ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the March 2016 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "road trip" 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 Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"What You Like Doing Best"


On Sunday, Ansel made a trip to the
People of Jesus Nondenominational
Church and Interfaith Center to present
a workshop on flickering for the children.

He arrived a few minutes early, which
turned out to be a good thing, because
Leah Crenshaw caught him and said,
"Do you have a moment before we begin
the program? I'd like you to meet someone."

Leah introduced Ansel to Cosette Savournin,
also known as Cotton Candy. The teen had
long hair that was pink on top, yellow on the right,
and blue on the left. She wore a white sweater
with a yellow collar, pink placket down the front
and across both pockets, and blue cuffs with
a matching white skirt. She also had a pair
of the knee-high sneaker boots currently in
fashion, laced in the same shade of blue.

"I drove here from River City for the workshop.
Road trips are always fun," said Cosette. "I'm
in the process of researching possible careers.
I think I'd like to work as a show soup, and I
want to see what kinds of things they do."

Show soups were people with visible superpowers,
from unusual hair to wings or tails, who worked in
conspicuous positions so that other people could
see how soups were pretty much like anyone else.
Among the more common tasks they did were
educational workshops about superpowers.

"Have you ever done shadowing before?"
Ansel asked. "I do that for local students --
usually for police work, but there's no reason
we couldn't do it for soup awareness. You
watch me do the workshop, and at the end I'll
give you a chance to try fielding some questions."

"Yes, I've shadowed people, but I thought
that it was supposed to be planned in advance,"
Cosette said. "I brought my notebook, so I have
my log, my observation form, and my reflection form,
but not your form for student evaluation."

"You may not get class credit for it, but you can
still learn from it. I can get the file that I usually
use for student evaluation and print it out here --
Leah, may I borrow your printer?" said Ansel.

"Of course, just use this address,"
the chaplain said, reading it off.
Then Ansel sent the file.

"Are you thinking about college?"
Ansel asked Cosette while they waited.

"I'm hoping I won't need it -- I'm not
a very good student -- but I want to see
what kinds of skills these jobs require,"
said Cosette. "I'll try college if I have to."

"Not good at school in general, or are you
just struggling with certain classes?"
Ansel asked, leaning forward.

"I'm not good at most classes, but I like
some of them," Cosette said. "Math, science,
literature, all that stuff is hard. But I love civics
and social studies, and personal health now that
it's more about relationships than biology."

"It sounds like you do better with people than
with academics," Ansel mused. "At your age,
it's time to drop more of the stuff you do badly,
unless you need it for your job, so you can spend
more time learning the things that you do well."

"That's why I'm exploring different activities,
so I don't drop something important," she said.

"You know, full-time college isn't the only path
for continuing education," he said. "You could
pick and choose a few useful classes from
a community college or community center."

"I thought about that, but the only place
teaching about soup outreach is SPOON,
and I sooooo don't want to be a superhera,"
Cosette said, waving her hands.

"Understood, but it's still worth keeping
an eye out for other possibilities such as
public speaking --" Ansel said.

"Got the badge," Cosette said proudly.

"Then you're probably on the right track.
Hmm, combining that with your love of road trips,
have you considered traveling?" Ansel said. "Plenty
of teens take a wander year between high school
and college, and for some of them, that turns into
a job like travel agent or guest speaker."

"There aren't many soups," Cosette said.
"Maybe instead of working just one place,
I could go around and give more people
a chance to meet me by doing workshops
in different towns along the route."

"That has potential. Think about how it could
affect other people, though. Anyone special
in your life?" Ansel asked. "Some teens care
more about starting a family than school or work."

"Noooo," Cosette said, rolling her eyes.
"Look at me! I'm still trying to figure out
who I am, especially after this happened.
No way am I ready to get married yet,
let alone make a whole new person!"

"Well, it's good for you to know that,"
Ansel said. "A relationship works better
when people know who they are and
what they want to get out of it."

"What do you think I should do?"
Cosette said. Her fingers stretched
the hem of her sweater. "Everyone
keeps showering me with advice."

