ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the May 2015 Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] ellenmillion. It also fills the "hobbies" square in my 5-2-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.  Bruno has previously appeared in "Under the Table" although that poem happens later in the timeline.

Warning: This poem touches on some difficult issues. Highlight to read the more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. There are references to previous mad science torture with its negative and positive results, stroke-like disabilities, depression, existential angst, difficulty adapting to changes in circumstance, and other challenges. While Il Dottore is trying to help and the scene ends with a little note of hope, the overall tone is fairly low just because of Bruno's mood. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"If You Could Bottle It"


It was Il Dottore and not the Puppetmaster
who visited Bruno, worried about his
low mood and slow recovery.

"How are you?" he asked gently.

Bruno gave him half a smile --
they were all half-smiles now,
after the mad science torture
that left so much nerve damage --
and said, "I'm still here."

Il Dottore brushed lightly over his mind
and found it full of loss and regret.
"Not so good news this week?"

Bruno rubbed a hand over
the drooping left half of his face
and down to the muscled leg,
thick as a tree trunk but not longer
able to hold him quite steady.

"Both healers agree that it's
probably not going to get much better,"
he said. "They told me to start thinking
about ... about whether I want to retire,
or look for a different position."

"You have good taste in wine,"
Il Dottore observed. "You could
always train as a wine steward."

"Who can't carry a tray."

"Who could command an assistant
to do the fetching and carrying,"
Il Dottore said smoothly. "It is time
for you to consider what you can do,
or could do with a bit of help."

"Whatever you say, sir."

Il Dottore sighed. "What about
your new gift, then?" he said.

Bruno shoved himself to his feet,
grabbed his cane in a white-knuckled grip,
and limped across the room to retrieve
a slender black briefcase. "Here," he said.
"I've been exploring, trying different things.
They don't do much for me, but they're
pretty popular with other people."

Il Dottore opened the case and
found it lined with velvet padding
which held rows of small bottles.
"Have you noticed any patterns?"

"Better liquor seems to hold more power,"
Bruno said, finally perking up a little.
"It's not that the cheap stuff goes stale
or wears off, just doesn't have as much kick."

"Then the Family will gladly provide you
with quality supplies," said Il Dottore.
He ran a fingertip over the labels.
Italian History, Hope, Dancing ...
"Have you tried copying superpowers?"

"Yeah, but it doesn't work," said Bruno.
"I can only bottle ordinary things --
skills, knowledge, personality traits --
I'm still figuring out what I can do."

"This is a precious gift you have,"
Il Dottore said. He touched Bruno's mind
again, softly, not forcing belief but just
making a space for it, brushing away
some of the rubble that cluttered
and choked his thoughts.

"I miss being an enforcer," Bruno said,
dropping heavily onto the couch again.

"Of course you do," said Il Dottore.
"You loved it and you excelled at it.
You need time to mourn what you lost,
as well as thinking about what you gained."
He touched the thread of grief, but realized
that if he pinched that off, it would shut down
the rest of Bruno's emotions too. Not helpful.

"I need to be useful. I can't be happy like this,"
Bruno said, waving a hand at his shaky leg,
"just sitting around doing nothing."

"Here I thought you were exploring
your new ability," said Il Dottore.

"Sometimes, but it's hard to see the point."
"I just ... don't know what to do," said Bruno.

"Well then, let's work on lifting your mood,"
said Il Dottore. "I know you have been doing
the work to cope with your loss. Think about
your hobbies now, things that have made you
happy in the past. You're the life of the party;
you could go to one and socialize for a while."

"And cheer myself up, just like that?" Bruno said.

Il Dottore shook his head. "No, if you focus
on that, it probably won't work," he said.
"Look for someone else to cheer up.
Helping others can make you feel better."

"Not really sure what I have to offer
right now," Bruno said.

Deft fingers pried the bottle labeled Hope
out of its niche in the padding. "Here,
take this and give it to someone
who needs it," Il Dottore suggested.

"But ... you said these were valuable,"
Bruno said with a frown.

"So are the members of our Family,"
Il Dottore said, patting him on the hand.

He felt it catch, then, the first thread of hope
that Bruno could be useful again, could find
some new way to protect people or at least
help them up after life knocked them down.

"All right," Bruno said, accepting the bottle.

* * *

Notes:

