ysabetwordsmith: Paranormal detective Brenda in a wheelchair (PIE)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith

This poem came out of the September 16, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from DW user [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart[personal profile] zianuray, and Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "afternoon" square in my 9-1-14 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo  fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series P.I.E.


"City of Sun and Rain"


"This is why I love San Diego,"
said Brenda as they strolled
down a wide sidewalk together.

The early afternoon sun was warm and bright,
and all the shops stood open, some of them
with racks of things on display outside.

"I'm a bit surprised by how well
you know the city," Darrel said.
"I know you offered to show me around
after the case closed, but usually
it's just the locals who know
the little hole-in-the-wall places."

"I've come here on vacation a few times,"
Brenda said. "San Diego is one of
the rare cities that takes accessibility seriously.
Key West and Portland are good too, but --"
she grimaced. "-- Portland has lousy weather
and Key West is too touristy for my taste.
I'm not a hardcore disability activist,
but people talk about the places
that are easier to get around in."

"No argument here," Darrel said affably.
"I'm enjoying not bumping into
badly placed railings and stuff."

The backpack fastened to Brenda's wheelchair
held an assortment of small treasures --
a beach glass hair clip, several used books,
a folding knife with a driftwood handle,
and a ratty-looking secondhand jacket
that Darrel had swooned over and sworn
would be perfect for undercover work.

When the clouds rolled in, they started
discussing options for lunch, using
their smartphones to search for restaurants.

With no more warning than that,
the afternoon storm unleashed a downpour,
flooding the sidewalks and streets in minutes.

The deluge made it impossible
to keep decent traction on the pavement,
especially with the narrow everyday tires
instead of the mountain-bike treads
meant for gripping difficult terrain.

Brenda's hands in their wet gloves
skidded along her wheel rims.
Even Darrel's hasty acquisition
of an umbrella only helped a little.

There were ramps everywhere,
which were turning into waterfalls,
and when Brenda started to slide on one
she turned sideways to brake it
only to have a wheel drop -- clink! --
between the bars of a storm sewer grate.

"This is why I don't go to Portland,"
Brenda grumbled. "If I wanted
to get stuck in the rain, then
I would've gone to Oregon
instead of California."

"Where's your tac baton?"
Darrel asked, poking at the stuck wheel.

"Here it is," Brenda said
as she handed him the weapon.

"Maybe I can pry this loose," Darrel said.

"What are you -- do NOT
stick that through the spokes!"
Brenda barked.

"Well, what else can I do?" Darrel said.

"The spokes won't take the weight,"
Brenda said. "Put the end of the baton
under the wheel and find a stick to use
as a fulcrum perpendicular to the grate bars."

"Oh, that's a good idea," Darrel said.
He followed her instructions,
although he had to stand on the end
of the baton to pop the wheel loose.
Fortunately the baton was designed
to serve as a lever as well as a weapon.

"Next available restaurant," Brenda said,
and Darrel nodded agreement.
He looked like a drowned spaniel.
Brenda didn't even want to think
about how she must look.

They found a little Filipino restaurant,
which was a bit of a tight squeeze
but none of the furniture was bolted down
and the staff were quick to swing a chair
away from the nearest table to make room
for Brenda to slide into the space.

Squeeeeeee ... went her wheels.
Brenda winced.

"Don't worry, everyone's wet,"
the waiter said, offering her a towel.
"We've been handing out dishtowels
ever since this storm started.
San Diego is usually sunny,
but when it rains, it pours."

Brenda mopped off herself
and as much of the wheelchair
as she could reach, noting
that Darrel had a towel too.

She glanced at the menu
and then said, "Can you
just recommend something
hot and fast for us?"

"We have tinola," the waiter said.
"It's chicken soup with ginger and onions,
very warming, and no wait for a bowl --
we just ladle it out of the big pot."

"I'll have that," Darrel and Brenda chorused.

"I am not looking forward to going
back out in the rain," Darrel said.

"Chances are we won't have to,"
Brenda said. "These hard storms
don't tend to last very long."

The tinola turned out to be delicious,
and as promised, warmed them right up
despite their soggy clothes.

By the time they finished lunch,
the rain had stopped and
the clouds were breaking up.
Darrel looked at the clearing
afternoon sky and said,
"What do you want to do next?"

"We're almost to the zoo,"
Brenda said. "It's worth a stop."

So they went to the zoo, where
Darrel wanted to see the primates
and Brenda wanted to visit the children's zoo.
The primate enclosures were marvelous
jungles of tree limbs and rope netting,
backed by vast painted murals.

