ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the March 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] kyleri, [livejournal.com profile] rix_scaedu, and [personal profile] sweet_sparrow. It also fills the "anxiety" square in my 3-1-17 card for the Disability Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings. It features prison inmates, group therapy, a show soup with some goat features including syndactyly and prey instincts, references to adaptive equipment, vulgar and intrusive talk, spitball leading to a prey reaction, refusal to apologize, speciesist language, discussion of disabilities, adoption issues, learning to compensate for a lost hand, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"To Appreciate Small Victories"


After Dr. G had completed
an art therapy session with Shiv,
he headed for the group therapy room.

Mr. Hatrack had already set up by the door
with his chair and table full of handouts
for the inmates. Today's batch covered
diversity, tolerance, and respect.

"Mr. Vanburen is leading the team
in charge of removing the tables,"
Mr. Hatrack said when he saw Dr. G.
"Wade volunteered to help Mr. Raybourne
circle the chairs and couches. I think
they're practicing for peer therapy."

"Yes, they're getting lessons
from Simon in how to host
peer therapy sessions,"
Dr. G said. "I'm glad that
they're being proactive."

"It's good to see Wade
stepping up," Mr. Hatrack said
with a smile. "In prison, we learn
to appreciate small victories."

"They're easier to accomplish,
and they build momentum for
larger goals," Dr. G agreed
as he stepped into the room.

It was half-full already, and
more inmates trickled in even
as Dr. G exchanged greetings.

"Did we do it right?" Wade asked,
waving at the oval of furniture.

"Yes, this is how we usually
set up the group therapy room,"
Dr. G assured him. "Thank you."

"Anytime," Wade replied.

Dr. G watched as people arrived.
Kincade and Sanquez were there,
of course. Tremon, Jimar, Alejándro,
and Dustin clustered around them.

Ragno was there, too, with
Mr. Bonaventure in tow. They
had paired up much like Shiv
and Mr. Vanburen, which
was helping Ragno adapt.

Bain had already taken over
a wooden chair, scooted
a little aside from the rest.

When Dr. G's vidwatch chimed
the hour, he closed the door and
motioned for everyone to take a seat.

"All right, gentlemen, today we have
a guest speaker who should arrive
in a few minutes," Dr. G said. "We'll
be talking about diversity and tolerance,
particularly regarding superpower issues."

Kincade and Sanquez leaned forward,
as always intrigued by multicultural topics.

Bain snorted and slouched even lower
in his chair. The young Peckerwood
didn't seem very appreciative of therapy,
but something kept him coming at least
occasionally -- perhaps just the points
that the inmates got for attending.

"Diversity is how we get lots of ways
to have fun and solve problems,"
Dr. G said. "Tolerance is how
we get the cheese out without
springing the mousetrap!"

The men chuckled over that.
"Nice trick if you can do it,"
Ragno said, almost smiling.

"In the interest of motivation, I brought
a board game called Save the City,
about superpowers and diversity."
Dr. G said. "It will be available to
anyone who completes at least half
the worksheets and exercises in
the packet, and more work earns you
more play time. Other folks can buy in
with points. I'll leave it in the social room
for a week so everyone can take turns."

"That sounds like fun," said Wade,
and some of the others nodded.

"Who would like to take charge
of the game?" Dr. G asked.

"I, um, I'm good at organizing things,"
Dustin said, putting his hand up.

"It's all yours," Dr. G said. "You can
pick up the box from Mr. Hatrack after
therapy and inventory it together. You'll
count the pieces again at the end of the week.
In between, it's your responsibility to keep
track of everything in the box."

"I won't let you down," Dustin promised.

Just then Dr. G's vidwatch alerted him
to the arrival their guest speaker,
so he went to the door.

"Gentlemen, this is Keras,"
Dr. G said, ushering him inside.
"He's a counselor and a show soup."

"Hi, everyone," said Keras,
and they all stared at him.

His long brown hair did nothing
to disguise the little goat horns on
his forehead or the long mobile ears
that stuck out sideways from his head.
A moist pad tipped the end of his nose.

When he turned, they could see
the brown-and-white goat tail poking
through the seat of his chinos.

"So, who wants to come up
and shake hands?" Keras said.
"If you tell me your names, I'll
remember most of them."

Kincade and Sanquez jumped on
the chance, and everyone hung back
to give them the first opportunity, but
after that, more of the inmates went.

When it was Ragno's turn,
he twisted his wrist a little to get
a better look at Keras' hand. It had
only three thick digits, and they were
more like thumbs than fingers.

"That must be really awkward,"
Ragno murmured in sympathy.

"Yeah, sometimes," Keras said.
"I need some adaptive equipment --
I can't use a regular keyboard easily,
or a lot of other tools -- but I've learned
how to get around it. I have a stylus,
giant keypads, loop scissors, and
other devices that fit my hands."

"What's awkward?" Dustin asked.

"Fauns are prone to syndactyly,
which is a fancy word for saying
fingers stuck together," Keras said.
He held up a hand. "Everyone get
a good look if you want to, I'm not shy."

"By the way, that's a common birth defect
in ordinary people," Dr. G said. "It just
appears more often in some soups with
animal features, mostly the ungulates,
also known as hooved animals. It seems
to be more consistently functional in soups."

"As you can see, I share a lot of features
with goats," said Keras, turning in place.
"Horns, long ears, nose pad, hands, and
tail all remain visible in street clothes."

"What about under your clothes?"
Bain asked, snickering.

"Not part of the show," Keras said.

"Bain, that was a very rude question,"
Dr. G said. "How would you like it
if Keras asked you that?"

