Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Caliber of People"

This poem is spillover from the July 2, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] fuzzyred. It also fills the "Six of Arrows - Transition" square in my 4-30-19 card for the Tarot Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] fuzzyred. It starts a new thread, Broken Angels, as a spinoff from Shiv in Polychrome Heroics.

"The Caliber of People"

[Friday, August 15, 2015]

Faster Blaster appreciated Boss White
giving him a boost over to Lincoln.

He couldn't stay in Omaha, since
he loved guns and Boss White
really didn't after the incident
with the disintegration beam.

So when Boss White had sold off
the last of that inventory, either to
the cops or the out-of-state dealers,
part of the take went to Faster Blaster
as the seed money for Lincoln.

Looking around his new town,
Faster Blaster soon realized that it
was in desperate need of a decent boss.

There weren't enough bathhouses or
nap pods in the parks, and those were
clustered in the better parts of town,
which left the worse parts with none.

No wonder Shiv would stay in
a shower 'til he turned into a prune.

So Faster Blaster had started off
by acquiring two pieces of property
that he would need to establish himself:
a house in a slightly run-down neighborhood,
and a vacant lot in a really run-down one
not far away from the intended lair.

Faster Blaster started his improvements
by placing a garbage can in the vacant lot.

Then he set about sprucing up the house,
which was shabby from lack of care
but sound under the peeling paint.

The basement, garage, and workshop
were crammed full of old junk, too.

Faster Blaster brought out day workers
to shovel the junk from the basement into
the other spaces for later sorting, and
to give the house a fresh paint job
including both outside and inside.

He furnished the bedrooms first --
master, guest, and flop room --
followed by his home office, with
more help from day workers.

He watched them carefully for
signs of promise, but none of them
showed interest in anything beyond
what he could pay for a day's work.

It wasn't until Faster Blaster bought
new appliances that he got the first nibble.

He was looking over the day workers in
the parking lot of the home improvement store
to pick someone to help horse the stuff into
the house when he spotted the twins.

Their dark skin and nappy hair made him
feel at home, and they both met his eyes,
unlike everyone else in the little cluster.

The girl shouldered her way to the front
and said, "You got work, mister? We're good
for it. I'm Bobbie and this is my brother Kato."

"Faster Blaster," he said. "Hop in -- it's
a bit of a squeeze. I rented this thing to haul
appliances, not people, and I wasn't expecting
to pick up more than one extra body this time."

"We work together," the twins chorused.

"I can see that," Faster Blaster said evenly.
He'd caught the odd little spark of energy
that some twins shared between them.

That settled them right down, and he
got home with no further hangups.

"What's up, boss?" Bobbie said
when he parked the pickup. "You got
a plan, or do you just want us to handle it?"

Oh yeah, Faster Blaster liked this chick.

"The washer, the dryer, and the chest freezer
go in the basement," he said. "I'll need to fix up
the spare kitchen down there, too, but I haven't
had time for that yet. So the stove, microwave,
dishwasher, and refrigerator go on the main floor.
The minifridge is for my office upstairs. We'll
install them in that order to conserve energy."

"Alrighty," said Bobbie as she bounded
out of the truck. "Let's get to work!"

"You got tools?" Kato said quietly.

"I have moving blankets, straps,
hand trucks, and other stuff in here,"
Faster Blaster said, opening the garage.
He grabbed one of the appliance-moving kits
and headed for the truck. "Let's wrap up
all the basement appliances first."

The twins stared at him for a moment
as he started wrapping the chest freezer.
"You're working with us?" Bobbie said.

"Well yeah," said Faster Blaster.
"It's my house. I just can't move
stuff this heavy all by myself."

"Around here, most employers
don't," Kato said. "Over at BOSS,
that Mr. Basswood is a real--"

"He pays good," Bobbie said.

Allen Basswood used to work
as a superhero by the name of
Power Sprout, but he had retired
years ago to raise a family.

Apparently he wasn't so popular
as a boss, even if he paid well.
That was worth watching.

"Where I'm from, a good boss
pitches in alongside his gang,"
said Faster Blaster. "Sometimes
Boss White does different things than
the rest of us because we all have
different skills, but he's not one
to sit around while everyone else
does the dirty work for him."

"Sounds nice," Kato said.

"Then let's see how I measure up,"
Faster Blaster said with a grin.

