ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the December 2, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] chordatesrock, [personal profile] redsixwing, [personal profile] siliconshaman, and LJ user Westrider. It also fills the "difficult / unexpected pregnancy" square on my 11-25-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Damask thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"As Long as There Are Games to Play"


Saturday is the clearing day
for doing any of the chores that
didn't get done during the week,
and after that we have game night.

As I come out of my bedroom
with an armful of board games,
I see Mallory huddled on the futon.

"Hey," I say softly. She looks up,
then back down. "Are you feeling bad again,
or is it something else this time?"

"I'm always tired now," Mallory says.
"I know better than to drink alcohol --
hell, I'm lucky if I can keep water down.
I don't trust any of the people that I used to
hang out with. This is Saturday night,
and I don't have anything to do.
I feel like my life is over."

"It's not over as long as
there are games to play," I say,
rattling the stack of boxes in my hands.
"Come downstairs and you can play with us."

I don't know how well it will work --
Mallory can be so prickly --
but I can't just leave her lonely.

Slowly she uncurls and follows me
downstairs into the living room,
where I set out the games.
The other girls are already
draped over the furniture.

"Who wants what on their pizza?"
Josephine asks. "And what flavor popcorn?"

"I'm not sure I could handle smells that strong,"
Mallory admits, rubbing her belly.

"How can we have game night without
pizza and popcorn?" Paige says,
her eyes huge and sad.

"I'll make deviled eggs," Josephine says.
"Somebody else can put together a fruit tray
and a platter of cheese and sandwich meat."
She and Danielle disappear into the kitchen.

I coax Mallory into playing Quoridor with me.
"It's a fast, easy game," I say. "The goal is
to get your pawn to the other side and
to keep your opponent from doing the same.
So basically, you just get in my way, and
you're pretty good at that." I wink at her.

She sticks her tongue out at me.

Maybe this will work after all.


By the time Maze and Mallory have played
a couple rounds of Quoridor, the snacks are ready,
bringing Josephine and Danielle back to the living room.

"Who wants to play Knell?" I ask.

"I do!" says Walden. She programs her smartphone
to display the game board of medieval villages.

"I think you'll like this one," I tell Mallory,
picking up my own phone to choose a village.
"We're playing grim reapers. The idea is
to torment and kill all the people in your territory,
while keeping everyone else's alive and happy."

Mallory snickers at the description.
"That does sound fun," she says.

"Watch out for Walden, though," I warn her.
"She's the one who introduced this game
to the household, and she's hard to beat."

I love this game, because I can get into
roleplaying all the character angst.

Walden makes a wonderful drama llama
with her operatic scenes of tragedy and death.

On the third round, Mallory manages
to drop a plague rat down the well,
wiping out her entire village. While
the individual score per villager is low,
the total is good -- and neither Walden
nor I have any deaths to score at all.

"You're evil," Walden says.
"I admire that in a girl."

I watch to see if that will start a fight,
but Mallory just smiles and slides
a melon ball off the skewer with her teeth.


While Mallory visits the bathroom,
I set up the next game. Rock It
is simple in concept but complex
in strategy -- a wooden board
with marbles in black and white.

"So ... it's a seesaw with dots?"
Mallory says in a dubious tone.

I tap one corner of the board,
making it rock precariously. "Try to get
your marbles across to the far end,
without making the edge of the board
touch the table," I explain.

Mallory does better than I expect,
not a methodical player but a thoughtful one,
her whimsical moves intended to mess
with my more careful strategies,
and it takes me a while to beat her.

Afterwards she rolls a marble over her fingers
and says, "Balance is never that simple, though.
Things aren't just black or white."

"That's true," I agree, "but at least the game
gets people thinking about how to
balance the light and the dark."


By then Paige and Danielle have finished
their game of Quoridor, and I want
to play something sillier.

When I bring out the cards,
Mallory laughs and says,
"Oh, you've got Floosh!
I love that game."

