ysabetwordsmith: (Schrodinger's Heroes)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the March 1, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [livejournal.com profile] technoshaman. It also fills the "hatred" square in my 2-29-16 card for the Villain Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [livejournal.com profile] technoshaman and [livejournal.com profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the Don't Try This at Home series in the Schrodinger's Heroes project.


"Friendships Are Like Clothes"


Eric and TeJay were stacking firewood
when Eric's shirt split wide open.

"Gosh darn it!" Eric said as he
fingered the seam where it had
torn open along his shoulder.

He'd known that his shirt was
getting too tight -- they all were --
but he had hoped to get more use
out of it before he had to buy another.

"Welp, time for a shoppin' trip,"
Uncle Chris declared with a clap
of his big strong hands. "You boys
go shower off. Eric, you can borrow
something of mine for the ride."

"But it'll be a tent on me!" Eric protested.

"Mebbe not," Uncle Chris said quietly. "Anyhow,
you can't shop shirtless, so go clean up while
I hunt up some fresh clothes for you."

When Eric got out of the shower,
he found that Uncle Chris had left him
a pair of jeans and a blue flannel shirt.

Eric sure needed his belt to hold up the jeans,
but the shirt wasn't nearly as big as he'd expected.
He only needed to cuff up the sleeves once,
and the body of it didn't flap much at all.

When Eric left the bathroom, he found TeJay
staring at himself and tugging on a borrowed shirt
as if he were just as confused as Eric.

Uncle Chris just looked proud. "You've worked
hard all summer, so you've lost a lot of baby fat
and built up some serious muscle," he said.
"Now since that's on account of work I set you,
I'll be buying you some replacement clothes."

He didn't take them to a thrift store, either.
He took them to the huge farm store where
all the blue-collar folks bought their work clothes,
and there were some businessy things and
goofball stuff on some of the racks as well.

"Uh ... you don't have to make
such a fuss of it," Eric said.

"This ain't a fuss, Alex driving y'all into
Dallas would be a fuss," said Uncle Chris.
"Pick out at least three outfits for work,
something a bit nicer, and something fun."

"Define outfit," TeJay said.

"Top and bottoms, underwear, and
footwear if you need it," said Uncle Chris.

The hell with manners, Eric made a beeline
for the big plastic bags of socks and shorts.
He hadn't gotten new underwear in so long,
he forgot when it had been, because the holes
didn't show on the outside so he'd rather spend
what money he had on clothes that did.

Then he picked out three pairs of jeans,
two blue and one black; flannel shirts in
red, blue, and black; and a thick set of
coveralls that he'd been coveting awhile.

Eric bumped into TeJay in the nicer clothes,
with his arms full of button-ups in all colors,
which TeJay was more interested in and
helped Eric find khakis and a green polo.

Eric returned the favor in the work section,
which TeJay didn't know nearly as much about,
and even talked him into the coveralls.

They went through a rack of t-shirts,
where Eric found one that said Farm Boy
on stonewashed black, and TeJay picked one
that said Let the work I've done speak for me
with a rainbow design on light yellow.

They were hesitating over the footwear
when Chris purposely stepped on Eric's toes
and said, "You've outgrowed those, get you
some boots and tennis shoes -- TeJay, you too."

So they picked out some dandy clodhoppers
with the steel toes, and black high-top tennies.

TeJay looked about as overwhelmed
as Eric felt, which made Eric wonder
if TeJay was about to spook.
"You okay?" Eric asked.

"I guess so," TeJay said.
"It's just ... a lot. I didn't realize
how much I was changing until
I looked in the mirror today."

"You need a shave," Eric teased,
because TeJay had been hankering
after more beard than he could grow yet.

TeJay rubbed a hand along his chin
and said, "Yeah, that's pretty new."

A sudden racket made TeJay jump,
and even Eric spun around to see
what all the fuss is about.

Dan and Jonathan came around
the end of the aisle, crackin' rude jokes
as they pushed and shoved each other.

Then their eyes lit on TeJay and
filled with such hatred, it made Eric
feel sick inside just to see it.

Uncle Chris swung the shopping cart
in front of them and crossed his arms.

Dan and Jonathan looked at the cart
which was full to overflowing with new clothes.
They looked down at the baby jumper that
Dan held and Jonathan's one pair of jeans.

Then they kind of ... wilted a little, and walked off.

Eric checked on TeJay, who's breathing
a little quick but seemed mostly okay.

As his old friends hurried away, Eric wondered
why they looked so much smaller than they
used to, when for years they loomed large in
his life, like the big old live oak in the backyard.

