ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the December 1, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "trust someone" square in my 11-3-15 card for the Disaster Bingo fest, the "autumn" square in my 6-10-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest, and the "tentative" square in my 12-1-15 card for the Defining Character fest. This poem belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem is mostly fluff, but parts of it get into some very deep emotional territory and trust issues. Turq is a wreck, and much of his past is appalling. The more time he spends with Ansel, though, the more glimmers of hope begin to emerge.


"From the Deepest Parts of Ourselves"


Ansel got used to having Turq around,
even if the kid was a major pain in the tail
who skulked around and stole things and
generally made life more complicated.

The more Ansel watched, though,
the more convinced he became
that Turq did most of it for want of
better options -- either he didn't
know what else to do, or he
lacked the skills to pull it off.

Ansel managed their relationship
as best he could, even if it was awkward
to coax a supervillain toward better behavior
than just try to arrest him outright.

He thought that it might be working,
a little, because Turq slowly grew
less skittish around him.

So when one autumn weekend
dawned crisp and clear, Ansel
pulled out his dirt bike and
walked over to the pavilion
to see if Turq was there.

The wool blanket was bundled
around his human form, napping
on a sunny bench, but he woke
the moment Ansel approached.

"What do you want?" Turq asked,
expertly rolling the blanket into a log.
"I can get out of the way in a minute."

"You're not in the way," Ansel said.
"I wanted to invite you out for the day.
I thought we could wander around
Cambridge Commons together."

"Why would you want to?" Turq whispered.

Ansel glanced up at the sky framed by
trees decked in scarlet and gold.

The weather was perfect.
He knew, he knew it wouldn't last,
that the previous cold snap had been
an unpleasant herald of the winter to come,
but today was mild and bright, and he'd
take what chance he could get.

"Because it's a gorgeous day, and
we're not going to get too many
more of those before winter,"
he said. "Janie's out working,
trying to finish all her fall projects
while the fair weather holds."

Turq shook his head, blue hair flying.
"No, I mean -- why me?" he said.

"It's more fun to go with a friend," Ansel said.

"But we're enemies," Turq said,
looking down. "Nemeses."

"I'm pretty sure that word applies
to more serious conflicts than we have,"
Ansel said. "Warn a guy before you
try to go steady with him, yeah?"

That startled a laugh out of Turq,
but it stilled only a moment later.
"You don't like that I steal things,
or sleep outside, or anything."

"Disliking stuff you do is not
the same as disliking you,"
Ansel said firmly.

"Why would you like me?"
Turq said. His mouth twisted,
turning down. "I'm nothing.
Nobody likes me, I never
can make them happy."

"You're interesting," Ansel said.
"I know it feels like never to you, but
I can give you one concrete example where
you really impressed me. Remember
leaving me in the recovery position?"

Turq frowned, tilting his head.
"You're glad that I hurt you?"

"No, I'm glad that you took the time
to move me so I wasn't sprawled out
looking dead when my friends found me,"
Ansel explained. "It was safer for me too."

"It was just the same thing that you
did for me when I was sick," Turq said.

"Exactly -- you only saw it once, and
you were pretty wrecked at the time,
but you still remembered what I did then
and figured out that it was the right thing
to do for me later," Ansel said. "That's
not just kind, Turq, it's smart."

"Oh," Turq said, plainly at a loss.

"So do you want to come with me?"
Ansel said. "I've got a spare bike."

"I'd rather run," Turq said.

Ansel gave him a dubious look.
"You think you can keep up with me?"

"Not like this, but the caney can,"
said Turq. "Maybe if I'm with you,
people won't throw rocks at me.
They'll think I'm your dog."

"That's what you call it -- caney?"
Ansel asked. "I've never seen
anything else quite like it."

"Yeah, it's unique," Turq said,
not sounding happy about it.
"Not dog, not wolf, not fox, just
a mishmash of everything."

"It's a beautiful form," Ansel said.
"I'd love to have you run with me.
Is it safe for you to shift, though?
I know that your superpower hurts
you sometimes when you use it,
and that kind of worries me."

Turq sighed. "It's never gonna be
really safe. Just I have more trouble
if I'm in a rush, so it's easier when I
have time to think what I'm doing."

"Okay," Ansel said. "It's your choice."

A moment later, the air blurred
and then the furry blue creature
bounded out of the gazebo.

Ansel wondered if he was imagining it,
or if Turq really was a little happier
like this than in human form.

When healthy and four-legged,
Turq ran like the wind, keeping up
with the bicycle in an easy lope as
his tongue hung out in a long red grin.

Ansel pointed out landmarks and
other points of interest as the two
passed through pockets of forest and
grassy fields and clusters of houses.

He got the impression that Turq hadn't
grown up here, or spent very long in town.
If Turq had any friends at all, they were
fair-weather friends at best. So he might
not know where or how to find the things
that he needed. Maybe this would help.

When they reached the big parking lot
by the elementary school, Ansel pulled in.

"I'm stopping here to switch bikes," he said
as he locked his dirt bike to a rack. Then he
moved to the True Blue Bikeshare rack and
picked one. "See, these are city cruisers,
easier to ride on pavement than mine."

Turq sniffed the new bike, but chose
to lift his leg and water a bush instead.

"You might want to change here,
where there are fewer people to see,"
Ansel said. "Can you even ride a bike?"

Turq shook himself, then flowed
into human form. "... sort of,"
he said. "Can't pay, though."

"These are free for anyone to use,
anywhere in the bikeshare's territory,"
Ansel assured him. "See, it says so
right on the sign. There's even a map
to show you where the bikes can go.
They have trackers so the staff can
find them if they get out of bounds,
but it's not tracking a person since
they don't know who's on which bike."

"Really?" Turq said. "If it doesn't cost,
then how can they afford to do it?"

"True Blue is a city program, part
of our mass-transit system, but they
also have a grant and take donations,"
Ansel said. "When you're through using
a bike, then all you have to do is leave it --
unlocked -- in any other corral like this one."

Tentatively Turq ran a finger along
the fender of one bright blue bicycle,
tracing the smart yellow chevrons.
A pair of wire cargo baskets bracketed
the rear wheel just behind the seat.

"It sounds too good to be true," he said.

"If you're not sure about borrowing
something and maybe owing a favor, you
could always drop by the office," Ansel said.
"True Blue does keep a few hired staff, but
volunteers do a lot of the maintenance and
shuffling bikes from low to high traffic areas."

"Maybe," Turq said as he climbed on the bike.
He wobbled, but soon straightened out.

"I figure we can ride from here to
Concord Boulevard, loop up one side
and down the other of it, then park
the bikes and walk Main Street if
you feel like taking a closer look,"
Ansel suggested, watching Turq.

"Okay," Turq said. "It's a pretty day.
You're right, we shouldn't waste it."

So they rode past the rest of the parking,
then between the high school with
its marching band at practice and
the elementary school with its orchard
and student gardens along the front.

"The playgrounds are behind the elementary school,"
Ansel explained. "There's a paved one for ball games,
another with painted uniquities, and a third with
the playground equipment. For nature play,
they have Mill Creek Park to explore."

That wide expanse of forest, grassland, and
marsh stretched along the entire south side
of Cambridge Commons, laced with trails
for walking or biking, and punctuated with
a set of garden follies built from the rubble of
buildings destroyed in a long-ago soup fight.