He was nervous, sure, but he
figured he could beat Mr. Basswood
without even breaking a sweat.

Faster Blaster and his crew
spent the morning hauling and
installing all the appliances.

Bobbie even poked at
the sad little kitchen with
its ancient, rusting equipment
and offered some suggestions
that Faster Blaster liked.

"I was lucky to find a place
this good that I could afford,"
he explained. "It just needs
a little love and care."

"Yeah, we got ourselves
a nice apartment over at
the Chambers," Bobbie said.
"It's a one-bedroom unit, so we
can shut the door if we need
to get away from each other."

Faster Blaster nodded and
backed out of the kitchen.

Then he announced, "Lunch
is on me," and ordered pizza.

It was good stuff, and he needed
the high-calorie fuel after expending
so much energy all morning long.

When the twins were squabbling
over the last few bits of sausage in
the empty boxes, Faster Blaster said,
"We still have plenty of daylight left
if you two want to keep going."

"We'll take whatever work we
can get," Bobbie said at once.

So Faster Blaster brought out
his project list. "I need to clean
the garage and the workshop,
get rid of any crap I can't use,
organize what I can use, make
a few amenities for my vacant lot --"

"Clean and organize things first,"
Bobbie said. "That way you'll
know what you have to work with."

"What kind of amenities?" Kato said.

"I already put out a garbage can,"
said Faster Blaster. "I want to add
a park bench and a picnic table --
preferably from salvaged materials, so
they don't stick out like a sore thumb."

He planned to add a bunkhouse
and a showerhouse, too, but that
would have to wait for later. He didn't
want to overwhelm people, so he would
have to install the amenities one at a time.

"We can build stuff like that," Bobbie said.
"Not today, though. I'm fast, but we'll be
lucky to empty one of your buildings."

Faster Blaster winked. "I'm faster."

Naturally that sparked a race.
Bobbie wasn't superfast, but she
was quite quick for an ordinary girl,
and she had staying power too.

Kato just left them to it and
hauled the heavier stuff.

At the end of the day,
they had cleaned out
the workshop and sorted
materials to keep around.

Faster Blaster would be able
to turn that into his gun workshop.

He liked tooling rifles and shotguns,
making his own ammunition, and
other clever customizations.

He hoped to add a 3D printer,
if he could find reliable blueprints
that wouldn't blow your hands off.
You couldn't beat a disposable gun
when it came to untraceability.

Plus he had a nice pile of junk
that could be repurposed.

Bobbie looked at the old door that
had come off the front of the house
when Faster Blaster replaced it
with a much more secure one.

"I could make a picnic table from
this, maybe put a game board in it,"
she said, fingering the window.

Kato had claimed a pile of lumber,
a Chevy tailgate, and some license plates.
"I can build a park bench with these."

"Tomorrow," Faster Blaster said gently.

Kato groaned. "I am so not looking
forward to the walk home tonight."

"You don't need to walk home,"
said Faster Blaster. "I can give you
a lift -- or you could just crash here.
The flop room is done, I just haven't
put the sheets on the beds yet."

"Flop room?" Kato said.
"What's that supposed to be?"

"A place for people to sleep,"
Faster Blaster said. "It's upstairs.
Come on, I'll show you, and then you
can make an informed decision."

The twins followed him
upstairs like a pair of puppies.

The flop room had two bunk beds,
twin-over-full with a built-in wardrobe.
Each of the beds had a big pile of
pillows, sheets, and comforter
still in their plastic wrappers.

Across from the beds,
four tall narrow dressers
stood along the wall.

"Eventually, those will
hold clothes that anyone
can use, or things belonging
to people who often sleep here,"
Faster Blaster said. "Make the beds,
and the room is yours for the night."

"Oh hell yes," Kato said before
Bobbie could voice an opinion.

"We still gotta get supper,"
his sister pointed out.

Faster Blaster was feeling
homesick as well as tired.

"Let's just split a slab of ribs
and some sides," he said.
"I'm dying for some soul food.
What's good here in town?"

The twins happily recommended
several restaurants that delivered.

Faster Blaster sprang for the ribs,
a bucket of turnip greens, another
of grilled peppers and onions,
some red beans and rice,
and a sweet potato pie.

The food was delicious and
filling after a hard day's work,
just what everyone needed.

