ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the November 4, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] madgastronomer. It also fills the "hypoglycemia / low blood sugar" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] stardreamer. It belongs to the FORK thread of the series Polychrome Heroics.

"Building Doors"

Chester nibbled at his Philly cheese pretzel
and tried to convince his stomach to settle.
No matter how crazy things got,
you could always rely on Tastee Shack
for a darn good lunch.

He looked at the pretty girl manning
the Emotional First Aid station and
wondered what heck he was doing here.
He wasn't the type to talk about his feelings,
but well, it was quiet back here and that was a relief.

"You look like you've had a rough day,"
Amber said. "Care to talk about it?"

Chester hunched over his pretzel
and tried to think of a good excuse.

"That looks like a no," she said dryly.
"In that case, do you mind if I do my homework?"

Chester stared at her. "Whaa ...?"

"If you want to talk, I'm here to listen.
If you need help processing, I'll coach,"
Amber explained. "If you just need a hideout --"

He nodded eagerly.

"-- then I've got better things to do than bug you.
I'm taking eighteen credit hours on top of this job."
She flipped open a laptop and began to type.

Chester sat in the quiet office
and waited for his body to catch up
to the fact that he was finally feeding it.

He ought to have eaten before the interview,
but he'd been too nervous, and he knew
that low blood sugar wrecked his temper
and made him queasy, but it was better
than barfing out of sheer anxiety --
which was also a thing that had happened.

He prodded at the memory, like poking a sore tooth,
but it just didn't bother him anymore. Whatever
that Tastee Shack girl had done to fix him,
it was a good solid repair. The sense of relief
had been so sudden and unexpected it was dizzying.

Chester sighed. Pity he hadn't gotten the job
at TruckMart, though. He liked this little mall
with people who didn't hang all over him
like they expected him to be the life of the party.

"Mmm?" Amber said, looking up from her laptop.

"Just wishing my interview went better," Chester said.
The boss at TruckMart had looked like a good old boy
but hadn't taken a shine to him for whatever reason.
"I might've liked working here. It's weird but it's low-key."

The sound of an argument rapidly approached.

"The hell was I supposed to do?
He came to work drunk as a skunk,
of course I fired him!"

Two men came into the tiny office,
the smaller propelling the larger
by one beefy shoulder.

"Whoops, sorry!" the smaller man exclaimed.
"I didn't know you already had a customer in here."
He waved an apology at Chester and Amber.
"But seriously, Earl, you need to calm down."

"Yeah, let's hear you say that when some old lady
is screeching 'cause I got nobody who can
hang the door on her fence," Earl retorted.

"I ... I can do that," Chester said slowly.
"I'm a mechanic, but I'm okay at handiwork too."

"What about tools? Sales?
You know anything about that?"
Earl said, all but pouncing on him.

"I know tools. I've sold car parts,"
Chester said. "Past that, I can learn."

"I can bring up an application for Yard Zone,"
said Amber, switching to the desktop computer.
"Earl, why don't you go get yourself a snack
at Tastee Shack? By the time you get back,
Chester should be done filling out the paperwork."

"Line's that long?" Earl asked.

"It's our first day reopening,
what do you think?" Amber said.
"Go on, get going."

Earl snorted but obeyed, retreating
along with his smaller companion.

"Here, you can just use this station,"
Amber said briskly, beckoning
Chester into her place.

He settled gingerly into the chair
and eyed the application on the screen.
Not too complicated, and his brain
was gearing up now. Chester began
pecking out the letters with his forefingers.

When he completed the brief application,
he went back to his lunch, finishing the pretzel
and swiping the last of the cheese off the wrapper.

"Want some dessert?" Amber asked,
offering a plastic tub full of ... cookies, maybe,
little brown squiggles topped with nuts.

Chester took one to be polite,
and because the sugar would help.
It tasted like nothing he'd ever had before
but it was surprisingly good.

When Earl came back, he had
a chocolate pretzel stick in his hand
and a smile on his face.

Guess the Tastee Shack girl whammied him too.

Chester wasn't keen on soups, but
he wasn't too proud to take advantage
of the chance either. "I finished
the application, boss," he said hopefully.

Earl shooed him away from the computer
and leaned down to read the form. "Close enough,"
he said. "Don't see much point fooling around
when I'm shorthanded. If you can start now,
the job can be the interview."

Chester was still trying to get the syrup
off his fingers from Amber's cookies.
"Uh yeah, I can start ..."

"You ate the cookies, didn't you?"
Earl said with a chuckle. "Go hit the john,
you need soap to get that goo off.
Then come down to Yard Zone --
I'll find you a spare uniform."

So that's how Chester came to work at the mall
with the people who didn't pester him.
He did his work and it went all right,
even if he wasn't sure how to feel
about the crowd that was always packed
around the Tastee Shack when Malaya was in.

