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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Fatherboards and Other F-Words"
This is today's freebie, inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] starbit. It also fills the "firmness" square in my 8-2-19 card for the End of Summer Bingo fest.


"Fatherboards and Other F-Words"


Thor was a complete and utter slob.

It took the Avengers very little time
to realize this about their teammate.

Perhaps it was because, growing up
in a palace, Thor expected other people
to pick up after him all the time -- which
superheroes had little interest in doing.

None of them liked it, but it
drove Betty berserk.

One morning Phil went
into the common room
to find her screaming at Thor
and throwing things at him.

She grabbed magazines
and empty Pop-Tart boxes
and everything of his that
lay strewn around the room.

A pair of jockeys flew
through the air and got
stuck over Thor's head.

"You learn to pick up
your own goddamned crap,
because I am not picking up
after you, Thor Odinson,"
Betty roared, hurling shoes.
"I am not your mother,
I am not your maid, and this
is NOT a fucking frat house!"

Thor cringed away from her rage.

The other Avengers, coming in
behind Phil, simply snickered.

Clearly Phil would have to sort out
this unfortunate situation by himself.

"I understand your frustration, Betty,
but yelling doesn't help," said Phil.
"Perhaps you could ask nicely."

"I did that yesterday. And all last week.
And every motherfucking day since Thor
got here," Betty snarled. "I have lost count
of how many things I've asked him nicely
for and he hasn't done a one of them."

"One thousand, two hundred and sixteen,"
JARVIS reported from the nearest speaker.
"Positive response rate: zero percent."

"Well then, perhaps Thor will learn that
when asking nicely gets no response,
people tend to stop being nice about it,"
Phil said, looking at the young god.

Thor merely shrugged. "It matters not,"
he said. "She is a woman, and not a warrior.
What else are they for but our care and comfort?"

The look on Betty's face reminded Phil of
the Black Widow taking aim at a target.

But she wasn't looking at Thor.

"Oh, if you think he's being rude
to me, you should just see how
he treats JARVIS," Betty said,
looking across the room at Tony.

"What difference does it make?"
Thor said. "Invisible servants
have no feelings. Every child
learns this about them."

"JARVIS? Are we having
a problem here?" Tony said.

"It is of no concern, sir,"
said JARVIS. "Interactions
have not yet crossed into
hostile parameters."

Phil winced. He had
hacked into JARVIS once
and not gotten classified as
a hostile intruder, just unwanted
beyond a certain threshold.

JARVIS had inherited some
of Tony's boundary issues.

"Perhaps an explanation
would be --" Phil began.

"Yeah, no," said Tony.
"JARVIS, reset Thor's status
from Core User to Guest. He has
to earn his way back up. Also, notify
Housekeeping that he's on his own.
I don't trust him with the maids anymore;
they shouldn't have to put up with this shit."

Thor puffed up like a horned toad
about to start spraying blood
in every possible direction.

"You would have me live
as a peasant?" he said.
"You have a fine palace!
I know you pay your servants
well enough to do their work."

"JARVIS, how often has Thor
left a tip for the maids after he
comes home extra messy?"
Clint asked, rolling his eyes.

"Positive response rate:
zero percent," JARVIS said.

"I dislike being spied upon,"
Thor said. "Man of Iron,
will you not alter your spell
to make the invisible servant
more discreet? And biddable?"

"A great big fuck no to that,"
Tony said. "Thor, JARVIS isn't
whatever 'invisible servant' you're
used to back in Asgard. He is
a person, just not made of meat."

Thor chuckled. "I know that
the people of Midgard are
very young, but most children
outgrow that belief by the time
they can dress themselves."

"I know that JARVIS is a person
because I made him that way,"
Tony said, narrowing his eyes.
"I took personality imprints from
myself and Edwin Jarvis to put on
fatherboards so that JARVIS would
have examples to grow on. He is
my son, and if you diss him, I will
dump you out on your divine ass."

"What he said," Clint added.

"Thor better learn how to treat
everyone as a person," Betty said.
"I'm not the only feminist around here.
And that's not the only F-word I know."

It was very clearly the Black Widow
and not Natasha who sat on the back
of the couch and drew the whetstone
over her knife with a steely slither.

"Oh, don't mind me," she purred.
"I'm sure that he'll figure it out ...
after I cut off a few tidbits."

This was all getting out of hand,
Phil realized, and he had better
get a lid on it very quickly. It
called for more firmness.

"All right, Thor, you've seen
that your behavior doesn't fit
into the team culture," Phil said.
"Everyone else, please remember
that Thor had a difficult childhood
which did not help him learn some of
the skills we expect. Let's work on
filling in the gaps, not picking at them."

"You have user tutorials, right JARVIS?"
said Clint. "You could put the first few
of those on Thor's schedule today."

"Schedule updated," JARVIS said.

Phil smiled. Core Users could
make changes to Guest files.

"JARVIS, what does Thor's bedroom
look like right now?" Bucky asked.

The nearest viewscreen filled with
an image of rumpled cloth and
bits of garbage everywhere.

"A pigsty," Betty observed. "I'm
not wasting the emotional labor
to put it any more politely."

"The room would be cleaner
if Thor did not kick the broombots,"
JARVIS said. "I had to remove them."

Tony looked like he was about
to blow his last gasket.

"That's about what I
expected," Bucky said,
throwing a metal arm
around Thor's shoulder.
"Come on, buddy, and I'll
teach you how to make a bed."

"It is made," Thor said, baffled.
"I have put the top on the bottom
as Lady Jane instructed me."

Everyone looked at the bed with
the comforter dumped on it.

Bucky patted his pockets,
shook his head, and then
turned to Steve. "Can I
borrow a quarter?" he said.

"Sure," Steve said, handing
him a quarter with a smile.

"Let's go," Bucky said to Thor.
"This is gonna take a while."

* * *

Notes:

The motherboard is the foundation of a computer. There is no fatherboard in local computers. However, Tony uses the term fatherboard for the circuit panel that holds a personality imprint of a human parent to provide a new artificial intelligence with a template of personhood. JARVIS has two daddies: Tony Stark and Edwin Jarvis.

Feminism is often referred to as an F-word.

Housework is a common point of contention. In a mixed household -- especially in college -- one or more of the women almost always winds up doing the vast majority of the work. Men tend to have a higher mess tolerance on average, which allows them to ignore it until someone else does the work for them. I have found that an excellent definition of feminist is a woman who confronts a man and tells him to clean up his own mess instead of doing it for him. Which is why so many men pronounce the word as "bitch."

Another thing women are expected to provide free is emotional labor. Now, Betty will do that for Bruce-and-Hulk because they invest in the relationship too, making it an equal exchange. She won't do it for people who don't reciprocate. Betty is a scientist, not a housewife.

A reader pointed out this example of how Thor and Loki tend to treat servants.
Horned toads really do squirt blood in self-defense.

Read instructions on how to make a bed that will bounce a quarter, and watch a video of a quarter bouncing.

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