Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "More Listening Than Talking"

This poem is spillover from the July 2, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] gingicat, [personal profile] erulisse, [personal profile] kengr, [personal profile] siliconshaman, [personal profile] redsixwing, and rix_scaedu. It also fills the "Body Language" square in my 6-1-19 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"More Listening Than Talking"

[Friday, May 22, 2015]

Ansel and Turq sat on the porch
of Conrad's house, waiting
for the farrier to arrive.

Conrad had gone out
to the barns to wait with
the centaurs, who were
both excited and nervous.

Right on time, the farrier
pulled up in a white truck
whose back and sides
opened like wings.

The anvil swung out
on a sturdy steel bar,
supported by a leg.

There were racks of
horseshoes, cabinets
of tools, a little workstand,
and the portable forge.

"Hi, I'm John-Morgan,"
the farrier said to them.

"I'm Ansel and this is
my friend Turq," he said.
"My grandfather Conrad is
in the barn with the centaurs."

"I'll go tell everyone that
the farrier's here," Turq said,
and trotted toward the barns.

Soon the sound of hoofbeats
heralded the centaurs' arrival,
and Ansel made introductions.

"All right, who's going first?"
John-Morgan asked, looking up.

"Start with Arun, he's having
the most trouble," said Ansel.

"I'm scared," Arun said.

"All battles are fought by
scared men who’d rather be
someplace else," Dodge said,
and nudged him forward.

"Hey, it's okay," the farrier said.
"We can just chat first if you want.
I don't get many clients who can talk,
but I do my best to adapt. What
seems to be your problem?"

"My feet hurt," Arun admitted.
"My, uh, bottom half is thoroughbred
and Conrad says they have tender feet.
I do fine on stall mats or grass, but
concrete is uncomfortable and
gravel is downright awful."

"Well, that ain't right,"
John-Morgan said. He
patted a wooden stump.
"Put a hoof up here and
let me take a look at it --
I don't need to touch yet."

Arun put his left forehoof
on the block. "Now what?"

"Now I look for visible problems
and measure you," the farrier said.
"You've got decent hoof walls -- I
don't see any cracks or chips."
He measured with a ruler.

"Yeah, that's because I can't
stand hiking as much as some
of the other guys," Arun said.
"Wait until you see what Hobart
and Michann have done to theirs."

"Anyone else having that kind
of trouble?" John-Morgan said.

"I don't think so," Arun said.
"Most of us with tender feet are
sticking closer to home. Dodge
and a couple other girls have gone
all over the place, but for some reason
their hooves are holding up better."

"I'm a mustang, dumbass," said Dodge.
"Neta's an Oldenburg and Kim Van is
a fuckin' zebra. We can all handle
rough ground once we get used to it.
Your bottom half was bred to run on
racetracks, no wonder you're sore."

"I hate to say it, but she's right,"
John-Morgan replied. "A lot of
thoroughbreds need extra care
and protection for their hooves.
Care to show me your soles?"

Arun picked up his foot and let
the farrier examine it more closely.
"How bad is it, really?" he asked.

"Let me try a couple of things and
I'll tell you," John-Morgan said. "Okay?"

"Yeah, go ahead," Arun said.

John-Morgan used a hoof pick
and brush to clean off the sole,
but it didn't take much work -- Arun
didn't ramble around the farm enough
to cake his hooves with clay like Dodge.

The farrier poked gently at the sole,
and then frowned at Arun's twitch.

"Oh, that's not good," he said.
"Your sole shouldn't give under
my thumbs like that. We can
toughen it up some over time,
but you'll need extra protection."

"I'm scared of the hammer and nails,"
Arun admitted. "Conrad says that it
doesn't hurt because hooves are like
fingernails, but I'm so sensitive ..."

"Okay, let's test that first,"
John-Morgan said. "I'll use
the hoof pick to tap a few places,
and you tell me how it feels."

The first good tap made a flinch
ripple over Arun's entire side.

"Did that hurt?" John-Morgan said.

"Not exactly hurt ... it's more like
hitting a tooth on a coffee cup,"
Arun said. "It's uncomfortable."

"Well, if you had a bad bruise or
an abscess, it would really hurt, but
this is just sensitivity," the farrier said.
"I'm afraid horseshoe nails are out.
You'll need to use glue-on shoes or
removable boots. Got a preference?"

"I don't know yet," Arun said. "What
are they like? What do you recommend?"