"I'm 100% Peckerwood, I got
nothin' to hide," Bain said, hooking
his thumbs behind his belt.

"Don't worry, it's either that or
people asking how many times
I can go in a night," Keras said.
"It almost always comes up."

"So how many?" Tremon asked.
"I bet that you don't need
no horny goat weed!"

"I don't know," Keras said.
"I've never hit my limit, but then,
I haven't gone looking for it either."

The men laughed and hooted
until Mr. Raybourne scolded them
into some semblance of order.

"That's basically it," Keras said
as he took a seat in a wooden chair.
"I have some DNA from angora goats,
which my grandparents raise. We think
that their genes merged with mine somehow,
but we don't know exactly what happened.
It's not very exciting as a superpower, though
I do have some enhanced senses."

"He stinks like a goat," Bain muttered.

"I have a strong body odor," Keras said.
"Women and gay men tend to like it, but
lesbians and straight men usually don't.
Of course, I also work with goats."

"Oh, are you a farmer?" Alejándro said,
perking up. "I'm into some of that, but
more with plants than with animals."

"I do a bit of both," Keras said. He showed
his unusual hands again. "As you might guess,
it's hard for me to get work at a conventional business.
Instead, I work at a community farm that is staffed
about half-and-half by people with special needs
and their caregivers. We call it lifesharing."

"What's it like?" Alejándro said.
"I mean, what do you do there?"

"Pacific Ridge Community Farm
takes rescue animals and presents
educational events," said Keras. "We keep
miniature cows, dairy goats, ponies, riding and
plow horses of breeds that make good therapy animals.
We also raise flocks of chickens and ducks, the latter
more suited to Rain City's environment. We have
gardens, but not much crop space because we're
part of a larger community park at the edge of town."

"I have an uncle who keeps sheep," said Dustin.
"I liked visiting him to help out with them."

"That all sounds nice," Sanquez said. "I
used to do some farm work, as a teenager.
Animals are relaxing; they don't care what
color you are or whether you're a troublemaker,
only that you're soft with them. You seem like
a chico who's got the hang of that part."

"Personally, I'm a counselor," Keras said
with a nod. "I help train our therapy animals.
That's one reason Dr. G invited me here today.
I have the education to handle things like terrorism
and abuse, and I work with troubled youth a lot."

"You sound like ... just a regular guy,"
Tremon said. "I thought you'd be,
I don't know, more super."

"I am a regular guy," Keras said.
"I just look different, and I can do
a few things better than most folks."
He looked around the room. "You need
to understand that most soups aren't
heroes or villains, just everyday folks."

"Are you a blue plate special?"
Dustin asked. "I mean, obviously
you can't be a cricket. Do you use
your powers at work, or not?"

Keras began to reply, but then
something startled him. "Bwaa!"
he yelled, jumping up so suddenly
that his chair fell with a clatter.

One hand pawed at his left ear, and
he looked frantically around the room.

Bain cracked up laughing.

"Mr. Callaway, what did you do
to our guest?" Dr. G said. "I believe
that you owe Keras an apology."

"I didn't do nothin' to him," Bain said,
but he couldn't stop smirking.

"I saw you do something,"
Alejándro snapped, starting to rise.
"Never Ever Tolerate Abuse!"

"I appreciate the sentiment,
Mr. Duran, but please let me
handle this," Dr. G said.

"You better," Alejándro said,
but subsided into his seat.

"We're all waiting, Mr. Callaway,"
said Dr. G as he crossed his arms.

"But it was just a spitball!" Bain said.
"I don't have to apologize to that --
that jumped-up barn animal."

"That will be enough of that,"
Dr. G said. "Mr. Callaway, you are
through today. Mr. Vanburen, please
walk him to the door. Another guard
can escort him back to his cell; there's
no need to shortchange your therapy
over someone else's poor choices."

Bain glared at him, but did not resist
as Mr. Vanburen took him firmly in hand
and propelled him outside to Mr. Hatrack.

Dr. G turned his attention back to Keras,
who still stood in the middle of the room,
trembling visibly. He had stopped
rubbing his ear, though, and didn't
seem injured, only upset.

"What can we do to help you
calm down?" Dr. G asked.

Keras looked around the room,
but he did not say anything.

"Hey, man, do you want
the corner seat?" Jimar said,
speaking up for the first time.
"I think you need it more
than I do right now."

Keras nodded, so Jimar
moved to sit beside Dustin
on one of the couches.

When the faun huddled into
the corner seat, Kincade and
Sanquez closed ranks in front of
him, making their protection plain.

Whether or not anyone respected
Keras, nobody would mess with them.

"Well, now you see the problem with
intolerance," Dr. G said. "It disrupts
activities that everyone else is enjoying,
and it upsets the target, sometimes a lot."

He went on to discuss other incidents
against soups, some by actual forks
but others by regular citizens.

Eventually Keras stopped shaking
and breathing hard. Dr. G could see him
shift into a more mindful state as the faun
worked through a set of coping skills.

Dr. G wound down his little side speech
and left the other man an opening.

"Okay, guys, what you just saw
is called a prey reaction," Keras said.
"That means my goat brain took over
for a minute, and it took me a while
to get back in control of myself again.
It looks weird, but it's no big deal."

"Goat brain?" Tremon said.

"How many of you have ever
heard the terms 'lizard brain' or
'ape brain' before?" Keras said.
"Raise your hands, please."

About half of the hands went up,
although Dr. G wouldn't bet on
most of them being able to define
either of the concepts accurately.

"Okay, so the lizard brain is about
survival instincts while the ape brain
is about feelings," said Keras. "Humans
react a lot like other primates in many ways,
although humans also have a rational brain."