Soon they came to the small monument circle
that marked the west end of Main Street. It
held a statue of Hamilton Croft, a local poet
and one of Bluehill's founding fathers.

"Here's the YMCA coming up on the right,"
Ansel said. "They have swimming pools
and a lot of other exercise space."

"I can't afford it," Turq said.

"They offer a free day once a month or so,
to encourage new members," Ansel said.
"Then behind the YMCA is the People of Jesus
Nondenominational Church and Interfaith Center.
They run a soup kitchen out of the basement, and
all kinds of other services too. Would you like
to stop and meet some of the folks there?"

Turq shook his head. "I, I don't
like church much. Never have."

"Bad family experiences?" Ansel guessed.

"Foster families, yeah, some of them were ...
real religious, so they dragged all us kids
along to church with them," Turq said,
hunching over the handlebars of his bike.

"Didn't do much for you, huh?" Ansel said.
"That's okay, we don't have to stop if --"

"Ansel! Do you have a minute?" called a voice.

"Pull over," Ansel said, suiting actions to words.
"Watch my bike, please. That's Leah Crenshaw,
she's the chaplain. I'll go see what she wants
from me, and then I'll come right back."

Leah had been spreading leaves over a flower bed
at the YMCA. "I wanted to ask if you could come do
a program about flickering for the kids," she said.
"Who's your blue friend? He's welcome to help."

"He's not in a mood to meet people right now,
but maybe later if you don't crowd him," Ansel said.
"I'll be happy to make a presentation. Email me later
and we can figure out a time." Then something else
occurred to him. "Hey, could I get the schedule for
your soup kitchen and other charitable activities?"

"Of course, just let me pop back to the church
for some brochures," Leah said. She gave
Turq a cheerful wave, and then trotted off.

Ansel glanced over his shoulder to see Turq
rocking from one foot to the other on the bike.
Ansel patted the air in hopes of reassuring him.

Soon Leah returned with a whole handful of
flyers. "I brought all of ours, plus what I have
from the YMCA and the community center,"
she said. "They're on different schedules, so
people in need can usually piece together
whatever it is that they're in want of."

"Thanks, Leah," Ansel said, and
headed back to rejoin Turq.

"What did you tell her about me?"
Turq snapped, glaring at him.

"That you didn't feel like meeting anyone,"
Ansel said as he handed over the papers.
"Here, these are for you. They list free food --
and yes, most of it's available without a sermon --
clothing drives, places to sleep, that sort of stuff."

"Oh," Turq said quietly. "I don't have
anywhere to carry this stuff, though."

"Actually you do," Ansel said. "Look at
the cargo baskets on your bike. There
should be a mail holder in one of them."

There was, a metal flap inside the basket
that opened and then clamped shut over
the papers. "Smooth," Turq said.

They rode the short distance to
the intersection of Main Street and
Concord Boulevard, then turned left
onto the two-lane bike path separated
from the street by a curbed hedge.

"On the left we have Soda Spring Park,"
Ansel said, waving a hand at the rectangle
of manicured landscaping. "The old bathhouse
is still there and it's free, in case you ever want
a soak or a shower. There's also a fountain plaza
along with the usual picnic tables and game courts."

The two biggest trees had already dropped
their leaves. Rows of smaller ones showed
a rainbow of orange and purple foliage.

"It's pretty," Turq said.

"The colors?" Ansel said. "I think
that those are serviceberry trees."

"Oh, I like those, they're delicious,"
Turq said, licking his lips.

"Next up is the community center,"
Ansel said. "They have a thrift store,
a food pantry with a kitchen that serves
free meals, a walk-in clinic with medical
and dental care, classrooms for all ages,
and a bunch of different recreational stuff."

"I don't need medical care," Turq said.
"No matter what happens, it just heals."

That was half the reason, the other half being
he was terrified of anything remotely clinical.

"You may not need it," Ansel said gently,
"but someone else might. Now that you
know it's here, you could tell them -- and
information is valuable on the street."

Turq perked up so visibly that Ansel
could imagine his pointed ears moving.
"Yeah, that I can use," said Turq.

"The Lewes Public Library serves
the whole county, and it's free," said Ansel.
"They have computers, a quiet room, and
different classes than the community center.
You mentioned that you like reading."

"Shit, are they supposed to be doing that?"
Turq asked, staring at two black girls and
a white boy taking turns skateboarding
over a statue of three stacked books
that stood proudly in front of the library.
"Please don't get them in trouble."

"It's fine, Turq, that statue is meant
for people to play on," Ansel said.
"There are several more scattered
around Cambridge Commons.
Most of the decorative ones
are up on pedestals instead."

Turq gave him a nervous look as
they cruised past the library and
its playful patrons, but at least he
didn't seem inclined to flip out.

"Check out this office building," Ansel said,
pointing to the signs. "The top floor is the office
for the Morning Informer. They also stock
the Evening Freeman, the Blue Streak,
and the Ledger-Gazette in dispensers,
if you enjoy reading newspapers."

A hint of smile curled Turq's lips.
"I like the Blue Streak," he said.
"It has the best funnies."

"I agree," said Ansel. "I think that
my favorite is The Chrome Mimosa."
That was a rude but humorous strip
clearly inspired by Fortressa and
various other supervillains.

Turq did a double-take that nearly
cost him control of the bicycle.
"But -- but that's a villain strip!"

"In case you hadn't noticed, I kind of
like supervillains," Ansel said dryly.
"Sure, they can get pesky, but
they also keep me in business,
and they are never boring."

The next thing to attract attention
was one of the little strip malls
around the police station.

"There's a donut shop next to
the cop stop?" Turq said, laughing.

"Do not disrespect our donuts.
They are the best donuts in Bluehill,"
Ansel said solemnly. "My favorites
include the mocha protein donuts
and the strawberry baked ones."

"Why's it got angels and devils
stuck all over the windows? Is this
another church place?" Turq whined.

"Because the healthier donuts are on
the angel side and the more decadent ones
are on the devil side," Ansel said. "Most
of us like to pick out some of each."

As they approached the station itself,
though, Turq slowed noticeably.

"Hey, I brought us this way for a reason,"
Ansel said. "See that clump of trees in
the playground just across the plaza from
the police station? If you look closely,
maybe you can spot our tree fort."

"Yeah," said Turq. "How come
cops got a tree fort, though?"

"That's a favorite place for
the Special Victims Unit
to interview kids who have
seen bad stuff or gotten hurt,"
Ansel explained. "So if you get into
trouble and I'm not available, ask for
the SVU and they'll take care of you.
They even have an outdoor spot already."

"Even though I'm a supervillain?"
Turq said as they coasted past at a crawl.

"A lot of folks go from being in trouble
to making trouble," Ansel said. "Part of
our job is getting them out of both kinds."

Turq gave him a dubious, unhappy look
so Ansel let the topic drop after that.

They rode in silence up the northerly part of
Concord Boulevard to where the commuter train
beside it met with a long-distance track that
paralleled the interstate. There they
crossed over to the far side.

"Here's Cambridge Lake Park," said Ansel.
"It's really more of a big pond, but it does
have a boathouse for canoes and such."

