Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Worst Word in the Dictionary"

This poem is spillover from the September 4, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] bairnsidhe, [personal profile] mashfanficchick, and discussions with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "WILD CARD: crafts" square in my 7-31-18 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest, and the "worrying" square in my 6-4-18 Mixed card for the Winteriron Bingo Adventure. This poem has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] fuzzyred. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. This is the second in the triptych, after "The Scars on the Mind" and before "The So-Called Truths." Read those in order or they won't make much sense.

"The Worst Word in the Dictionary"

[Saturday, April 4, 2015]

Shiv woke feeling stuffy and strange,
but he'd woken up to a lot worse in the past.

"How do you feel?" Dr. Infanta asked,
sitting down on the bed beside him.

"I'm fine," Shiv said automatically.

She clucked her tongue at him.
"None of that, now. Headache?
Dizziness? Vision problems?"

"Kinda feels like I have a cold, but
it doesn't really hurt," Shiv admitted.

"That's good," Dr. Infanta said.
"Here's the thing. I fixed your brain.
I fixed your eyes. And then your brain
went a little nuts on us, so I had
to turn it down some. It's not
permanent, it'll wear off."

"So that's why I feel fuzzy?"
Shiv said. "For how long?"

"A few hours," Dr. Infanta said.
"Some of that really is the usual fog
after a healing. Otherwise, I tried to aim
for what would feel familiar, let you come up
slow so the changes aren't such a rush."

"It's okay," Shiv said. "Don't worry about it."

"Do you want those memories back
now or later?" Nanette asked.

Neither, really, but Shiv knew
ditching them was a bad idea.
He couldn't resist trying to recall
the injury on his own, but he found
nothing more than a vague idea
that there was some kind of fight.

Well that was unnerving.

"Yeah, put 'em back,"
he told Nanette.

Her touch was warm
and gentle, and then
the images flickered past.

Shiv could remember the fight now,
but as promised it wasn't as intense.
Beyond that were fleeting impressions
of other, darker situations that Shiv
pushed away as best he could.

Nanette had also done something to
the memories, almost like crib notes
marking what the emotions had been.

"Thanks," he said. "That's pretty cool."

"You're welcome," said Nanette.
"You have a very organized mind."

Shiv laughed, then turned to
Dr. Infanta. "Can I get started on
those blades you wanted? I assume
you want at least a downpayment
before you send me home."
He worried about debts.

"I told you he'd say that,"
Nanette said with a laugh.

Dr. Infanta rolled her eyes.
"I was hoping he'd be smart."

"My hands are plenty smart,"
Shiv said. "There's different kinds.
So, you got that dymondine for me?"

"I do," Dr. Infanta said. "Sit up slowly
so that you don't make yourself dizzy.
You've been lying down for a while."

Shiv obeyed, and the room swung
into place around him. Everything
looked just a little brighter and clearer.
He wiggled his fingers. They seemed
to respond a tiny bit quicker too.

"Cool," he said. "Let's do this."

"Over here," Lorry said, beckoning
Shiv to the office area. There was
a little desk that had probably been
meant to hold printers and stuff, now
with several boxes set on top of it
and a chair pushed in front.

"What's all this?" Shiv said
as he sat down in the chair.

"I got to thinking, you might not
feel like working dymondine today,"
Dr. Infanta said. "It's probably hard."

"Yeah, shaping that stuff takes
a lot out of me," Shiv said.

"Thought so," Dr. Infanta said.
"I also had Lorry pick up a block of
surgical stainless steel and a carton
of #10 scalpels. If you want to leave
the dymondine for later, you can use
the block to make permanent blades --
or just edge the prefabricated ones and
we can treat those as disposable."

Shiv took careful stock of his energy.
He worried about running out, because
faceplanting into the desk would suck.

He'd be lucky to do one dymondine blade.
He could probably make a few steel ones.

But if all he had to do was put a better edge
on scalpels already made, like he had done
with razor blades, that was a different story.

He picked up the carton and gave it
an exploratory shake, fondly reminded
of groping the gear in Dr. Bloch's office.

"I can probably do half the box," Shiv said.

"Terrific," Dr. Infanta said. "Hit the bathroom
and get something to eat before you start."

That sounded like a good idea, so
Shiv let Lorry lead him to the bathroom,
and when they came back, Nanette
offered him a smoothie that smelled
temptingly of strawberries and banana.

Shiv sipped, smiled, and chugged
about half of it at once. "Awesome."

"Thank you," said Nanette.