"Yeah, so what?" Tremon said.

"I don't have an ape brain anymore.
I have a goat brain," Keras said. "I still
have feelings, but those are not exactly
the same flavor as most people have. That
caused some pretty serious problems, so I
found a psychiatrist who specializes in issues
that don't fit the usual diagnoses. He created ways
to test my instincts to learn why I was struggling,
and then help me to do better. It's working."

"What's the difference?" Tremon wondered.

"My psychiatrist figured out that I react
to threats more like a goat than a primate,"
Keras said. "Unlike primates, goats are
prey animals, so when startled, they have
a strong flight instinct. We hope that what
we're learning with me can help others
who suffer from PTSD or anxiety."

"Yeah, you spooked pretty bad
back there," Alejándro said.

"You're not ashamed of that?"
Dustin said. "It seems awful harsh."

"It's only a natural reaction," Keras said.
"Everyone spooks sometimes. Some of us
just do it more often than others do."

Several of the inmates nodded at that.
Traumatic stress from the chayne incident
had left a lot of people edgy and restless.

"So let's talk about coping skills," Dr. G said.
"How do you handle it when you're spooked?"

"First, I let my body do what it needs in order
to get safe," Keras said. "I can't make headway
before then. Once I'm physically secure, I can
concentrate on slowing my pulse and breathing,
which helps my body and mind to calm down."

"Those are things anyone can learn," Dr. G said.
"I will put some resources into the group file,
in case folks want to explore more later."

"Another thing I find useful is working
with animals," Keras said. "We understand
each other. I really love our rescue goats,
but we have a new therapy cat in training, too."

He pulled out his phone and showed photos
of an orange cat sniffing noses with the goats,
and shrinking away from the larger one.

"His name is Marmalade, and he's learning
to overcome his fears of animals bigger than
himself," Keras explained. "I like showing him
the goats won't hurt him. After he's trained,
Marmalade will help troubled youth."

"What other therapy animals do you have?"
Ragno said. "They sound really neat."

"Let me show you one of our experts,"
Keras said with a grin. He displayed a photo
of a dachshund in a wheelcart, calmly interacting
with a curious pair of brown-and-white goats.

"Wow," Ragno said. "I, um, didn't know
anyone made wheelchairs for dogs."

"Animal prosthetics is a whole field
unto itself," Dr. G said. "Ask Simon
about that sometime -- he and Tolli are
starting to explore it, because they
work with rescue horses too."

"Scooter here specializes in
people with acquired disabilities,"
Keras went on. "Learning to take care
of his assistance needs helps them realize
that mobility impairment is a challenge, and not
the end of the world. Sometimes you can see
folks riding around in our accessible pony cart,
with Scooter trundling along beside them."

Keras went on to talk about the program
for therapy animals and how that helped
people with special needs, including soups.

When the talk wound down, Keras asked
if anyone had something more to add.

Kincade stood up. "Thanks for coming,"
he said. "We'd like to offer you some sort of
apology for the ruckus that Bain caused.
That ain't exactly the impression that
we want folks to get from us."

"What kind of apology?" Keras asked.

"I don't know, what do you like?"
Kincade said. "We don't got a lot
in here, but whatever we have,
it's yours if you want some."

"Aside from the farming that I've
already mentioned, I'm into dancing
and historic recreation," Keras said.
"I'm not sure that's up your alley."

"Farming -- do you like visiting
gardens?" Alejándro said.

"I do," said Keras. "When we
go on vacation, my children and I
like to visit healing gardens, although
traveling can be a challenge for our family."

"You can have kids?" Tremon said,
startled. "I didn't think, well ..."

"I'm fertile," Keras said quietly.
"However, I've chosen to adopt
instead. There are so many children
who need love but don't get any from
their birth parents. I stepped up."

"Yeah, nobody was linin' up to adopt
the black kid," Tremon said bitterly.

"My middle son Calderon is mixed
Native American and Mexican," said Keras.
"He was severely abused, with behavior issues,
so I wound up adopting him out of the foster system.
The farm has really helped him cope with that."

"And the others?" Dustin said. "It sounds
like you've got a good family there."

"We think so," Keras said. "My oldest child
is Alex, who is intersex and uses a wheelchair.
My youngest daughter -- well, see for yourself."
He displayed a picture of a preschooler with
the black ears and tail of a cat. "This is
Katherine Don't-Call-Me-Kitty."

Everyone chuckled at that, shifting in
their seats and poking each other for fun.

"It's too bad Verne couldn't make it today,
he'd love hearing about your kids," Kincade said.
"He's got a daughter of his own, just toddling,
and wants to get back into her life."

"That's a wonderful goal. Please tell Verne
that I said hi," Keras replied. "How about I put
some pictures of my family in the group therapy file?
Then you can share those with your friend."

"We have an organic garden here,"
Alejándro said, returning to their offer of
a communal apology. "I could give you a tour
of it, and you could take pictures for your kids."

"I would enjoy that very much, thanks,"
Keras said. "Alex loves virtual traveling --
thon makes photo-essays of our farm and
then exchanges those for local pictures
from penpals around the world."

"That sounds like a good plan,"
Dr. G said. "Well done, gentlemen.
"Mr. Vanburen, do you have anything
to add from your side of the table?"

"Nope," Travis said. "They're following
the rules for respect of guests, and inmates
in the standard or privileged wings are allowed
to invite visitors to tour the public areas such as
the garden, provided they have an escort."

Mr. Bonaventure promptly put his hand up.
"I volunteer," he said. "I love going outside."
Then he gave Ragno a gentle nudge with his knee.
"Why don't you join us? You need to get out more."

