ysabetwordsmith: Victor Frankenstein in his fancy clothes (Frankenstein)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, partly based on discussion with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "partnership" square in my 3-16-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. This poem belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.


"A Better Mousetrap"


Procuring a steady supply of live food
for their injured werewolf proved
easier than Victor had anticipated.

Every time they went to the village,
it seemed that someone there had
a rabbit or a brace of squirrels
or a string of squawking grouse.

Igor would take up the offered prey
while Victor paid out the bounty
to the grinning hunters.

Nandru came up to them carrying
an odd wicker contraption full
of skittering mice, with Crina
tagging along behind him.

"One dozen mice, three from me,
nine from Crina," he declared.

Victor was counting out brass bani
when Igor exclaimed, "I say!
That's rather clever."

"What is?" Victor asked.

"Nandru made some kind of --
is this a spring? -- fancy little trap,"
Igor said. "I think it's meant
to catch more than one mouse."

"It is, but it's not mine," Nandru said.
"It's Crina who let me put my mice in her trap,
as long as I'd carry them all for her."

Victor's eyebrows went up. "Crina,
did you build that? It looks well made."

"No, I just thought it up," she said.
"Imre made the spring, then Nandru and
Vladimir helped me put the twigs together."

"It was still her idea," Nandru said stoutly.
"She saw my drop-trap and came up with
all these ways to make it better, so now
it's kind of a basket that flips the mice inside.
It's only her fingers are too little to build it
all by herself, that's why she needed our help."

Victor took a closer look at the device,
which was woven from willow twigs, with
a smaller part that spun like a paddlewheel.
He could see how a mouse creeping into the hole
would make the spring turn, pushing the mouse inside
the larger chamber and automatically resetting the trap.

It was an ingenious design.

"Nandru, it's very honorable of you
to make sure that Crina gets credit for
her plan," Victor said. "Crina, when you
have an idea for building something like this,
it's yours even if you need help to make it."

"Is it good?" she asked, tugging at the hem
of her sweater-coat and stretching
the blue flowers out of shape.
"It took us all day before it
would work at all."

"It is very good," Victor said at the same time
Igor murmured, "You managed to build
and control a working model in one day?"

"Yeah, Imre and I must've made a dozen
of these things before the spring spun right
without tearing the whole trap apart," Nandru said,
pointing at the mechanism. "Splinters everywhere."

"You have to check it a lot so the mice don't
eat their way out, but that's okay, because
the rule about traps says not to leave them
out for too long anyway," Crina said.

"Is this kind of trap all right?" Nandru asked.
"I thought it would be, because it's only willow
with a steel spring, and too small to hurt anyone
or catch anything bigger than a mouse."

"It seems perfectly safe," Victor said as he
examined the construction. "In fact,
I should very much like to buy the trap
along with the mice inside it."

He held out a copper cocoş-de-munte,
the metal winking between his fingers.

"We can make another," Crina said,
her hand twitching toward the coin
with its proud bird on the face.
"Can't we, Nandru?"

"Sure," he said, taking the cocoş-de-munte.
"We can give this to Imre, and he'll make us
a bunch more of the metal springs. We'll
just have to look for new willow twigs."

With the castle untenanted for years,
the villagers had hunted deer only
on rare occasions, while the other nobles'
taste for hunting bear and wolf had left
few predators to keep them in check.

Consequently they had browsed the woods
down to the ground, which could make
gathering somewhat of a challenge.

"Mind you don't climb so high
as to risk a dangerous fall,"
Victor reminded them.

"You know, you could write out
a description of this design
and sell copies so that people
could build their own," Igor said.

"I wonder if Imre could make one
entirely of metal," Victor mused.
"Weave wire into mesh, perhaps,
or punch holes in thin sheets."

"Seems like a lot of trouble and expense
to go to for a mousetrap," Igor said.

"Yes, but a metal one would last quite a while,
and the mice couldn't chew through it," Victor
pointed out. "Higher cost, but excellent value."

He was a scientist, not a merchant, but
the worth of the thing was plain to him.
Just being able to catch his own lab mice
would be convenient, but Victor thought
that other people would value it even more,
as an efficient way to get rid of vermin.

He would have to talk with Vladimir about
how to trade such things for best profit. If they
set aside a little of the money from each sale for Crina,
then that should add up to a tidy income for her.

"We'll be careful harvesting willow, and I'll ask Imre
about making a wire trap," Nandru promised.

"That sounds like an apt partnership," Victor said.
"You know, I think you're ready for a bit more
responsibility, Nandru. Think about it, come up
with some things you might like to try, and
then we'll discuss the options."

