, then shrugged.

"You don't know," Warshirt said.
"Fine, let's try one on each hand, then
you can see which works better for you."

He had first aid cream from the drugstore
as well as a salve made with comfrey
and calendula from an herbalist.

Smoothing those over the scrapes
made her shiver, but she stayed put.

"Any other complaints?" Warshirt said.
"Sore muscles or special abilities
bothering you? I have Coral Balm
and Turquoise Balm if you want."

Spotted Deer shook her head,
but she didn't look comfortable,
so Warshirt tried again.

"Do you feel unclean or
just unsettled?" he asked.

This time she nodded vigorously.

"Here, check out these tins," he said,
laying out a set of herbal balms in
eight different flavors. "Peppermint
is refreshing, piñon sap is soothing,
and white sage is purifying ..."

Spotted Deer explored them,
lingering over the white sage.

"You like that one?" Warshirt said,
and Spotted Deer nodded.

He opened the tin so he could
put some on her wrists. "Okay, let's --
huh. Are these scent glands?"

Warshirt pointed to the dark spot
at the base of each thumb.

Spotted Deer tucked her chin
against her chest and leaned away.

"Hey, it's all right," Warshirt said.
"It just means we put the balm
somewhere else instead."

When she leaned forward,
he put a dab on the back of
each hand. "There you go."

At once she raised a hand
to sniff it, then almost smiled.

"I'm glad you like it," Warshirt said.
"Do you want something more to wear?
Anything of mine would be a tent on you,
but I keep a few spares for friends."

She looked startled by the offer.

Warshirt really wanted to go
back downhill and brain the man
who had been chasing her.

Instead he went to the linen closet
in the common bathroom and brought
a wraparound top and matching pants
the color of sand, loose enough
that they would fit most girls,
along with a white t-shirt.

"Here, go in the bathroom
and try these on," Warshirt said.

She went, but she left the door open.

"Remember to shut the door,"
he said, closing it for her.

Soon Spotted Deer came out
wearing the outfit. The sleeves
fell almost to her fingertips and
the pants draped over her feet,
but she didn't seem to mind.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"You're welcome," Warshirt said,
thrilled to hear her voice again.
"Are you hungry? I have food."

Spotted Deer nodded eagerly,
looking around in search of it.

"Come into the kitchen and
tell me what you want," he said,
leading the way. "What do you like?"

She gave him a helpless shrug,
staring at the cabinets around them.

"Well, try some different things then,"
Warshirt suggested. "Let's see, I've got ...
um." Not a lot that a white girl would
recognize, actually. "Buffalo stew,
wait, do you even eat meat?"

Spotted Deer nodded.

"Okay, I'll heat that up,"
he said. "Acorn bread.
Apples and huckleberries
are on the serving bar there."

Maybe he should get some groceries
that would be closer to what she
ate normally. If she couldn't name
her typical foods, though, he
would just be guessing.

She nibbled at the stew,
but devoured the fruit and
the acorn bread with gusto.

Warshirt wondered if she ate
anything like a Four-Legged deer
or had more of a Two-Legged diet.

Well, they would find out together.

As soon as Spotted Deer finished eating,
she began to pick up the dishes.

Warshirt took them from her gently,
saying, "You're a guest. Let me
get those, please. When you
feel better, then you can help."

She stared at him, but she
let him have the dishes.

It only took a few minutes
for Warshirt to wash them,
and then he led her into
the living room that filled
the far end of his cabin.

The big open space had
sliding doors on one side
and windows on the others,
with a woodstove marking
the center of the far end.

The leather couches held
an assortment of throw pillows
and could flatten out to make beds.
The glide rockers upholstered with
wilderness fabric offered a chance
to move and sit still at the same time.

Bookcases held stacks of movies,
board games, and other entertainment.
Warshirt had a viewscreen on one wall,
even if he didn't use it very often.

He stirred up the woodstove and
put another log on the fire to take
some of the chill out of the air.

