ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is from the February 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chanter_greenie, [personal profile] janetmiles, and Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "runaway pet" square in my 11-3-15 card for the Disaster Bingo fest, and the "hurt/comfort" square in my 1-4-16 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Massaging the Heart"


When Holden put a tub into the microwave
that wasn't vented quite enough, and it
opened itself with a dramatic BANG! --

Paulina found herself falling back into Afghanistan.

All she could hear was the thunder of explosions
and the drone of choppers approaching.
The smell of smoke stained the air.

Minutes later Paulina came back to herself
and a very worried Holden who was reciting
the street address of Laguardia Residence Hall,
the group kitchen of which reeked of burnt macaroni.

"What can I do to help?" Holden asked
when he realized she was more aware.

"I don't know," Paulina said miserably.

"In the event of an emotional breakdown,
place cat here," Holden muttered,
reading Paulina's t-shirt.
"I'll go get Flopsy."

But Flopsy was nowhere to be found,
and when Paulina realized that
her therapy cat had gone missing,
she fell apart all over again.

She curled up in the quiet room and cried.

The other veterans organized a search party
and swept the premises from top to bottom.
Flopsy did not reappear despite their efforts.

Finally Timone armed herself with
a can of hair spray and a lighter
(in case of berettaflies) and braved
the courtyard outside the building.

There she found Flopsy, less than
ten feet from the door, asleep in a sunbeam.

Flopsy, who was well trained, came at once
when called -- now that she could hear it.

When Timone came into the quiet room
and placed Flopsy in Paulina's lap,
then Paulina finally began to recover.

She didn't like to be grabbed
or even hugged anymore,
but she liked petting the cat.

Flopsy was a Ragdoll, and
the next best thing to boneless.
She curled up in Paulina's lap
and purred, loud and deep.

Paulina's fingers moved through
Flopsy's warm, heavy coat.
The rhythm reminded her
that she was in Easy City,
not in Afghanistan.

Petting the cat gave her
something to do other than
ruminate on the past.

She felt like Flopsy's purr
was massaging her heart.

Eventually Paulina felt well enough
to go back to her own room and
put out some fresh cat food.

Flopsy couldn't make the PTSD go away,
but she could make it more bearable.

* * *

Notes:

Holden Morrisett -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and light brown hair. He is missing his left leg near the hip and uses a wheelchair. He served in the Marines for three and a half years prior to his injury. Now he lives in Suite 107b of the Laguardia Residence Hall in Easy City. He enjoys playing wheelchair basketball and memorizing the stats of other players.
Qualities: Good (+2) Marine Veteran, Good (+2) Followship, Good (+2) Honorable, Good (+2) Memory, Good (+2) Wheelchair Basketball
Poor (-2) Choosing His Own Path

Paulina Contreras -- She has light brown skin, brown eyes, and straight black hair to her shoulders. Her favorite color is olive green, such as her "Believe in Heroes" t-shirt from the Wounded Warriors Project. She excels at spotting patterns and imagining how things will turn out. Paulina has PTSD from her service as Airman First Class in Afghanistan, primarily from heavy gunfire and explosives. She does not deal well with loud sudden noises anymore. To cope with this, she has a therapy cat named Flopsy. As long as she's holding the cat, she feels relatively okay. Paulina is working hard to overcome the trauma and hopes to go into civilian search and rescue eventually. She is currently taking classes one at a time at Loyola University.
Qualities: Good (+2) Agility, Good (+2) Air Force Veteran, Good (+2) Cat Lover, Good (+2) Civic Duty, Good (+2) Extrapolation
Poor (-2) PTSD

Flopsy -- She is a Ragdoll cat, primarily light brown with white face, underbelly, and feet. She weighs 15 pounds. Flopsy is gentle, compassionate, and wise. She loves people and enjoys lying in someone's lap or draping over shoulders. She is smart enough to walk on a leash. As a therapy cat, Flopsy belongs to Paulina Contreras and helps soothe her PTSD.
Qualities: Master (+6) Therapy Cat, Expert (+4) Cats Are Liquids, Good (+2) Leash Walking
Poor (-2) Sense of Self-Preservation