Ragno groaned and tried to hide in his couch.
"I don't feel like it. Quit pestering me."

"Remember our discussion about
socializing," Dr. G reminded him. "It's not
good for an extrovert to be alone too much.
Let me sweeten the pot a little: if you go out
to the garden for fifteen minutes, I'll get you
that leather bookweight you've been coveting."

It had taken a lot of work to get that approval,
because Warden Daley hated making any kind
of exception to the rules. He had only relented
when Dr. G threatened to report him for refusal
to accommodate a disability. The standard type
of bookweight had two metal slugs in the ends,
clearly not prison-safe, but Dr. G eventually
found one stuffed with sand instead.

Keras cast an experienced gaze over
the stump that Ragno held cradled against
his chest. "Still tender, is it?" he said.

"Yeah, if I bump it, or let it hang down,"
Ragno said. "I wish it'd quit."

"You haven't tried overhead tasks yet,
have you?" Keras said. "Come with us and
I'll show you a cool trick with hanging baskets."

"I guess," Ragno said. "If I get the bookweight."

"I'll order it as soon as you come back from
your visit to the garden," Dr. G promised.

"This will be fun," Keras said. Then
he looked at his vidwatch. "I think
that's a good note to end our session,
since we're about out of time now."

The other inmates murmured
their appreciation, then began
to file out of the therapy room.

Dr. G got up to shake hands
with Keras, undeterred by
the unusual shape of his fingers.

"It was a pleasure to have you here,"
said Dr. G. "You've got my number so you
can arrange a reciprocal visit to your farm.
I'm sorry that Bain decided to make a fuss."

"Don't sweat it," Keras said. "Something
like that happens about one time in five.
I work with kids, and they're rowdy. I refuse
to let fear curtail the kind of life I can lead.
I'd rather just deal with the startle reaction
when it comes up, and then move on.
Besides, it's educational too."

"I think the group learned something
today," Dr. G agreed. "Most of the ones
who come to therapy are good inside,
just lost in some ways." He sighed.
"Working here is a challenge at times."

"Kincade apologized, though, even
if Bain refused," Keras pointed out.

"Kincade is solid," Mr. Raybourne said
on the way out. "It'd be a lot harder
to keep this place calm without him."

"In my line of work, I have learned
to appreciate small victories," Keras said.
"Dealing with the chayne incident that
you told me about must be similar."

"That it is," Dr. G agreed.

He just hoped that those victories,
however small, would someday add up
to enough success to make a difference.

* * *

Notes:

Matthew Hatrack -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short wavy brown hair. He is 6'6" tall and slender. A drawback of his height is that it makes everything cost more -- he doesn't fit most standard sizes of clothing or furniture. Hatrack serves as a security guard at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. Instead of relying on brute force, he uses the physics of reach and leverage to maintain control in a conflict -- and his psychological tactics follow similar lines. He practices mixed martial arts, drawing on Taekwondo for kicks that capitalize on his long legs, plus Aikido and Jiu-Jitsu for leverage techniques. He's always happy to lend a hand, and it's difficult to provoke him.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Tall, Good (+2) Helpful, Good (+2) Mixed Martial Arts, Good (+2) Physics, Good (+2) Security Guard
Poor (-2) Shopping Tall Costs More

Jimar Alvarez -- He has toffee skin, brown eyes, and black hair buzzed short in an attempt to make its loose nap less obvious. There are scars from defensive wounds all over his hands and forearms, including a particularly large machete scar on the outside of his left forearm and a horizonal slice clear across his left palm. His heritage is black and Hispanic. Because of that, he doesn't belong directly to Kincade or Sanquez, they kind of share him. Both of the senior gangsters feel a bit protective of Jimar because he's so vulnerable. He is currently serving time along with them in the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.
Jimar has an addictive personality. He has had problems with alcohol, various narcotics, softer drugs, food, and oxygen. Yes, really, he caught a bad chest infection once and it took the hospital weeks to wean him off the supplemental oxygen. He cannot seem to stay sober for very long, no matter what the penalties. Jimar uses whatever he can get to self-medicate for some serious emotional problems left over from childhood abuse -- his father attacked his mother, Jimar intervened, and both of them almost died. That's how Jimar wound up spending the rest of his childhood in the foster care system. He is actively terrified of his father, and his relationship with his mother is not good because she still loves the man despite all that violence. A Microfyne blanket might help.
Qualities: Good (+2) Friends in the 'Hood, Good (+2) Gangster, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Addictive Personality

Alejándro Duran -- He has fair skin that tans dark, green eyes, and dark brown hair cut short with a short beard and mustache. His parents are Puerto Rican but they moved to Nebraska in 1975. His heritage includes Spanish, Greek, and a little American. Alejándro has a Ñeta gang tattoo and shares their loathing of abusers. He has a serious tendency to hold grudges, too. He is currently serving time in the Nebraska State penitentiary in Lincoln, where he allies with other Hispanic inmates. He is one of Ragno's contacts for trading contraband.
Qualities: Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Smuggler, Good (+2) Subtle, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Unforgiving

In T-America, the Ñeta gang specializes in "mellow" drugs, primarily hallucinogens and downers. Ñeta means "worm" in Spanish but also is an acronym for Never Ever Tolerate Abuse -- a reference to their violent vendetta against pedophiles, sex offenders, and other abusers.