He learned that the other mall workers
were fiercely protective of that girl,
and that some of his jokes about black folks
or soups didn't exactly fly here as a result.

He also learned that the best way to deal
with a cranky customer was to send them
up to get a pretzel while he fixed whatever
had gone wrong with their yard order.

Maybe he should just shut his mouth.
It wasn't like Chester wanted Malaya to leave
and stick him with pissed-off customers.

When he got hungry with no warning,
he could trot down there real quick
and get some chocolate pretzel sticks
to pick up his blood sugar, and
if it was Malaya behind the counter,
she'd give him an extra cup of
chocolate sauce to dip them into.

The first time it happened,
Chester was just plain confused,
because the people he knew
just didn't do things that way.

"Yeah, she's always like that,"
drawled a voice at his elbow.
"You get used to it."

He turned to see Remedios,
the Hispanic repairwoman who
had met him at Tastee Shack
the first time he'd come here.

"Guess I wasn't expecting it, is all,"
Chester said. "Guy like me doesn't get
a lot of opportunities or perks."

"Sometimes if opportunity doesn't
come knocking," Remedios said,
"you gotta build the door yourself."

"Okay," Chester said as he
swirled a pretzel stick in his chocolate.
"Maybe I can do that."

* * *


Chester Davidson -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. If he doesn't eat regularly enough, the low blood sugar makes him very cranky -- and his body doesn't always give him a lot of warning before it needs to refuel. Chester works at Yard Zone in the Mercedes mall. He is the circumstantial kind of bigot who grew up in a bigoted family and is kind of bemused when "those people" (of various types) turn out to be not necessarily like what he was told.
Qualities: Good (+2) Churchgoer, Good (+2) Mechanic, Good (+2) Strong
Poor (-2) Bigot

* * *

"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."
-- Milton Berle

Tastee Shack is a Terramagne eatery often found in food courts.

Emotional first aid is a set of techniques for caring for upset people, especially after a trauma. There are tips for helping an upset person, calming someone down, and developing an emotional first aid kit.

Not wanting to talk can wreck a relationship. However, sometimes sitting quietly with a person is the best way to help. Forcing someone to talk before they're ready just makes things worse, because people tend to change slowly not quickly. Know how to encourage men to talk about their problems.

A few organizations in our world are beginning to offer quiet rooms for breastfeeding, studying, or soothing upset children. Others are networking to map quiet rooms that people can use. In Terramagne such resources are much more common, and people are more aware that it's better to take a few minutes in private to calm down than to stay and keep yelling at each other. This contributes to a healthier, more relaxed society.

Hunger and low blood sugar can lead to mood swings. Understand how to manage low blood sugar. Mostly people think of it in connection with diabetes, but there are a lot of other conditions that can involve it too, and many more people have challenges with hypoglycemic mood swings than have a serious health problem, because everyone's blood sugar naturally fluctuates. Some are just more sensitive to those changes.

Introverts do not always want to be alone. There are ways to make friends as an introvert and to befriend introverts. Chester is enjoying the opportunity to be around people who don't ask for more than he can give -- and that courtesy is enough to change his behavior.

Laws and company policies vary about how to respond when an employee shows up drunk, but a majority end with swift termination. This is a sign of a drinking problem.

Indian sweets tend to be extremely sweet. Chanar Jalebi is one example.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-17 04:21 am (UTC)
thnidu: You're a bit cold? Tea. BF just left you? Tea. You've just been told you've got cancer? Tea. Terrorists? Tea, dammit! (tea)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Oh yeah, blood sugar! My daughter, who is small (~120 lb iirc), needs to eat small frequent nourishing snacks. It's probably also part of why I keep going for cookies or granola bars or crackers — though I can often divert my appetite to fruit or carrots.
Whatever that Tastee Shack girl had done to fix him, it was a good solid repair. The sense of relief had been so sudden and unexpected it was dizzying.

I take it that Amber's a soup, that this isn't just the pretzel?

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-12-17 08:41 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

So, her power "supergizmoed" the pretzel.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-12-18 12:43 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
No, her power has nothing to do with the food at all. It's just that she can make a bad day go better for you.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-12-18 09:18 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Ah ha.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-12-18 08:59 pm (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Here, I think the previous poem in this thread will help you understand what's happening: "Bending Forks"

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-12-18 11:08 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-12-18 09:17 pm (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Oh, ho!

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-12-19 03:34 am (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
Well... I'm a bit tipsy, and overly emotional, so I'm going to go on a bit of a pointless talking binge.

Sugar is a funny thing, actually - under stress, most people will have an increase in actual blood sugar - but they might still be hungry. Hunger is a really complicated thing for the body. Low blood sugar will cause hunger, but hunger rarely causes "low" blood sugar.

Under stress, the liver works to bump up your sugar levels to improve your ability to respond. In fact, your liver is almost always the primary determiner of your sugar levels. There are two times when it isn't:
The pancreas work to drop blood sugar after eating, of course.