Most of the trees had dropped their leaves,
but a cluster of late sugar maples framed
the boathouse with a curtain of fiery colors.
Geese and ducks honked from the calm water.

"I like birds," Turq said quietly, his voice
almost lost under the zing of the bicycles.
"When they're not flying, it's mostly safe."

"Birds give terrific warnings," Ansel agreed.
"One of my coworkers has me studying
alarm calls from different species. I'm
amazed that 'Danger!' seems to be
similar in a lot of bird voices."

They rode past a long row of office buildings
with various medical, financial, and
other business signs displayed.

"Behind this one, in the plaza,
is a fancy restaurant called
the Graceful Plate," said Ansel.
"At the end of the day, you can get
a free doggie bag of stuff that's been
served from. The unbroken pies and
other goodies go to the food pantry."

"I thought that was, you know,
a nice restaurant like you said,"
Turq grumbled. "Those don't like
bums coming around. Really."

"Well, the owner's daughter went
through a rough patch so he sees
things a bit differently," Ansel said.
"Try it or not, as you like."

They came to the pedestrian bridge
that crossed from the office strip toward
the library and the community center.

"Let's leave the bikes here," Ansel said.
"We can explore Main Street on foot."

At the True Blue corral, they racked
the bicycles, and Ansel waved to
an older man who was checking tags.

"Some of these need tuning up,
look at all the repair tags," the man said.
"Hey Ansel, we're holding advanced classes
in bike maintenance for folks who want
to do their own autumn cleaning."
He held out a yellow flyer.

"Thanks," Ansel said as he took it.
"Could I get a spare for a friend?"
He passed the second to Turq.
"See, they list all the levels of
the classes offered on here."

From the bike corral, they walked past
the parklet with the Corner Joint youth center
and the tourist center where Concord
met up with Main Street.

As they turned the corner,
smells from the restaurants
and food trucks swept over them.

Turq lifted his head like a fox scenting prey.

"I don't know about you, but I'm hungry
after all that riding around," Ansel said.
"How about we break for lunch?"

"I can't --" Turq began.

"My treat, since I made the invitation,"
Ansel said, waving at the street ahead.

Turq sniffed the air again, then
hunched down with his hands
shoved deep in his pockets,
a picture of abject misery.

"What's wrong?" Ansel said.
"You look unhappy all of a sudden."

"People don't like it when I do
freak things, except for fighting
or stealing," Turq whispered.

Ansel's lips thinned into a line.
"I think we have established that
your previous acquaintances are not
very nice people," he said. "Forget
about them, you're with me today."

"I smell food," Turq said to his shoes.
"It tastes really good, I swear it does,
only nobody ever believes me that
I can taste things without licking them.
I just always could do that."

"Well, I'm willing to take a chance on it,"
Ansel said. "Can you find what you smell?"

Finally Turq lifted his head again, his nose
twitching and upper lip curling the way
Ansel had seen bucks do when
scenting a choice doe.

"This way," Turq said, trotting along
the sidewalk. "I smell meat and fruit."
He cast an anxious look over his shoulder.

Ansel was right with him, just outside
touching distance. "There's a pull-through
not far ahead where the food trucks park
because there are no restaurants on this block,
just salons and offices. Farther down, we'll
come to the restaurants and storefronts."

Turq pulled up so short that Ansel
almost ran into him. "It's um, it's
that one, with the trees on it."

"Orchard Chicken?" Ansel said.
"Looks like Asian medley cuisine."
He checked the menu. "Oh hey,
they have a sampler platter.
You want to split one?"

Turq licked his upper lip,
as much nervous habit as hunger.
"I could eat," he said.

"Why don't you go find us a picnic table
while I get the food?" Ansel said, pointing
to the row of them. "Volunteers make those
out of reclaimed wood, they're pretty neat.
Pick whichever one you like the best."

There were several to choose from
including one with separate benches,
one with arched legs, and even one that
converted from picnic table to park benches.

When Ansel reached the window and
placed his order, the smiling Japanese lady
said, "You boys look extra hungry."

Ansel spied the sticker of hugging crickets
and smiled. "Yes, we biked into town."

More than a few Japanese soups had
left their homeland in search of somewhere
more tolerant of their talents, and they had
brought with them the discreet custom of
displaying a lucky cricket to indicate
that they were soup-friendly.

So Ansel wasn't surprised that their food
came on two platters, one with the main dish
ladled out in a neat circle, and the other piled high
with steamy white rice, along with two plates,
the bamboo forks and chopsticks.

He was surprised when Turq grabbed
the chopsticks without hesitation,
instead of the fork.

"What?" Turq said. "I stayed with
a Chinese family for six months.
They were great. They'd been
refugees so they understood what
it's like to feel lost and unwelcome."

"I'm glad you had a nice family
for a while," Ansel said.

"I wish I could've stayed there," Turq said,
picking at the seam between a pale board
and a much darker one, "but Mingxia's baby
was born with a bunch of problems, so
they had to give up the foster kids."

"That's sad," Ansel said. "Maybe
you can get back in touch someday.
If they didn't want to let you go, I bet
that they'd love to hear from you."

"Maybe," Turq said, hunching
his shoulders over his plate.

"You found a great place to eat,"
Ansel said. "Thanks for the tip.
I'll definitely bring Janie here.
What's your favorite flavor?"

Turq straightened up a little.
"I like the jalapeño lime,"
he said, "and the lemon."

"The strawberry is my favorite,
and then the orange," said Ansel.
"The lemon's a little sour for me."

"I think the strawberry is too sweet,
you have it," said Turq. "Try out
the pineapple. I'll eat the lemon.
I like it almost as much as the lime."

With a little shuffling around,
Ansel managed to arrange
the platter accordingly. They
had already put a big dent
in its delicious contents.

"How come there's so much food?"
Turq asked. "I mean, yeah, it's
a sampler platter, but we got
twice as much rice as that,
and usually places just dump
the saucy stuff over the rice."

Ansel pounced on the opportunity.
"Well, there's a little cricket sticker
on the food truck, and the lady asked
if we were hungry," he explained. "It's
a discreet way of offering extra calories --
and rice is cheap, so they can spare it."

"Why would they do that?"
Turq asked, his eyes narrowing.

"They know it'll get them return custom,
because even in America, not everyone
necessarily wants soups around," Ansel said.
"So the soup-friendly ones build up a crowd
of regulars, if they're any good.

"Oh, that's useful," Turq said.
He scooped the last piece of
the lemon chicken into his mouth.

Ansel finished his strawberry chicken
"That was fantastic," he said, and
then stuck his chopsticks into
the bit of rice left on the platter.

Turq immediately pulled them out
and laid them crosswise on the plate.
"Don't ever do that, it's inauspicious," he said.

"Okay, why?" said Ansel.

"It's for a funeral, you put chopsticks
in a bowl of rice to feed the dead, or
incense in a bowl of sand," said Turq.
"I only know because Dao's mom died,
and we went to the funeral, and they
told all us kids a bunch of stuff."

"Thank you for sharing," Ansel said.
"Do you want what's left of the food?
There's not much, and I'm full."

"Yeah, I can finish it," said Turq.
It only took another minute.