"You need plenty of padding and traction,"
John-Morgan said. "Let me pull some samples
out of my truck. You can try on a few things,
and if I don't have exactly what you want,
I can order it from a supplier for you."

He brought out several tubs and
boxes packed with horseshoes,
along with a few other things.

"I have hoof strengtheners if you
want some," John-Morgan said.

Arun wrinkled his nose. "I'd rather
not go around reeking of turpentine."

"If it works, don't knock it," Dodge said.

"Hey guys, don't argue," Ansel said.
"It's okay to like different things."

"I've got tea tree oil, pine tar, and
a couple of different synthetics,"
John-Morgan told Arun.

"Synthetics?" Arun said.

"Yeah, these don't smell
as much as turpentine,"
said John-Morgan. "If you
want, I can paint up a hoof
in each to help you decide."

Arun's skin twitched, and
Turq ran a hand along
his back for reassurance.

"Okay," Arun said, and
offered John-Morgan a hoof.

It didn't take long to coat the soles.
Arun looked back and forth between
the two, then pointed at the right.
"That one, please," he said.

"Comin' right up," the farrier said.
"I'll write your name on the can."

Then he laid out some shoes.
"Here we got just the soles, which
might not give you enough protection,
and some different horse boots. These
are solid toe boots, and these are
ankle boots that have hinges."

"Which is better?" Arun asked.

"Depends on what you want,"
said John-Morgan. "Solid boots
are a bit sturdier but they don't go
as high, and the treads are thinner."

"I want the thicker treads," Arun said.
"The more cushioning, the better."

"I can add pads if you need them, too,"
John-Morgan said. "Okay, try these."

Arun quite liked the ankle boots,
although as before, he wanted
them to match his white socks
as well as his palomino feet.

"You will probably want
some galoshes for rain or
mud," John-Morgan said. "Also,
technically these are soaking boots
but they're waterproof and padded,
so they'd work as snow boots."

"It won't snow here for months,"
Ansel said. "However, we get
plenty of rain in spring and into
early summer. I recommend
the galoshes now, and maybe
the snow boots come fall."

"Okay, let's do that," Arun said.

John-Morgan wrote up the list
and handed over the package.

"Go walk around in your new boots,
and have your friends practice taking
them off and on," the farrier said. "If
you get stuck, just holler for me."

Arun clumped away, still tentative
on his new treads, but at least he
wasn't mincing around like it hurt.

"Okay, who's next?" said John-Morgan.

Charli came forward. "Can you fix it
so I don't slip on concrete floors?"
she asked. "My feet don't hurt,
but when I tried to go shopping ...
that was really embarrassing."

"Sure, I've got shoes for traction,"
said John-Morgan. "What kind
would you like, shoes that stay put
or ones like Arun's that come off?"

"I dunno," Charli said. "I would
love to have shoes I can change
to match the rest of my clothes,
but ... his are kind of ugly."

"Hoboy," said John-Morgan.
"Okay, remember that I'm just
a guy who shoes horses, and not
a boutique shoe salesman, so I
won't recognize brand names.
Can you describe the kinds of
shoes you like wearing before?"

"Leather sandals or boots when I
wanted to look classy. Sneakers
in fun colors and patterns for play,"
Charli said, then blushed. "When I
was little, I loved jellies, and they're
still my favorites for pool or garden."

John-Morgan rubbed his hands together.
"My job just got a whole lot easier,"
he said. "I have polyurethane soles
that glue on. I have rubber crumbs
in about a dozen colors, including
some with glitter. Either would
give you great traction indoors."

"These go on and stay on?"
Charli said, looking at them.

"That's the plan," said the farrier.
"If you step on one, though, you
can spring it just like a metal shoe."

Charli sighed. "I was hoping for
real shoes," she said, then gave
the boots a halfhearted poke.

"There are also sneakers made for
miniature horses," said John-Morgan.
"Some of those companies will do
customer orders in larger sizes.
I can show you a catalog, after
you pick out something for now."

"What about tacky glue?" Turq said.
"It's really strong, but when you click
the fob, it turns liquid again. I know you
have to be careful with some substances,
but polyurethane isn't on that list."

"Let's check that," said John-Morgan.
He used a rugged tablet computer
to visit the manufacturer websites.
"Yep, tacky glue is safe for use with
polyurethane. The shoemakers
aren't advertising it but it's there
in customer reviews from farriers."

"What colors do you have?" Charli said.

"I've got the polyurethane soles in clear,
tan, and blue today," John-Morgan said.
"They're a lot cheaper than Arun's boots,
so you could get several sets if you want."

