ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the March 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] stardreamer. It also fills the "no honor among thieves" square in my 7-30-14 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] curiosity. It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains some tense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. There is incarceration, reference to lingering damage from previous injuries, explicit self-harm, blaming others, psychological manipulation with intent to harm, negative coping methods in general, and use of superpowers for petty mischief. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your headspace before reading onward.


"The Cutting Edge"


After he got out of the hospital
and into jail, Shiv still spent his time
practicing in hopes of regaining his aim.

The headaches and the shakes had finally
gone away, but his blurred vision
had improved only a little.

The other inmates gave him a wide berth anyway --
nobody wanted to piss off a supervillain.

Shiv still had his cutting edge where it counted most,
a weapon that not even the cops could take away,
talent sheathed inside him like invisible steel.

During the trial, he fidgeted with the smooth nickel-iron
of the turbo cuffs, creating tiny curls that cut into
the skin of his wrists all the way around,
taking his mind off the proceedings.

Afterwards, the bailiff exclaimed over the smudges
of blood and had the cuffs off him in an instant.
"What happened?" the older man demanded as he
opened a first-aid kit and began tending the small injuries.

"You must have put them on too tight,"
Shiv lied. "Now look what you've done."

The bailiff's stricken expression was almost
as gratifying as sticking a knife in someone.

Then some Jesus freaks had to come
thump a Bible at him and tell him to mend
his wicked ways, or at least that's what Shiv heard
after the candy-coating was licked off their fancy speech.

As if that wasn't enough, Antimatter and Stalwart Stan
stopped to talk with him. "What do you want?"
Shiv grumbled, not really wanting to see
these two except at knifepoint.

"Wanted to see if you're okay," Antimatter said.

"Yeah yeah, you and the Jesus freaks,"
Shiv said as he made a face.

"Oh, you mean the two guys from Mount of Olives?"
said Antimatter, looking down the hallway. "You don't
have to worry about them. They only ask once.
So if you ever change your mind, you'll have
to get in touch with them yourself."

"Hey, what happened to your wrists?"
Stalwart Stan frowned over the bandages.

"Police brutality," Shiv drawled,
and took delight in watching
the eyebrows go up in shock.

"He's just messing with you,"
said Antimatter. "Ignore it."

Stalwart Stan gave a disgusted shake
of his head and stalked away.

Shiv reached out with his power and sharpened
one of the D-rings on Stalwart Stan's shoe enough
to cut the lace, then dulled it back down to something
more difficult to trace but still capable of wearing
through the shoelaces faster than usual.

It took only a few paces for him to trip.

Shiv hid his laughter as Antimatter scurried
to pick up his probably-boyfriend.

He missed Antimatter, a little; the fawning tagalong
had been fun while he lasted, although in the end
he had betrayed Shiv just like everyone else.

Maybe Shiv could find a new boy in prison.

* * *

Notes:

"The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is the cutting edge of the mind."
-- Diane Arbus

Narrow handcuffs are hazardous and can cause temporary or permanent injury. Zip ties can be even worse. Wide handcuffs, like the turbo style, are much safer and more comfortable. Terramagne-America uses handcuffs which are broad and solid. They do ratchet down, but have a second lock to prevent accidentally going tighter once they are set. They are extremely difficult to break or pick open, so they're also more secure. The main drawbacks are that they're heavier and more expensive.

Self-harm is a negative coping method, usually used by women but also found among men. Shiv likes to play with sharp things. Sometimes he injures himself as a distraction, or just careless fidgeting; other times does it deliberately to implicate other people. Here is a workbook on reducing self-harm written by people who have been there themselves.

Blaming others is a type of psychological manipulation. Shiv does this constantly. He just doesn't see how his own actions lead to undesirable consequences. There are ways to stop playing the blame game and let go of manipulation.

Mount of Olives is a T-American charity which helps supervillains stop being supervillains, inspired by John 8 where Jesus saved the adulterous woman. Olivian personnel work in pairs, a pro-bono lawyer with a counselor. They take on cases with extenuating circumstances, or where the supervillain was pounced on by police while minding his own business, or other indications of wanting to turn over a new leaf. The lawyer deals with the legal side of things, and the counselor helps the soup learn social skills to establish a more responsible lifestyle. It's important to keep their background in mind when trying to help at-risk youth. Shiv's personality and behavior imply that he came out of an unhappy home.

"Jesus freak" is one rude term for certain types of Christians. Shiv is grossly overstating the situation; Mount of Olives folks are polite and low-key.

D-rings on hiking boots or heavy sport shoes provide a sturdy anchor for laces.

Shiv!

Date: 2015-04-25 09:50 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I want to read this again just to pinpoint why I dislike Shiv so much, yet overall, it's a great development of the series, and I loved the poem itself.