"Ready to walk?" Ansel asked,
and Turq nodded. "This part of
Main Street is all live-work places.
So they have an office or a shop on
the bottom floor, and apartments above."

"Nice if you can get it," Turq said.

"Look over there, that's where
my girlfriend Janie lives," Ansel said,
pointing across the street at a building
whose red bricks showed between
the yellow leaves of the trees
that lined the street in front.

"Honeyman's Hardware,"
Turq said in a dubious tone.

Ansel laughed. "That used to be
a big hardware store and warehouse,"
he said. "Then they remodeled most of it
into loft apartments and left part of the building
for the store and a reclamation yard."

"Hey, what's that thing?" Turq asked,
wandering over to look at a blue box
painted with flowers and butterflies,
mounted on a post at shoulder height.

"It's a Little Free Library," Ansel explained.
"As the sign says, you can take a book or
leave one. This box usually has nature titles."

"I don't have any books," Turq said,
but his fingers strayed to the handle
of the cheerfully decorated door.

"Go ahead and take one," said Ansel.
"I'm always leaving armloads of books
in these things. One of my coworkers
loves men's adventure titles, and gives
them away after reading them. I read
each book once, then pass them along."

"I dunno ..." Turq said.

"Well, if you don't want to, I do," Ansel said.
"Shoo, you're blocking the door." He
gave Turq a firm pat on the hip.

Turq shied out of the way.

Ansel rummaged in the cabinet,
then made a happy noise. "Look,
Missouri's Natural Wonder Guidebook."

"Coyote's Guide," Turq said softly,
looking at one of the spines.

"This one?" Ansel said, and pulled out
Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature.
"It looks like fun." He passed it to Turq.

"Thanks," Turq said. He tucked it
inside his shirt along with the flyers.

They ambled along, looking at the displays
in store windows but not going in anywhere.
Turq didn't seem interested, and Ansel was
enjoying a day out that didn't involve stopping
at every antique store and restoration joint
that they passed like he did with Janie.

Real Live Writers was open, with one of the women
typing away at the classic wooden writing desk.

Ansel noticed that as they walked,
Turq kept brushing against him as if by
accident, never more than brief contact,
but more often than crowd motion
alone could account for.

Without saying a word, Ansel
bumped him back, very gently.

Turq jumped away again,
but within a few paces he was
right back to the same position,
just close enough that they
made contact now and then.

Ansel let him set the distance
between them. Although touch was
a nearly-universal need, not everyone
felt comfortable just asking for it.

"This is the Independence Beer Garden,"
Ansel said when they came to the pergola
strung with lights and autumn-colored vines.
"It's a nice place to get something to drink --
they serve a lot more than alcohol -- and
a snack while you're waiting for a ride."

"There's a pull-through, but I don't
see any food trucks," Turq said.

"This one is for buses and taxis,"
Ansel said. "There's a corral for
the True Blue Bikeshare too. We're
at a transit hub. See all the benches?"

"Yeah, but they're shaped funny," Turq said.

"Oh, those are Looped In benches," Ansel said,
nodding at the odd slatted structures. "You can
sit facing each other and chat. They're meant
to encourage people to make new friends."

Turq plastered himself against Ansel's side
as they passed between the benches.
"I don't like meeting people," he said.

"Then you don't have to,"
Ansel said. "Look, there's
a givebox here. Do you want
to see if it has anything good?"

"Maybe," Turq said.

Tentatively he explored
the big wooden box, which was
about the size of a phonebooth
with shelves and hanging rods
inside to hold the donations.

Currently it was full of clothes,
housewares, and magazines.
Various books and games filled
one entire shelf. The floor held
several pairs of shoes and
a carton of music albums.

Turq stroked the sleeve of
a deep teal cardigan, but
did not move to try it on.

"This looks fun," Ansel said
as he picked up a green bag
that said Dice's Zoo in white ink.
"Janie and I can try playing this."

Turq still made no sign of
taking anything, even though
Ansel knew he was short on ...
well, probably everything.

"Here, let's see if this fits you,"
Ansel said, pulling the cardigan
off its hanger and unbuttoning it.

Turq actually let Ansel help him into
the cardigan, its thick wool twisted
into a cableknit design. "That color
looks handsome on you," Ansel said.

It was a little big on Turq, but he smiled as
he snuck his hands into the pockets at the hem.

Then he frowned and pulled out
something folded into a green shirt.
"What's this ...?" he said.

"Oh yeah, people do that sometimes,
as a little extra perk," Ansel said.
"If you find money stuck in a book
or a pocket, it's yours to keep."

"Smooth," said Turq, turning it
over and over in his hands.

"It's tacky to unfold in front of someone else,
though, or to go through all the stuff looking
for cash," Ansel warned him. "Just put it
back into your pocket for now."

Turq obeyed, and they strolled onward.

They went past the big monument hub
with its tall spire in the center of the fountain,
which stood at the eastern end of Main Street.

From there they went up Copper Beech Drive,
which was a single street instead of
a boulevard like Main Street.

It was quieter here, and the trees
whispered their drying leaves in
the breeze. Overhead the sky
was blue and clear, dotted
with a few white clouds.

"That's the hospital up ahead on the left,
and these town homes on the right hold a lot
of the staff who work there," Ansel said.
"This way they can walk to work."

"Except the doctors are up on Sturgeon Road --
I heard somebody calling it Surgeon's Row,"
Turq said. "It's fancier up that way.
What's all this green space?"

"This part is St. Francis Park,"
said Ansel. "There's a statue of him
in one of the healing gardens at the hospital,
and they've got an old battle ambulance
parked on a monument pad, too."

"Look, there's another ..."
Turq's voice trailed off in confusion.
Then he took a closer look at the box
on its post. "Free Seeds Library?"

"Yes, it's a variation on the same basic idea,
just for plants instead of books," Ansel said.
"It's a seasonal thing, though, so it'll
be empty this time of year."

"No it's not," Turq said, opening the door.
"It has little dirt clods inside of it."

Ansel leaned over to look.
"Well, what do you know --
those are daffodil bulbs. They
can spread pretty fast if they like
their place. Do you want some?"

Turq looked down. "I don't
have anywhere to put them."

"I could use a few for my place.
You can help me plant them,
if you'd like to," Ansel said.
"I wonder what color they are."

Tentatively Turq reached in and
pulled out a double handful of bulbs.
"Guess we'll find out in spring."

Just the idea of Turq still being
here by then made Ansel smile.
It was a good sign that Turq was
thinking about the future at all.

"I guess we will," Ansel said.
"That's the fun of taking things out of
a seed library -- they're not always labeled,
so you get some interesting surprises."

"Do you think the weather will
hold long enough to plant them?"
Turq asked as he wrapped the bulbs
in a flyer for Ansel to put in his pockets.

"I think it will hold until tomorrow,
and we can plant them then," Ansel said.

"It's just ... it doesn't always,
this time of year, and sometimes
people mean to do things but then
they don't get around to it," Turq said.

"There are fair weather friends and
foul weather friends," Ansel said.
"If it drizzles tomorrow, then we
can put on raincoats and
plant daffodils anyhow."

Turq's eyes shimmered with
unshed tears as he looked at Ansel,
but he didn't say anything.

"Or not, it's up to you," Ansel said,
careful to leave him an out.