Nandru gave him a look that was both
bashful and eager. "Yes, mazil," he said,
then scampered away toward the smithy.

"Tell Fridrik that I hope he likes his mice,"
Crina said, turning to follow Nandru.

Victor froze. If she had discovered too much --

Igor moved faster, snagging the girl's sleeve.
"Crina, what makes you think the mice
are for Fridrik?" he asked.

"Because you said," Crina replied. "I mean,
you didn't say it all out at once, but you and Victor
were talking and I dropped my mitten so maybe
you didn't see me and I didn't mean to eavesdrop
but I heard what you said anyway."

"What did you hear?" Igor asked gently.

"You wanted to buy parts and fat from Reznik,
because Fridrik was hurt, and you said you'd need
mice and rabbits and stuff too," Crina said.

"We use live animals in the lab," Victor said,
finally coming out of his daze enough to respond.

Crina shook her head. "No, they're not for you
because when you want something for the lab
it's either all one thing or groups of things," she said.
"Like the time you wanted baby mice, or when you
asked for squirrels and rabbits the same weight.
This time you said you'd buy anything small
that we could catch, as long as it was alive.
You don't do that, but you were doing things
special for Fridrik, so it had to be for him."

It was a logical conclusion, well reasoned
even if it wasn't a perfect proof, and
in this case it was correct anyhow.

Victor couldn't bring himself to lie to her.

"All right, you figured it out, that's very smart,"
Igor admitted. "Now I have to ask you
to keep that information to yourself, please.
It's not something we go around telling people,
because it could cause problems. Understand?"

Crina tilted her head. "I haven't told anyone,
and now I won't, but I don't see why.
You were talking about it."

"We should have been more careful about that,
but that's our mistake, and not your fault," Igor said.
"Victor and I are doctors, so sometimes we know
things that are very private and need to stay that way.
We were only trying to sort out how to help Fridrik."

"I'm not a doctor," she said with a heavy sigh.
"I just notice things, and then people get mad.
I don't know why. It's all right there
in front of them, same as me."

"They shouldn't take it out on you,"
Igor said as he patted her shoulder,
giving Victor a helpless look.

Victor remembered, with a twinge of regret,
how much trouble he'd gotten into as a child
before he learned the importance of discretion.
It was all too easy for a bright young mind
to put together pieces that nobody else would,
and not realize how much damage that could do.

"Crina, you see things that other people don't,"
he said. "That means you have a responsibility
to be gentle with those discoveries. Igor and I
can help you handle what you figure out, but
you're very young to come so far already,
so that makes it trickier for all of us."

"Oh! Like the priest!" she exclaimed,
bouncing on her toes. "The grownups
go to confession to put their bad secrets
in a box for the priest to give to God so
people feel better. But then the priest
has to keep the secrets himself, he can't
just tell everyone in the village."

"Very much like that," Victor said,
impressed all over again that she
had made such a leap of insight.
"Some jobs come with a duty
to handle sensitive information,
so the people who do that work
need to be extra trustworthy."

"All I wanted was to make Fridrik happy,"
said Crina, twisting her golden-brown curls
around one finger. "I didn't mean to be nosy,
and I don't know why he wants mice. But he's
nice to me, and he doesn't tell me to go away
or stop asking so many questions. I don't like
that he got hurt so bad, he didn't deserve it."

Igor smiled at her. "Well, Fridrik is
pretty miserable for now, but he's
getting better," he said. "I'll tell him
that these mice came from you. If you
want to know anything more, then you'll
have to ask him yourself. He might not want
to answer, though, and you can't pester him
while he's feeling this low, all right?"

"All right," Crina agreed.

She was so bright, like a candle flame,
and it made Victor want to cup his hand
around her to shelter her as best he could.

"You have done very well," he told her,
daring to ruffle a hand over her hair
where it escaped from the hood.
"You thought up a better mousetrap
and found partners to help you build it.
Given just a few clues, you figured out
something very subtle. I'm proud of you."

Crina hugged him then, her small body
pressing against his right leg. "Thanks."

"You are most welcome," said Victor.
"Now go, find Nandru before he wonders
where he managed to lose you."

She trotted away, making it to the smithy
just as Nandru popped back out to look for her.

"That girl," Igor said slowly,
"could be headed for a rather ...
exciting life in a few years."

"So was I, at her age," Victor said as he
wrapped an arm around Igor's waist,
"and look where it's gotten me. "We will
just have to watch over Crina and try
to make sure that she is well prepared
for whatever adventures she may find."