The children's zoo had wide areas with
macaws on perches and a prairie dog town.
There was a petting zoo bordered by
huge foam blocks the size of hay bales
inside which roamed a variety of critters
from guinea pigs and ferrets on up to llamas.

Unfortunately there was no gate;
you were supposed to climb over the sides.

The attendant rubbed a hand over his face
and admitted, "This is a new attraction.
We haven't worked out all the kinks yet.
I could pull out one of the blocks ...?"

"Then the ferrets would make a break
for freedom," Darrel pointed out.

"I can manage," Brenda said.
She locked her wheels, then
shifted over from her seat
onto the wide border.

A spotted llama came over
and nosed at her, purring.
Brenda giggled as she stroked it.

"This fence is nice and wide,"
she said. "Semi-mobile people
may just sit or lie on it, but for
less-mobile folks you'll need
to add some kind of a gate."
An albino ferret sniffed her fingers.

"Do you have more blocks?"
Darrel asked. "The aviary has
sort of an airlock with double doors.
You could make a smaller loop,
let people into that, close the outside
and open the inside. It would mean
more shuffling the blocks around,
but might be easier than trying
to integrate a hinged gate with these."

"I'll add that to our suggestion list
and we'll discuss solutions, thanks,"
said the attendant.

Several of the guinea pigs
had wandered over.
"Why is that one wearing
a sweater?" Brenda asked.

"Skinny pigs have no fur,
so they get cold easily,"
the attendant explained.
"Compare him to the
Abyssinian there, with
the rosette pattern,
or the long-haired Peruvian."
He pointed out the others.

Eventually Brenda finished
petting the animals.
She transferred back
to her chair and unlocked it,
then rolled away from the pen.

They stopped at the gift shop
on the way out, with Darrel
choosing a monkey t-shirt
and Brenda picking out
a cardigan of llama wool.

By the time they got back
to their hotel, afternoon
had edged into evening
and the sky was beginning
to show streaks of red.

They ambled along the broad
sidewalk, hand in hand, and
the doors swished open
as they approached.

"It's nice to visit a city
where I can just go places
and not have to worry whether
my wheels will fit through the doors,"
Brenda said happily.

"Yeah, it is," Darrel agreed.

* * *

Notes:

San Diego has a thriving culture and is known as a highly accessible city.

This is Brenda's beach glass hair clip.

A tactical baton isn't just a handy weapon for hitting people. It's also designed as a tool for breaking windows or prying things.

Tinola is one popular kind of Filipino soup.

Llamas are charming critters that hum or purr. I've heard them; it's a really cute sound.

Guinea pigs come in some weird breeds, including hairless, which often need sweaters.

Llama wool makes marvelous yarn. Brenda's cardigan looks something like this.


Details, details

Date: 2014-09-21 09:49 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
One of the ways you characterize them differently is by the things they buy-- llama wool isn't cheap to begin with, and the sweater is in the gift shop, /but/ if it's properly washed and stored, that sweater will last to the Trump, while Darrel's tee will look worn in a year and hover around 'ratty' by the five-year-mark.

It's the tiny differences that add depth to the characters, and I loved it, on top of all the wonderful, explicit bits.

Thanks for posting this one, too!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-21 03:06 pm (UTC)
thnidu: a dark brown guinea pig we used to have (dunkelpig)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Lovely. And from our graduate-student years in Berkeley, I have such warm memories of the SD Zoo.

And oh! how appropriate! This photo of our guinea pig Dunkel is what my wife chose for her posts, to go with her LJID.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-21 03:40 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
The White Crested guinea pig looks almost like our Clea -- I had no idea she was a rare breed!

Re: Yes...

Date: 2014-09-22 01:22 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Very much so. Clea has a couple of additional white spots on her sides, but has the same crest.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-22 04:19 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
That soup sounds really good!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-21 07:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] westrider.livejournal.com
Getting caught in things like that grate would be another hazard of Portland, I would think. The MAX rails are a notorious hazard for bikers, and I'd imagine they could be problematic for wheelchairs at the wrong angle as well.

And I'm kind of surprised the foam blocks are capable of keeping the ferrets in. In my experience, they're even better at getting through obstacles than goats, and that's saying something ;)

Yes...

Date: 2014-09-21 09:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Getting caught in things like that grate would be another hazard of Portland, I would think. The MAX rails are a notorious hazard for bikers, and I'd imagine they could be problematic for wheelchairs at the wrong angle as well. <<

Likely so. There's an inherent conflict in making grills: the larger the holes, the more hazardous they are but the less they clog; the smaller the holes, vice versa.