"One of each, please," Charli said.
"I'll want the sneaker catalog too."

"Give me your vdress and I'll send
you some links," said John-Morgan.
"Oh hey, I forgot -- I have a few pairs
of leather lace-ups in here somewhere."

He rummaged in a tub and came up
with something in tan leather that
looked almost like normal shoes.

"I want those too," Charli said, then
looked over her shoulder. "Can I?"

"Don't worry too much about the cost,"
said Conrad. "Victim Restitution has
been generous, so get what you want."

"You need to feel good about yourself,
not just keep your feet safe," Ansel said.
"Don't go hog-wild, but a few pairs of
glue-ons and the leather set is fair.
Maybe some sneakers for later."

"I got tacky glue and fobs for it
in my workshop," Conrad said.
"Let me grab some for you."

"While he's doing that, does
anyone else want synthetics?"
John-Morgan asked the herd.

Dodge and Neta exchanged
a look. "We could use galoshes,"
said Dodge. "Not for everyday,
but for the rain or for shopping."

"I like little boots," Kim Van said,
pointing at the solid toe boots.
"For rough trails, maybe?"

"They'd help on rugged trails,"
Ansel said. "Are you having trouble?"

"Not yet, but ..." Kim Van looked at Arun.

"Ah, an ounce of prevention is worth
a pound of cure," Ansel said, nodding.

"Go on, punkin, get whatever you like,"
Conrad said as he set down the tacky glue
and a box of fobs. "Look at the catalog
for sneakers while you're at it, too."

Everyone gathered around
to watch John-Morgan glue
the blue shoes on Charli.

When he was done, she
pranced around the driveway.
"They feel like real shoes!"

"Alrighty then, you're set,"
John-Morgan said. "Next?"

Miriam sidled up and said,
"I don't want to get stuck
going barefoot, but it's hard
for me to let anyone touch me.
Lilita's got the same problem,
only she tries to be good.
Can you do anything for us?"

"Sure can," said John-Morgan.
"It sounds like the main thing
that you need is respect,
not just some shoes."

"If only," Miriam muttered.

"I hear you've had a rough past,
but we can start fresh," he said.
"Respect is all about making people
feel important. That means show you
care, and do more listening than talking."

Miriam took a tentative step forward.
"I guess that'd be nice," she said.

"First, we'll need to find out if
your hooves are in good shape or
you need a trim," said John-Morgan.
"Everyone else has been pretty good."

"You can look, but don't touch,"
Miriam said, setting a hoof
on the wooden block.

John-Morgan looked,
measured it, then fetched
a tray filled with wet clay.
"So far so good," he said.
"Now step in this stuff."

Miriam carefully pressed
her hooves one at a time
into the layer of soft clay,
leaving perfect imprints.

"A little rough in places,
but nothing that requires
trimming," John-Morgan said.
"I've got just the thing for you.
Here, pick out a color, or colors
if you want to mix 'em up."

He showed her the set
of rubber crumbs.

"Gray and lavender,"
Miriam said, pointing.

"Those should match
your favorite eye shadow,"
Ansel said with a smile.

"You noticed," she said,
startled by the observation.

"I'm a cop, it's my job to notice
things," Ansel said. "It's also
my job to help you adjust to
your new life. That includes
reflecting back your choices."

"It helps," Miriam said.

Meanwhile John-Morgan
had mixed up a tray of crumbs
and filled another one with glue.

"Okay, first you step in the glue,
then you step in the crumbs,"
he explained. "I'll tell you when
to lift up and put your foot on
this paper to tamp the crumbs."

Carefully Miriam followed instructions,
and came out with a neat little shoe
that covered the rim of her hoof and
then lapped up the toe a little bit.

"It feels funny, but it looks cool,"
she said, wiggling her hoof.

"It'll feel better once you've got
all four on so that you're not
standing offset," the farrier said.

It took a few minutes to finish
the other three, and then Miriam
moved around the driveway as
the other centaurs had done.

"See anything you like, Lilita?"
John-Morgan asked her.

"I like the slippers," she said,
pointing to the pink ones.

"Okay, those go on and stay on,
and it only takes a couple minutes,
but I'd have to fit them on you myself,"
John-Morgan said. "See the tabs
on top? I have to fold those so
they fit your hooves just right.
Could you handle that?"

Arun trotted back to them.

It was the first time Ansel had
seen him move faster than a walk
since the day of the rescue, so
the boots must be working.