The twins looked at him
like he just hung the moon.

One thing that Faster Blaster
had learned from Boss White
was that people you saved
would stay loyal forever.

Another thing was that
the measure of leadership
was the caliber of people
who chose to follow you.

Faster Blaster watched
his twins polish off the pie.

His gang was off to a great start.

* * *


Faster Blaster (Zachary "Zach" Johnson) -- He has short brown hair, brown eyes, and fair skin. He is tall and muscular. After serving as a lieutenant of the Ebonies & Ivories for Boss White in Omaha, Nebraska, Faster Blaster moved to Lincoln and started his own gang. Because Zach grew up in a ghetto with a lot of black friends, he is vehemently anti-racist. He has repeatedly gotten into fights with police harassing black people. He likes fast, snazzy cars and enjoys playing keyboard for jazz or blues.
Origin: Some Klansmen decided to haul him behind a truck for being a n*gg*r-lover. Zach tried to run, to avoid getting dragged to death -- and actually caught up to the truck. Then he opened the door and chucked out the driver.
Uniform: Street clothes, usually a dark top over blue jeans, with prescription sunglasses.
Qualities: Good (+2) Car Fan, Good (+2) Gang Boss, Good (+2) Gunplay, Good (+2) Keyboardist, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Criminal Record
Powers: Average (0) Super-Speed
Limitation: Zach lacks the visual compensation for Super-Speed, and needs Super-Gizmotronic glasses to compensate. He prefers tinted lenses to obscure his expression and appearance.
Motivation: Beat the crap out of racists.

Kato Glover -- He has dark mahogany skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair buzzed short. He is tall and wiry. He is the younger twin brother of Bobbie. They are 19 years old. They live in Lincoln, Nebraska where they serve as day workers doing whatever kind of odd jobs they can scrounge up. Kato is stronger and tougher; Bobbie is faster with more endurance. They both excel at teamwork, good with other people and even better with each other. However, Kato is reckless, sometimes because Bobbie pushes him into doing things that he should know better than to do, and other times because he just does whatever pops into his head. They have a large family, but none of their relatives have much money either. Kato is a bookworm who will read almost anything.
Origin: Bobbie and Kato developed their Twin Link in the womb.
Uniform: He wears practical men's clothes, often in dark colors. Given his love of books, Kato often wears clothes showing his favorite characters.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bookworm, Good (+2) Odd Jobber, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Teamwork, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Reckless
Powers: Good (+2) Twin Link
Bobbie and Kato can share each other's thoughts and feelings through their link. They don't share illness or injury, but can share energy to fight those. The link also gives them an upshift to any task they do together.
Motivation: Bobbie and Kato have the same motivation, to be there for each other.

Babirye "Bobbie" Glover -- She has dark mahogany skin, brown eyes, nappy black hair worn in shoulder-length finger coils. She is short and wiry. She is the older twin sister of Kato. They are 19 years old. They live in Lincoln, Nebraska where they serve as day workers doing whatever kind of odd jobs they can scrounge up. Kato is stronger and tougher; Bobbie is faster with more endurance. They both excel at teamwork, good with other people and even better with each other. However, Bobbie is pushy, sometimes talking Kato into doing things that he should know better than to do, and other times egging on anyone else she can find. They have a large family, but none of their relatives have much money either. Bobbie likes astronomy and sometimes goes out into the countryside to enjoy Nebraska's dark night sky.
Origin: Bobbie and Kato developed their Twin Link in the womb.
Uniform: On duty, she wears practical work clothes. Off duty, Bobbie loves astronomy and often chooses things with cosmic patterns.
Qualities: Good (+2) Astronomy Fan, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Odd Jobber, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Pushy
Powers: Good (+2) Twin Link
Bobbie and Kato can share each other's thoughts and feelings through their link. They don't share illness or injury, but can share energy to fight those. The link also gives them an upshift to any task they do together.
Motivation: Bobbie and Kato have the same motivation, to be there for each other.

