Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "When I Was Born an Orange"

Based on an audience poll, here is the free epic for the September 1, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl reaching its $200 goal. This poem is spillover from the August 4, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] fuzzyred, [personal profile] technoshaman, [personal profile] bairnsidhe, and [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron. It also fills the "Hopes / Dreams" square in my 8-1-20 card for the Five Moments of Intimacy Bingo fest. This poem belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"When I Was Born an Orange"

[Thursday, April 30, 2015]

Shiv was cleaning tables out front
when he heard the argument start.

Well, not an angry-and-yelling argument,
more of a desperate-and-pleading one.

Shiv glanced up and put a table
between himself and the conversation,
just in case it heated up too much.

There was a chunky white woman
wheedling with Lieutenant Brown,
and a tall boy who looked halfway
between black and Hispanic.

The woman was going on about
how the school said Daevin was
stupid and wanted to push him into
vocational training, even though he
was set to graduate from high school
and wanted college or a real job.

Lieutenant Brown didn't seem
too enthusiastic about taking
the problem into his own hands.

Something about how the kid
went around sniffing things,
and yeah, he was dragging
his fingers over the tables --
wet and dry -- and smelling them.

Maybe, smelling the lemon stuff
that Shiv used to wipe them down.

Sure enough, the boy followed
the path, coming up behind Shiv.

"Hi, I'm Shiv." He held out
a hand. "What's your name?"

"Daevin," the boy replied.
He looked a few years
younger than Shiv, and
shy, for all he was bigger.

"You like the lemon smell?"
Shiv said. "It's like sunshine."

Daevin smiled. "I like lemons,
oranges, limes -- anything
with a nice bright smell."

"Yeah? What do you think
of the food here?" Shiv said,
because every time someone
opened the door to the kitchen,
the kid perked right up.

"It smells good," Daevin said,
then grimaced. "But the beans
need some more cinnamon."

Shiv's eyebrows went up.
Not many people even knew
that the beans had cinnamon.
You couldn't taste it in the done dish,
it just brought up the sweet flavor.

"You wanna tell Cook that?" he said.

"No." Daevin dropped his head.
"People don't like when I speak up."

"Yeah, they never did with me either,"
Shiv said. "Ain't shut me up yet."
Then he thought of something.
"I got an idea. Wait right here."

He trotted into the kitchen,
picked up a few things,
and then came back.

"Wanna play a game?"
Shiv said, grinning.
"Tell me what these are."

Daevin named every one
of the spices, including
the fancy pink peppercorns.

He jerked away from the milk,
though. "That's spoiled!"

"Yeah, Cook put it out on
the counter so he could make
clabber bread," Shiv said.
"Most people can't tell it's
gone bad so early, though."

Daevin scowled in exactly
the same way as Halley and
Edison did, that Shiv had come
to call "vending machine face."

"I don't like it when people
ask me to tell them whether
the milk's any good, and then
snap at me for sniffing things,"
Daevin grumbled. "How'm I
supposed to know if I don't
check things all the time?"

"People are stupid," Shiv said.
"Me, they kept saying I shouldn't
touch stuff, but you know what?"
He pulled out his play-putty and
set the metal dancing in mid-air.
"They missed this, yeah."

"Wow," Daevin said.
"That's amazing!"

"It takes practice,"
Shiv said. "So don't
let anyone tell you not
to use your nose. It'd
be useful in a restaurant."

"I'd like that," Daevin said.
"I wanted to learn cooking, but
my social worker said no."

"The fuck they know?"
Shiv said. "They don't
run a damn restaurant."

"Yeah, but they want
me to fit in, and I suck
at that," Daevin said.

"Join the club," Shiv said.
"Does it bother you much?

Daevin just shrugged. "Why
should I cry for not being an apple,
when I was born an orange?" he said.
"I'd be crying for an illusion. I may
as well cry for not being a horse."

Shiv laughed. "You'd make
a good horse, with those long legs."