It's one of those Merry Makers games
with evolving rules, in this case
based on whether they're in or out
of the Rule Pool. Each player
has a hand of cards to put
into play in their Fishbowl.

Danielle deals, her hands quick
and graceful on the cards.

Paige plays with great abandon,
because the goal, hidden as Sunken Treasure,
is usually known only to the person who
just played it unless you get a Periscope
to peek at it -- so you can make choices,
but not much in the way of strategy.

Mallory amuses herself by making
sound effects every time someone uses
the Toilet to dispose of an opponent's fish.

Then she laughs and declares Paige the winner,
turning over the Sunken Treasure card to match
its picture with the six different fish in Paige's Fishbowl.

"Too bad we can't flush all our problems away
as easily as this in real life," Paige says.
"Some of my grades are definitely in the crapper."

"If you'd stick to a study schedule,
that would help," Danielle points out.

Mallory has gone quiet, and no wonder,
given how messed up her life is.

"It's a fun distraction, though," I say.


I'm tired of sitting still, and I want
something more to do with my hands.

So I bring out the Crokinole board,
sleek heavy wood decorated with rings
and pegs to make the central target
harder to hit with the sliding disks.

It's a game of dexterity rather than
strategy, because I've always been
better with my hands than
most of my headmates.

Josephine and I face off,
and we're both doing okay --

until Mallory gets back from using the can
for the second time in an hour, and
then everything goes to heck.

The disks slide clear off the board.
One of the pegs pops loose and
has to be chased across the floor.

Nobody can seem to hit the last disk
played by the opponent, which is
necessary to make your own play count.

Mallory isn't doing anything obvious,
just the occasional smirk or curl of fingertips,
but I can feel her power shifting like
the flick of a cat's tail.

"If you think you're so great,
why don't you come over here
and play," I challenge her.

Play she does, but it's clear
from the frown and fidgeting
that she's not quite comfortable.

I sigh. "What's wrong?"

"My body feels different,"
Mallory says in a low voice.

She's not showing yet, not really, but
Clement murmurs in the back of my mind
about how pregnancy can change flexibility
and other things long before the bump appears.

I know how it is to feel like your body doesn't fit.

Awkwardly I pat Mallory's hand and say,
"There are other games to play."

"Maybe I'll just watch for a while,"
she says, and I let her do that,
because she's been pushed enough.

Paige and Walden have sorted out cards
from the Floosh deck to play Go Fish,
and Mallory drifts over to them.


I turn my smartphone back on and
bring up Hospix, waiting for the program
to skim mangled characters from other games
active in cyberspace and deliver them to
the emergency room for me to save if I can.

Sword wounds, arrows, not many bullets --
plenty of falls, though. It looks like a lot of folks
are caught up in playing Days of Yore tonight.

I place the arrow spoons on my equipment tray
and get to work, fingers quick on the screen.

A warm weight settles beside me.
"You play hacker games?" Mallory asks.

"Hospix doesn't hurt anyone," I argue.
"It just copies live details from other games,
so that you never know what you're going to get."
Then I pause the game to look at her.
"Wait, you recognize Hospix?"

"It has gorgeous code," she says with a shrug.
"It's elegant and subtle. I can admire that.
I'm not much good at playing it, though."

"I could show you," I offer.
"There are all kinds of tricks and hacks
to improve your performance."

"Like arrow spoons," she says.

"Yeah, I scavenged them out of
the chirurgeon's kit in Days of Yore,"
I say. "If we were seeing alien casualties
from the space games, then we'd need some
specialized gear for those races."

The ambulance squeals to a stop and
deposits a soldier pincushioned with arrows.
"Time to get back to work," I say.

Mallory stays with me, watching and learning,
occasionally asking questions or offering advice,
until game night winds to a close.

Walden helps pack up the games.
Danielle clears away the empty snack trays.