Bain Callaway -- He has hair skin, brown eyes, and wavy dark blond hair. His skin is so oily that it breaks out in red blotches, and his hair looks greasy an hour after it's been washed. His unkempt appearance makes some people want to avoid him. He is currently serving time in the Nebraska State penitentiary in Lincoln, where he belongs to the Peckerwood gang. He has a woodpecker tattoo on his left leg. He is disrespectful and rude to most people.
Qualities: Good (+2) Drug Dealer, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Ingenuity, Good (+2) Networking
Poor (-2) Oily Skin

Dustin Hall -- He has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and curly black hair to his shoulders. His heritage includes Winnebago Omaha, Mexican, Nepalese, and American. He's been called everything from "spic" to "prairie nigger" -- also "spoon-licker" because he likes people with superpowers -- and is heartily sick of all of it. He is 21 years old.
Dustin used to handle supplies for Boss Batir in Lincoln, Nebraska until he was captured in a police raid on a weapons cache. He is currently in the Nebraska state penitentiary in Lincoln. There he networks with Ragno and some other inmates run the shadow economy of the prison. He's happy to deal in light contraband, doesn't really want to deal in weapons anymore, but feels conflicted about whether or not to return to his old boss. Who has done bupkis to help him in prison.
As a quartermaster, Dustin can find just about anything, anywhere, and enjoys the challenge of getting the goods. He is a people person, but until recently he hasn't been around very good people. He's very good friends with Ragno, and completely freaked by the chayne incident. Shiv made Dustin uneasy before the incident, and downright frightened after it.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Quartermaster Skills, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Internalized Oppression

Tremon Elliston -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair. Growing up poor and black has left him with low self-worth, a problem worsened by his experiences with the legal system. People think badly of him, and he tends to agree with them. Tremon is a drug dealer who prefers to peddle medical-grade materials on the street, and he pays attention to the interaction between different types of drugs. He is currently serving time in the Nebraska State penitentiary in Lincoln.
Qualities: Good (+2) Prescription/Prohibited Drug Interface, Good (+2) Thoughtful, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Internalized Oppression

Craig Raybourne -- He has brown skin, brown eyes, and black body hair. He is bald. He has tribal tattoos sleeving both arms from wrist to shoulder. The one on the right combines Maori designs and Celtic knotwork, which he got on a trip to New Zealand just after graduating from college. He serves as a security guard at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. While he excels at bringing people together, he is also easily swayed by his peers.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Influencing People, Good (+2) Prison Guard, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Prone to Groupthink

Raul Bonaventure -- He has tinted skin and brown eyes. His brown hair curls at the ends where it brushes over his collar, and his hairline comes to a sweetheart point. His heritage includes Italian, Spanish, and American. Raul is married with four children: a 5-year-old boy, 3-year-old boy and girl twins, and an infant girl. He serves as a guard at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. The salary is decent, but it's hard to cover a family of six people, especially with his wife staying home to take care of the kids.
Raul has a keen interest in trading, although he isn't very good at it yet -- everything from swapping collectibles to day-trading stocks. He has the potential, but not the skills, so he has made friends with Ragno, Dustin Hall, and the other reliable middlemen among the inmates. He helps them with their social skills, points management, or whatever, and they give him tips about making good trades.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Fairness, Good (+2) Prison Guard, Good (+2) Sociable, Good (+2) Strength, Average (0) Trader
Poor (-2) Too Much Month Left at the End of the Money

Keras (Dwight Brecken) -- He has fair skin marked with darker tan, hazel eyes, and long straight brown hair. He also has a pair of tiny goat horns on his forehead, goat ears with full parabolic function, a moist nose and partially divided lip, and short wattles. Once the human parts of his facial hair grew in, he learned how to trim his beard so it looks more human and hides the wattles. Although his horns are small now, they will grow backward and then out in slow spirals. Keras also has a brown-and-white goat tail, which requires all his trousers to be custom-tailored so it can stick out, and his penis has a full furry sheath instead of just a foreskin. Fauns are prone to syndactyly; he only has three stubby digits on each hand. His legs and feet are normal, though.
His heritage is primarily Greek, a little Italian, and some American. His sister has distinctive, squiggly hair striped in shades of brown and black but has declined to check whether it comes from goat or human DNA. Keras has three children, all adopted from the special needs list -- one disabled, one survivor of severe abuse, and one superkid. Because he needs some adaptive equipment, and so does one of the kids, it runs down the family budget. Their family lives in Rain City.
Keras works as a counselor with troubled populations. He lives at Pacific Ridge Community Farm on the edge of Rain City, which is staffed about half-and-half by people with special needs and their caregivers in a model called lifesharing. Its brother farm in Easy City, Downbeat, provides live-work space for musicians with Down Syndrome. His specialty is teaching people that it's okay to be different, but it's not okay to be mean. So he often appears as a "show soup" to let people meet someone with superpowers. Graham Finn brings him to the Nebraska State Penitentiary so the inmates can meet someone who's just a regular soup, not involved in cape politics. Keras came to the attention of Kraken as a teenager but chose not to join. He does occasionally alert them to troubled youth who seem like a good fit.
Keras enjoys historic recreation, and attends SCA events as a faun. He is a particularly agile dancer and much liked by the pipers and other musicians -- he teams up with whoever seems like a good match for stage performances or just for fun.
Uniform: Keras likes casual, comfortable men's wear. A challenge is that all of his bottoms and hats need to be modified for his unusual body. His SCA persona is a faun; he goes topless and wears goatskin chaps, allowing his natural tail to show. In front he wears a priapic codpiece styled according to period fashion.
Qualities: Master (+6) Adaptable, Master (+6) Father, Expert (+4) Counselor, Expert (+4) SCAdian, Good (+2) Dancer, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Intrapersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Sense of Humor
Poor (-2) Adaptive Equipment Is Expensive
Powers: Good (+2) Goat Features, Good (+2) Super-Immunity
Keras has the horns, parabolic ears, penis, and tail of a goat. The horns (and the reinforced skull underneath) give him an advantage in headbutting attacks, or resisting concussions. He has Agility, Iron Stomach, Sex Appeal, Super-Hearing, and Super-Smell at Good level. However, he dislikes anything moldy (like blue cheese) and won't eat mushrooms either. He has a strong body odor, which some people (mostly heterosexual women and gay men, plus a few who like soups) find very appealing and some others (mostly lesbians and straight men) dislike.
Motivation: To show people that it's okay to be different, but it's not okay to be mean.