Then Lieutenant Brown came over,
which made Daevin get behind Shiv.

"You two seem to be getting along,"
said Lieutenant Brown. "What's up?"

"I think that Daevin could make
an asset in a restaurant," Shiv said.
"We should ask Cook about it. If
nothing else, I could take Daevin
bargain-hunting at the markets."

"Or we could ask the Italians -- they're
into wine," said Lieutenant Brown.

"Beer and pizza," Shiv said, riffing
on the idea. "There's a place that
does fancy pairings, like wine snobs.
They say you can to that with
any food and drink, though."

"You can," Daevin said. "I've
done it with fruit juice and cookies."

"Now I want to try you on fudge,"
Shiv said. "That'd be wild."

"Hmm," said Lieutenant Brown.
"This is getting out of my range.
Let me get Boss White up here."

"Finally!" said the woman.
"I told you Daevin's the star
of my home ec class."

Boss White came upstairs,
looking downright curious.

Shiv coaxed Daevin
into repeating the trick of
identifying things by smell.

"Useful talent," said Boss White.
"What'd you have in mind for it?"

Daevin went shy again and
mumbled something to his shoes.

"Welp, you got options," said Boss White.
"Metropolitan Community College has
a whole handful of cooking programs --
or we could try the Italians, if you like
Lieutenant Brown's idea of wine."

"Dunno," said Daevin. "Never had it."

"Then we'll make sure that you
get a chance to try different things
before you decide," said Boss White.
"Meanwhile, stick with Shiv -- he can
take you out to the farmer's markets.
That's bound to be handy even if
you don't pick up extra training."

"Yes, boss," said Shiv. He
sure as hell wouldn't mind
having someone else
to help carry things.

Boss White went off in
a corner with the teacher
and Lieutenant Brown.

Shiv didn't bother following;
he didn't care about the details.

"How come you stuck up
for me?" Daevin wondered.

"I suffered enough shit in
foster care, why should
anyone else have to?"
Shiv said. "If I can crap
on their day, then I will
take that dump every time."

Daevin giggled. "I like
your sense of humor."

"Most people think it
stinks," Shiv said.

"No," Daevin said,
tilting his head. "It's
just sharp, like lemon."

"Acerbic," Shiv said,
the word jumping into
his mind from cooking
with the Finns. "It means
acid, yeah, like lemons."

"Oranges and lemons
go together," Daevin said,
giving him a shy glance.

"Yeah, we do," Shiv agreed.

* * *


Daevin Molina -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair cut short. His heritage is African-American and Hispanic. He speaks English and Spanish. He is 17 years old in 2015. Daevin lives in Omaha, Nebraska. He is neurovariant, scent-dominant, which makes it difficult for him to fit in. He has a hard time parsing information tailored to visual or auditory learners. So most of his teachers think he's stupid, and want to push him into vocational training instead of letting him pursue college or a real job. Since Daevin grew up in foster care, he doesn't have anyone to fight for him, except for the Home Economics teacher who believes he can do much more than he's shown so far. She takes him to Blues Moon in hopes of finding better opportunities for him. He favors a minimalist wardrobe of black, gray, and white because it is cheap and easy.
Qualities: Good (+2) Home Economics, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Sense of Smell
Poor (-2) Fitting In

Of the Nine Intelligences, naturalistic intelligence is common among chefs.

The Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska offers a variety of Culinary Arts programs.

A sommelier handles wine selection and pairings. It's also possible to pair beer and pizza, or any other food and drink, for best results. They all require a keen sense of smell/taste.

* * *

“Why should I cry for not being an apple, when I was born an orange, I’d be crying for an illusion, I may as well cry for not being a horse.”
Donna Williams

Learn to identify and use your dominant sense. Vision and hearing are overwhelmingly favored in human cultures. Touch-dominance is somewhat known but disapproved. Scent and taste dominance aren't even acknowledged as options.

Clabber bread is made from sour milk.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, food, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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