"You can hold onto me if
that would help," Arun offered.

"Okay," Lilita said. "I'll try.
"I really want the smooth ones."

It took a minute for them to find
a comfortable position that didn't
get in John-Morgan's way and would
keep him safe from instinctive kicking.

"Ah, you've got a chip here on the front,"
said John-Morgan. "Let me file it down
for you first. This shouldn't hurt."

The sound alone was enough
to make Lilita's tail swish, though,
and she clung to Arun for support.

When John-Morgan put the glue on,
she nearly glued her foot to the ground
by pulling loose and stepping away.

"Whoops, let me wipe that off real quick,"
he said, grabbing a shop rag. "There.
Now we'll just try this again ... okay.
Take a look and tell me what you think."

Lilita looked down at the dainty pink shoe
capping her toe. "I like it," she said.

"Then I'll do the rest," the farrier said.

Meanwhile, Charli and Kim Van
had found sneakers that they liked.

Both of them wanted a set of
red-white-and-blue ones.
Charli also picked some
with rhinestone toes, and
and Kim Van went with
metallic rainbow ones.

"Hey Dodge, they have
house slippers that look like
cowboy boots," said Charli.
"You interested in those?"

"Let me see," Dodge said
as she hurried to look. "Yep."

"They have sock boots,"
Kim Van said, then turned
to Conrad. "Okay on rugs?"

"Should do," Conrad agreed.

Kim Van had lined her stall with
seagrass mats covered in woven rugs
imported from Vietnam, so she wouldn't
want rigid shoes to wear down the fibers.

"Will any of these things stand up to
superpowers?" Turq wondered.

"Maybe, maybe not," the farrier said.
"It depends on the superpower and
what people do in their shoes. If these
don't hold up well enough, I'd suggest
trying krevel instead. But that stuff costs
an arm and a leg, even before you have
to pay for custom construction. Start
with these and see what people like."

"That makes sense," Turq said.
"Could you, um, maybe ..." He
shook his head. "Nevermind. Later."

The last two centaurs in the group
wanted to try metal shoes. Hobart
was a small Morgan, Michann was
a large quarter horse, and both of
them had hooves shredded by
clambering over rugged trails.

Sadly, not everyone had hooves
as tough as Dodge, Neta, and Kim Van.

"Welp, that's gonna take some work,"
John-Morgan said, looking at the chips
along the edges of Michann's hooves.

"Yeah," Michann said. "That's why
we want metal shoes. They should
stand up better and protect our feet."

"If they'll stay on," John-Morgan said.
"Let me see how far up the chips go.
If you're just breaking off a crappy edge
and it's solid higher up, you'll be fine.
Otherwise it'll be boots or glue."

Michann sighed. "I figured.
Go ahead and test it, then."

John-Morgan cleaned the hoof,
trimmed it, and filed it smooth.

"Yeah, you're fine," he said.
"Sometimes hooves that don't
get enough wear will build up
a weak edge that spalls down
to the tougher part. Ready
for the percussion test?"

"Okay," Michann said.

As soon as John-Morgan
rapped on the hoof with a pick,
Michann heaved a happy sigh
and leaned into the pressure.

"You like that?" the farrier said,
looking up at the big centaur.

"It's fantastic," Michann said.
"When you do that, I can feel it.
Not just in my foot, it goes up
through my bones so I can
tell where my whole body is."

"Ah, a pressure junkie,"
John-Morgan said. "Me too!
That's why I love using a hammer.
It echoes up my arm into my body."

"So, do my other feet now?" Michann
was almost dancing in place, eager.

"Yeah, yeah, stand still so I can get
a grip, buddy," said John-Morgan.
"Do you like brushing, too?"

"I love it," said Michann.
"Some of the brushes are
too soft for my taste, though."

"Soft ones are for sensitive skin,"
said John-Morgan. "Stiffer bristles
will give you more stimulation."

He finished trimming the other feet,
then said, "Hot shoeing or cold shoeing?"

"What's the difference?" Michann said.

"Hot shoeing lets me shape the shoe
more precisely, and it will meld with
your hoof real well," said John-Morgan.
"Cold shoeing means you don't have
to put up with the smoke and fire."

"I really want those shoes
to stay put," Michann said.
"Let's do the hot shoeing."

"All right," John-Morgan said,
then set to work making the shoes.

The air shimmered with heat above
the portable forge, and the hammer
sang out against the anvil as he
beat the bright metal into shape.