Alex Brecken -- Thon has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair. Thon is short and plump, and thon rides an electric wheelchair with mauve cushions. Thon has genetic abnormalities which include ambiguous sex and muscle weakness. Thon can stand and walk a little, but feels much more safe and comfortable in a wheelchair. Thon is currently eight years old. Alex is the adopted child of Keras (Dwight Brecken), and the older sibling of Calderon and Katherine. They live at Pacific Ridge Community Farm on the edge of Rain City. While Alex has many "cousins" around the farm and a few facetime friends, thon's real passion is penpals. Thon enjoys corresponding with people from around the world, especially other genderqueer or disabled folks. Their hobby is virtual vacations, because it's often difficult to make long trips to exciting new places in person. So each of them focuses on local attractions, for which they make photo-essays to share with their friends. Alex is currently dreaming about becoming a travel writer someday, and is researching how people with disabilities can accommodate their needs on the road. Thon is proud of showing off where
Qualities: Expert (+4) Penpal, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Planning Ahead
Poor (-2) Limited Mobility

Calderon Brecken -- He has rosy-tan skin that deepens toward copper in the sun, dark brown eyes, and short straight black hair. His father came from the Colville Reservation and his mother was an undocumented Mexican immigrant in Rain City. He is the adopted son of Keras (Dwight Brecken), the younger brother of Alex, and the older brother of Katherine. Calderon was severely abused as a preschooler and taken away from his mother, but the damage was already done; he had such serious behavioral problems that no normal family would tolerate him. So Keras brought him to the Pacific Ridge Community Farm on the edge of Rain City, where the boy has improved greatly. Calderon's goal is to overcome his past well enough to help other abuse survivors; he wants to wear the silver Sowilo pendant, but doesn't feel ready for that yet. He loves animals, and finds that working with them on the farm helps pull him out of his bad memories into the world as it is now.
Qualities: Good (+2) Animal Lover, Good (+2) Compassion, Good (+2) Work Ethic
Poor (-2) Survivor of Severe Abuse

Katherine Don't-Call-Me Kitty Brecken -- She has fair skin, dark brown eyes with vertical pupils, and curly light brown hair to her shoulders. She has large black cat ears atop her head in addition to her human ears, a black nose pad and the beginnings of tabby facial streaks coming in, and a furry black tail. Her features seem to be growing more feline over time. She is currently four years old. Katherine likes her given name and her cat aspects, but hates being called Kitty. She always introduces herself as "Katherine Don't-Call-Me-Kitty" to the point it has become her middle name. She is the adopted daughter of Keras (Dwight Brecken), the younger sister of Alex and Calderon. They live at Pacific Ridge Community Farm on the edge of Rain City, a home for people with disabilities and their caregivers.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adorable, Good (+2) Gardener
Poor (+2) Don't Call Me Kitty

Dr. Hewitt Gaines -- He has fair skin and dark gray eyes. His hair was dark in his youth; now his hair is gray and receding, while his beard and mustache are white. He wears glasses, and his vision is so bad that he's legally blind without them. He is a psychiatrist who specializes in treating unusual challenges that don't fit in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the Encyclopedia of Mental Health and Maladies. After meeting Keras, Dr. Hewitt began helping him cope with goat features, which led to an ongoing interest in soup care. He lives in Rain City.
Qualities: Master (+6) Psychiatrist, Master (+6) Emotional Intelligence, Expert (+4) Bookworm, Expert (+4) Gentle, Expert (+4) Yogi, Good (+2) Animal Lover, Good (+2) Soup Care, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Legally Blind without Glasses

Marmalade -- He is a neutered male cat in training as an animal therapist. He lives at a community farm, staffed about half-and-half by people with special needs and their caregivers. He's still intimidated by animals much larger than himself, but is friendly with anything close to his own size. He makes a fantastic legwarmer, and his loud penetrating purr soothes bone problems.
Qualities: Expert (+2) Cat, Good (+2) Legwarmer, Good (+2) Purr
Poor (-2) Daunted by Larger Animals

See Marmalade with the van that Keras uses for road trips.

Scooter -- He is a neutered male Dachshund with a fawn coat, beginning to turn white at the muzzle. He is missing both of his back legs and most of his tail due to a car accident. Scooter specializes in helping people with acquired mobility limitations adjust to a new lifestyle on wheels or other adaptive equipment. He needs a lot of extra help because of his disabilities. Learning to take care of him helps people understand more about disability support.
Qualities: Master (+6) Animal Therapist, Master (+6) Dog, Expert (+4) Friendly
Poor (-2) Special Needs.

* * *

“Once you learn to appreciate small victories, there is no need for a finish line.”
-- Quotes Every Special Needs Parent Should Read and Share

This is one of several small multipurpose rooms at the prison that can be used for visiting, classes, group therapy, games, and so forth.

This quiet room is near the multipurpose room shown above, in the central hub. It has indoor-outdoor carpeting, a couple of chairs, sturdy foam footstools, and a foam windowseat. This is one of the most popular overflow rooms for stressful therapy or other group activities when someone gets overloaded and needs a break. It uses a sliding sign to designate occupancy, an advantage of which is being able to set the thing halfway to indicate "someone is already inside, but more people are welcome."

