Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "A Frantic Resistance"

Based on an audience poll, this is the free epic for the May 7, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl reaching its $200 goal. It is spillover from the January 8, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] alatefeline and [personal profile] mdlbear. It also fills the "touch" square in my 2-28-18 card for the Slice-of-Life Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.


"A Frantic Resistance"

[Saturday, July 12, 2014]

When the new consultant arrived,
all three superkittens responded
by arching their backs and hissing.

Selima Lenz tapped her white cane
delicately along the sidewalk as she
approached them, not dissuaded
by their sudden display of force.

Riposte dragged a hand over his face.
"They're still working on manners."

Selima laughed. "Confront a child,
a puppy, and a kitten with sudden danger.
The child will turn instinctively for assistance,
the puppy will grovel in abject submission, and
the kitten will brace its tiny body for a frantic resistance."

Riposte looked at the three superkittens arrayed
across his lawn like a pride of minute lions.
"I guess you have a point there," he said.

"I know cats, dear," Selima said.
"I have a degree in Animal Science,
a certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy,
and a breeding colony of therapy cats.
They're not likely to surprise me."

HELLO, said Mrrhow the Mercurial.

"Hello," the woman said. "I'm Selima.
You have a beautiful voice."

Mrrhow sat down in shock.
Napoleon and Cayenne bolted.

"Well, there's two of them
gone already," Riposte sighed.
"The one who shouted at us
is Mrrhow the Mercurial."

"That's all right," Selima said.
"The rest of us can sit down on
the porch and get to know each other."

Riposte nodded eagerly. "Yes, please."

Selima had come highly recommended
from a SPOON contact, and Riposte
needed someone with more experience
in dealing with animal soups.

They sat down on the porch swing.
Selima folded up her cane and
tucked it next to her hip.

"So what's your plan?"
Riposte asked her.

"Oh, I don't have a plan,"
Selima said, waving her hand.
"Those don't work well with cats."

"Then ... what are you going
to do?" he wondered.

"Get to know each other,"
Selima said. "You and I can
chat, and the kittens can join in
whenever they want to."

The bushes rustled where
Cayenne and Napoleon
had disappeared.

Even Mrrhow was hiding.

"I don't know how well that's
going to work," said Riposte.

"Have you ever tried to push
on a rope?" Selima said.

Riposte frowned at her.
"That doesn't work."

"Exactly," Selima said with
a laugh. "As long as I'm not
trying to make them do anything,
the kittens have no traction with which
to mount their frantic resistance."

"Huh," said Riposte. "I don't know
whether you'll even see them again,
but I guess it's still worth a try."

"They're kittens, dear," she said.
"Sooner or later they'll get curious."

"That could take a while," said Riposte.

"Don't worry about it," Selima said.
"I'm a patient woman. Why don't you
tell me something about yourself?"

So Riposte told her about growing up
in a family where he was the only person
who didn't have any superpowers, and
what he did to make up for that lack.

Selima told him about the challenges
of going through college as a blind girl
and exploring the intersection between
animal science and psychology.

The bushes rustled now and then,
but did not disgorge any kittens.

Riposte explained how he had
come to have three superkittens
and how they were getting along.

Selima talked about her experiences
raising therapy cats and how she hoped
to establish a new breed based on Bombay,
Korat, and American Shorthair stock.

She could even tell them apart by
touching their fur -- not a superpower,
just sensitive fingers and familiarity.

Riposte was impressed with Selima's skill
and wished he knew his kittens so well.

Suddenly Mrrhow appeared on the porch.
What do you want? she demanded.

"I'd like to make friends," Selima said.
She bent down and stroked Mrrhow.
"You have such wonderful, soft fur.
The next time we meet, I'll know you."

Mrrhow's ears radared sideways.
She slunk around the porch, sniffing.

Selima went back to talking with Riposte.
She had some good stories from cat shows.

Eventually Mrrhow got tired of investigating
the porch, which she already knew, and
turned her attention back to Selima.
I'm bored, she said. Entertain me.

Selima reassembled her cane,
pattered out to Riposte's car, and
came back holding a cardboard box
and a can of treats in her off hand.

She popped something in the box and
set it on the porch in front of Mrrhow.

"You're smart," Selima told
the kitten. "Entertain yourself."

Mrrhow sniffed the box,
peered through the holes,
and poked a paw into it.

Soon she swiped out the treat.

"Well done," said Selima.
"Would you like to try again?"

TREAT! Mrrhow roared,
bounding onto her lap.

Selima stroked the kitten
but didn't open the can.
"I like to be asked nicely."

Mrrhow flattened her ears,
then looked back at the box.

Treat ... please? she said.

Selima dropped a treat into
the middle of the box this time.

It took several minutes for
Mrrhow to paw out the reward,
because she had to slide it up
the side instead of straight out.

Then Napoleon sidled onto
the porch and brushed against
Selima, clearly attempting
to impersonate his sister.