Soon John-Morgan set the first shoe
against Michann's hoof, raising
a cloud of smoke. Then he
knocked the nails into place.

"That feels amazing," Michann said
as he watched the farrier work.

"Good, because we'll be doing
this again in four to six weeks,"
said John-Morgan. "In between,
after your groom cleans your hooves,
he can tap on the rim like I did earlier.
If there's a sore spot, it needs extra care,
but it should feel like it did today."

"Fantastic," Michann said. When
the hoof was released, he set it down,
first cautiously and then more firmly.
"Wow! That feels really different."

"Better or worse?" John-Morgan said.

"Better," Michann said firmly. "It feels
like I'm standing on something solid now."

"Okay, great," said John-Morgan.
"Let's do the next shoe now."

He worked his way around
Michann until all four hooves
were clad in gleaming metal.

Michann pranced up and down
the driveway, grinning at the farrier.

"He sure looks happy," Turq said.

"Some horses love getting new shoes,"
said Conrad. "My Clydesdales are like that,
too. It's like taking a lady to a shoe store --
as soon as she gets 'em on her feet,
she wants to go show 'em off."

The last centaur in the group was
Hobart, who listened to the farrier's pitch
with half an ear, then said, "I can take it."

"This isn't about taking it," said John-Morgan.
"This is about making your feet comfortable.
If something hurts, I need to know that.
I only drive a hot nail about once a year,
but some hooves have hidden variations
so there's always a chance. If that does
happen, I'll have to pull the shoe off,
or you'll just feel worse and worse."

"Hobart, mind the farrier," said Conrad.
"He'll take good care of you if you let him,
but remember he's new to shoeing centaurs."

"Yeah, yeah," Hobart said. He was flightier
than Michann, but he let John-Morgan
look at his hooves and trim them.

Hobart didn't enjoy the hammering
the way Michann had either, but it
didn't bother him and he stayed put
while John-Morgan nailed the shoes on.

What he did like was the crisp clip-clop
of his newly shod hooves against the ground.

The other styles of horseshoe sounded
much softer than the metal ones.

"Anyone else?" John-Morgan said.

"Not yet," Arun said, shaking his head.
"We all needed or wanted shoes and
thought we could handle it. The others
either aren't as urgent or want to wait
and see how it goes with us first."

"Hang out for a bit and see
if anyone wants to follow up
after the early adopters show off
their new shoes," Ansel suggested.

"I can do that," said John-Morgan.
"You folks paid for the whole day."

It took long enough to shoe
even one horse that booking a day
for a herd of centaurs made more sense
than trying to figure out exact hours.

"So um, now the centaurs are done ...
have you ever worked with hooves
other than horses?" Turq asked.

"Well, I put shoes on a zebra once,
because he was trained to pull a cart,"
said John-Morgan. "Damn thing bit me
and then wouldn't let go! I had a bruise
the size of my fist for weeks. Anyhow,
I trim my neighbor's goats. It's not hard.
What were you wondering about?"

"I'm a shapeshifter," Turq said.
"One of my other forms is a teal deer.
I don't know if those hooves need care
or if I can basically just ignore them."

"That depends on the ground,"
John-Morgan said. "Wild deer don't
need hoof care, but then neither do
wild horses. Their hooves wear down
on their own. In captivity, that doesn't
always work, so they might need a trim.
I can take a look at yours, if you like."

"Yes, please," Turq said.
"I'd like to know how they look."

That was an encouraging sign.
Turq got skittish about medical care,
or any personal care, but maybe this
was different enough to bother him less.

Then again, maybe not.

Turq changed easily enough,
but the teal deer wouldn't let
the farrier anywhere near him.

"This isn't working," John-Morgan said.
"No point pushing yourself too hard.
Let's just try a different approach."

He brought out another clay tray.
Only after the farrier backed away
would the teal deer approach,
but he left a tidy set of tracks.

John-Morgan took a look
at them, and then consulted
something on his tablet computer.

"Your feet look fine," he said.
"If you worry about proper wear,
then make a point to walk over
rough stone, or get yourself
a boulder to climb on. It works
like an emery board for fingernails."

"Oh yeah," Ansel said. "Grandma
has rockpiles for her squirrel goats,
along with picnic tables and stuff.
Those goats sure love to climb!"

Turq shifted back to human form.
"Sorry the teal deer was so skittish,"
he said to John-Morgan. "Sometimes
it's hard to carry intent from one form
to another. They think differently."