Re: Shiv!

Date: 2015-04-25 10:18 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Gah, now I have a picture of Randy Taylor and Shiv in the same story, and the cavernous echo of *eeee-EEEEEEEEEEEE-eeee-EEEEEEEEEEEEEE-ee* across the Internet.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-25 10:55 pm (UTC)
curiosity: The sky turning yellow and orange and sunlight spilling over the ocean as the sun rises. (Picto: Ocean Sunrise)
From: [personal profile] curiosity
Hooray! For story.

I've been wanting to see what Shiv was up to. I almost feel bad for him. Almost.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-04-30 08:39 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
You can feel bad for him being an unhappy guy in a crappy situation, without agreeing with him or approving of his behavior.

Yes, this, exactly. He deserves better, just by the baseline of EVERYBODY deserves better than this kind of shit. OTOH, you can't make somebody accept help. Shiv seems to be a canonical example of the AA "has to hit bottom first" type, and he's a long way from being there yet. Right now the only feasible thing to do with him is keep him locked up where he can't do serious damage to himself or anyone else.

Stan had to try, of course. He wouldn't be Stan if he hadn't. :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-26 12:42 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Yeah, Shiv's a prick all right - all wrong.

• "Jesus freak" is one rude term for ^ Christians.
^ certain types of
> both in my experience and as I read the article you linked to

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2015-04-26 01:49 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
No, he's clearly not the type to draw distinctions.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2015-04-26 03:40 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Ahh, yup.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-26 12:26 pm (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I feel bad for him, yet not.

Good job, well written.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-27 04:28 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Picture shows a red-winged angel staring at a distant blue star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
So conflicted about this guy. On the one hand: obviously in need of some help. On the other: so very obviously incapable of asking for, or accepting, said help.

On the third hand, nasty little twits like this are a big reason we can't have nice things. (And he is so, so punchable.)

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-04-28 07:37 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Picture shows a red-winged angel staring at a distant blue star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
>>Which rather implies how badly it has gone for him in the past when people tried to help.<<

Yeah. He doesn't get nice things either... which is part of the ECR, probably. (He reminds me of a character I enjoy/hate elsewhere: a saboteur whose claws actually mostly end up in his own back.)

>>Feel free to use Shiv as a punching bag if you wish.<<

Thanks! I may just.

Not apropos but...

Date: 2015-04-27 03:08 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Have a look at Aldersprig's post Things Unspoken Landing Page Up!, and in particular my comment of Apr. 26th, 2015 10:40 pm. And especially the last line.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-27 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kestrels-nest.livejournal.com
Shiv is a vicious little sociopath, isn't he? Some supervillains are generally principled people who, for whatever reason, operate outside of and sometimes contrary to the law. He is not one of them. Trouble won't follow him - he'll drag it along whether it wants to come along or not.

Well...

Date: 2015-04-28 12:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Shiv is a vicious little sociopath, isn't he? <<

Mostly, yes. He is capable of following some rules, if it's to his advantage, as in working for Boss White. He is capable of maintaining relationships and even feeling some positive emotions such as affection and respect. But it's all warped toward his own interests. He refrains from doing a lot of horrid things not because he thinks they're wrong, but because they just don't appeal to him. He has standards, but they're things like performance, rather than morality. I'm not sure he has a conscience, in the sense of things he won't do for moral reasons.

>> Some supervillains are generally principled people who, for whatever reason, operate outside of and sometimes contrary to the law. He is not one of them. <<

About two-thirds of Terramagne supervillains are principled. It's that last third of methodical sadists and disorganized crackpots who cause some of the worst damage. Even other supervillains tend to dislike them.

Shiv is ... kind of borderline. He actually makes a great henchman because he can follow orders from someone he respects, and he's very effective in combat. He even tolerated Shithouse quashing the cigarette gambling between Shiv and Antimatter. But Shiv is definitely in the group of supervillains who just plain like hurting people.

>> Trouble won't follow him - he'll drag it along whether it wants to come along or not. <<

You just gave me the most appalling mental image of Shiv playing Kick the Morality Pet with trouble. I'm envisioning Trouble as a yappy, scruffy, mongrel alley dog that Shiv keeps kicking and occasionally tying cans to its tail. And Trouble slinks around hoping to steal a string of sausages because Shiv is a reliable source of fights that knock over things that might have food in them.

So then Antimatter and Stalwart Stan see this. Antimatter is all "Hey! Quit kicking the dog, you big jerk!" and Stalwart Stan goes "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?" and it turns into a big brawl. At the end of which, Antimatter tries to coax a growling, cringing Trouble out from under the rubble.

Trouble bites him and runs away, sausages in tow.

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