"Well, the most helpful career advice
that anyone gave me was this," Ansel said.
"Find out what you like doing best, and
get someone to pay you for doing it."

"And that's how you became a cop?" she said.

"Not just a cop, but how I found my focus,"
he said. "I like doing community outreach
and working with troubled youth. Recently
I've added soup awareness to that set, but
it all centers around working with people.
I just enjoy helping folks get their life
on track and keep it there."

"Okay, folks, here's the printout,"
Leah said, handing the page to Ansel.
"Two minutes to showtime, so let's move."

She sent Ansel to the podium
and made sure that Cosette got
a front-row seat amongst the crowd
of wiggly children and tolerant adults.

"Hi, everyone. I'm Officer Pink, and
I'm here today to talk about flickering,"
he began. "Who knows what that is?"

A majority of the adult hands went up,
but far fewer of the kids. "Okay, we'll
start with a little slideshow to introduce
the topic, and then we'll talk," he said.

Flickering was simple enough for
even the youngest to understand
if someone read the text, so Ansel
simply went through the slides on
manual display and added comments
along with the printed words.

"So basically, superpowers can grow in
sort of patchy at first, then settle later,
like a boy's voice cracking," said Ansel.
"It's not anything to panic about."

"Is flickering always an emergency?"
asked Ralph Worley. "My teacher said so,
but my parents said it doesn't have to be."

"Your parents are right," said Ansel.
"An emergency is when somebody
gets hurt or big things get broken,
or it looks like that's about to happen.
Fire Powers out of control would be
an emergency, but most aren't."

"So what would be flickering that's
not an emergency?" Ralph said.

"Not all superpowers even 'do' anything,"
Ansel said, rubbing a hand through his hair.
"Mine just looks cool, so even if my hair
flickered from pink to brown, it wouldn't do
anything except make me uncomfortable."

"How can adults make it easier on a child
who is flickering?" asked Ralph's father Abel.

"For a small child, treat it like any scary new thing,
just focus on helping them calm down," said Ansel.
"For older kids, treat it like a weird puberty thing,
because that's often what it is -- stay matter-of-fact
but be prepared to answer questions in more depth."
Then he grinned. "If they're worried about learning
control, tell them it's like learning to ride a bike!"

Everyone laughed, because Abel was
the manager of the True Blue Bikeshare.

The workshop went on like that,
until the hour was almost over
and the cooks started setting up
the snack tables with food brought
in from the nearby kitchen.

"Okay, kids, Cotton Candy here is
thinking about whether she wants to lead
workshops like this herself," said Ansel. "You
can help by asking the kind of questions that
come up in soup awareness. Remember she's
new, and give her some easy ones, okay?"

It was like popping a piñata;
questions rained everywhere.

"Do you like being a soup?"

"What's your favorite thing about your hair?"

"Does it taste like cotton candy?

"Is it harder to take care of like that?"

"Can you do any other colors?"

"Do people pick on you for looking different?"

"How did you get candy-colored hair?"

Ansel groaned a little. "I said easy,"
he reminded the rambunctious crowd.

"It's okay, that last question is a really good one,"
Cosette said. "My freshman year of high school,
I wanted to dye my hair for the spring dance, just
a temporary dye. But something went wrong, and
a lot of weird stuff happened, so I wound up like this."

"Are you okay?" one little boy asked.

Ansel hoped so, because Cosette seemed
to have a real knack for this kind of work.

"I was pretty freaked out for a while, but now
I like my hair this way," said Cosette. "When
I first started studying what happened to me, I
learned that dyes, inks, and makeup have been
responsible for several cases of manifestation.
So if that sounds scary to you, then just stick with
old brands that don't use fancy new ingredients."

"Can I pet your hair?" asked one of the girls.

"Well, that depends," said Cosette.
"Would you try to touch your friend's hair?"
She tipped her head toward the black girl
whose cornrows chattered with gold beads.