"This was a nice change from pizza,"
Paige says. "I guess I don't mind
having something different for a while."

"Next time we can plan ahead and
make real party snacks," Josephine says.

Mallory takes a couple of the games
so I don't have quite as tall a stack
to carry back upstairs. She's slow
in climbing, though, clearly tired.

"Did we keep you up too late?"
I ask as we put away the games.

"No, it's just ... you know,"
she says, waving a hand at her middle.
"It's hard to get much rest like this."

I help her change the futon into sleep mode
and settle in. "Get as much as you can, then."

"Soup pregnancies can be fragile,"
Mallory says in a low voice.
"I don't know if I'm more afraid
of losing it or keeping it. I feel like
this baby has turned my whole life upside down,
but ... some of the changes have been good."

"Whatever happens, your choices
are yours to make. You don't have to
go back to what you were doing," I say.
"We'll be here for you, one way or another."

"Yeah," Mallory says softly
as I turn out the light,
"That's one of the good things."

* * *


"As long as there are games to play it is not over."
-- Alex Ferguson

Unplanned pregnancy can lead to resenting the baby, because of how pregnancy impacts the mother's life. This is all the worse for Mallory given the background of assault which started it.

Overcoming loneliness is challenging. Some plural people like Damask are really adept at recognizing and addressing feelings of isolation. There are ways to cope with loneliness and help a lonely friend.

For game night, finger foods are best. Here we've got deviled eggs, a meat and cheese tray, and a fruit tray including fruit skewers.

Quoridor is a strategy game where you place walls to make a maze.

Knell is a Terramagne computer game in which players pretend to be grim reapers, each trying to kill off characters in their own territory while keeping alive those in their opponents' territories. The original scale focused on villages in medieval Europe. Expansions include For Whom the Bell Tolls (individual scale) and The Hounds of War (global scale). The game is most often played using smartphones to track game mechanics, but with players interacting face-to-face for storytelling aspects. Players have points they can award for most entertaining portrayals.

Knell was somewhat inspired by the card game Gloom, whose rules you can read online.

Rock Me Archimedes is a game of strategy and dexterity, where you roll dice and place marbles on a rocking board.

The balance of dark and light, and the shades of gray, are things that superheroes and supervillains think about a lot.

Floosh is a card game with evolving rules published by Merry Makers in Terramagne. All of the Rule cards are kept face-up but may be moved into and out of the Rule Pool where they are active. Each player also has their own Fishbowl of active cards, along with a hand of cards. Swimmers are cards that can move from one Fishbowl to another, such as the Diver and the Snail. Sinkers are cards that stay put unless moved by an Event card. Most of the Sinkers are fish; some are aquarium decorations. Some of the Event cards kill fish, like flushing them down the Toilet. Sunken Treasure defines how you win the game -- but only the person who plays it knows what the objective is, until someone plays a different one or an Event reveals it. So you're trying to win a game without knowing HOW to win it.

The concept of a card game with ever-changing rules is from Fluxx by Looney Labs. It sounds crazy but you can actually learn to play it in less than five minutes.

Making a study schedule helps keep college life organized. Paige is not really used to doing this for herself yet.

Crokinole is a leader among dexterity games. The rules resemble those of shuffleboard and other targeting games.

Go Fish is a card game, or rather a family of card games, based on matching sets of cards. Since Floosh has a bunch of fish cards in different colors, with several of each, it can be adapted for this other game even though it wasn't deliberately designed that way.

"I like video games, but they are very violent. I want to create a video game in which you have to help all the characters who have died in the other games. 'Hey, man, what are you playing?' 'Super Busy Hospital. Could you leave me alone? I'm performing surgery! This guy got shot in the head, like, 27 times!' "
-- Demetri Martin

Hospix is a Terramagne hacker game that scoops characters out of other computer games people are currently playing, and deposits them in an emergency room where you try to save or revive them.