Pacific Ridge Community Farm includes chickens, muscovy ducks, and mallard ducks. Rain City is, obviously, rainy most of the time. Farmers use tarps to allow the hens to roam outdoors and still enjoy some protection from the weather, rather than huddling in the coop all day. The tarps are easily removed on drier days to take advantage of the sunshine.

Horses offer opportunities for riding and plowing. Accessible carts enable wheelchair riders to enjoy the cart ponies.

Adapted to the harsh damp climate of Scotland, these Miniature White Galloway Cattle thrive in Rain City. Their small size and gentle temperament make them ideal as therapy animals.

Dairy goats provide milk. This Army veteran has PTSD and chronic pain from several bad miscarriages. She is trying to shift her focus from genetic motherhood and wants to become comfortable with adoption. Milking the goats helps her to feel calm.

The farm includes orchards, gardens, raised beds, and other features. Residents enjoy harvesting their produce. Sometimes they get advice from senior farmers. Residents and staff run a farmstand to sell surplus produce.

Handouts offered to the attendees of this group therapy session include Tolerance Mindfulness Skills, Improve the Moment, Distress Tolerance, Distress Tolerance Activities, Tolerance Poster, Respect Poster, Unity Poster, A-Z of Tolerance, Respect Questionnaire, Tolerance Hand, Me and You, Despite Our Differences, Resolve Conflict, Diversity, Diversity Poster, and Diversity and Discrimination. One of many factors contributing to crime is a lack of skills, so in Terramagne-America, the prisons aim to teach skills as a way of minimizing recidivism. Not all inmates take advantage of these opportunities, but many do.

There are many lessons and other activities for teaching tolerance. Teaching the skills of tolerance is important if you want it to work.

Mainstreaming has pros and cons. In order for people to fit together effectively, they must understand how to make diversity work. Learn about how to be tolerant of others, talk to people about tolerance, and show compassion for yourself.

Superpowers can introduce a whole new level of racial politics. Here's a look at how local-America literally outlawed restorative justice in comics, and what a restorative superhero might look like. I write a lot of them.

"Save the City" is a T-American board game involving disasters and, sometimes, superpowers.

In humans, mild syndactyly comes in various forms, some of which can be a minor problem which is straightforward to correct. But often it causes severe warping of the digits which is difficult or impossible to correct. In soups with odd-toed ungulate genes, the most common manifestation is Type I syndactyly with the middle and ring fingers joined, which can easily be separated if desired. In soups with even-toed ungulate genes, the merger tends to be first-middle and ring-pinky, which can sometimes be separated. However, some soups develop like Keras, who has a single thick column of bones in each digit instead of doubled, meaning they cannot be sliced into narrower digits.

Many types of adaptive equipment can be used to solve similar problems experienced by people with a very wide range of disorders. Check out the writing bird, playing card holder, and loop scissors.

Nowadays many things are electronic, which creates a need for special tools to use them. This kind of typing aid works well for many different hand shapes, including most variations of syndactyly. Here is a keyboard/mouse typing tool. This phone shows an example of a giant keyboard.

Many gadgets meant for people with arthritis work for other challenges. Keras uses a plastic bag holder and oversize keypad. I myself use kitchen tools with large soft handles because my hands are sensitive, although I buy mine from Cutco. because my partner Doug is a dealer and introduced me to their awesome equipment.

Crotch display is a type of male body language used to assert dominance.

Horny goat weed is a famous aphrodisiac.

Community farms may focus on food security, sustainability, education, and/or other issues. Some provide a haven for rescued animals, people with special needs, or both. This one offers a permanent home for adults who need care. They may also give town kids a chance to interact with farm animals.

Goats love to run and jump. When startled, they use these skills to escape perceived threats.

One theory of psychology describes different brains. The "lizard brain" deals with survival instincts and actions. The "ape brain" is more about emotions and primitive social dynamics. The "rational brain" handles abstract ideas and logic. Because of how the parts of the brain interact, the rational brain is easily overridden by atavistic urges from the older parts. This happens to everyone sometimes, but it is more dramatic in some soups with animal traits -- especially if their additive traits don't come from primates and therefore diverge from "ape brain" behavior.

Right now, L-America has a huge problem with mental care and a ballooning list of disorders that may not even exist. Some mental workers don't even believe in mental illness, but if they want to run a business, they have to fake a diagnosis for each patient in hopes of getting an insurance company to pay for at least some therapy. If someone's life-wrecking problem doesn't fit a preconceived pattern, this can make it difficult or impossible to get any help at all, let alone help that is sufficiently targeted to solve the problem they have rather than what someone else has. One way that T-America deals with this is with a "disordered" range of behaviors and symptoms that are not healthy, but not severe or consistent enough to fit a specific illness. Another is that people can get treatment for any individual symptoms or complaints which trouble them, even if those don't add up to a recognized diagnosis. Mental workers in T-America are more concerned about helping people fix what's bothering them than about making it fit a common pattern. Some problems just aren't common, and having a goat brain is one of those. This article looks at some flaws in L-American mental care and ways to improve them.

"Fight Flight Freeze Fawn" is a menu of options for responding to danger. Notice that T-America largely lacks the extreme stigma on "going feral" that plagues many settings with anthropomorphic, super-animal, or other character types which blend human and nonhuman traits. To Keras, his prey response is essentially the same as a PTSD panic attack, different in flavor but not morality.