And, when you're nearly dead from starvation, the liver can no longer find a way to make new glucose. (But up until then, it'll tend to keep you in the normal range. And, of course, you can be *relatively* low - you've exhausted your glycogen and trying to run - you're still in the 70-120 ng/dl range, but your body really wants to be at 120, not 72.)

On the other hand, saying that it's "low blood sugar" isn't exactly wrong - it's a good model, and using the thought of "low blood sugar" as a model tends to provide more information than the more complicated facts.

"I need food because I'm having very unpleasant physical and mental reactions to hunger" is a lot more complicated than "Yeah, I need a snack; my blood sugar is low". (And in fact, as I mentioned, you might be technically correct - relative blood sugar may be low, even if you're spot in the middle of "normal").

Another great use

Date: 2014-12-17 05:43 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Thank you for linking to my Tastee Shack menu!

I like that Chester is getting a /chance/ even though his skills don't line up /precisely/ with the new job. Too many employers here are... unwilling to /train/, I suppose, is the best way to describe it. An attitude of not /investing/ in workers, as though they're not only all interchangeable, but utterly disposable.

It's up to Chester what happens with the chance he's got, though... I think he'll learn a lot about things totally unrelated to Yard Mart before he's even realized it.

This is tolerance in action, not Chester, but /the others/ willing to give him time to become part of the work community at the mall.

And reading this was a major treat for finishing a cranky computer problem, so COOKIE for me! YAY.

Re: Another great use

Date: 2014-12-17 06:12 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
One thing that bothers me about a lot of activist discourse is that there are no bottom rungs on the ladder. It's very off-putting to someone coming from a narrower viewpoint who is maybe starting to question that viewpoint. You've got a brief window of opportunity to pull them up, but if you blow it, if they have crappy experiences trying to explore, then it's going to wind up worse than ever because that confirms the prejudices. But if you're patient with people who are learning, and you give them credit for the stuff they are doing right, then that encourages them to venture further.

There's a really common bit of tripe running around the 'Net: racism is TAUGHT, along with some cute picture of little kids of different skin tones.

The implication is "You've been taught to BE this way, SHAME!" rather than an acknowledgment that while it was taught, UNLEARNING also takes time. Being UNTAUGHT bad ideas about science takes time.

Being UNTAUGHT bad ideas about humans will take longer, because that runs slap-bang into love=obedience=respect=ideology.

So people who TRY to unlearn something negative deserve credit for even making the EFFORT, early on, or they'll see the other group as /demanding/ perfection, perfect compliance... thought control. Because unless you /allow/ for mistakes, it is.

Re: Another great use

Date: 2014-12-19 12:35 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Pat has put a ton of work into Chris, and their relationship, but now it's paying off with both Eric and /TeJay/.

Eric is turning to Chris as an adult he is /willing/ to be like, and that's affecting his willingness to work on other, narrow viewpoints which don't fit with the way Chris lives /now/.

Pat, however, can be especially helpful to TeJay by saying, "Yeah, you ARE going to be putting in 'more work' on the friendship for a while. It SUCKS, but if you shift your expectations of return from Eric to /other people/ you'll see how doing this will help YOU as well as Eric."

Because even teenagers can get obsessed with "fair" and "equal" and a few other things which make a parent feel like they're suddenly looking at a tall four-year-old with a better vocabulary. Keeping TeJay /willing/ to take up that load involves teaching him that not all the payback comes FROM the relationhsip you're putting the work into.

No matter how much either teen wants the world to be "fair" or "equal," the payback for each teen is going to be DIFFERENT, including more people outside the group NOT recognizing how hard working with Eric /is/ for TeJay, especially at first.

He deserves as much credit for that as Eric does for /his/ work... but the tendency will be to praise one and overlook the other in general. The Heroes, however, understand more about the situation, which will make them the ones to help each teen put things in perspective.

Re: Another great use

Date: 2015-01-01 08:20 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Re-reading things looking for a prompt idea that I had and then lost, and your comment about the way you and your partner eat reminded me of how my now-ex and I set up our budget when we were married. We had "yours, mine, and ours" bank accounts, and each of us put a set amount into the joint account each paycheck, out of which things like the mortgage and utilities and other (non-grocery) household expenses were paid.

But at the time, I was making about twice what he did. We'd worked out how much the total deposits per month needed to be; if we'd split it "fairly" half-and-half, he would have had very little of his paycheck left and I would have had a lot of mine. No, that's NOT "fair". So instead we split it proportionally, and he put in 1/3 and I put in 2/3, and THAT was fair and we were both happy.

This is one of the things many people don't understand about a progressive tax structure. It IS fair to take a higher percentage in taxes from people who make more, for the same reason that it was fair for me to pay more into the joint checking account.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-22 10:22 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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