* * *

Notes:

See Crina in her favorite sweater-coat.

Hunting in Romania features small game such as squirrels, rabbits, and grouse along with large game like deer, bear, and wolves.

Mousetraps include various types of multiple trap, such as this trap-door model. A simpler repeating kill-trap may be made with a bucket. Drop traps and box traps also work, but without the automatic repetition.

Romanian money has a complex history, generally relying on the gold/silver/copper standard. Exact value of metals can vary, but here's a typical list. Various types were in play over time, so there are often several currencies floating around the valley. I have spliced together a coherent set of coinage which is the most common there. The leu (plural lei) means "lion" and is a large, handsome silver coin. The zimbru (plural zimbri) means "wisent" and is a thick bronze coin. Two zimbri make a leu. The cocoş-de-munte (plural cocoşi-de-munte) means "capercaillie" and is a fancy copper coin. Four cocoşi-de-munte make a leu. The ban (plural bani) is a small, plain brass coin. One hundred bani make a leu, fifty make a zimbru, and twenty-five make a cocoş-de-munte.

Intellectual property includes inventions. It's important to give credit where credit is due, especially considering the tendency for men to steal women's ideas. Good leaders both recognize this when people do it, and reinforce it by echoing people's ideas with the speaker's name attached. There are tips on how to invent things.

Encouragement, praise, and rewards are vital methods of shaping behavior. Know how to encourage, praise, and reward children. Older children and teens are particularly motivated by earning more freedom and responsibility. Notice Victor singling out specific actions for approval.

Responsibility is an important virtue for tweens and teens approaching adulthood. Observe with care to determine when an adolescent is ready for more, as they go through stages. Nandru's behavior in recent weeks shows consideration of others and attention to work that needs doing. Understand how to become more responsible.

Gifted children display some conspicuous traits. The difference can be as subtle as a thoroughbred among quarterhorses or as dramatic as an Arabian among Shetland ponies. Know how to support and raise a gifted child.

Reasoning allows people to solve puzzles and make discoveries.

Sensitive information covers everything that is private and needs to stay that way, especially things that could cause harm in the wrong hands. Doctors and priests are well known as professions customarily trusted to handle private information with care. The challenge comes when somebody not trained in such a profession stumbles across something sensitive.

Discretion is a virtue with different aspects, including the ability to keep secrets and the ability to distinguish among possibilities to select the best choice. Explore a lesson on discretion.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-18 10:47 am (UTC)
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
\o/

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-18 11:52 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
*squeals in delight*

LOVELY

Date: 2015-09-18 03:03 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I needed something warm and positive for the day.

That Nandru wanted to make sure Crina got the credit speaks well of the village as a whole.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-18 05:42 pm (UTC)
pinkrangerv: White Hispanic female, with brown hair, light skin, and green eyes, against a background of blue arcane symbols (Default)
From: [personal profile] pinkrangerv
BABBY ENGINEER! <3

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-19 04:38 am (UTC)
thnidu: glowing light bulb. tinyurl.com/33j2v8h (light bulb)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Wonderfu1!

I didn't realize how young Crina was till some of her way of speaking gave me a clue, and then I was still surprised at her picture. Indeed!

• would make ^ spring turn
^ the

• means "capercaille"
→ capercaillie
> See the link: http://www.hunting-in-romania.com/capercaillie.html

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-19 02:08 pm (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I like it!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-18 12:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
Oh, well done everyone!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-18 01:43 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (tux)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
What she said! Happy story!

Thank you!

Date: 2015-09-18 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked this.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-09-25 04:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
I concur - lovely story!

Thank you!

Date: 2015-09-19 03:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I think this scene really shows how much work everyone has been doing. The people know each other and pay attention to what's going on. They care what happens to other people. So they're more likely to take steps like this.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-18 02:53 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Like.

Huzzah!

Date: 2015-09-18 05:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] book-worm5.livejournal.com
Yay for Crina. In fact, everyone in this is doing well, which is always nice to see. Victor and Igor are well-positioned to be mentors for her.

Re: Huzzah!

Date: 2015-09-18 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Yay for Crina. <<

:D

>> In fact, everyone in this is doing well, which is always nice to see. <<

True. Over a year of work has paid off well, in terms of having mindful villagers now.

>> Victor and Igor are well-positioned to be mentors for her. <<

They are, and they're keeping an eye on all the kids to see who's content with ordinary farm work, who has potential for something a bit more specialized, and who'd be happier going off to university.

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