The Puppetmaster (Giuseppe Mondadori) -- Giuseppe is Italian, short and thin. He has wrinkled olive skin and brown eyes. His hair was black in his youth, now faded to silver. He looks and acts like a cheerful grandfather. He can make a puppet out of anything, even a handkerchief. He loves children and genuinely enjoys entertaining them. He'll empty his pockets for street children.
His strength lies in subtlety and obscurity; the Puppetmaster manipulates world politics and the world of organized crime, not with raw power, but with superior planning and influence. He sometimes uses mental influence to figure out how to make people his in the beginning, but never force, and he always keeps them with considerate handling. He belongs to the second tier of supervillains, below only Dr. Infanta herself, helping provide a safety valve for human mischief while keeping a lid on the more corrosive aspects. The Family is known to be soup-friendly, and they act to quash mistreatment of anyone with superpowers.
Origin: Giuseppe was a street child, selected and trained as an apprentice of the former Puppetmaster.
Uniform: Street clothes, usually trousers and a button-up shirt with a hat. The Puppetmaster dresses so that he almost blends in, just a little formal or quirky, as performers often do. He adores brightly colored scarves and ties, particularly Italian paisley or scroll patterns. He always has some kind of puppet with him, from elaborate marionettes to simple glove puppets, and does most of his real work while giving a show.
His original character role was Il Dottore, The Doctor, and he still uses that to go undercover in dark clothes and a long-nosed mask.
Qualities: Master (+6) Puppeteer, Good (+2) Gentle, Good (+2) Organized Crime, Good (+2) Politics, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Dealing with Loss of Control
Powers: Master (+6) Minions: The Marionettes have 3 named captains: Giuditta (trickster), Pulcinella (trickster), and Pinocchio (counterintelligence). They have at least an Expert superpower, an Expert profession, and three Good qualities, but some are Poor (-2) Trusting Each Other. There are 10 named lieutenants: Gigio (sneak), Facanapa (trickster), Gerolamo (trickster), Orlando (Sicilian fighter), Rinaldo (Russian fighter), Alcina (sorceress), Tancredi (fighter), Agricane (Japanese businessman), Ruggiero (fighter), and Argante (female warrior). They have at least a Good superpower, two other Good qualities, but some are Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Leader. Other minions typically have at least a Good profession, one other Good quality, and may be Poor (-2) Thinking for Themselves. Some of the underbosses, bodyguards, comares, and other members have an Average superpower. The strings go everywhere; the Puppetmaster has thousands of people working for him who don't even know he exists. Agricane was a gift to the Puppetmaster from Shigeru Fukui at Lucky Frog. Rinaldo was a gift from Koroleva. Agricane, Orlando, and Alcina do not get along well.
Good (+2) Mind Powers
Vulnerability: The Puppetmaster works only through intermediaries, never getting his own hands dirty. He keeps his identity a closely guarded secret. People are always trying to find out who he really is -- but the few who do, often don't believe it when they see it, and they tend not to live long enough to do much about it.
Motivation: Control is strength.

Bruno the Brewer (Bruno Di Caprio) -- He has olive skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. He has numerous small tattoos scattered across his body, souvenirs from various experiences drawn by different artists. He likes to collect them one at a time, rather than making a large contiguous illustration. Handsome and well built, Bruno never had a hard time getting a date, but now feels so awkward that he flounders around women.
Residual nerve damage from a previous fight has left him with a droop along the left side of his face, and he walks with a limp because his left leg doesn't respond smoothly anymore. He has since retired from working as an enforcer and instead is developing his superpower, which allows him to bottle qualities in consumable form. Bruno feels self-conscious about his handicap and is determined to find new ways of pulling his own weight now that he can't really serve as muscle anymore. He hasn't quite got the hang of it yet.
Origin: Bruno was captured on a job and subjected to mad science torture. They weren't trying to get information out of him; they just wanted a human guinea pig. The lab was overtaken and he was rescued, but the experience left him with nerve damage and superpowers.
Uniform: Fashionable men's clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Enforcer, Good (+2) Life of the Party, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Wine Connoisseur
Poor (-2) Nerve Damage
Powers: Expert (+2) If You Could Bottle That
Motivation: To be of use.

* * *

In Bruno's case, the negative effects of mad science torture resemble acquired brain injury or stroke. There are things that brain injury survivors want people to know, and would like to hear from supporters. There are tips on recovery, and occupational therapy can be especially helpful. It's also good to know how to support someone recovering from a stroke.

The positive effects, of course, involve his new superpower of bottling Qualities. Bruno is still trying to develop an appreciation for how marvelous this is.

Acquiring a disability can cause anger, depression, and other emotional issues. It is natural for someone to grieve for what they have lost to disability. In order to recover, survivors need to find meaning. Depending on the quality and nature of one's support network, a survivor may need to adjust or replace friendships. This is not something that even a mindhealer can handwave away, although it is possible to help the process along.

An interesting point about making magical artifacts appears throughout many games. You need the best possible materials in order to contain the energy, and the better the materials, quite often the better results you get. One reason for this is that better materials can hold more; another is that inferior ones break very quickly as the energy 'burns through' its container.

Helping others is an effective way to help yourself. It builds resilience. Here are some ways to help others.

Your related work

Date: 2015-11-23 04:29 pm (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
This one, "Under the Table" is how I remember Bruno being introduced. You usually link an earlier/later work if it's relevant, don't you?

http://ysabetwordsmith.dreamwidth.org/10059312.html

Bruno

Date: 2015-11-23 05:19 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Another poem I can re-read regularly and still get new insights. LOVELY.

Re: Bruno

Date: 2015-11-24 04:32 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Has he explored what would happen if a soup downed one of his drinks? I'd love to explore that!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-11-24 12:03 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I like Bruno.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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