Allen Basswood -- He has ruddy skin, dark blue eyes, and short ash-brown hair with a mustache and beard. He is big and tall. He is 45 years old. He spent ten years working as the superhero Power Sprout from age 15 to 25. Then he fell in love and retired to become a blue-plate landscaper, although he still thinks of himself as a superhero. Allen graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a major in Sustainability and a minor in the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program. He has four children: a son (19), a daughter (16), a son (12), and a daughter (8). He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska where he runs BOSS: Basswood Outdoor Sustainability Service. He pays well, but he makes a horrible boss.
Origin: As a teen, Allen started a lawn care business. He mixed his own agrochemicals, and an accident with them led to him developing Plant Powers. As a result of this, he no longer uses agrochemicals and instead uses all organic materials.
Uniform: On duty, he wears a henley with the BOSS logo over other work clothes. Off duty, he wears practical men's clothes, often in shades of blue.
Qualities: Good (+2) Ambitious, Good (+2) Intimidate, Good (+2) Landscaper, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Boss From Hell
Powers: Good (+2) Plant Powers
Motivation: Sustainable growth.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
In Terramagne, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a Sustainability Major. The core classes are sustainability focused, the electives can come from any sustainability-related options, and each student chooses one immersive experience. Students may also choose to specialize by taking 5 classes on a particular topic (Architecture and Engineering, Food, or People and Politics) beginning with the 3 focus classes and adding 2 electives.

CORE CLASSES (15 credits)
Each student must take all of the Core Classes.
METR 180 Environment, Energy and Climate Change 3
ENVR 201 Science, Systems, Environment and Sustainability 3
AGRI 282 Introduction to Global Agricultural and Natural Resources Issues 3
ENVR 334 Psychology of Environmental Sustainability 3
NRES 409/829 Human Dimensions of Natural Resources 3

One course should cover a topic in architecture or engineering.
AREN 102 Sustainable Buildings 3
CIVE 326 Introduction to Environmental Engineering 3
CONE 450/850 Sustainable Construction 3

FOOD CLASS (3 credits)
Students choose one class that covers food issues.
AECN 346 World Food Economics 3
ANTH 429A/829A Food Security: A Global Perspective 3
AGRO 439/839 Organic Farming and Food Systems 3

One class explores the challenges of sustainability in conflict with human wants and needs.
ENVR 249 Individual and Cultural Perspectives on the Environment 3
GEOG 450/850 Climate and Society 3
ANTH 476/876 Human Rights, Environment, and Development 3

ELECTIVES (13 hours)
Students choose electives from sustainability-related classes.
AGRO 361 Soils, Environment and Water Quality 3
ECON 340 Introduction to Urban-Regional Economics 3
ECON 389 Current Economic Issues 3
MNGT 414 Leadership in a Global Context 3
AGRO 427/827 Turfgrass Systems Management 3

Each student chooses a class that provides practical experience.
HORT 488/888: Business Management for Agricultural Enterprises (3 credits)
Crosslisted as AGRO 488/888, EAEP 488/888, ENTR 488/888, ABUS 488
HORT 488/888 requires the completion of a shadowing assignment and the analyses of case studies.
Research a specific agricultural enterprise. Develop and present a business plan using materials from the primary area of interest.

Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program Minor
Students declaring a minor in the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program should contact program director Tom Field at tfield2@unl.edu to schedule an advising appointment.

18-Credit-Hour Plan
EAEP 101 Introductory Seminar on Opportunities in Entrepreneurship 2
EAEP 275 / AECN 275 / AGRO 275 / ENTR 275 / HORT 275 Agribusiness Entrepreneurial Finance 3
EAEP 388 / ABUS 388 / AGRO 388 / ENTR 388 / HORT 388 Business Systems in Entrepreneurship 3
EAEP 488 / ABUS 488 / AGRO 488 / ENTR 488 / HORT 488 Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development 3
Credit Hours Subtotal: 11

Select 7 hours of the following: 1 7
AECN 225 / EAEP 225 / MRKT 225 Agribusiness Entrepreneurship in Food Products Marketing
AGRI 310 Study Tours in International Agriculture
EAEP 395 Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Internship
EAEP 496 Independent Study in Entrepreneurship
ENTR 321 / MNGT 321 Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Organizations
ENTR 322 / MNGT 322 Family Business
ENTR 421 / MNGT 421 Identifying and Exploring Entrepreneurial Opportunities
ENTR 422 / MNGT 422 Managing Rapid Growth and Change in Organizations
ENTR 423 / MNGT 423 Business Plan Development and Decision Making
AECN 471 Agricultural Marketing and Product Development I
AECN 472 Agricultural Marketing and Product Development II
Credit Hours Subtotal: 7
Total Credit Hours 18
Course List

* * *

"One measure of leadership is the caliber of people who choose to follow you."
-- Dennis A. Peer

Faster Blaster's lair is a house with a full-width front porch. The yard includes a large maple tree.

