Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Smallest Decisions"

This is the freebie for the July 2, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl making its $100 goal. (Technically that's supposed to be a $15 poem, but I couldn't find one, so you get a $20 one.) It is spillover from the June 4, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] erulisse, [personal profile] readera, [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah, zianuray, and rix_scaedu. It also fills the "Change" square in my 6-1-19 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest.

Warning: This poem features intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes the inside of Shiv's head, because that is always a warning, messy medical details, malpractice, adverse drug reaction, armed assault on a street nurse, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"The Smallest Decisions"

[Sunday, April 8, 2012]

Shiv should have known better.

But no, he'd gotten a bad rash
and Rack had sworn up and down
that the new street nurse Turtledove
could fix that sort of problem.

Since it was keeping him up
half the night with scratching,
Shiv had given that a try.

Then Turtledove drugged him
with something that left Shiv
seeing spots for a week.

He wasn't about to let that
slide, not when he could
actually do something
about it for a change.

So as soon as he could
see straight again, Shiv
went hunting for her.

Now Shiv had a line on
Turtledove, sure enough,
where she leaned over
a rickety wood table
set up in an alley.

Shiv honed his knife
with his superpower,
sharp enough to cut
through anything.

There were not
many people around,
only a few of them.

Shiv wondered whether
he should wait, then
decided to go ahead.

People would see that he
was nobody's easy meat.

That would change
how they saw him, and
how they treated him.

Shiv stood up straight and
headed for Turtledove.

Sometimes it was
the smallest decisions
that changed your life forever.

When Turtledove looked up,
she spotted him and said,
"Hi, Shiv, how are you today?"

Shiv slammed the knife down,
pinning her hand to the table.
"That's for making me see
spots for a week!" he snarled.

He stalked off while she
was still screaming.

* * *


Rack (Randle Haddix) -- He has pinkish-fair skin, brown eyes, and short wavy brown hair. He is short with a soft oval face, and wears a pearl earring on the right side. He belongs to the Hammerheads in Lincoln, Nebraska. Rack does a lot of shoplifting and other petty theft, using his innocent appearance to good advantage. He has poor judgment, though.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Looking Innocent, Good (+2) Street Smart, Good (+2) Thief
Poor (-2) Judgment

Rack: To steal. “Rack up” means to shoplift.

Turtledove (Cai Grabowski) -- She has fair skin, green eyes, and straight brown hair to her shoulders. She is tall and slim. She is left-handed. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. Having spent her childhood in the foster care system, Cai has turned her parentification into an asset. She excels at taking care of people, so long as their needs are ordinary. She still keeps in touch with the system and especially her last set of foster parents, who helped her get through nursing school.
Turtledove works as a street nurse, often helping criminals and supervillains. She isn't very good at compensating for the differences that superpowers can make in someone's metabolism, which can cause weird effects. But it's not like most of the people she treats have better options. One of those mishaps left Shiv seeing spots for a week, which pissed him off enough to stab her. She has a scar through the back of her right hand from that.
Origin: Cai grew up in the foster care system. There wasn't always enough time or money to take care of everyone, so she learned what to do that would keep people from getting worse. It began with first aid, and then late in puberty, her Healing gift emerged.
Uniform: Street clothes. She carries a moderately good first aid kit in a backpack that says "Street Nurse."
Qualities: Expert (+4) First Aid, Good (+2) Graceful, Good (+2) Optimistic, Good (+2) Gaining Trust
Poor (-2) Soup Care
Powers: Average (0) Healing
Motivation: To keep problems from getting worse.

* * *

"Sometimes it's the smallest decisions that can change your life forever."
-- Keri Russell

A street nurse works out in public, usually focusing on the homeless population and/or other underserved groups. In Terramagne, that includes supervillains, gang members, and other criminal elements. A street nurse may have a nursing degree, first aid training, or just personal knowledge. Those hired by an organization or municipality tend to have more training, but plenty of people do it as volunteers. The average skill level is much lower than it is in clinics, even for practitioners with a license, because better skill lets people get better jobs than working on the street. The medical community tends to avoid tight supervision, because removing street nurses for practicing without a license means a lot of people would have NO care instead of marginal care; but they will intervene in case of complaints about especially bad service. A street nurse has to be pretty awful before people will complain to the authorities, precisely because getting them arrested means having no care at all.

Adverse drug reactions can occur for many reasons, some predictable and some not. In local-America, only a few specific genetic issues have been identified, but there are many of these and they cause a wide range of problems -- especially when medics refuse to listen to clients. In Terramagne, people with superpowers often react differently to drugs than ordinary people do. Some of these reactions are pretty consistent, like blue chamomile's soothing effects on superpowers or hallucinogens causing telepaths to broadcast uncontrollably, while others are erratic. Very little study has been done on the topic because superpowers are rare and diverse, and soups usually refuse to participate in studies. The biggest exception is Red Island in the Maldives, where redheads are actively researching some of their divergences, like needing more painkillers. So the general rule is that soups should minimize trying new drugs, due to the risk of ineffective or harmful results. This tool helps identify adverse drug reactions.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing
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