Timone Evans -- She has medium brown skin, brown eyes, and curly brown hair. She is homosexual but bisensual. Her favorite color is pink, especially the deep hot pinks that look good with her bold coloring. Timone served as a Staff Sergeant. She has extensive burn scars across her chest and belly, with a few others scattered beyond that, from an incendiary device. They impair her flexibility a little, although she does exercises to minimize those effects. This scarring has wrecked her body image, and she has trouble feeling beautiful now. She keeps trying different ways to fix that problem, such as buying herself a pair of diamond stud earrings.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Army Veteran, Good (+2) Conversationalist, Good (+2) Logical/Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Body Image

* * *

A meow massages the heart.
Stuart McMillan

PTSD is common in veterans. Understand how to overcome it or help a friend with PTSD.

Flashbacks are a primary symptom of PTSD. Know how to manage your own or help someone through a flashback.

Mood swings and other emotional problems are typical of PTSD. Various treatments are available. There are ways to control your mood swings and improve your emotional health. Also know help a friend through an emotional crisis.

Paulina's cat t-shirt looks something like this.

Cats make effective service or therapy animals for certain conditions, such as PTSD. They have many healing qualities, especially the purr. A good therapy cat needs particular traits. T-America has more advanced parameters in this regard. Service animals are mainly about actions; therapy animals are mainly about comfort; and both are protected for the benefit of individual owners. Animal therapists are highly trained in emotional support and provide comfort to clients in institutional or professional settings such as a hospital or counselor's office. The requirements for assistance animals like these include: good health, public manners, obedience to commands, control (like walking on a leash or riding in a crate), and performance of specific tasks. The primary determination is whether or not an animal makes a material improvement in a person's ability to function. It is not tied to breed or species, although some are far more popular than others, and there are recommendations on which animals do best for what conditions. Read about certification for therapy cats.

Cats can be trained to do things such as come when called, walk on a leash, sit, enter a carrier, or close doors/drawers. Flopsy can do all of those, and is further conditioned to provide comfort when Paulina is upset or demand attention when she is despondent. But Flopsy is still a cat, thus occasionally distracted by open doors and cozy sunbeams. Learn how to train a cat.

true friends

Date: 2016-02-08 12:12 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Understand more than just "need help NOW'--

They head outside armed with a lighter and hairspray against zetetic bugs!

BRILLIANTLY DONE!

I'll probably have more feedback after my emotions settle a little more.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-08 01:16 am (UTC)
chanter_greenie: a slightly faded picture of a three-legged torbie kitty cat with a lot of rust coloring in her fur (supermodel kitty)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Amazing friends and ragdoll kitties, both for the win. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-08 02:03 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Timone should look into tattooing. It's getting popular with breast cancer survivors who don't opt for reconstructive surgery, but I've seen some spectacular ones covering up other surgical scars.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-08 03:10 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Gracious... she and Ashley could easily pass each other on the street! I mean, SPAZMAT and the hab, are within a block of where she goes for classes!

And yeah, everything's better with kitties.

Hmm... I wonder if a pet collar with a tracking device might not be a bad idea for her... cats are notorious for wandering after all, and meltdowns can happen anytime.
Edited Date: 2016-02-08 03:12 am (UTC)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-02-08 03:39 am (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
You know, if Flopsy is as trainable as most ragdolls, you might not need a tracking device. A simple one-way communicator, something that would relay a spoken command to her, and train her to head to a particular point upon command. Like "food" or "Treats" for example... and feed her in the same place each time.

Works for my cats after all. [although the 'communicator' is me yelling] Granted, I also have a gps tracker and a 'radar' app on my tablet, but that's more for my peace of mind than anything.

and Flopsy might not be a runner, but I bet she'll find a box or something and go to sleep in it from time to time.

..and now I'm also trying to imagine Asheley and Paulina meeting. Hmm, all things considered, Cpt Perez probably knows her, or knows of her... but I can't think of a reason why they would... Unless, Well, Ashley has PTSD, not from combat but from during/after hurricane Katrina, compounded by more recent events.

She's holding it together, mostly.. and ironically, depression actually helps. [emotional dampening from depression, counteracts hyper-stimulation from PTSD.]