Then he sat in the nearest rocker
and said, "Pick whatever place
makes you feel comfortable."

Spotted Deer sat on the couch
that was closest to him.

Well, that was interesting.

Warshirt drummed his fingers
on his knee, counting off the list
of basic needs he had memorized.
Safety, clothing, shelter, medical care,
food and water ... he'd covered those.

Now he could try to figure out
what the hell was going on here.

"Spotted Deer, I need to know
how you came to be running naked
through Blackfeet territory," he said.
"Who was that man chasing you?"

"My owner," she whispered.
"Osborne Colter. What ...
what did you do to him?"

Warshirt didn't really want
to get into a discussion about
how his medicine powers worked,
so he simplified the matter.

"I beat him up and tied him to
a hawthorn tree," he said. "Then I
called the tribal cops to pick him up."

"Oh," she said, then with a flash
of fierceness she added, "Good."

"The police will want to know
who he is, and who you are,"
Warshirt said. "The more you
tell me, the more I can tell them,
so you don't have to talk to
strangers quite as much."

"I don't want to," she said.

"Were you in trouble?"
Warshirt asked. "A runaway?"

She shook her head.

"Then why don't you want
to tell me your name?" he said.

"Because I'm not her anymore,"
she whispered. "I'm ... different."

"Ah," said Warshirt. "I understand
now. You're a different person, so
of course you need a new name.
You're in luck -- Blackfeet police
will understand that too. But we still
need to know who the white folks
think you are, or used to be."

Spotted Deer sighed. "Fina,"
she said. "I don't remember
all of it. So long ... so much
has happened. I'm sorry."

"Okay, at least that gives us
a starting point," Warshirt said.
"Do you know how old you are?"

She shook her head. "I was ... I think
I was nine when I got sent away," she said.
"My mother remarried, and my stepfather
didn't want me around. So he found
this fancy boarding school for me ...
only it wasn't really a school."

Warshirt couldn't hide his flinch,
but he managed to bite back the rant
about concentration camps for kids.
She didn't need to hear that.

"What was it, if it wasn't really
a school?" he said instead.

"A whorehouse," she said. "But I
didn't do very well, so they sold me.
I spent ... a few years, maybe, in
the science place. That's where
they did this to me." She waved
a hand over her furry form.

"You didn't come into
your spirit power naturally?"
Warshirt said, frowning. "That
is a very dangerous thing for
anyone to tamper with!"

"I know," she said. "I didn't
want it. They didn't care."

"Well then, the bad luck will
fall on the ones responsible for it,"
Warshirt said. "What happened next?"

"Then I got sold again, to another
whorehouse," said Spotted Deer.
"Merry Acres, the johns called it."

"Merry Acres Ranch is a whorehouse?"
Warshirt exclaimed. "Okay, that's
information we can definitely use.
It's right on our border." Then
a sickening thought occurred to
him. "Spotted Deer, was there
anyone else on the ranch with
you? Other victims, not johns?"

She nodded. "Usually three of us.
The white house has three bedrooms.
The brown house is for the johns,"
she said. "It's supposed to be for
hunting, but it's not. Or not just that."

"How did you get away?" he asked.

"Osborne took me to his private cabin,"
said Spotted Deer. "After he ... finished,
he fell asleep. He'd forgotten to lock me up,
so I saw a chance to escape and I took it."

"That was very brave of you," he said.
"I'm glad that you got away from him."

"I hate him," said Spotted Deer.
"I'll tell you whatever I remember.
I hope that you put him in a cage!"

"Thank you," Warshirt said. "Excuse me
a minute, I need to pass the word on this."

He got his phone and called the tribal police
to inform them about the other victims
trapped at the Merry Acres Ranch.

Let them sort out the mess of
jurisdictional issues between
tribal, county, state, and
federal police forces.

"Okay, they'll go check
the place and rescue anyone
who needs it," Warshirt said,
turning back to Spotted Deer.
"What else can you tell me?"