"I don't mind the rain,"
Turq said softly, "if you don't."

As they walked on, Ansel noticed
Turq's steps gradually slowing.
They had come a long way;
no wonder he was getting tired.
Ansel decided to call it a day
once they reached the end
of Copper Beech Drive.

They came to the little cluster of trees
that held the ambulance monument,
across from which stood a solid fence
of knotty wood protecting a forest.

"The park says Keep Out,"
Turq observed, pointing to the sign.

"That space is for animals,
not humans," Ansel said.

"Oh," Turq said sadly.
"It looks really safe in there.
I kind of wanted to see it."

"Well, technically ..." Ansel
rubbed the side of his nose.
"... you'd only be breaking the law
if you trespassed inside the wildlife refuge
in human form. There's no ban on deer
in there, even if they are an unusual color."

The breeze picked up, turning cooler,
and Turq shivered in his cardigan.
"Maybe another time," he said.
"It's getting nippy out."

"You know, sometimes weather
is a state of mind," Ansel said.
"It's not so chilly when you're
with someone else."

Turq leaned against him,
this time showing no inclination
to pull away. "Yeah, you're warm."

"It's like that with good friends or
family," Ansel said. "When we're
dealing with people we care about,
then the environment doesn't matter
quite as much. We just give from
the deepest parts of ourselves."

Ansel spied a familiar shuttlebus
stamped with the hospital logo, just
turning the corner in the distance.

"Do you want to catch a ride from
here back to my bike?" he asked.
"If you'd be okay in a vehicle, we
can make it to the bus stop."

"Sure, I'm tired enough that I
won't freak as long as people
don't paw me," Turq said.

"If you take the window seat,
then I can protect you from
the aisle," Ansel offered,
and Turq nodded.

The bus shelter stood on
the hospital side of the street,
with the row of town homes
visible behind it.

Pale green walls supported
a gray shingled roof, looking almost
like a little house itself, and inside
was a handsome ironwork bench.

Turq looked at the small crowd of
people waiting for a ride, and stood
next to the shelter instead of
inside it, but nobody said
anything about his choice.

When the shuttlebus stopped,
they climbed on, and Ansel let
Turq take the window seat.

"Wow," Turq said softly,
petting the gray velveteen
marked with rainbow squiggles.
"These seats are amazing."

"It's a hospital shuttle, it runs from
here to the big parking lot where
we left my bike," Ansel said. "They
paid extra for memory foam seats
because a lot of outpatients ride
this way and the extra comfort
helps them feel better."

"Mmm," Turq said.

By the time the shuttlebus had
gotten back to Main Street, Turq
was lolling limp in his seat, and
not long after that he fell asleep
with his head on Ansel's shoulder.

When the driver called out their stop,
Ansel reached over and gently
shook Turq to wake him.
"Time to go," he said.

Turq followed him down the steps,
blinking drowsily. "Those were
the best seats ever," he said.

"We can ride the shuttle again
some time, if you like," Ansel said,
wondering whether he could find
a memory-foam doggie bed and if
Turq would tolerate one in the gazebo.

"Mmmhmm," Turq said.

As Ansel unlocked his bike,
he regretted not taking the car,
because Turq really didn't look
in any shape for a vigorous run.

"I'd offer you a lift if I could,
but it's not like you'd fit in
my pocket," he said.

"Not in your pocket,"
Turq said slowly, "but I
could fit inside your jacket ...
if I was the ferret."

"Seriously?" Ansel said. He'd
only seen the periwinkle ferret from
a distance, but it was a good solution.
"Okay, that works for me."

Turq's forehead wrinkled
as he concentrated, and then
he blurred into a new shape,
like a small furry snake.

Most of his coat had a pale,
smoky shade ticked with cobalt
so dark it was almost black, and
the tip of his tail was solid black.
The nose pad was turquoise.

Ansel unzipped his jacket
and crouched down,
holding it open.

The ferret stretched up
to paw his knee, but
didn't climb in.

"You really are bushed,
aren't you?" Ansel said.
"Don't bite me for this."

He scooped up the ferret and
deposited him inside the jacket,
then zipped it just high enough
to hold the tiny body in place.

Turq promptly curled into
a tight, warm ball and
went back to sleep.

Ansel biked home, going
carefully to avoid jarring
his new passenger.

Turq didn't even wake up
when Ansel tucked him
inside the nest of blankets
under the gazebo bench.

* * *

Notes:

Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) -- He has ruddy skin and hazel eyes. His hair starts out light brown but he has it changed to pink by Paintrix, after which it also tends to stand straight up. He discovers that the pink color just feels right for him, and decides to keep it. Ansel is tall and athletic, with a rectangular face, wide shoulders, and trim hips. He is heterosexual and has a girlfriend. He sleeps so deeply that he's easy to sneak up on after he's asleep.
Ansel works on the Bluehill police force. He often volunteers for youth outreach and other public speaking. His pink hair helps other soups identify him, breaks the ice at presentations, and encourages people to ask him for help. On the downside, it also makes forks and other bigots hate him.
Origin: Upset by the increase in bullying, Ansel starts doing presentations at schools in Bluehill. The kids give him the idea of coloring his hair pink so he can see firsthand how people treat someone who is visibly different.
Uniform: On duty, Ansel wears the Bluehill police uniform. Off duty, he likes casual, sporty clothes.
Qualities: Master (+6) Compassion, Expert (+4) Citizen, Expert (+4) Cop, Expert (+4) People Skills, Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Jigsaw Puzzles, Good (+2) Kindness, Good (+2) Listener, Good (+2) Problem-Solving Skills
Poor (-2) Deep Sleeper
Powers: Average (0) Wild Pink Hair
Motivation: To make the world a kinder place.

Turq (Drustan Moreau) -- He has pale skin and hazel eyes with hints of blue, green, and gray. His hair was originally brown, but is turning turquoise from the top down. His eyebrows, beard, and mustache are still brown. His ears are pierced. He is slim and muscular with a heart-shaped face and long legs. He is left-handed. Drustan is Scorpio with Pisces as a moon sign. His heritage includes Welsh, French, and German. Following incidents of child abuse and neglect, he grew up in the foster care system, so he has no real family support. The results of that have not been very good.
Sold by his foster parents, Drustan fell prey to a mad scientist whose disturbing experiments gave him superpowers. The body horror from his ordeal has left him full of dread and melancholy, making it difficult for him to connect with people. He also gets anxious about being tied up, locked in, or confined in any other way. That has given him a nasty set of striationary marks, more than once.
Turq works as a supervillain; he is a capable thief and a useful distraction, but iffy in a real fight. Most often he uses the shapeshifting, although his neural blast allows him to disorient people or shock them unconscious depending how much force he puts into it. He does his best to conceal the drawbacks of his superpowers, because he doesn't want anyone to take advantage of him. He is fatalistic about injuries and resistant to help. His cape name is a double tap. It's short for turquoise, in reference to his hair. It also touches on the Turk chess machine, which in Terramagne was not a hoax but an early gizmo.
Origin: Mad science torture. The supervillain Carl Bernhardt locked Drustan in a strange metal chamber and bombarded him with mysterious energies that caused his body to warp. He escaped when he finally manifested teleportation. Now he works as a henchman for hire.
Uniform: Street clothes. He prefers clothes with stripes, spots, or other patterns because they hide bloodstains better. Usually he wears dark or neutral colors.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adaptable, Good (+2) Chess Player, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman
Poor (-2) Body Horror
Powers: Average (0) Teleporting, Average (0) Neural Blast, Average (0) Regeneration, Average (0) Shapeshifting
Vulnerability: Turq has difficulty controlling his superpowers. Shapeshifting screws up his body in ways that leave him coughing and vomiting blood afterwards. However, he can heal the damage -- anything that doesn't kill him instantly probably can't kill him at all. Teleporting can leave him disoriented and twitching from misconnected nerves, or scrambled inside, or all of the above. He actually travels by disintegrating and then reintegrating somewhere else, rather than by blinking from one place to another the way most teleporters do.
Motivation: Get through the day without screaming too much.