Dan and Jonathan had been shrinking
all summer, or maybe it's Eric who's been
growing, and they'd been bunching and
pulling until Eric started shrugging them off.

Now he got the same sinking feeling that he
did when he saw the huge hole in the shoulder
of his shirt -- realizing that what used to be
so comfortable wasn't anymore, and now
he would never be able to wear it again.

"You okay, bro?" TeJay asked, his hand
warm and gentle on Eric's back. "If you
want to go after those guys, it's --"

"No," Eric said firmly. "They're
not my friends no more. It's just ...
a bit rough, seeing it like this."

TeJay rubbed his hand up and
down Eric's back. "Sounds tough."

"I guess friendships are like clothes,"
Eric said. "Sometimes they get to feelin'
mighty uncomfortable, and it's not always
that anyone started a fight, just that ...
we've outgrowed each other, and
it's time to find something new."

He put his hand over TeJay's
when it came up to his shoulder.
"And I ain't sorry about that,
so don't you be," Eric said.

Sure, it hurt a little, down inside
where he didn't care to poke at it,
but he wouldn't change anything.

Uncle Chris went through the line
to buy everything and bag it up.

Eric was amazed that all that stuff
felt like it hardly weighed anything,
even with steel-toed boots in the bag.

When they got back in the truck,
Uncle Chris said, "It's comin' on
toward autumn now. School's
gonna start up soon. You boys
got plans for the season yet?"

With a sudden twinge, Eric
realized that no more summer
also meant no more summer job --
no more days workin' out to the Tef
or hangin' with TeJay after.

"Naw," he said glumly.
"Just school, I guess."

He used to play football,
but his heart's not in it no more,
and he sure ain't hangin' with
the likes of Dan or Jonathan.

"If you're open to it, we could
work around your school time, let you
come out evenin's and weekends,"
said Uncle Chris. "But you boys gotta
keep up with your grades, or else
Alex'll send you right home."

"There's more cultural stuff
going on in the fall, when it's
not so sweltering," TeJay said.
"I wouldn't mind some company."

"Got plenty of that!" Uncle Chris laughed.
"Them folks at the Tef, they're all about culture."

But it was Eric that TeJay was lookin' at
like he expected to get an answer,
so there was no lettin' him down.

Eric gave him a shy smile and a nod.
"Reckon I could check it out," he said.

* * *

Notes:

“But then I wondered if sometimes our friendships are a bit like clothes and when they start feeling uncomfortable it's not because we've done anything wrong. It just means that we've outgrown them.”
Zoe Sugg

Dallas is the nearest big city to Waxahachie.

Men's clothes are simpler than women's clothes, which makes it easier to build a basic wardrobe. Eric and TeJay have different tastes, but you can see them starting to rub off on each other a bit. Here are some shopping tips for men.

See Eric's "farm boy" T-shirt and TeJay's "work I've done" T-shirt.

Friendship is important for many reasons. However, personal growth may lead to outgrowing your friends, which tends to make people uncomfortable. Know how to recognize when you've outgrown your friends and what to do about it.

Live oak is a tree native to Texas.

Powerful

Date: 2016-12-31 07:27 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I think part of the impact of this is the language, the deliberate "down home" use of words like "outgrowed," which would normally make me freaking CRINGE. It captures Eric's thinking, rather than an observer thinking about Eric and TeJay, as much as it forms the setting of the poem.

Chris pushing the cart in front of the two jerks-- "Look what these two are WORTH to me, and says something. I dare you!" Oh, that works for me on so MANY levels. Chris is a good adult mentor for BOTH teens, for different reasons, and I'd love to request more stories in this arc now that Eric seems more willing to follow TeJay's lead.

Overall, the teens' interactions share a lot of 'your world, my world' dynamics shown in Stalwart Stan and Antimatter, BUT Eric and TeJay's personalities are so different from the caped duo that the parallel structure reflects more on your narrative style (in a good way, of course) than seeming cookie-cutter, even for an instant.

Frankly, there has been a lot going on here in the last few days, and I've been rereading your poems hoping to put coherent feedback down, but instead I just reread all of the open tabs and relax a bit, visiting with friends over a cup of tea. Thank you for creating multiple universes where I can do that.

Re: Powerful

Date: 2016-12-31 09:30 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Eric wasn't within a stone's throw of decent when he first showed up, but the action of seeking help was compelling to Chris..

SQUEE!

I prompted for that! WOOHOO!

Honestly, I love the fact that a tiny pebble set a boulder in motion, and I love watching you create by etching the boulder's path instead of breaking the stone into rubble.

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