Shiv sat down to work. "Okay,
first things first. These really will
be disposable, they won't last,
got it? Use 'em and toss 'em.
Uh ... I have no idea how
to dispose of them safely."

"Understood," said Dr. Infanta.
"We have disintegration incinerators."

"Great," Shiv said. "Next, when
I'm done with these, they will be
really fucking sharp. You can't put
them in these stupid foil sleeves
and expect them to stay there."

He always worried that people
wouldn't listen, because they didn't.

"Already covered," Lorry said.

He removed the dymondine and
stainless steel block, replacing
them with another carton.

Shiv looked, and found some
of the little plastic boxes with
gel inside that the Finnlings
used to carry computer parts.

"That'll do," he said, nodding.
He liked capable people.

It wasn't much work to sharpen
the blades. He didn't need to make
a touchmark because these were
disposable and he wasn't putting
even an imaginary name on that.

All he had to do was open one,
concentrate for a few seconds
to enhance the edge, then
pop it into a gel box.

Lorry seemed quite happy
to stand there throwing away
foil wrappers and packing up
the gel boxes for him.

"You don't mind doing
gruntwork?" Shiv asked.

"I'm a bodyguard. I have
a lot of friends and even
a few dear enemies with
Invulnerability," Lorry said.
"Helping them get supplies is
a job I'm grateful to have. Not
being able to reach a problem
can get real ugly, real fast."

"Point," Shiv said, dropping
another scalpel into its box.

He finished the smoothie and
was lipping the glass wishing
for more when Nanette came
and took it away from him.

"Heyyy," Shiv whined. He always
worried when people took things.

"That's fifty," said Nanette.
"Come and eat real food."

"But I can keep going,"
Shiv said. "I'm not tired yet!"

"Now where have I heard that
before," Nanette drawled,
looking at Dr. Infanta. "No
arguments, or no dessert."

Shiv bailed out of that chair
like it was on fire. "Fine."

Dr. Infanta started to follow,
but stepped on a loose shoelace.

"Darn these things," she muttered.
"They just won't stay tied right."

"That's 'cause you got
the cheap crappy laces,"
Shiv said, bending down
to tie a bow like he did for
Jaxon and Edison. "See,
they're round nylon, they
won't hold a knot."

"Well that sucks,"
Dr. Infanta said.

"Just rip 'em out and
put in flat cotton ones,"
Shiv said. "Shoes're fine.
Go wash your hands."

He was pushing her
toward the sink before
he remembered that she
outranked him and he
yanked his hand away.

But Nanette and Lorry
were looking at Shiv like
he just hung the moon.

What the hell.

Shiv shook his head
and decided to ignore it
as they washed their hands.

Lunch was laid out with
sandwiches, jam, and
powdered sugar for
some fool reason.

"Grilled cheese, really?"
Shiv said, disappointed.

Dr. Infanta giggled. "You've
never had a Monte Cristo?"
she said. "Ooo, this will be fun."

Then she dumped about
a quarter cup of jam on hers
and snowed it with powdered sugar.

Curious, Shiv took a closer look at his.
It wasn't just grilled cheese like he thought.
There was cheese and meat and even jam
already cooked right inside the sandwich.

He took a tentative nibble, and
the flavors exploded in his mouth.

Grinning, Shiv scraped out the bowl
of jam that came with his sandwich,
put the powdered sugar on top, and
scarfed it down as fast as he could.

And there was dessert after this?

"Still hungry?" Dr. Infanta asked,
like that was perfectly normal.

"Uh, yeah," Shiv admitted.

Dr. Infanta reached out to touch
his wrist, her power sweeping over him
like a kitten's tongue licking his skin.

"Yeah, you need more calories,"
she said. "Lorry, go get two of
my usual from Applebee's, please,"

"Coming right up, miss," he said,
and then teleported away.

"You'll be fine," Dr. Infanta said
to Shiv. "If you start feeling awful,
though, let me know and I'll take
care of it." She passed him a card
with a vdress and a phone number.

Shiv pocketed it. "Look, I know
we got a deal, but why are you
just plain spoiling me like this?"

"Because I can," Dr. Infanta said,
licking jam off her fingers. It didn't help.
She had it all over her hands, up her sleeves,
and across the lower half of her face.

Nanette came over with a wet towel
and cleaned off the worst of it, but if Shiv
was any judge, that shirt was a goner.

Pity, because it had half of a unicorn
printed on it in pink sparkles, and
she looked so cute in that.

"Nice of you, but I'm
a supervillain," Shiv said.
"I'm not used to ... this."