>> And I'm kind of surprised the foam blocks are capable of keeping the ferrets in. In my experience, they're even better at getting through obstacles than goats, and that's saying something ;) <<

A petting zoo fence is more a reminder than real containment. The goats could jump it; the llamas could step over it, the ferrets could chew through it. But critters well chosen for a petting zoo should be polite ones, so they more-or-less tend to stay in the fence. At least while people are watching.

The advantage to this type of enclosure is that you can move it around and change the size or shape as needed, so it's not a static feature.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2014-09-21 09:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] westrider.livejournal.com
OK, llamas I can see, but the concept of goats and ferrets that will politely stay in an enclosure is kind of blowing my mind. It's like that bit in Digger when she can deal with the gods and shadow child and talking slugs and all, but the idea of rats that help maintain the library is what really drives home that she's "not in Kansas any more", so to speak ;)

Re: Yes...

Date: 2014-09-21 06:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Goats and ferrets are smart. They have different personalities. The easiest way to keep them in a petting zoo, therefore, is to choose ones that like people, and you have people inside the enclosure. It's also possible to train them. Some zoos, of course, will just put in whatever critters they can get, but much better results are had from mindful selection.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-21 06:53 pm (UTC)
kelkyag: eye-shaped patterns on birch trunk (birch eyes)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
I can't speak to goats, but some ferrets love attention and snuggles even more than they love exploring, so they'd probably stick around as long as people were playing with them. Bonus points if they can get away with checking out everyone's pockets and purses and occasionally making off with something.

Chewing on foam can be *really* bad for ferrets, though, as a fairly small ingested chunk can block their intestines, potentially fatally. And some of them like chewing on foam.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-21 04:01 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Almost all of the grates I see in downtown Seattle have an additional set of bars welded across them at right angles to the originals. On the other hand, it's so hilly that even my wife's mobility scooter has problems. We're going to have to get her a bigger one if we want to st/roll around the neighborhood the way we did in San Jose.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-21 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] westrider.livejournal.com
Yeah, Seattle's got a different set of problems. I have trouble with some of the hills even on my good days, when my knees aren't particularly bothering me.

Thoughts

Date: 2014-09-22 01:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Almost all of the grates I see in downtown Seattle have an additional set of bars welded across them at right angles to the originals. <<

Less chance of things falling in, but higher chance of clogging.

>> On the other hand, it's so hilly that even my wife's mobility scooter has problems. We're going to have to get her a bigger one if we want to st/roll around the neighborhood the way we did in San Jose. <<

Wow. Good luck with that.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2014-09-22 02:32 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
True, but these are on city streets with few if any trees nearby, so it works.

What we have is a heavy duty travel scooter -- it's great for travel because it comes apart. But it can't handle really steep hills.

What we need is something more like this Golden Technologies Avenger -- because "Golden Avenger" just sounds really cool.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-05 01:29 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Ooooooh. I loved seen something as quiet as this from the two of them. It makes a wonderful counterpoint to their work. This is so much cosier and relationship-building. That's something I always feel I've missed from much of the urban fantasy I've read, even knowing they're parts of a series: little moments like this.

I like how Darrell tries to solve Brenda's wheel getting stuck and not getting it quite right. ^_^ He's a love and a dear, but there are still things he doesn't necessarily think of. Brenda's reaction makes a lot of sense too and I really like how much of a non-issue it is for them afterwards. It's a small thing, but to me it just gives a suggestion of how strong their relationship is. ^_^

Wonderful poem! (And I enjoyed the petting zoo attendant adding their suggestions to the list rather than going "Good idea! We should definitely do that!")

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2014-10-08 09:27 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
People don't think about how things will affect their characters' everyday lives.

Isn't it more that people just want the action aspect and the sexytiemz? The flow in a novel is very different than in a series of (mostly) self-contained poems. I admit that, much as I love them, I wouldn't expect many quieter moments like this in an UF/PR novel in a book since not every author would be able to pull off the way it slows down the plot. (But then I have my own issues with the genre. P.I.E. is one of the few settings I haven't wanted to throw across the room in frustration.)

And then of course there are a few like Savoir Faire, who makes everything into high drama.

Clearly, I have not read enough about Savoir Faire. XD I like characters who turn everything into high drama too. ^_^ In much smaller doses, but I do like them. High drama can be fun when utlised effectively. ^_^

When you're trying out a new technique, it's best to collect complaints and suggestions, then match the up together so that solving one problem does not make another worse.

True, but it's not what I usually see happening in fiction. Usually it's something along the lines of "Protagonist has a good-sounding idea, therefore this idea is awesome and must be implemented as soon as possible". So I'm really happy to see it represented like this here. It'd be neat to see the solution the zoo adopts in the end. ^_^

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