Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Their Own Capacity"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, inspired by conversation with [personal profile] kyleri. It also fills the "Blood" square in my 10-1-19 card for the Fall Festival Bingo. It has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] fuzzyred. This poem belongs to the Broken Angels thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.  It falls between "One of the Necessities of Life" and "A Broad Health and Moral Education."

Warning: This poem contains intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which may be spoilers. It features the aftermath of a beating, reference to gaybashing, a gay prostitute (who likes his job), homophobia, negotiation about gang membership, statement of intent to use superpowers against gaybashers, messy medical details, cross-orientation male-male cuddling for comfort, insecurity, queer romance fiction, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Their Own Capacity"

[Thursday, November 5, 2015]

Faster Blaster hitched the bag
of books a little higher on his hip.

A toy store was having a sale,
so Edie had volunteered to take Hali,
provided that someone else restock
the Little Free Library in the park.

Ever since it had gone up,
they had to reload it several times
a week, because more people
took books out than put them in.

Edie assured him that was normal,
and when people got used to it,
they'd start returning more.

So Faster Blaster had a bag
of books for adults, while Cas
had the ones for children.

Sure enough, when they got
to the park, someone had
his head and shoulders
in the Little Free Library,
emptying the bottom shelf.

The Hispanic boy had
caramel skin and soft edges,
not someone that Faster Blaster
recognized, but his plain clothes
fit in with the neighborhood.

"Hey, Amando," said Cas.

Amando popped out of
the Little Free Library with
an armload of books, including
a copy of Harmony in Pink
with a cute guy on the cover.

"Hey, Cas," he said. When
he turned to face them, they
could see the black eye starting
to bloom over his left cheek.

"Holy crap, what happened?"
Cas said. "Client problems again?"

"Nah, they weren't paying customers,"
Amando said. "They just didn't like
the looks of me. You know how
gaybashers get sometimes."

"Yeah, I know," Cas said.
His voice dropped to a whisper.
"Okay. Okay, I can do this.
I know how to do this."

"Anyhow, I figured I'd
stock up on books so I'll
have something quiet to do
while I wait for the bruises
to fade," Amando said.

"Come on back to my place
and let me fix you up
a bit," Cas offered.

"You don't have to be
such a mother hen,"
Amando said.

"I'm not," Cas said.
"I've been taking
first aid classes
and everything."

So far he'd done
a babysitting class and
one for basic first aid
that Mrs. Dr. Finn found.

Faster Blaster wouldn't
push him, but it looked like
Cas might make a good patcher,
if he could learn to relax a little.

It would be interesting to see
if he could talk Amando
into going along with it.

"Here, put your books down
for a minute and let us refill
the library," Cas said. "Then
I can carry them for you."

"Fine," Amando said.
He set down the books
with a wince that made
Faster Blaster think the boy
would take them up on it.

Cas made short work of
placing the children's books,
then stepped aside to let
Faster Blaster stock up
the adult books while
Cas took Amando's set.

When they headed back
toward the lair, Amando
tagged along with them.

Score one for Cas.

"Do you want to tell me
about it?" Cas asked.

"What's to tell?" Amando said
with a shrug that made him
wince again. "Some guys
beat me up for being queer.
It's nothing new, Cas."

"A huge part of what animates
homophobia among young people
is paranoia and fear of their own capacity
to be gay themselves," Faster Blaster said.

"Yeah, but they shouldn't get away
with it," Cas said. "That sucks."

"We're working on that,"
Faster Blaster murmured.
"It takes time, is all. Lincoln
has been running wild a while."

Amando snorted. "Is this where
you offer me 'protection' if I give you
most of what I make? 'Cause thanks
but no thanks, I work hard for a living
and I need every penny I make."

"Sadly, no, that's not a service
I can offer at the present time,"
Faster Blaster said. "So far I have
the button twins and a patcher in training,
but no muscle and no bodyguards yet."

"Oh," said Amando. "Guess I shouldn't
have snapped at you like that, then."

"Well, you don't know me, and I'm
hardly impressed with the local gangs,"
Faster Blaster said. "What I can do
for you is let you work on my turf, where
it's getting safer as fast as I can make it."

Amando narrowed the eye that wasn't
already swelling shut. "In exchange for?"

"We'll work something out later,"
said Faster Blaster. "I suggest that
you talk with the other members and
see what you think of their arrangements."

"That's ... not a bad idea," Amando said.

Faster Blaster had no active plans
to set up a string of prostitutes, but he
knew that getting laid tended to keep
people calmer, and it paid well,
so he wasn't opposed either.

What he did want was to make
Lincoln a place where people would
think three times before deciding that
gaybashing was an okay thing to do.

If he found out who'd done it,
he'd take them for a little trot
until they puked, and see how
they liked being manhandled
by someone more powerful.