"No, Mom says it's rude to bother
a black person's hair, they're not poodles,"
the girl said, shaking her head. "Oh! So it's
the same rule for soups? We can look and
say it's pretty, but no touching it?"

"That's a good rule for anyone's hair,
unless you know them really well," Cosette said.
"Good for you, figuring it out like that!"

"Well said, Cotton Candy," Ansel approved,
taking up the reins of the workshop so that he
could bring it to a close. "On that note, thank you
all for coming to learn about flickering, and now
let's see what goodies the cooks have made!"

The children scrambled toward the bowls of
fruit salad and platters of cookies, while most
of the parents headed for the coffee urns.

"That was fun," Cosette said to Ansel.
"I really appreciate you letting me watch
and even help a little at the end."

"I think you have potential for this kind
of work," he said. Then he took out a pen
and filled in the student evaluation form. "If you
show this to your guidance counselor or teachers,
then they might still give you a bit of extra credit
even though this wasn't an official assignment.
Did you learn enough to make the trip worth it?"

"Oh, yes!" said Cosette, nodding hard enough
to make her cotton-candy hair bounce in time.
"I'm thinking more about a road trip this summer,
if I can find places to visit and maybe volunteer."

"Plenty of organizations offer summer classes,
which might be easier than fall ones," Ansel said.
"Not everyone does well in an academic setting,
and there are teachers as well as students who
prefer a casual circle in the park to a classroom.
Some folks just seem to do better when they
learn from other people than from books."

"I'll keep it in mind, thanks," said Cosette.
Then her stomach growled. "Excuse me."

"It's okay, soups need a lot of fuel,"
Ansel said. "Let's get in line before
all of the goodies are gone."

Ansel spent a lot of time working with both
soups and naries, and especially, watching
how they interacted with each other.

He couldn't always tell when he was
making a difference, but today -- with
everyone jostling to fill their plates and
chattering about the workshop -- none
of them were paying much attention to
whose elbows bumped against whose.

What he liked doing best was seeing
his community in good working order like this.

* * *

Notes:

Leah Crenshaw -- She has ruddy skin, brown eyes, and short wavy brown hair. Leah is married with two children, a son and a daughter. She knows Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. She serves at the People of Jesus Nondenominational Church and Interfaith Center in Bluehill, Missouri. She is the pastor of her own nondenominational Christian congregation, and also the chaplain for the church as an interfaith facility. Sometimes Leah also volunteers for the emergency service that covers the outlying rural areas around Bluehill, and she is available for major disasters like a tornado or flood. She wears a Celtic cross with the EMS emblem in the center circle.
Qualities: Master (+6) Chaplain, Master (+6) Nonanxious Presence, Expert (+4) Emergency Medical Technician, Expert (+4) Emotional First Aide, Expert (+4) Pastoral Counseling, Good (+2) Cozy Family Life, Good (+2) Gardening, Good (+2) Organized, Good (+2) Stamina, Good (+2) Synthesizing Ideas
Poor (-2) Nearsighted

Cotton Candy (Cosette Savournin): She has pale skin, blue eyes, and long multicolored hair. On top of her head, the hair grows in pink. At ear level, the right side is yellow and the left side is blue. Her eyebrows and eyelashes are still brown, but her body hair is slowly changing colors in random patches. She has the ultraviolet vision that crayon soups sometimes get. Cosette lives in River City, where she's attending her last year of high school. Currently she is traveling around to different superpower awareness events, because she wants to work as a show soup. She's not very good at academics, but does much better in a social context. So her school counselor is helping Cosette figure out what she would need for her chosen profession and whether that needs more classes or on-the-job training.
Origin: In her freshman year of high school, Cosette wanted to dye her hair for a spring dance. She and some friends tried out a new temporary dye that promised "multiple radiant neon colors" without needing to use separate bottles. Nobody got sick, but the dye had psychotropic effects that left the girls (and one boy) tripping for weeks. This upset them because they were into the colorful trappings of the rave scene but not any of the drugs. So when Cosette's hair started turning candy-colors for real, she was upset by the reminder. It took a few months of good therapy for her to adapt to her new appearance, and the colors are still gradually filling in the rest of her body.
Uniform: Teen fashions. Cosette is slowly learning how to dress in a way that looks good with her multicolored hair. Most often she wears solid colors -- either the same shade of pink, blue, or yellow as her hair; or white, which looks good with all of them. Other times, she chooses a white background marked with one or more of those pastels.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Sweet Personality, Good (+2) Beautiful, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Making Friends
Poor (-2) Academic Classes
Powers: Good (+2) Multicolored Hair
Motivation: To connect with people.