Days of Yore is a multiplayer online game in Terramagne with a robust combat engine that can accommodate many different period weapon and armor options in ways that interact realistically, so for example chain mail protects well against slashing blows, less against piercing blows, and not at all against blunt impact. The game is also notable for its attention to detail in other period professions such as medical care and craftsmanship.

Arrow spoons are meant to remove arrow heads safely by covering the barbs, a key advance in battlefield surgery.

Supporting a pregnant friend is important, but complicated in cases of unplanned and/or teen pregnancy. A college pregnancy features many of the same challenges as a high school one -- the main difference is just the mother being a legal adult. It still tends to mess up her education and social life, and one or two years more of life experience don't make much of an improvement.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-10 12:11 am (UTC)
thnidu: Box, labeled: "Contents: One infinite universe. Open other end (arrow)." Caption: It figures... From lj:lapislaz (it figures)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I'm glad they're getting on well together.

Arrow spoons are meant to remove arrow heads safely by covering the barbs, a key advance in battlefield surgery.
HTTP Error 404.0 - Not Found
The resource you are looking for has been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2014-12-10 01:07 am (UTC)
thnidu: road sign: diamond-shaped black on yellow. Animated silhouette of user banging head on keyboard over & over (headbang)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Nuh-uh. And I've cleared the cache. The second works fine, but the first —
— still gets me the same error:

Server Error in Application "ODDEENEW"
Internet Information Services 7.5
Error Summary
HTTP Error 404.0 - Not Found
The resource you are looking for has been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

Detailed Error Information
IIS Web Core
Error Code
Requested URL
Physical Path
Logon Method
Logon User

Most likely causes:
• The directory or file specified does not exist on the Web server.
• The URL contains a typographical error.
• A custom filter or module, such as URLScan, restricts access to the file.

Things you can try:
• Create the content on the Web server.
• Review the browser URL.
• Create a tracing rule to track failed requests for this HTTP status code and see which module is calling SetStatus. For more information about creating a tracing rule for failed requests, click here.

Links and More Information
This error means that the file or directory does not exist on the server. Create the file or directory and try the request again.
View more information »

Huh, that "View more information" links to a Microsoft page. Maybe it's designed to work only with God's Own System; I'm running Firefox 34.0.5 on a Mid 2011 MacBook Air under OS X 10.7.5.
Edited Date: 2014-12-10 01:10 am (UTC)

Re: Yay!

Date: 2014-12-10 04:11 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

I'll check tomorrow. For my sanity's sake I've blocked my own access to social media for the night. ​

Re: Yay!

Date: 2014-12-10 07:11 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
The first link didn't work for me either. The revised one does.

Googling "arrow spoons" is amazingly unhelpful; it appears that a number of artisans are now making and selling eating spoons with handles designed to look like arrows.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2014-12-11 03:23 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Works for me now. I have no idea what went wrong.

But I /do/ know I don't want to look at that picture for more than a second or two!

Re: Yay!

Date: 2014-12-10 02:04 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I get the same error page on my Android phone, which strongly suggests that it isn't a platform- or OS-based bug. Do you, possibly, have some login there? What happens if you purge /your/ cache? It occurs to me that if the page went missing between when you found the page and when I tried it, your browser may have kept a copy in your cache and be showing it when you submit that URL to it.

Comfort and Community

Date: 2014-12-10 01:34 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I think that's what makes the very /difficult/ premise of the story arc work. There IS no easy answer, and this series /doesn't/ go for the emotional Band-aid.

But they /are/ trying to help and include and aren't playing the 'blame and shame game'iether, which makes the situation MUCH easier for Mallory.

No solution /yet/, no solution /still/, but she's being included and allowed to feel however she feels.

Which makes this /definitely/ comfort reading for those of us who didn't get that kind of support when we needed it or most, no matter what the individual problem was.