See the caney and the periwinkle ferret.

Striationary marks are characteristic injuries left when a speedster, or certain types of teleporter, pulls away from restraint. It leaves long wounds, ranging from scrapes to deep lacerations, sometimes with joint injury such as sprains or dislocations, and some people have managed to tear off a limb that way. Medics and police staff have learned to look for them as signs that someone was forcibly (and not very competently) restrained. That fact that traumatized people in general, and some types of soups in particular, tend to panic under constraint is one reason why Terramagne authorities prefer to minimize the use of restraints or other confinement; it's too hard to do without causing additional damage in some cases. There have also been examples of striationary marks on an officer who made the mistake of handcuffing himself to  a captive. So that technique is outright banned, except in cases where both parties are willing; it's a safety technique that emergency workers use occasionally, but that's with a soft medical type of hand-harness which is much safer for everyone.

Leah Crenshaw -- She has ruddy skin, brown eyes, and short wavy brown hair. Leah is married with two children, a son and a daughter. She knows Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. She serves at the People of Jesus Nondenominational Christian Church and Interfaith Center in Bluehill, Missouri. Sometimes she also volunteers for the emergency service that covers the outlying rural areas around Bluehill, and she is available for major disasters like a tornado or flood. She wears a Celtic cross with the EMS emblem in the center circle.
Qualities -- Master (+6) Chaplain, Master (+6) Nonanxious Presence, Expert (+4) Emergency Medical Technician, Expert (+4) Emotional First Aide, Expert (+4) Pastoral Counseling, Good (+2) Cozy Family Life, Good (+2) Gardening, Good (+2) Organized, Good (+2) Stamina, Good (+2) Synthesizing Ideas
Poor (-2) Nearsighted

* * *

"When we're dealing with the people in our family - no matter how annoying or gross they may be, no matter how self-inflicted their suffering may appear, no matter how afflicted they are with ignorance, prejudice or nose hairs - we give from the deepest parts of ourselves."
-- Anne Lamott

One of the best ways to help a depressed/anxious friend is simply to keep extending invitations to socialize. When they feel up to it, they'll accept. Here are some other things that people find help helpful.

Different types of bicycles excel in different areas. Dirt bikes or mountain bikes are heavy-duty bicycles meant for off-road or other rough terrain. City cruisers are light to midweight bikes that travel well on paved surfaces; the lighter ones are meant for comfort, speed, and distance while the middle ones offer modest cargo capacity.

Bluehill has an extensive network of bike paths, most of them separated from street traffic. Some are single-lane, others two-lane, usually divided from the car traffic by a curbed median with hedges and from the sidewalk by a curb and/or hedges. This minimizes the opportunity for accidents. Gaps in those barriers allow traffic at crosswalks or other designated areas. The newer two-lane paths have been added or upgraded where bike traffic runs heaviest, and are painted to distinguish their lanes. In other areas there are bike paths that don't even parallel the roads, but instead take advantage of places where cars couldn't easily fit -- a "hidden" transit network largely concealed by buildings and bushes. There are also bike-only nature trails. Parts of Bluehill, such as Cambridge Commons, have roads primarily for through traffic and place a majority of parking along the edges, which encourages people to use bikes, public transit, or walking within those areas. This minimizes the conflict between bike and car traffic, as well as encouraging people to socialize rather than just zip around point-to-point in private vehicles. The availability of accessible public transport and shuttle services also prevents problems for disabled people due to reduction of close parking places. Cambridge Commons is a Diamond level bike-friendly community; other parts vary.

True Blue Bikeshare in Cambridge Commons True Blue is a free municipal bikeshare in Bluehill, with a majority of its activity in Cambridge Commons. The city sponsors them out of its mass-transit budget, and the program is enormously popular. True Blue offers combination cargo-cruiser bikes. They have a distinctive bright blue paint job with smart yellow chevrons. Each bike comes equipped with a matching helmet and a pair of backwheel cargo baskets. A locator chip allows the city to find and retrieve any bikes that have strayed out of the designated usage zone, but there is no membership requirement so a bike's locator cannot be used to follow an individual rider. (Location is considered intimate information with serious privacy protection under T-American law.)  

True Blue uses a set of corrals, each of which fits into one parking space and can hold ten bicycles. Some of these are stationed near permanent or portable public bike racks, which facilitates switching between a private bike of a different type (such as a heavy three-wheeler or a dirt bike) and a cargo-cruiser.  An advantage of this program is that the corrals can be moved wherever traffic is heaviest at the time. Traffic analysis is customarily done once a month, which helps keep the bikes where people use them most. Here you can see the corral's distinctive blue frame decorated with red bicycles, a design which came from a local sculptor. Municipal sculpture is a popular occupation in T-America, and many towns hire at least one to design local structures such as bike racks, park benches, and bus stops. In the background is a row of the live/work units which make up a substantial portion of Main Street.

Transit workers maintain the bikes, process the tracking information to manage the corral locations, and collect stray bikes to be returned to the corrals. They also move bikes in a truck bed if one location is overflowing and another empty. Ideally they try to keep at least one bike in each corral at all times, and users are encouraged to assist with that by returning bikes to empty corrals. Although the city of Bluehill is officially responsible for the upkeep, much of the repair work and repositioning is done by volunteers. It's a great way for people to learn the skills of basic bike maintenance, and the program also provides community service opportunities for minor offenses.  

This map is the main inspiration for Cambridge Commons.  Another map shows some different features, like Circle Drive and the Farmer's Market.

The little monument circle at the west end of Main Street has a statue of Hamilton Croft, a local poet and one of Bluehill's founding fathers. It resembles this one of Charles Sumner.

This is one of the small feeder creeks in Mill Creek Park.

Garden follies of "ruins" have been constructed from the rubble of a building destroyed in a soup fight several decades ago. Check out the ruined doorway and crumbling walls. Different communities deal with cape issues in different ways; this is an early sign of Bluehill's tendency toward integration.

The YMCA is located near the east end of Main Street, on the south side, between the elementary school and the senior center. The floor plan shows a Kiwanis Room, teaching pool, lap pool, women's and men's locker rooms, wellness center, pilates room, family locker room, multipurpose room, massage room, free weight area, two studios for physical activites or classes, childcare with adjacent playground, and gym. The "under construction" area has been developed into the Body Temple, a worship space with primarily Christian (but interfaith-friendly) focus on personal health as a sacred practice.