Abel Worley -- He has fair skin, hazel eyes, and dark blond hair going silver. He is tall and large-boned. He is married with four children: a son Eric (21), a son Jeremy (17), a son Ralph (12), and a daughter Claudine (9). He is currently 50 years old. Abel lives in Bluehill, where he runs the True Blue Bikeshare. He is also active in many other aspects of community life. His snoring not only annoys his family, sometimes it disrupts his sleep or causes other health problems.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Bikeshare Manager, Good (+2) Big and Tall, Good (+2) Easygoing, Good (+2) Spatial Intelligence
Poor (-2) Snores Like a Chainsaw

Ralph Worley -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and curly dark brown hair cut short. He is the son of Abel Worley, younger brother of Eric (21), Jeremy (17), and older brother of Claudine (9). Ralph is currently 12 years old. He loves learning new things, and is good at finding people to teach whatever he wants to know. Although he likes people, he often finds it difficult to forge a connection, so he tends to have a few close friends instead of many casual ones.
Qualities: Good (+2) Crafts, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Finding Teachers, Good (+2) Focused
Poor (-2) Making Friends

Claudine Worley -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and wavy blonde hair past her shoulders. She is the daughter of Abel Worley, younger sister of Eric (21), Jeremy (17), and Ralph (12). Claudine is currently 9 years old. She loves doing things with her family, and is developing her skill at woodworking. She is already mulling over possible careers such as carpenter or municipal artist, and wants to explore more of her options for making a living from wood. Claudine gets motion sickness easily. Riding a bike helps her body adapt, but she doesn't do well in a car or bus.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cyclist, Good (+2) Enthusiastic, Good (+2) Followship, Good (+2) Woodworker
Poor (-2) Motion Sickness

* * *

"The best career advice given to the young is: Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it."
-- Katherine Whitehorn

People of Jesus Nondenominational Church and Interfaith Center
The original plans for Cambridge Commons did not include any dedicated religious facilities, to avoid privileging some over others. This caused some arguments because, of course, various Christian denominations wanted theirs in the town center, and a handful of other faiths objected. A happy compromise was reached when the People of Jesus Nondenominational Church heard about the renovations and asked about moving into Cambridge Commons from their old, outgrown location in a nearby town. Drawing membership from several towns in the area made a move no obstacle for them. The Cambridge planning charette agreed, on the condition that they make their facility available to other faiths any time they're not using it personally. So they squeezed in a small church behind the YMCA and added "Interfaith Center" to the sign. Their stationery says "PoJ." People of other faiths often refer to the place that way, pronounced "Podge," which they find amusing and most of the Christians find mildly annoying.
Due to the requirement for interfaith accommodation, the only permanent Christian decorations are the crosses on the outside of the building. The stained glass and crystal windows are all abstract. Inside, the static furniture is understated and the tradition-specific items are stored in labeled cabinets and closets so that different services are easily customized.
Sundays they're booked almost solid. There are nondenominational Christian services, along with several more for denominations not serviced by other churches in the area, including for second and third shifts. They also hold three nondenominational services on Wednesday (morning, late afternoon, and night) for those unable to attend on Sundays. So the place is available on Fridays and Saturdays for Jewish folks, most of the time during the day when Muslims need to pray, and so forth. A Pagan group meets on esbats and sabbats when the space is free.
The People of Jesus core congregation is comprised of quirky, spiritual people who don't stand on a great deal of ceremony. They are far more interested in doing the stuff that Jesus said to do -- such as helping the sick and the poor -- than in making a fuss over church. So they don't fit all that well with mainstream Christian culture, which mostly focuses on Sunday services. Their goal is to make the kind of church that Jesus would actually want to attend if He came back.
See the exterior and rear view. The basement has a large fellowship hall with movable tables, chairs, and other furnishings. There is also a kitchen with attached pantry. The women's restroom is on the left, men's on the right. The first floor has a vestibule, nursery, office, assembly hall, kitchen, and utility room; the bathrooms here are both accessible dotties. The second floor has a loft and two large storage areas.