Reasons for children being labeled "unadoptable" include racial minority, belonging to a sibling group, behavioral problems, and physical disabilities. Also, the older a child gets, the lower the chance anyone will ever adopt them and the harder it gets to bond with their adoptive family. This is a problem even in T-America, although they do better than here. However, an additional issue there is that children with superpowers are the least adoptable and almost nobody wants them in foster care either. Children with visible manifestations and/or powers that people find disturbing suffer the worst discrimination, highest rates of abuse/neglect, and greatest chance of ending up in foster care.

Horse prosthetics come in a wide range of styles. See an example in motion.

Bookweights come in many styles, and they can hold down more things than just pages, making them a terrific all-purpose aid for people with only one hand or minimal dexterity. One standard type with lead weights is inappropriate for prison use because it is basically a sap. The kind that Dr. G finds for Ragno has a leather back with a front sack filled with sand, much less feasible as a weapon. It is also possible to find a bookworm that's just a long tube full of sand, which is the easiest if you want to make your own. This string weight probably wouldn't clear the rules either, because it's long enough to serve as a garotte. If you don't want to pay an arm and a leg for adaptive equipment to hold your stuff down, consider pie chains in stainless steel or silicone, which are more affordable.

Overhead gardening includes such things as trellises and hanging baskets. This would be a more comfortable activity for Ragno and would get his arm out of the sling.

Among the issues that may occur after amputation is discomfort when the stump is pointed downward, due to increased blood pressure against sensitive tissues that are still healing. There are yoga poses to help lower blood pressure in general, and some organizations promote accessible yoga. Occupational therapy aimed at controlling edema includes many accommodations that may help with directional pressure sensitivity.

One-handed techniques make it easier to live with just one hand. Here are some tips for putting on socks. Shoes can be fastened with a tool or tied with one hand. Many folks prefer slip-on, elastic, or velcro shoes anyhow. I'm just lazy and tie my tennies loose enough to function as slip-ons. In L-America, many folks feel that a prosthetic hand just doesn't do much for them. Ragno's issue is different -- the superpowered amputation affected how his brain interprets his body -- but the result is the same, he doesn't want a prosthetic hand. Dr. Bloch has offered but not pestered him about it. T-American technology has more and better options, but so far none of those have appealed to Ragno.

Troubleshooting: If someone can't do an activity the usual (two-handed or one-handed) way, analyze why not. If they're doing part of it wrong, this is straightforward to fix by correcting technique. However, if part or all of that method doesn't work for this individual, even when following instructions, then they'll need to figure out an alternative. Sometimes that means a little tweak, other times starting from scratch. Explain how to try different things and present some basic one-handed moves techniques that can be used to build up many different tasks.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-21 02:51 am (UTC)
antisocialite_forum: A group of small round pumpkins in a very green pumpkin patch (Pumpkin Patch)
From: [personal profile] antisocialite_forum
The links for Tremon Elliston and Alex Brecken aren't working; the first only has a couple misplaced %20s and a missing : in the address bar, but I can't figure out the second.

Keras has a very calm presence. It's rare to find somebody who can make educating sound and *feel* like casual conversations. IMO, more gets remembered when teaching is done that way - as a mutual interaction instead of a lecture. "Guest speaker" around here usually means a presentation or lecture, so it's nice to see something different.

Goats are sweet, too. :) Rook and Lance had the privilege of meeting a few when they were at the faire. Rook spooks easily around big animals, but the goats seemed more like dogs to him - friendly and curious.

- Alecto

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-21 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Hi Keras! Also hi Wade and the rest of the guys, who continue to be rough trade but decent overall. Well, with one exception. Bain, you are a little shit.

Tolerance is also the way people put up with someone existing even though they'd rather that person just went away, because they have no other viable choice. So they tolerate. Mind you I'm coming at this from the disability community, where inclusion often=tolerance but not much more, and sometimes pity, which=social isolation and shame. Definitely not part of what these folks are talking about, although I noticed you mentioned some of it in your links, but nonetheless, it's a thing.

One quibble re: Keras describing his scent: 'Women and gay men tend to like it, but lesbians and straight men usually don't.' Would this be better written as 'straight women' or 'heterosexual women'? I know you'd never imply that one sort of woman is lesser than another, but the wording there might unintentionally, um...

I can see both Alejándro and Dustin linking up with Keras as paid farm workers in future, getting their feet back under them. Hmm...

Marmalade is a kitty! :D Katherine is also a kitty-kid, and adorable. I still love the idea of Marmalade the lap cat with the ginormous purr, though. He and Boots in a purring contest... XD No one would be able to hear!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-21 02:58 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
I don't know if you know [personal profile] mdlbear's song Quiet Victories... I immediately thought of it when I read the title here. Instead of victories over one's own issues, though, it's about often-unsung victories over the various slings and arrows life throws at us.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2017-08-21 05:53 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
A privileged dick who manages to misbehave hard enough to land himself in the state pen is a victim of poor parenting. Maybe twice, depending on how you look at it. (I could totally see the parents getting woke to Junior's misdeeds and deciding - especially in T-America - that some time in the greybar might do him some good....)

Re: Yes...

Date: 2017-08-23 03:57 am (UTC)
mdlbear: (nike)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-21 06:31 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (wedding)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
I'm so glad this one got sponsored! I love Keras & Marmalade always makes me happy.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-23 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hello to Keras! This was a great chapter, especially with them being able to talk Ragno around. -kellyc

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-29 02:33 am (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
Good story, couldn't finish it - maybe another time.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-10-16 10:54 am (UTC)
pantha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pantha
That was a wonderful little episode. I loved how although Bain was awful, positive things did come out of that. I think it probably put a few cogs in motion for a lot of them, to see that PTSD-type responses are a) manageable and b) can be considered by someone to be just something that happens and has to be dealt with rather than a personal failing.

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