Re: Comfort and Community

Date: 2014-12-10 04:14 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Sometimes, I think the whole world has gone to the idea of "ultimate solution for--" FAR too often. It's stopped people thinking of /this/ person and /this/ event, or I can help in /this/ way.

Nobody connects the "war on poverty" with /the local food bank/ except at the holiday drives.

You show people who still THINK about individual help, who live with the idea that "at night, a candle is brighter than the sun."

Re: Comfort and Community

Date: 2014-12-10 07:19 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
That assessment is partially accurate, but incomplete. It fails to allow for the following:

- The psychotically rich have a disproportionate amount of influence over the system, and a lot of incentive not to allow anything about it to be changed. There are plenty of people who want a better system, but it's really hard for them to get any traction with the first group systematically working against them.

- A discouraging number of people who should be in that second group have chosen instead to support the rich sociopaths, either because of the delusion that they might one day become part of that group or because they've bought the lies that group is selling.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-10 02:58 am (UTC)
gingicat: drawing of me based on wedding photo (Default)
From: [personal profile] gingicat
This is a gorgeous poem/story.

I saw this picture of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers a few moments ago and thought you would like it:

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-10 03:03 am (UTC)
mdlbear: (hacker glider)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear

I recognized Floosh's roots in Fluxx right away; I love the idea of Hospix.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-10 11:27 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
This is a nice interlude. I was happy to see Josephine and Danielle demonstrating that playing sad-puppy-eyes doesn't give you an excuse to run roughshod over someone else; they didn't even have to say anything, they just ignored the gambit altogether.

Thanks for the link to the Rock-It model. I was envisioning something played on a square board that would rock in any direction -- which could be done, although it might have to be a 4-player game. But this version is much simpler.

I'm not fond of Fluxx and other rule-morphing games. There seems to be a certain level of rule-changing that I can deal with comfortably, and anything over that just doesn't work. The absolute worst, though, are the "we won't tell you what the rules are" games. Morphing rules I can just politely excuse myself from playing. We-won't-tell-you games invariably read as bullying to me.

There's a guy who always brings Crokinole to our local gaming-con. I've tried it once or twice, but I'm not very good and lack the interest to want to get better.

I'm not sure whether a miscarriage would be the best outcome for Mallory or not. On the one hand, it gets rid of a whole slew of other problems in a way that she can't be blamed or shamed for. On the other... it's all too likely that she'd blame herself, if she'd ever had even a moment's thought about how much more convenient it would be.

For some reason, now I want to see the headmates having a Game Night among themselves!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-11 03:24 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
For some reason, now I want to see the headmates having a Game Night among themselves!

Uhhhh.... (brain fault)

Yes, be fun, but... since there is no physical reality in headspace, how could any (e.g.) dice or shuffling work?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-12 01:39 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Random events are easily supplied using external resources. Someone takes front and runs a die-rolling app on the phone, for example.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-12 01:43 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

D'ohhh! Of course.

I use the timer on my watch. The hundredths of a second zip by way too fast for it to even display.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-12 01:41 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Alternately, in one play-by-post game on a forum I played in, we had lists of pre-rolled numbers and chose from them as needed, knowing we would have to use those low numbers sometime or we'd be stuck with them when we needed something better. As a list got used up, we'd call for a die refresh from the GM.
From: [identity profile] zianuray.livejournal.com
Should there be a "you" in there?

"Hey," I say softly. She looks up,
then back down. "Are feeling bad again,
or is it something else this time?"

Games can be useful as well as fun. I like how you showed that here.
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Should there be a "you" in there? <<

Yes; typo fixed.

>> Games can be useful as well as fun. I like how you showed that here. <<

Yay! I'm glad it worked for you.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-10 06:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] westrider.livejournal.com
Yes! I'm so glad to see this one published!

Thank you!

Date: 2014-12-10 06:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm happy to hear that.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-07-15 09:44 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Yay! This was so much fun! <3


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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