ysabetwordsmith: Paranormal detective Brenda in a wheelchair (PIE)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is from the November 2013 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] jeshyr who wanted to address the issue of bystander pity and curiosity, and mobility devices as empowerment. Several poems in P.I.E. have come directly out of requests or comments from people with disabilities, which has really added a lot to the complexity and verisimilitude.  It also fills the "curiosity" square in my 8-13-13 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo  fest.  This poem is posted as the free epic for the June 3, 2014 fishbowl reaching the $200 goal, selected in an audience poll, and I'm amused you did that right after "Going Places" was posted. Point and counterpoint at your convenience; tell ALL the stories!


"The Freedom Machine"


Brenda wanted to introduce Darrel
to her favorite Japanese takeout restaurant,
which was sort of a hole-in-the-wall
bizarrely crammed into what had once been
the front of a large fieldstone building,
rimmed with picturesque steps
and not a ramp in sight.
Tangy koto music floated from speakers.

Darrel raised his eyebrows.
"This is your favorite Japanese place?"

"Don't worry, they know me here,"
Brenda reassured him.
"Somebody will see me soon,
and they'll send out one of the boys."

Sure enough, a teenager came
trotting down the stairs,
paper menu flapping in his hand.

It was mostly written in Japanese
with a few English words
collaged onto the ends of lines.
The translations said things like
"roast pig" and "chicken with oranges."

"Do you want beef, pork, chicken, shrimp
or vegetarian?" Brenda asked Darrel.

"Beef," he said, "you pick which."
Darrel was curious and adventurous
and usually up for trying something new,
whether or not he knew exactly what it was.
So Brenda ticked off their choices
and handed the menu back.

"I'm kind of surprise that you
choose to patronize a place where
you can't reach the ordering window,"
Darrel observed. "Freedom is a machine
that requires regular maintenance."

"It's not their fault," Brenda said.
"When I first discovered this place,
I complained about the lack of access.
It turns out they want to fix that
but they can't afford to, and
the bank won't give them a loan.
So they have to save up for it.
I hope nobody reports them before then,
because I'd hate to lose the restaurant.
I think they're putting all of my tips
straight into the renovation fund."

"Well, it's up to you," Darrel said.
"If you say the food is worth it,
I'll take your word for it."

Brenda smiled.
Darrel's easygoing personality
was one of the reasons she liked him.

While they were waiting for their food,
an older woman approached, her face
a blend of Japanese and American features.
She veered away from the restaurant
to fuss over Brenda.
"Oh, you poor thing!" she gushed.

"I'm quite fine," Brenda said
through her teeth.

"How did it happen?"
the woman asked.
She was starting to cry
over something that wasn't
even any of her business,
let alone the kind of catastrophe
that she evidently imagined it to be.

"That's not something
I care to discuss with strangers,"
Brenda replied.

"You must feel just awful
trapped in that thing," the woman said,
rapping her knuckles on the frame
of Brenda's wheelchair.

"Actually I'm very fond of it,"
Brenda said with a pat on the wheel.
This was her everyday chair,
light and graceful.

Darrel was frankly staring,
because he'd seen what
Brenda could do in a wheelchair,
especially the combat models.
Whirlwind was something
of an understatement.
Brenda's wheelchair was
her very own freedom machine.

Brenda bared her teeth
in a barracuda grin.
"May I have this dance?"
she said, holding out her hand.

Darrel obliged her, fumbling a little
to find the beat in the koto music.
They paraded back and forth a few times,
Brenda turning smartly at the ends,
and then popping up on one wheel
to twirl elegantly in place.

Darrel curled an arm
around the back of her wheelchair
and swept her into a dip.
It was a charming dance.

Their food arrived,
trotted out in a big brown bag
by the same teenager,
trailing tendrils of fragrant steam.

An older man,
probably his father,
followed and began to scold
the strange woman in Japanese.
She snapped back at him
in the same language,
one hand wiping tears from her face.

"So sorry!" the teen said, bowing to Brenda
as he handed over the bag of food.
"Bad manners, very bad."

Brenda bowed back,
a practiced tilt of head and shoulders.
"I appreciate your concern," she said
as she paid for their meal.
"You've always been thoughtful;
not everyone is, that's all."

Darrel pulled out his own wallet
and offered a few bills.
"For your renovation fund,"
he said, pointing at the steps.

The boy accepted them,
bobbing his head in thanks,
then disappeared back indoors.

"Well that was embarrassing,"
Darrel said as they strolled away.

Brenda sighed. "It happens.
Some strangers are curious as cats.
People think they have some kind of right
to rain their emotions all over me,
misinterpret my entire life,
and make overly familiar intrusions
into my personal space. You get used to it."
Then she gave him a sidelong glance.
"Or not. Friends have left me over it."

Darrel rolled his eyes. "Oh, please.
It's not your fault that some people are jerks."