The original plans for Cambridge Commons did not include any dedicated religious facilities, to avoid privileging some over others. This caused some arguments because, of course, various Christian denominations wanted theirs in the town center, and a handful of other faiths objected. A happy compromise was reached when the People of Jesus Nondenominational Christian Church heard about the renovations and asked about moving into Cambridge Commons from their old, outgrown location in a nearby town. Drawing membership from several towns in the area made a move no obstacle for them. The Cambridge planning charette agreed, on the condition that they make their facility available to other faiths any time they're not using it personally. So they squeezed in a small church behind the YMCA and added "Interfaith Center" to the sign. Their stationery says "PoJ." People of other faiths often refer to the place that way, pronounced "Podge," which they find amusing and most of the Christians find mildly annoying.
. . . Due to the requirement for interfaith accommodation, the only permanent Christian decorations are the crosses on the outside of the building. The stained glass and crystal windows are all abstract. Inside, the static furniture is understated and the tradition-specific items are stored in labeled cabinets and closets so that different services are easily customized.
Sundays they're booked almost solid. There are nondenominational Christian services, along with several more for denominations not serviced by other churches in the area, including for second and third shifts. They also hold three nondenominational services on Wednesday (morning, late afternoon, and night) for those unable to attend on Sundays. So the place is available on Fridays and Saturdays for Jewish folks, most of the time during the day when Muslims need to pray, and so forth. A Pagan group meets on esbats and sabbats when the space is free.
. . . The People of Jesus core congregation is comprised of quirky, spiritual people who don't stand on a great deal of ceremony. They are far more interested in doing the stuff that Jesus said to do -- such as helping the sick and the poor -- than in making a fuss over church. So they don't fit all that well with mainstream Christian culture, which mostly focuses on Sunday services. Their goal is to make the kind of church that Jesus would actually want to attend if He came back.
Their chaplain is a woman who makes herself available to anyone in need of spiritual care. Her credentials include EMT, EFA, and pastoral counseling. See the basement, first floor, and choir loft.

Never pressure withdrawn people to socialize, because it does not help and can make matters much worse. Understand that some people find socialization draining for various reasons. In Turq's case, he is homeless, malnourished, abused, and struggling with post-traumatic stress. He has very little energy left to deal with people. There are ways to cope with energy drain around other people. Turq is actually doing a good job by setting limits and interacting with familiar people in small amounts.

West of Concord Boulevard, and across Main Street from the YMCA, is Soda Spring Park. This formally landscaped park contains a traditional bathhouse, basketball court, and two sand volleyball courts. It also features a central fountain plaza. The surrounding park offers an assortment of picnic tables, pavilions, benches, and flowerbeds.

Serviceberries are among the toughest and prettiest trees for midwest lawns. Bluehill is enthusiastic about urban landscaping for wildlife, so the community is dotted with parklets and other plantings, many featuring native species.

The Bluehill Community Center includes a small outdoor skate park and a playground, an indoor skate park with climbing wall, youth center, training center, 1600 seat auditorium, thrift store, classrooms, daycare, preschool, cafe, a small walk-in clinic with medical and dental care, three linkable banquet rooms, a counseling office in the "pastor" space, a kitchen, and a food pantry. This started out as a religious facility, but has since become the secular center and the religious aspects are now at the YMCA and the People of Jesus Nondenominational Christian Church and Interfaith Center. Each offers services on a different schedule so that essentials like food are available most of the time to people in need.  Notice that Terramagne-America uses a sorting system similar to local-Great Britain's National Health Service, spreading out facilities so as to reserve the emergency room for problems that can cripple or kill within an hour or so.

Named after Phoebe Lewes, a founding mother and local author, Lewes Public Library serves the whole county. In T-America, public libraries have a broader footprint so that everyone has a free library available to them -- none of this nonsense of charging rural folks $60-100 to use a "free" library. See the basement and main floor.

Skateable sculptures
are designed to look good but also stand up to people climbing, rollerskating, skateboarding, or biking over them. This invites people to visit parks, museums, and other areas with such features. It also encourages them to engage with each other and the landscape, becoming more active and sociable. This piece of skateable sculpture stands at the Lewes Library. While our world argues over whether to ban skating in public, T-America has simply taken steps to provide adequate facilities, because they want citizens to be healthy and happy.

This office building has a street floor with offices for Attorney, Decorator, Insurance, Plans, Windows, Lighting, and Brick. The production floor above holds the Morning Informer newspaper. T-America has done a much better job of adapting newspapers to modern society, and thus retaining their relevance. Website capture breaking news, post public service announcements, and carry electronic subscriptions. Paper editions present articles and opinions after reporters have had time to fact-check them or research original stories. Newspapers also support local creatives by publishing funnies, other artwork, poetry, short-short fiction, and promoting area events in the cultural pages. These are the papers commonly available in Bluehill:
The Ledger-Gazette -- a T-Missouri daily newspaper with objective coverage
The Morning Informer -- main daily Bluehill newspaper, moderately conservative
The Evening Freeman -- a daily African-American newspaper
The Blue Streak -- a weekly alternative newspaper with a wild bohemian flair

Steel Magnolias is a reference to the particular fortitude of southern women. The Chrome Mimosa is a deliberate riff on that, and draws inspiration from a number of supervillains.

This is the little strip mall marked "mix" adjacent to the "future growth" area in the site map for the police station area. See the floor plan for the strip mall. The donut shop features a mix of healthier donuts like the Mocha Protein donuts, and more decadent ones like the Strawberry Baked donuts.

The police station stands on the west side of Concord Boulevard and its parallel train track. See a floor plan of the station. North of the police station is a row of buildings with the old town hall in the center, flanked by others of mixed use, and one separate. There is an attached parking garage behind the row by the railroad tracks. Open parking is around the other sides of the buildings. To the east lies a ball field with a concession pavilion, surrounded by a plaza with a rain garden. A playground stands beside the police station. Hidden amongst the landscaping is a tree fort which is a favored place for interviewing child victims.

Positive police-community relations are possible but require work on both sides including principles of good policing and responsible citizenship. Police focus on preventing crimes by reaching out to people who commit crimes. They cut down on reasons why citizens fear police. They understand that a healthy, active community is a safe community. Ansel's patient approach with Turq is far more safe and effective than picking a fight would be. It takes a lot of courage to work with troubled youth, but it produces excellent benefits.

A long-distance train track runs along the northerly edge of Cambridge Commons. Its train station and switchyard lie at the intersection of Concord Boulevard and the interstate highway. In this picture you can see a pedestrian bridge, an overpass for Concord Boulevard crossing the interstate, the concrete wall lining the interstate, the train tracks, and part of the station. The commuter train track runs along the western edge of Concord Boulevard. Its transit station is at one end of the pedestrian bridge that crosses from the YMCA to the Senior Center. It features shuttle service to the train station and the big monument hub, public bike racks and corrals for the True Blue bikeshare, a pavilion for bus and taxi pickup, lockers, and other amenities. The two lines intersect north of Cambridge Commons at a switchyard.

Cambridge Lake anchors the park at the northerly end, and it connects with Cambridge Park Plaza farther south. A boathouse provides docking and storage space for several boats. The lower floor has a deck, pavilion roofing, docks, and two indoor boat bays. The upper floor has meeting space with a kitchenette and bathroom. The loveseat is a twin hide-a-bed.