"And a deer isn't domesticated,"
the farrier said. "No problem.
You and the centaurs might want
to explore ideas together, though.
They could use a walking track."

"What kind of track?" Conrad said.
"We've been working out what facilities
the centaurs want and need here."

"Ever hear of a paddock paradise
for horses?" John-Morgan said.

"Sure have, but I've got enough room
here that they don't need it," Conrad said.
"Mine already make their own trails."

"What's a paddock paradise?" Turq said.

"It's way of making a small farm more
like natural habitat for wild horses,"
said John-Morgan. "You mark out
trails, then add different textures --
cobblestones, tree roots or branches,
a sandpit, a watering hole, and so on.
Spread out places with food, too."

"Oh, like a sensory trail in a park,"
Turq said. "I love walking on those."

"You know, if we made a sensory trail here,
then everyone could share it," Ansel said.
"Humans, centaurs, shapeshifters, goats,
horses, pigs -- it would be interesting."

Conrad snorted. "Especially after
the livestock adds a few 'landmines'
to the footing along the trail."

"It's not that much different
than a shared-use path where
people ride horses," said Turq.
"You just have to pay attention
to where you put your feet, and
that's the whole point anyhow."

"We could help," Arun said earnestly.
"We're strong. We could carry stuff
to surface the trail, or whatever."

"I can scout trails," Turq offered.

"Everyone can do that," Ansel said.
"We can map out possible routes
and take advantage of textures
already in place, like creeks and
tree roots, so that we don't have
to import everything from a store."

"Plenty of opportunity there,"
Conrad said. "We got trails that
don't get much traffic because
they're so rugged underfoot."

"I have some favorites," Dodge said.
"Michann and Hobart like different ones."

"Maybe make sections with different levels
of difficulty," Ansel said. "We don't want
to make it boring for the tougher folks, but
we don't want to hurt tender feet either."

"So like ..." Turq grabbed a stick and
began tracing in a patch of dust. "If we
make a figure-eight, then the outer loop
could be the hard part, and if you don't want
to go there, you just cut across the middle."

"That's one good option," Ansel said.
"Another is a cloverleaf where each loop
has its own challenge level, and you can
do one or several starting from the stem."

"How long a trail do we need?" Turq asked.

"A horse walks about four miles an hour,"
Conrad said. "So we would need at least
a mile of trail for warming up or cooling down.
At four miles, it could serve a whole workout."

"We might look for a place where we can
put the textured trail near some smooth ones
for running at faster speeds," Ansel said.

"Or an obstacle course," Conrad said.
"That would offer even more challenge."

"We talked about barrel racing and agility
before," Lilita said. "Maybe a walking trail
with textures would give us an easier start?
We were cooped up for years, and that's
why some of us have hoof problems."

"Good point," Ansel said. "We could
start out with an easy loop and then
add challenges later to keep it fun."

"Start with sand, packed clay, and grass,"
John-Morgan suggested. "A creek or
mud puddle would be good too. If you
want to splurge, then you could lay down
some sandstone pavers for hoof wear, but
you'll have to buy extra-thick ones so
they don't break under the weight."

"Save the cobblestones and logs
for later, after people learn to walk
on uneven ground without tripping?"
Conrad said. "Ayup, that should work."

Ansel eyed the fence where a cluster of
unshod centaurs watched the farrier.

"Okay, let's team up," he said. "Turq,
Dodge, you two can organize the people
who want to scout trails. Arun, you and I
will make a list of folks who want to do
trailblazing work like hauling the sand.
Anyone else want a specific job?"

"Lilita and I are good with pictures
and patterns," said Charli. "We
could see about mapping trails."

"If anyone wants to carry
a smartphone along the trails,
we can use GPS," Ansel said.

"I've got some aerial photos of
the farm," Conrad said. "I'll get
those for you, then look up prices
for supplies that we might need.
Since the trail is mostly for you folks,
I'll let you decide what footing you want."

"It shouldn't cost much," Turq said. "You
have most of what we need, if we move it."

"Up to you," Conrad said. "I don't mind
chipping in because it improves the farm --
I can use the receipts come tax time."

"All right, that's a plan," Ansel said.
"Let's get to it." Turning to John-Morgan,
he lowered his voice. "If we get out
of the way, I think you might have
a few more customers coming."

John-Morgan looked at the fence
where Pogonip stood, with Ariel
fluttering nervously behind her.

"Well, that's what I get for doing
more listening than talking,"
the farrier said with a smile.

* * *


This poem is long, so the notes appear separately.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, safety, writing
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