Note that the lair is not finished yet, and these pictures show the finished version. Most of the basement hasn't been done yet, just some new appliances are going in.

The basement stairs lead to the laundry room, patch room, and gym on one side; plus the workshop, family room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom on the other side. The laundry room has a washer, a dryer, and a chest freezer. The patch room includes an exam bed, a rolling stool, high-intensity lamps, and several carts of first aid supplies. The gym features a television cart in one corner, a heavy bag, free weights and weightlifting benches, a balance dome, gymnastic rings, box-jumping frames, a crossfit frame, a treadmill, a stationary bicycle, and exercise balls. The workshop includes cabinets, counters, and racks for storing household tools. The family room includes a black futon, a gray futon, and a ping-pong table. This view of the family room shows the cube shelves, dresser, and toy storage. The quote on the wall says "Take these broken wings and learn to fly." A dining table with matching chairs fills one end of the family room. The basement kitchen has a sink, stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, and a second washer-dryer set. The bathroom has a sink, toilet, and shower plus built-in shelves. The basement bedroom belongs to Cas and Hali. It includes a queen-size bed, end table, dresser, dressing rack, cedar chest, stacking bins of toddler clothes, toddler bed, and floor lamp.

Most of the main floor furniture hasn't arrived yet.

The foyer has the staircase going up to the second floor. The living room is filled with mismatched furniture including hardwood end tables, a trunk serving as a coffee table, two easy chairs, and a corner couch. There is also a woodstove. The dining room has a hardwood table and matching chairs. The kitchen features a sink, dishwasher, stove, microwave oven, and refrigerator. An island provides extra work space. The butler's pantry provides dish storage and another sink. The music room is what used to be the parlor, dressed up with salvaged materials including the stained glass window. It has a piano, some electronic equipment, and several chairs. The powder room has a sink, a toilet, and a medicine chest. The enclosed back porch has cube shelves and dressers for storage.

The upstairs is fully furnished already, as Faster Blaster started there.

A hallway connects the rooms on the second floor. The common bathroom at the landing has a sink with counter, a toilet, a medicine chest, and a bathtub with a fixed showerhead. The office at the front of the house includes a computer desk and chair, printer stand, minifridge, and other equipment. The bunkroom is on the left side of the house according to the street view. It has two twin-over-full bunks with four tall narrow dressers on the opposite wall. Each bunk includes a narrow wardrobe under the ladder for hanging clothes. The guest bedroom at the back of the house has a daybed facing a bookcase and a chair. The master bedroom is on the right side of the house according to the street view. It has a king-size bed, end tables, a cedar trunk, a rocking chair, an easy chair, and a dresser. The master bathroom has a sink, toilet, and shower.

The back of the house has an enclosed porch with a large deck. The back yard includes a small patch of lawn. A smooth concrete patio covers most of the space between the garage and the gun workshop, with a basketball hoop and a sandbox. A wooden fence separates the back yard from the alley, across which neighboring houses can be seen. An iron arbor leads to the gate. The gun workshop has windows and air conditioning. Inside, it features workbenches, lockers, gun safes, and gun racks. The garage fills the back left corner of the yard. Here you can see the patio beside the garage.

Faster Blaster's empty lot has a new trash can.

Ernie Chambers Affordable Housing has three residential floors above a retail floor. It is commonly called "the Chambers." See the elevation and ground floor plan. Each of the three residential floors has six 1-bedroom units and one 3-bedroom unit, for a total of 21 units. People in the 3-bedroom unit often use the front bedroom as a living room and the other two as sleeping rooms. See the bathroom, kitchenette, and bedroom of Bobbie and Kato's apartment.

A worker center provides a place for day workers to seek jobs and employers to find workers. These can be as elaborate as a whole building or as simple as a workstop. In T-America, people often set up a shelter and a porta-potty wherever the day workers naturally congregate, such as outside home improvement stores.

Browse some appliance moving supplies. These make it safer and easier to move heavy equipment.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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