"Hello there," said Selima.
"Your fur is coarser. Are you
Napoleon or Cayenne?"

Ears tilted back, Napoleon
metronomed his tail in
a feline Fuck you.

Then he jumped
down from the porch.

"That was Napoleon,"
Riposte said. "He's
quite the manipulator."

"Eh, I've met better,"
Selima said. "He'll
grow into it later."

Riposte shuddered.
"There's a terrifying thought."

Mrrhow came back and
cautiously sniffed the box.

She hooked a paw into a hole
and dragged the box across the floor.
Then she rubbed her chin over it.

"Mrrhow, is that you?" Selima said.

The white kitten looked over
her shoulder. ... yes, she said.

"Would you like to play again?"
Selima said, rattling the can of treats.

Mrrhow sat right up, ears pricked
and whiskers forward. Yes!

"Here you go," Selima said,
loading the puzzle box again.

Mine! Mrrhow declared as
she pounced on the device.

"Well, the cat toy is a hit, even if
they're not particularly impressed
by you yourself," Riposte mused.

"If they come to think of me as
a source of interesting gizmos,
then at least we'll have something
to talk about," Selima said. "You know,
the same company makes a set of
modular cat furniture called Stacks."

Mrrhow did not abandon her box,
but flicked an ear toward Selima.

"Oh?" said Riposte. "What do
those look like? How do they work?"

"They're basically cubes made of
heavy-duty cardboard. You punch out
a small square or large circle on the sides
to let the cats in," Selima explained. "You
can clip them together in all kinds of shapes,
and there's a bridge to connect them, too."

Mrrhow seemed interested, even as
she kept working on her puzzle.

The game went on for some time
as Selima dropped treats into
different parts of the box and
Mrrhow eagerly extracted them.

Eventually the white kitten
flopped over Selima's feet.
Only the tip of her tail twitched.

She wasn't purring yet, but
her frantic resistance was gone.

"Did you have fun solving puzzles?"
Selima asked, holding out a hand.

Mrrhow gave a slow blink, then
butted her head under the hand.

"You can keep the puzzle box as
thanks for spending time with me,"
Selima said. "If you get bored with it,
the company makes a harder version."

Mrrhow didn't say anything, but
her white whiskers arched forward,
brushing against Selima's fingers.

"Something to consider if you
talk a little more next time,"
Selima suggested to her.

... I'll think about it.

Riposte wanted
to punch the air
in satisfaction.

* * *

Notes:

Selima Lenz -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight hair streaked in shades of lighter and darker brown. She is blind. Selima attended Cornell University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science (with Distinction in Research) in Animal Science with a minor in Psychology. She later earned a Certificate in Animal Assisted Therapy from the Animal Behavior Institute. Currently Selima raises therapy cats. She started with foundation stock from American Shorthair, Bombay, and Korat breeds. She crosses them with the intent of developing a new breed specialized as therapy cats. Desired features include calm temperament, high sociability, and a good purr. Various types of purr qualify as pleasing; these include cheerful, musical, resonant, and soothing. Selima knows her cats well enough to identify them by touch, and her other blind skills are excellent. She consults with people about therapy cats and animal soups. However, Selima cannot be around birds or even use down products, as she is vigorously allergic to feathers.
Qualities: Master (+6) Blind Skills, Expert (+4) Cat Breeder, Expert (+4) Cat Consultant, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Patient, Good (+2) Listener
Poor (-2) Allergic to Feathers

The best breeds for therapy cats include American Shorthair, Bombay, and Korat.

Animal Assisted Therapy Certificate Program (15 credits)
The Animal Assisted Therapy certificate requires the completion of five online courses (15 academic credits) and a field requirement consisting of 40 hours of hands-on experience as an employee, intern or volunteer at an approved institution of your choice. The required courses for this certificate program are:
1. ABI 116 Practical Psychology
2. ABI 211 Animal Assisted Therapy
3. ABI 232 The Human-Animal Bond
4. ABI 233 Animal Training
You will also select one elective from the following:
5. ABI 272 Feline Behavior & Enrichment

* * *

"Confront a child, a puppy, and a kitten with a sudden danger; the child will turn instinctively for assistance, the puppy will grovel in abject submission, the kitten will brace its tiny body for a frantic resistance."
-- Hector Hugh Munro

Therapy cats can serve various purposes. In Terramagne-America, any species can qualify as a service animal if it "does work or performs tasks" to compensate for the owner's disability and it meets the general behavior and safety standards for pets appearing in public. Animal therapists are particularly trained to support people in mental distress, beyond the instinctive response that pets often provide.

Understanding cats relies on facial expressions, tail expressions, body postures, and more.

A white cane used by vision-impaired people comes in various styles including solid and folding versions along with different tips.

CatAmazing sells a variety of products including Stacks boxes, Classic puzzle box, and Epic puzzle box. Enjoy a video.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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