She poured out the story
of her long, ugly captivity.

From the sound of it, she
was probably somewhere
in her middle teens.

Warshirt listened to her,
keeping his body calm
and his face blank.

Later he could go down
to the basement gym and give
the heavy bag the beating of its life.

When her voice started to scrape
and skip, he said, "Enough. Don't
push yourself too far. It's getting
hard for you to talk again, isn't it?"

Spotted Deer nodded. "When I'm
scared," she said. "Hard to talk.
Hard to think. Don't want to."

"All right, let's take a break,"
he said. "Later on, I'll get
someone to take a look at you
and make sure your body's okay."

Spotted Deer cringed. "Don't want to,"
she repeated, leaning away from him.

"I know," Warshirt said. "You can say no,
but I don't think that wašíču took good care
of you. I'd rather ask someone reliable."

Spotted Deer gave him a dubious look.

"Okay, we don't need to decide
anything right now," Warshirt said.
"How about taking a nap?"

"You're tired," she said,
cupping a hand over his cheek.
"Worked hard. Should rest."

All of a sudden he could feel it,
the last of the adrenaline burning away
to leave his body aching for rest.

"I'll keep watch while you sleep,"
Warshirt said, gently putting her hand
back in her lap. "I can go a long time.
I'll rest later. Don't worry about me."

Spotted Deer snorted. "You
rescued me. Who rescues you?"

The words wrapped around his heart
and squeezed. He took a deep breath
to shake off the sudden, intimate sensation.

"That reminds me of something that
the old women say," Warshirt replied.
"Reaching out to rescue one another under
any condition is an eternal measure of love."

"Like it," Spotted Deer said, her small hand
patting him on the shoulder. "Nap now?"

"Yeah, come on," he said, standing up.
"You can have the loft bedroom."

"Okay," she said, following him willingly.

Warshirt led her upstairs. The small space
held a full-size bed and two end tables
flanked by braided rag rugs underneath
a tiny window. A patchwork quilt on the bed
showed bears and trees, cabins and canoes.

"This place is yours," Warshirt said. "You're
safe here. I won't come up unless you ask me.
Trust me, it's better to have your own bed."

Spotted Deer looked surprised again,
but she climbed into the bed and curled up.

Warshirt really wanted to hunt down that man
and throw him off the side of the mountain.

Instead he said, "Dream well, Spotted Deer."
Then he climbed back downstairs.

The heavy bag was waiting for him.

* * *

Notes:

"Reaching out to rescue one another under ANY condition is an eternal measure of love."
-- Ronald A. Rasband

Going nonverbal can happen to anyone under enough stress, but certain conditions -- such as autism and child abuse -- make it happen more often for some people. Know how to handle it.

Ranger beads form a type of abacus, originally used for counting paces. However, they can count anything you want. Learn how to make a set of ranger beads. Warshirt's brass ranger beads look like this.

Warshirt keeps two first aid kits in his house. The kitchen kit for basic problems has a lunchbox-sized case whose two sides open separately. One side holds conventional supplies and the other holds natural remedies. The big tacklebox-type kit is in the common bathroom and contains trauma care supplies suited to Warshirt's military training.

Scrapes are easy to treat unless very large or deep, or on delicate areas like the face. Jackson & Jason's Ouchless Wound Rinse is a T-American product with anaesthetic and antiseptic ingredients, similar to the L-American Band-Aid Hurt-Free Antiseptic Wash, usually sold in spray or squirt bottles. Similarly, first aid cream comes in synthetic and herbal versions.

Antiseptic spray can be made at home, but a lot of the ingredients burn like fury.

Herbal Salves
.75oz Greasewood Ointment "Natural"
.75oz Sore Joint Rub "Healing"
Insect Bite Salve - Relief
Peppermint Lip Balm - Refreshing
Piñon Sap Salve - Soothing
Sage Lavender & Juniper - Beauty Way
Sage Lavender & Orange - Enlightening
White Sage Balm - Purifying

In T-America, tribal folks refer to blue chamomile salve as Turquoise Balm and chili salve as Coral Balm, turquoise and coral being sacred stones to some tribes. Many Native American herbalists sell them as a set and most people stock them together in first aid kits.