"Here we are," Faster Blaster said
as they reached their house.
"Let's get you downstairs --"

"Let's not," Cas interrupted.
"The kitchen kit should be plenty."

Ah. Cas had wigged out a bit
when he first saw the patch room.
He might not be the only one who
got twitchy about such things.

"Kitchen it is," Faster Blaster said,
opening the door. They took off
their coats. "You boys can use
the dining room table for this."

"Yes, boss," said Cas. He darted
ahead to grab some dishtowels, which
he spread on the table. "Here, this'll
give us a clean place to work."

Amando settled gingerly into
the chair and leaned on the towels.

Faster Blaster collected the main kit
and the smaller one they were building
from herbal and other natural supplies.

Back at Blues Moon, Heron had explained
that soups often responded differently
to things than naries did. Some found
that synthetic drugs worked better for
them, while others got better results
from natural products. So ideally,
you needed to stock both kinds.

Faster Blaster put both boxes
on the table and stepped back.

"Okay, I can see the bruising
on your face," Cas said. "Do
you have any other injuries?"

Amando sighed. "Yeah, they
punched my ribs and my back too."

"Anything feel broken?" Cas said
as he carefully ran his hands across
Amando's body. "I'm not finding
signs of serious injuries."

"Nah, just bruised,"
Amando said. "I was
going to grab some ice
and crash for a few hours."

"That's a plan," Cas said.
"Boss, would you go grab
the Green Beans of Healing?"

Faster Blaster chuckled.
They had gotten some bags
from a food box, but Bobbie had
warned him that this batch was
inedible, so they'd been repurposed.

He took out the white bags that
once read Green Beans in black text,
which had been drawn over with
marker in a thick red cross.

Wrapping each one in
a flour-sack towel, he took
them into the dining room.

"Hold still," Cas murmured as he
dabbed numbing antiseptic over
the bloody scrapes and the dark,
swollen bruises on Amando's cheek.

He followed that with a gel that had
arnica and comfrey in an aloe base.


Faster Blaster recognized it --
that was a good stuff, and
conventional first aid didn't
have much for healing bruises.

"Okay, ice your face first," Cas said.
"Pull up your shirt and I can start
working on the other bruises."

"Easier to take it off,"
Amando said, and then
peeled off the gray T-shirt.

Faster Blaster could see why he
attracted clients -- Amando had
soft padding over a masculine chest,
and both nipples were pierced with
bars that held arcs of balls and spikes
of some rainbow-colored metal.

The caramel skin was blotched
with darkening bruises down
the left side, and a few more
bleeding scrapes on the right.

"I will get these cleaned
right up for you," Cas said,
and repeated the same steps.

"Thanks," Amando said.
"Face feels better already."

"Good," said Cas. "Lean
forward and I'll check the back."

Amando slumped onto the table,
and Cas blotted over the bruises
that smudged across his back.

"Okay, you can put your shirt
back on," Cas said, helping
him into it. Amando was
visibly starting to stiffen up.

The patch room had
some muscle relaxants,
but Faster Blaster would
wait to see what Cas said.

"How much pain are you in?"
Cas asked. "A bit, some, tons?"

"More than I want to keep
feeling," Amando muttered.

So he probably didn't need
the heavy stuff. That was good.

"Any allergies, or things you
just don't like?" Cas said.

"Nah, I'm not picky,"
Amando said. "I'll take
whatever you've got."

"Boss, would you get us
a small glass of water?"
Cas asked, turning to him.

"Sure," said Faster Blaster.

He filled a juice glass, and
when he got back, Cas handed
Amando two packets of pills.

"Here, take this one now.
If you still feel sore after
half an hour, take these too,"
Cas said. "Alternating them
makes it less likely you'll get
queasy. You know not to use
aspirin, right? It thins the blood."

"Yeah, I know," Amando said.
He fumbled open the first packet
and swallowed the two pills.

"Okay, we're done here,"
Cas said. "You wanna
stretch out on the couch?"

"Maybe," Amando said,
looking over his shoulder.

"Nap if you like," Cas said.
"If you still feel crummy after that,
you can move to a futon downstairs,
or even my bed. I don't mind sharing."

"Man, I'd love a cuddle but I don't want
to risk elbows right now," Amando said.

"I hear you," Cas said. "Get comfy
while I clean up in here, okay?"

Amando shuffled off to the couch.

Faster Blaster watched as Cas
packed up the first aid supplies,
then put a pot of milk on the stove.

"Cooking something?" he asked,
drifting over to watch Cas work.

"Mexican hot chocolate," Cas said.
"It's a favorite comfort drink, plus
it makes a good source of iron."