I dunno, Perez might get the idea to get them talking together...[this is me, diversifying the characters Ashley interacts with.] Whether they could help each other I'm not sure...
Edited Date: 2016-02-08 03:40 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-08 09:54 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Flopsy has facial markings very similar to our Spike. Who is named after the rose goblin in the Toby Daye books, not the vampire from BTVS.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-09 04:12 am (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Ahh, therapy cats. So very awesome when they're...actually useful. Which is most of the time, except when they're not.

I speak from experience, as my Loiosh as TOTALLY saved my life a couple times, & then there are the times I'm tempted to duct-tape him to the ceiling & leave him there for a while.

Fortunately he doesn't believe a word I say, so usually just threatening him is enough to trigger my sense of the absurd without bothering him a bit. He is, after all, a cat.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 07:59 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you so much for this. Cats ARE amazing. Personally I find nothing more comforting than the soft weight and velvet fur of a cat or kitten. And they want to help.

Wouldn't they be worried about Flopsy getting outside if there are Berettaflies about? I'd be really worried the Bflies would harm Flopsy.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That was me, tresta

Re: Yes.

Date: 2016-02-11 01:54 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Good! I didn't mention the general safety reasons for keeping cats indoors but it was on my mind. I focused on Barettaflies as a real threat to a small creature like a cat. And I'm glad that people will be more watchful. It's always one of my concerns when I have guests or others in the house who may not be used to the kind of precautions to take with cats. Like be sure they aren't inside the closet/cabinet/pantry before you close the door. close the electric garage door before you come into the house, etc.

My kitty, Delphi, will NOT try to dart out past people- though some cats do. But if someone leaves the front door standing open she will get curious .( Maybe someone ran out to their car and didn't think to shut the door) I kind of see Flopsy in that category. She's not hovering around people's feet trying to escape, but if a door is left open awhile or not latched properly she'll get curious and may wander out to nap in the sun or chase a butterfly.

Pet parents may worry more If they're physically disabled and can't move fast to intercept a curious kitty or otherwise head off a problem. ( Not sure that Paulina is but it's a factor sometimes). And people who don't know a lot about cats may think if she's not trying to run past them she's not interested in outside at all and get a little careless with the doors. So it's good that the housemates will have that talk about keeping Flopsy safe.

AnywayI loved this so much! Love all your writing, Avengers and original, and I especially love when you write cats in the mix! Have you written about Flopsy before? Would love to read her origin story.

On a related note......

I've always loved the idea of the Avengers adopting a cat. They'd benefit so much from a therapy cat or even the love and security of a "regular" cat (Cats are never ordinary). :-). My worry in this scenario is if enemies brought a fight to the tower, how to keep kitty safe. But it is still such a secure building; don't you think JARVIS could manage something to protect the kitty in an emergency?

Anyway I'd love to see this. Especially after The Battle of New York when everyone is so Broken. It would work for it to be a rescue kitty. Maybe rescued off the streets rather than a shelter-'first seems more likely for Avengers. Someone would have to give them a shelter kitty or recommend it and I don't see them going along at that stage. But an Avenger coming home with a little fluff ball having saved it from danger in the streets- That would work. Maybe a kitten would help Clint sleep through the night. Or having a small sweet life to care for would teach Bruce to take breaks and help him learn to care for himself. Steve would have a companion; a perfect listener to help him through his grief over Bucky and losing his whole world. It would nap in his shield. A kitten would be able to earn a real laugh or giggle from Natasha, and allow her to explore softer feelings- or feelings at all. The kitty would bat at Thors hair and play bite his ears. I am least sure what a kitten would do with Tony or for Tony, but I suspect he'd pretend to want nothing to do with it at first ( maybe trauma or a bad memory of childhood pets and Howard or always wanting one and not being allowed so now he's armored against it) But he loves it secretly and sneaks it down into his lab late at night. The kitten is the only living creature Tony confides in about his PTSD, his torture in Afghanistan and some of his other worst memories. Things he wouldn't even tell Pepper. He makes an awesome kitty condo for kitty to nap on in the lab or otherwise creates awesome kitty gear and toys. When the team finds out no one is Actually shocked as they've started to see through Tony. And he reaps positive benefits like better sleep and self care. He's loved unconditionally for the first time in his life In fact I think that's true for all but Steve and Bucky.