"I think you've had a lot of
bad examples and worse labels,"
Nanette said in a tart tone. "Don’t let
others define you or they might pick
the worst word in the dictionary.”

"Yeah, but I like being a supervillain,"
Shiv said. "It feels right. I know, I know,
I've got 'other options' now, but this
is what I do. This is who I am."

"Then that's fine," Nanette said.

"Supervillains were the first folks
who ever appreciated me," Shiv said.
"It's just ... I ain't really used to it.
Somebody new tries it on me,
and I gotta poke at it some."

"I know," Dr. Infanta said, and
for a moment her eyes looked
old and wild. "You get used to it,
though. Ask Nanette if you like.
She helps my other Guardians
settle in, when they're new."

Shiv stole a glance at Nanette.
She didn't look more than
middle-aged, but then,
Dr. Infanta looked seven
instead of seven hundred.

Just then, Lorry came back
with two plates full of ... stuff.

"What even is that?" Shiv said, staring.

"Applebee’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae,"
Dr. Infanta said as she dug into hers. "It's got
a fresh-baked cookie, vanilla ice cream,
chocolate syrup, cookie crumbles,
whipped cream, and a cherry on top.
Don't worry, if you can't eat all of
yours, I'll finish the rest of it."

Shiv yanked the plate toward
his chest. "I can finish it!"

Took him nearly fifteen minutes,
and he had to unbutton his jeans,
but he finally managed it.

Dr. Infanta was spraying
whipped cream into her mouth
straight out of the can.

"Where do you even put it all,
at your size?" Shiv wondered.

"Mostly in other people," she said.
"Healing burns a lot of energy, and
some of my other abilities take more.
My Guardians don't care if I live on
ice cream as long as I eat stuff
like fruits and vegetables too."

"You heal a lot of people?"
Shiv said, tilting his head. That
wasn't what he'd heard on TV.

"I do now," Dr. Infanta said.
"I always have, sometimes, but in
the Maldives I have a whole hospital.
That speeds it way up. I love it. So I'm
helping them set up their medical system
to incorporate healers alongside all of
the other specialists. It's fantastic."

No wonder the Doctors Finn
were so fond of that place.

"Then how's come you let
people call you a supervillain?"
Shiv said. "You could correct them."

"Because I am one," she said simply.
"I scare the crap out of them. Didn't
you see the footage from Israel?"

He had. Well, okay, that was
some scary-ass shit that went down.

But she'd fixed his brain for him,
and she was cute as a button even
with chocolate all over her shirt still,
and suddenly it just pissed him off
that everyone was jumping on Johnny.

Shiv thought about a lot of things
that people had called her, and him.

"You know, kid, what Nanette said
about the dictionary goes for
you too," Shiv pointed out.

"Hear, hear," Nanette said,
and Lorry gave him a pat.

"It's just what they say,"
Dr. Infanta said, shrugging.

"They keep using that word,"
Shiv muttered. "I do not think
it means what they think it means."

Dr. Infanta burst into squeals of laughter.
"We've done our work, can we watch
a movie now?" she said, pulling on
Nanette's shirt until it stretched.

"As you wish," Nanette said,
and gently untangled her.

So that's how Shiv wound up
flopped on a squashy couch beside
the most powerful supervillain in
the world watching The Princess Bride.

It was so much better than going to the Strand.

* * *


"Don’t let others define you or they might pick the worst word in the dictionary.”
-- Quotes on Abuse

Enjoy a recipe for the Strawberry-Banana Recovery Smoothie.

Scalpel blades are often sold in cartons.

Gel boxes are designed to carry delicate computer components. They also work for securing certain hazardous items such as super-sharp blades.

A touchmark is used by smiths or jewelrymakers to identify their work. See some examples.

Shoelaces come in various styles, of which the round nylon ones don't hold knots very well.

While calories may vary according to restaurant and the amount of ingredients used to make the sandwich, a typical Monte Cristo contains more than 1,000 calories. SkinnyKitchen.com states an average Monte Cristo has 1,122 calories. Enjoy a recipe for a Monte Cristo.

#1, Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae from Applebee’s
Calories: 1,660
-- The 40 Desserts with the Most Calories

Dr. Infanta wears a t-shirt of the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Note that since Terramagne has superpowers, they are entirely aware that something can be pink and invisible at the same time, which happens whenever someone wearing pink activates their Invisibility. Pink is still pink in the dark, or when invisible; you just can't see it then.
Tags: #1, #10, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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