Moroccan Blue Chamomile Body Butter is another favorite! This is a soothing, replenishing body butter blended with skin reparative herbs, coconut oil and cocoa butter. We add the divine essential oil of Moroccan Blue Chamomile, known to help heal nagging skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Great for cracked hands and heels.
Ingredients: Chamomile, Comfrey, Calendula, Lavender and Plantain infused in Olive oil, Coconut Oil, Cocoa butter and essential oil of Moroccan Blue Chamomile & beeswax

-- Roots Originals

Savvy Salve is an excellent all purpose healing salve rich with herbs that support skin and tissue repair. Use on gardener hands to restore moisture & assist in healing any cuts, scars, bites, burns & bumps. Unscented.
Ingredients: Comfrey leaf & root, White Willow bark, Lavender, Calendula, Thyme, Rosemary, Yarrow & Nettle infused Olive oil, & beeswax

-- Roots Originals

Organic Warming Muscle Mender Deep Tissue Salve
It has returned back on our shelves with more powerful heat to assist your body during the cold winter months, creating warmth and life to areas cold and in need of repair!
We use Certified Organic Oils to create our powerful base infused with herbs and roots known to get deep into areas of dire concern. Arnica Montana (Tissue repair), White Willow Bark (topical pain reliever), Skullcap (helpful nervine) Comfrey Root (Bone knitter), Lavender (soothing) and Calendula flowers (soft skin).
Infused in our tried and true base of organic goodness, we included: Certified for the authenticity of pureness essential oils: Capsicum CO2 Oil (our beautiful red color and HEAT), Ginger root, Clove & Cinnamon.
Co2 Extracts of Capsicum bring first this powerful Red color from the chili peppers and also brings life to sore muscles, by providing deep warmth to stiff arthritic joints, while relaxing tension in the lower back. Capsicum appears to act by decreasing the concentration of substance P, the primary chemical used by nerve cells to transmit pain signals while also increasing circulation to help the areas clear for proper tissue repair. It takes repeated use over a period of at least a few weeks to feel this benefit.
We find this salve useful for those who are experiencing: Fibromyalgia, Shingles, arthritis, nerve pain & sciatica pain. Sore, tired muscles also get the benefit of the stimulating heat and circulation process. Cold constitutes (those who are cold often and might be in discomfort from the cold body) will also enjoy this warming salve
.
-- Cindi's Sacred Garden

Scent glands appear on many different animals. Bucks, does and fawns have different scents. Humans have several types of scent glands too.

This is Spotted Deer's loungewear.

Blackfeet traditional foods grow in the wild. Fall foraging may turn up fruits such as apples and huckleberries. Enjoy recipes for buffalo stew and acorn bread.

Choice paralysis happens when people feel overwhelmed by too many options, although they also hate having no choice. In my observation, choice paralysis is worst when 1) the options are too similar with few if any meaningful differences and/or 2) the decision is crucial but there is no good option available. Take the example of many fruit spreads. It's easy to sort by jelly/jam/marmalade or red/yellow/black -- and most people have a favorite and unfavorite category. Those are meaningful differences. Choosing one from a dozen marmalades would be harder because they're more similar. A different problem occurs with the lack of sufficient data, as in this case where Spotted Deer simply doesn't know what she wants because she hasn't had many choices for years. Understand how to overcome choice paralysis and decision fatigue.

It's important to take care of survival needs. This is covered in emotional first aid training. Here is a list of questions for basic self-care.

Take a look at human traffickers and their victims. Understand what victims need to recover from the abuse.

Wašíču is a Lakota word for white person. While the denotation is neutral, the connotation is often pejorative.
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