"I'm glad you feel that way," Brenda said.
"Thanks for playing along. I've found
that doing something unexpected
is an effective response to such things.
If I can bump them off their script,
they usually give up and leave me alone."

"I can see why," Darrel said with a smirk.
"Small minds rarely do well with surprises."

They found a bench, then,
situated in a little corner park.
They shared the contents
of the cardboard cartons,
and the food proved to be
as delicious as promised.

A few weeks later,
they were heading down the ramp
out of the courthouse building
when a gang member
being taken inside for his hearing
began shouting obscenities at Darrel.

He winced a little,
head pulling down
into the collar of his coat
like a turtle retreating into its shell.

"And there goes one of the reasons
why a lot of people don't like dating cops,"
he muttered, hastening down the ramp.

Brenda let go of her wheels
so that gravity could hurry her downward
to catch up with him. "It happens,"
she said with a philosophical shrug.
"It's not your fault some people are jerks."

Darrel smiled then,
sweet and a little shy,
and let her catch him.

* * *

Notes:

The koto is a Japanese harp. Listen to the classic song "Sakura" on koto.

Accessibility laws have some national and some local aspects. What is a "reasonable" expense for renovations in some people's opinion is not necessarily within the reach of every business that would like to improve their accessibility, and sometimes that results in losing services rather than gaining them.

Pity and curiosity from strangers can make life harder for people with handicaps. Learn about disability etiquette for general and wheelchair-specific contexts.

Wheelchair dancing is a popular sport. This woman has some of Brenda's madskillz on wheels; check out the skirt action in particular. Here's a hot black man dancing in a wheelchair.

There are many reasons why people hate cops and don't want to date or marry them. This is understandable in an era of rising police brutality, but it makes life very difficult for the good cops, who already have enough shit to deal with.

GORGEOUS!

Date: 2014-06-08 09:04 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I must NOW go read all your stories in the P.I.E. universe, and your clockwork universe and and and.

Gah, I'm glad I read quickly or I wouldn't have time to WRITE.

Re: GORGEOUS!

Date: 2014-06-08 09:26 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer

Hoping, because I've hit the sticky bit of Dave's (EMT) story-- describing the next bit of the emergency in the LEAST descriptive way possible, LOL.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-09 04:27 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
\o/ Go Brenda! That dance

It occurs to me to wonder whether I've remembered to point you at my song, "Wheelin'". It's kind of the opposite of Brenda's case -- the people who inspired it had invisible disabilities arthritis and fibromyalgia) that allowed them to get around, but with difficulty. It sometimes takes a little persuading to get someone like that to take the easy route, but it can make the difference between enjoying the convention, and spending the weekend recovering from the trip.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-06-10 02:14 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
"... you are one of my favorite songwriters."

Um... thank you! *blush* *preen*

"Wheelin'" is one of my best songs, with top honors going to "Quiet Victories". It may well have been Naomi who recommended it.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-08 09:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyonesse.livejournal.com
hey there, your link to koto music led me to a singing nun -- which was very nice, but might you check the link please?

Okay...

Date: 2014-06-09 01:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Try it now. Evidently that website requires extra finagling to get a permalink URL. 0_o

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-09 04:45 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Couldn't get the dancing lady either. :/

But, yeah, love this... Brenda is who she is, wheelchair and all, and lives life at full throttle... which is faster than some of us vertical types can go. :)

I suppose you've seen the Guiness wheelchair basketball commercial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-g0sLZIqf8&feature=kp)...

Learning to *ask* about helping with a disability is *hard*...

"Small minds rarely do well with surprises" <3 <3 <3 <3

Thoughts

Date: 2014-06-09 06:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Couldn't get the dancing lady either. :/ <<

Huh. It comes up for me. It's a clip from Britain's Got Talent.

>> But, yeah, love this... Brenda is who she is, wheelchair and all, and lives life at full throttle... which is faster than some of us vertical types can go. :) <<

I'm glad this works for you. Yeah, Darrell has a hard time keeping up with her sometimes!

>> I suppose you've seen the Guiness wheelchair basketball commercial... <<

I love that one.

>> Learning to *ask* about helping with a disability is *hard*... <<

Yes, it is. Disabilities are complicated, and it's hard enough to learn your own. Learning someone else's can be really challenging.

>> "Small minds rarely do well with surprises" <3 <3 <3 <3 <<

Hee!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-27 09:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] book_worm5.livejournal.com
Hi, just thought I'd let you know I discovered this series yesterday and have now read through them all - yet another one of yours I enjoy. I've also been steadily working my way through Monster House the last few days, but I have a little longer to go with them.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-17 04:01 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
When I lived in Nashville, there was a woman I'd see sometimes at contradance weekends who danced in a wheelchair. The cool thing about it was the way everyone else just... adapted, without fuss.

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