Flickering is one form of superpower development, most often seen in young people, involving manifestations that appear and then disappear quickly. Different episodes may display the same ability consistently, related abilities within a field, or wildly diverse ones. None of this means that the person will "keep" any particular ability, although the more often one appears, the more likely it will become permanent. The intermittent pattern makes it difficult to identify and control any ability. Usually one or more abilities will stretch out for longer periods of time until the final manifestation becomes clear. Watch the slideshow Flickering by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer .

Church government can take various shapes. Generally speaking, a pastor practices one denomination and serves a specific congregation. A chaplain is more often versed in many spiritual traditions and serves whomever needs spiritual aid within a particular area, frequently a nonreligious place such as a hospital or military unit. Leah Crenshaw does both, handling her own nondenominational Christian congregation and also overseeing the interfaith activities.

See Cotton Candy's multicolor cashmere sweater, which also has a matching white skirt, and her sneaker boots.

A show soup is a person with visible superpowers such as unusual hair or skin tone, extra body parts such as wings or tail, illusion powers, etc. who works in a position visible to the public. They basically demonstrate that soups are people like anyone else, and give ordinary citizens a chance to see one in person. Common jobs include tour guide, receptionist, and public speaker. They often do soup awareness work, but sometimes they're just ordinary workers for a company that's serious about Equal Opportunity Employment. Other times they work at places that take care of soups who need to be reassured that this is safe space.

After high school, young adults have many options. Terramagne-America does not overhype college as much as Local-America does, so more young people there choose other paths. When selecting a career, consider both technical and personal aspects. Explore possible careers in different ways. Parents and other trusted adults can help teens make good choices.

Shadowing involves following and observing someone on the job. It does not require doing any actual job tasks, although a good mentor will often offer the student an opportunity to try one or more of the easiest tasks. Helpful recordkeeping includes a student observation form, student reflections after the activity, student performance review, time log, and employer response form. Shadowing is an ideal way to investigate a moderate number of professions before deciding on one or two to pursue further through volunteering, paid internship, or other hands-on experience.

Black people's hair is both personal and political. The same is true of soups with unusual hair, for very similar reasons. Hair is a crucial part of body autonomy, because it allows people to express themselves and to experiment with different looks. Therefore, tampering with someone else's hair against their will is a violation which can do considerable harm. This demonstrates why it's important to get consent for touching or doing things to someone else's body, even in a nonsexual context. Otherwise you might hurt someone. Hair follicles actually connect to special nerves that sense caresses, so that it feels good to be petted nicely over hairy skin. For crayon soups in particular, some of them have hair that is extra sensitive, like Officer Pink and Turq do. That feels fantastic when a friend touches it, but being groped by strangers is a lot like having somebody grab your bathing suit bits. So if a black person or a soup invites you to touch your hair, it's usually an indication of a very close relationship and should be respected as such.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-12 01:27 pm (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I like this.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-15 04:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
Further evidence that Ansel is awesome. Not that we really needed any... XD

I liked Cotton Candy.

Thank you!

Date: 2016-04-15 06:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Further evidence that Ansel is awesome. Not that we really needed any... XD <<

He is an awesome guy, and seems inclined to interact with a lot of different people.

>> I liked Cotton Candy. <<

Yay! Given her interest in road trips, she is also a good person to mix into other contexts.

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