Faster Blaster watched him
bring out the cocoa powder,
clinical-grade dark chocolate,
and the superfood powder
that Cas used instead of
chocolate milk powder.

With that much warm milk
and chocolate in him, Amando
would probably be out like a light.

"Sounds good," Faster Blaster said.

"You really think so?" Cas said,
twisting a dishcloth in his hands.
"I hope I'm doing okay, I mean, I'm
trying but I'm still really new at this."

Faster Blaster squeezed his shoulder.
"You're doing great," he said. "People
often underestimate their own capacity."

"Thanks," Cas said, and began spooning
things into the fragrantly steaming milk.

When he finished, he poured the chocolate
into several cups, passing one to his boss
before carrying the others into the living room.

"Oh! You didn't have to --" Amando said.

"I know. I wanted to." Cas handed him
a cup. "You've had a rotten day. I thought
chocolate might help you feel better."

"Mmm." Amando savored the steam,
then took a careful sip. "Wow."

Faster Blaster sampled his own,
and agreed with the opinion.
It was rich but not heavy,
gently spiced and soothing.

He settled in the easy chair.
After hiking to the park to stock
the library, he deserved a break.

And chocolate. Definitely chocolate.

Amando had taken one end of
the L-shaped couch. Now Cas
piled up a few cushions and said,
"This should give you enough padding
that you can lean against me if you like."

Amando shuffled the cushions a bit
and then snuggled against Cas.

Casually Cas picked up
Harmony in Pink and
opened to the first page.

"When Cruz first saw
the new musician who had
moved in next door, his breath
caught in a full rest," Cas read.
"Fran was slim and handsome in
a shirt of ivory silk whose ruffles
caressed his smooth caramel skin ..."

Faster Blaster smiled and sipped
his chocolate. He wasn't gay,
but he liked a good story.

Amando sighed, snuggling
closer to the tall boy.

Cas might underestimate
his own capacity, sure, but
Faster Blaster knew better.

* * *

Notes:

Amando de Lugo -- He has caramel skin, black eyes, and short wavy black hair. He has a long heart-shaped face with a softly rounded body. He wears a tunnel in each earlobe and a wide ring in each nostril. His nipples are pierced with elaborate rainbow studs. His heritage is Hispanic. He speaks English and Spanish. He is 18 in 2015 when the Broken Angels are starting up. Amando lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. He works as a gay prostitute, mostly serving closeted men along with a few single gays. Unfortunately being Hispanic, gay, and sweet-faced makes him a target for many bigots and other bullies. Amando enjoys writing graffiti and often hangs out at the Lincoln trainyards. He is particularly good at long-distance collaborations, adding flourishes around the edges of other people's art. He also excels at rasquachismo, doing more with less, a key part of Chicano art. Amando has no fashion sense, though. He dresses in simple clothes, usually shades of black, gray, and white with occasional touches of color. Typically he relies on his friends to help him choose clothes.
Qualities: Good (+2) Graffiti Artist, Good (+2) Intrapersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Mellow, Good (+2) Prostitute, Good (+2) Rasquachismo
Poor (-2) Preferred Target

* * *

"A huge part of what animates homophobia among young people is paranoia and fear of their own capacity to be gay themselves."
-- Dan Savage

Little Free Libraries are wonderful things, but local America seems to hate them. Read about them and build your own. These are ubiquitous in T-America.

(These links are disturbing.)
Homophobia can lead to gaybashing. Try to minimize the risk of getting hurt in a fight. Gaybashing is under-reported because many queerfolk have had negative interactions with police. Some activists recommend learning self-defense, but this may not help with gaybashing. Queer-defense classes may account for such challenges, as in this krav maga class that addresses multiple opponents. Other activists recommend heavy weaponry instead. On a wider scale, society should take steps to reduce violence against queerfolk. Faster Blaster is of the opinion that gaybashers are legitimate targets who should be stopped with as much force as necessary.

Conventional first aid for bruising is pretty minimal, and a black eye needs more attention. Fortunately, alternative medicine offers better options, like Bruise Strain & Tear Repair with arnica and comfrey. You can also find it in the Injury Repair Kit. Alternating painkillers that work in different ways is a good way to reduce the risk of side effects, and if they're addictive, also minimize the chance of dependence.

Harmony in Pink is a queer romance novel from the publisher Intraspectrum. A young gay man, Cruz, falls in love with a genderpunk man, Fran. This is the cover art.

Genderpunk: a gender identity that actively resists gender norms

Introspectrum is a QUILTBAG romance publisher, originally with a gay male focus but now much broader.

Cas uses this recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate, but half-and-half dark cacao powder and chocolate superfood powder, plus clinical-grade dark chocolate. Cocoa powder has a variety of benefits. Warm milk is a natural sleep aid.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing
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