And Bucky- oh, Bucky. He'd probably be scared of losing himself and hurting the kitten. But if he was reassured enough by Sreve to try holding and stroking the kitten, playing with it, he would actually start to have better control of his mood swings. (I know Bucky's condition is complicated with amnesia and State dependent memory). He might need a spotter with the kitten but it would help relaxation, lower his blood pressure. It would be a positive connection with Steve and might help open other positive memories( like therapy cats in nursing homes- patients with Alzheimer's or other dementia can have very positive responses to an animal. Or autistic children, otherwise mute, will speak to a therapy cat or dog). Later on he could confide in the kitten, like Tony. Caring for it could help with his sleep and self care issues like Bruce and Clint.

Maybe it would need to be a pair of kitties or a trio, to have these interactions with everyone. Or maybe one particular Avenger brings the kitty home to the tower but it bonds with and helps all of them.

I would love this SO much!!

Sorry for long comments. I dont mean to be a bother. But guess where my own furry angel is? She comforts me more than anyone or anything else I know.








Re: Yes.

Date: 2016-02-11 02:09 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That was me above- tresta.. I'll,try to sign in here.

I didn't mention Phil and the kitten, but a I think Phil is a cat person . He sees that the kitten is sort of an "assistant" therapist and lets it carry on. The Avengers think they are just playing with a cute kitten, maybe not realizing how much that kitten is helping. Phil smiles his enigmatic little smile and doesn't spill the beans. The first time Clint sleeps through the night, or Tony comes up,for a meal without prompting, Phil buys his partner some fresh salmon. He can neither confirm nor deny that the kitten spent that night curled up among his suits.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-08 05:45 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Therapy cats are awesome. Ragdolls make good passive ones; Bombays are more active in that role, sometimes *demanding* attention when they feel that you're overstressed... but in that way that says "I know you're hurting, let me help"... and because (a) the Bombay won't bond with you if you don't meet it half way to begin with and (b) it's not human and doesn't know *how* to do some of the ickier things humans can do with touch, it's almost always okay. Though sometimes when Destra has simply up and flung herself at me it was a little unnerving... but I quickly realised I *needed* that, and, yes, there's that bit where purrs are scientifically known to be healing....

.... and somehow I always got the message in time to catch her...

I know that Destra is perfectly capable of opening lever-handled *doors* (much to our occasional chagrin)... I suppose you could train the moggies to do it as well...

Yes...

Date: 2016-02-08 05:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Therapy cats are awesome. <<

I agree.

>> Ragdolls make good passive ones; <<

Paulina has a Ragdoll because she needs a calm cat, and there is nothing more mellow than a Ragdoll. They don't mind being hugged, carried around, cried on, etc.

>> Bombays are more active in that role, sometimes *demanding* attention when they feel that you're overstressed... but in that way that says "I know you're hurting, let me help"... and because (a) the Bombay won't bond with you if you don't meet it half way to begin with and (b) it's not human and doesn't know *how* to do some of the ickier things humans can do with touch, it's almost always okay. <<

Agreed. They're more talkative too.

>> Though sometimes when Destra has simply up and flung herself at me it was a little unnerving... but I quickly realised I *needed* that, and, yes, there's that bit where purrs are scientifically known to be healing....

.... and somehow I always got the message in time to catch her... <<

Aww. And yes, purrs are good for soothing nerves and knitting broken bones.

>> I know that Destra is perfectly capable of opening lever-handled *doors* (much to our occasional chagrin)... I suppose you could train the moggies to do it as well... <<

Smart cats can indeed learn to open doors. Then of course there is "Mrrrp the Magnificent and the Reinvention of the Lever."

Re: Yes...

Date: 2016-02-08 06:00 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Our permakitten Cricket (tuxedo moggie) is more talkative than Destra (she chirps, thus, Cricket), but raggies are (from what little I've seen of them) pretty quiet, yes.

I hope the Fish's line progresses into proper Shipscats. Having a Shipscat would be the next best thing to bonding with a Treecat... and far less stress on one's clothing. :)

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