Bird alarm calls can carry a lot of information, helping other wildlife avoid danger. Paying attention to them can keep you safer too.

Abuse tends to make people feel self-conscious and ashamed. Understand how to heal the shame and overcome self-consciousness. You can boost the confidence of others by validating their emotions and experiences. In this case, it's as simple as asserting that Turq's nose is useful and welcome.

Food trucks offer diverse and flexible cuisine. Orchard Chicken offers orange, sour lemon, pineapple, jalapeño lime, and strawberry flavors.

Bamboo utensils such as forks and chopsticks offer a greener improvement over other materials.

Picnic tables can be made from many types of scrap or salvaged wood. This one has separate benches, which you can make. This folding table converts to park benches; see the instructions. The arched legs of this picnic table make it more accessible, if a little tricky to build.

Soup-friendly Japanese people use lucky crickets such as this sticker to show their support.

It is bad manners and bad luck to stick chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. Learn the etiquette of chopsticks.

These are some of the live-work buildings with 2-bedroom apartments above an office or storefront.

The reconstructed Honeyman Hardware building offers loft apartments. This floor plan is similar to what Janie has, except that instead of a deck, her loft has a railing and overlooks the living room.

Little Free Libraries are wonderful things, but local America seems to hate them. Read about them and build your own. In Cambridge Commons, like most of T-America, they are quite popular. This flowered one typically stocks nature books.

Missouri's Natural Wonder Guidebook – July 1, 2009 by Don Kurz

Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature for Kids of all Ages and their Mentors by Jon Young, Evan McGown, Ellen Haas, Kiliii Yu, Richard Louv

Real Live Writers is an office-townhouse with a 24x44' office on the street level, a living area on the second floor, and three bedrooms on the third floor. It is shared by four people. Two of them are a writer/artist couple sharing the master bedroom, and the other two writers each have one of the single bedrooms. The big plate glass display window has a raised platform with a classic wooden writing desk, at which someone is usually seated during open hours. Beneath it stands a bulletin board for posting inspirations. The rest of the office has a waiting area for customers, a service desk, and an art studio with a gallery of works for sale. The owners sell premade material and also take commissions for such things as wedding poems or birthday stories.

Touch is a fundamental human need. It heals grief and has other benefits. But abuse can cause sensory defensiveness and touch aversion. Turq waffles back and forth between craving and fearing contact, based on conflicting sets of positive and negative memories. Spending time with Ansel helps strengthen those positive associations. There are safe ways to get healthy touch and become more affectionate.

The Independence Beer Garden offers outdoor space for drinking and socializing. T-America has a much better selection of non-alcoholic festive beverages than L-America does.

A givebox or giveaway station has shelves and cabinets for all sorts of items -- books, clothes, housewares, etc. It provides a way for people to hand off things they don't need and find ones they do. It promotes the gift economy. Some cities have a lot of them. Here is a manual for establishing a givebox and some suggested rules. Check out this modular French version or hollow German version. For English instructions, consider this plan for a wardrobe. This is the one Turq and Ansel are exploring. Dice's Zoo is a game about animals. This is Turq's teal cardigan. Learn how to fold a dollar bill shirt.

This is the big fountain in the monument circle at the east end of Main Street.

St. Francis Park fills much of the northeast point of Cambridge Commons, around the hospital and townhouses. A statue of St. Francis of Assisi stands in one of the healing gardens adjacent to the hospital.

On the hospital side of the street, at the end of the row of townhouses, there's a little cluster of trees with a military ambulance on its own little parking pad as a monument. Instead of a tank. A nearby plaque explains that it was driven by a Bluehill veteran during World War II.

A Free Seeds Library works just like one for books, only with seeds or other plant materials such as bulbs.

Across from the ambulance monument, the thickly wooded corner is a no-trespassing wildlife refuge rather than human-accessible park. It's important for wildlife to have a place where humans don't go, and it doesn't have to be big to do a lot of good. A corner lot will suffice in urban areas.

A shuttlebus is a useful part of public transportation, traveling between two points. The hospital shuttle has nice interior seats. This floor plan shows 20 + 2 foldaway passengers, 2 wheelchair positions, driver and copilot.

Bluehill has a selection of very nice bus stops, most of them with shelters and/or benches, some with a Little Free Library incorporated. This one is near the east end of Copper Beech Drive, on the hospital side of the road. You can see the row of town homes behind it.

Trust takes time to build. Sleeping on or near someone is an important form of nonsexual intimacy that shows deepening trust. Trust can be built in many ways.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-16 10:22 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Ohhh, yeah. Yeah, I wanna live there, too. Failing that, I wanna be able to do something that could make where I live a little more like Bluehill.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2016-02-17 08:46 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
To my delight & surprise, there's more here that I can do than I thought there would be! I'm in a somewhat in-between place for a lot of things; while I'm registered to vote locally I rent a room in someone else's house so there's very little I can do property-wise. That said, they seem to be into the idea of putting a little free seed library in their front yard, which is a happiness.

I wish I lived somewhere closer to the center of town -- there's more I could do from there -- but as I can currently pay rent only in handmade soap, well, there are limits. One thing at a time, though.

Thank you!

Re: Okay...

Date: 2016-02-19 09:18 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
>> Okay, great. That entitles you to attend town meetings.

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE SOCIAL ANXIETY

Okay, I looked up city council meetings a couple days ago (& then took a lot of deep breaths). They are already doing a lot of good stuff! So I'm gonna _try_ to go to the meeting Tuesday, because it looks like it's all stuff I support so I can nod * make vaguely encouraging sounds & that will be a good start & with luck I won't wind up curled in a little ball in the bathroom.

>> You may want to look up resources on communal living and intentional community. There are lots of ideas for making it a household rather than just a flop room.

This...is tricky. I'm already doing a fair amount of this with him & some with her, but she is emotionally abusive (mostly of him, though of course some of it comes my way too). I'm at the point where I can _mostly_ refuse delivery on that but it's still hard, & I don't want to open up too far lest I give her ammunition.

...that said, she's onboard for the seed library so I currently have points for suggesting a Good Thing. It's been an interesting balance act.

I think a lot of my hesitation to get started with this sort of thing is that...too often, in the last ten years or so, I just start getting comfortable & involved somewhere & poof, my life blows up & I'm moving across the country again. (Four long-distance moves in that time frame, 6+ smaller ones...) So most of my friends & contacts & community & activities are online, where I can get to them wherever I've landed this time.

I long for _local_ community -- I am so touch-starved it's _painful_ -- but I also don't want to painstakingly build it up only to have to leave it _again_. It's...a conundrum.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2016-02-20 10:14 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
I shall consider your point about touch-starvedness & loneliness, because they are good ones, ugh.

& yeah, definitely safety first. It sort of sucks that I've had so much experience with surviving this sort of thing, but since I've got it I figure I might as well use it.

Re: Okay...

Date: 2016-02-20 10:27 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Hugs gladly accepted!

Also I feel your feels about living in a college town & finding awesome people who UP AND LEAVE, I lived in a college town for a while & held the local SCA group's monthly newcomers' social. So...yeah. That.

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