This poem came out of the September 16, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from DW user peoriapeoriawhereart, zianuray, and Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "afternoon" square in my 9-1-14 card for the 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.
"What are you -- do NOT
stick that through the spokes!"
"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.
"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 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.
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.