chanter_greenie: a Pringles can with the words 'you can't write just one' written across it (drabbles are like pringles)
[personal profile] chanter_greenie
For whatever reason, this story hit me about a week ago, and it wouldn't leave me entirely alone until I wrote it. It's an orange!verse ficlet, backdated to roughly four years before Jij Bent Zo, that fills in details of an event referenced in that story. This is how Kendra got her black eye.

Warnings for gender-based slurs, self-directed and otherwise, violence against a minority character, and hints at unofficially institutionalized racism in certain professions in this universe.


Kendra's mother gave her a backbone.

Growing up coated it with a clear inch of Illinois frost, but it takes a long time for ice to weather stone, and Kendra's not that old, at least objectively. Hiding the granite in her spine is impossible; even in conjunction, conscious effort and circumstance only go so far. Stifling her spirited side under a layer of careful indifference really doesn't work very well, whether or not necessity's causing the lack of care. Attempts in that vein leave Kendra feeling like both a liar and a slimeball, even if the lie itself is unavoidable if she wants to keep her hide intact. Throwing mud all over yourself might be good camouflage on a bright night, but it still leaves you with scum in hard to reach places once you're back under a roof. Sure, it may need to be done to keep unwanted eyes off you, but it's a slap in God's face and your own besides.

Neither idea is particularly wise, Kendra knows, especially given God's command of - and discretion over - things like lightning and plagues of locusts. And who wants a mental handprint on their cheek anyway? But, as the saying goes, needs must when the devil drives, and who's to say God is the only one with a hand in in the Illinois border hills?

Kendra really doesn't have a choice. Rock, meet hard place. Try not to get squashed flat.

So she walks a very fine line indeed between brassy and self-preserving, feels a little relieved and a little sick every time she keeps off somebody else's radar, calls herself wimp and bitch and pussy for staying down at heel, does it anyway. Most of the time, at least. She's got a heart, and that's even harder to ignore than a spine. Put the two together, and sometimes you've just gotta stand.

Speaking up, or acting out, or whatever the unfavorable reaction of the day is may make her queasy both during and after the fact, but at least those cold sweats have an element of pride running alongside them. Idiot? Not quite. Foolhardy? Maybe. Cursed or blessed with a conscience? Yes, thank you God. Or dammit, depending.

Ma would've done the same thing, Kendra tells herself while bent double over the toilet at the end of the upstairs hall, spitting bile and goggling at her own remembered daring. She's fourteen. Hell yes, Ma would've done that too. Nurses in the Army ain't just shrinking little violets, and that goes double for her. I've seen her swing a lumber axe. Hell yeah, she'd have done what I did. So would Dad. Forget unofficially segregated units, some things you just don't ignore.

Kendra stands up and squints into the bathroom mirror through a freshly blackened eye, the pinprick fingernail cut beneath it still showing fresh blood. The red-brown streak marking her cheek will be washed off in an hour, maybe less, but she'll be all kinds of purpleyellowgreen tomorrow, and her story will be all over the school besides. Part of her is terrified. Part of her doesn't give a damn. Part of her, God help her, is almost looking forward to it.

Kendra remembers the brown boy's face, remembers wide black eyes and fumbling fingers and a tenor exclamation, soft and just a little lisping, punctuated by the rattle of a diamond-patterned wire fence and the toy thunder of eight or ten separate sneakers on pavement. It sounded like, "Dyos, eye-something," and then a blurr Kendra couldn't make out, but it ended with the sharp rustle of a sleeve and the familiar thump that meant flesh and bone colliding at speed. OH no they didn't.

Nothing inside her caught fire. Not that she knows the word cliche, but thinking back, she'd tell you in a second and with certainty that no part of her was burning.

"Dios, ayudame por favor," the brown boy said as the missing front tooth in his terrified mouth fell under the beefy shadow of a football player's upraised arm. "Por favor no me toca, no me duele! I dunno you guys! No se que quien es--" Rustle thump. And somebody yelped, far off.

Oh hell no, Ma would not have stood for that. Dad neither.

"Hey!"

One half-visible source of footsteps immediately splits from the back of the cluster and pelts off to nowhere, and another guy in Kendra's periphery's standing like he's been stuck in place, arms at his sides and mouth hanging open. Maybe he's surprised a girl can fight, Kendra remembers thinking, but then again, this is Galena. You ought to see my Ma swing a hatchet, buddy.

Kendra's knuckles bruise from end to end on that defensive lineman ringleader's too-smooth jaw before anybody gets their wits together enough to intercept her. Someone else comes down on her foot, hard, and gets a steel toe cap in their instep for their trouble. Things get pretty mixed up from there on out. The odds are beyond stacked in the other side's favor; Kendra couldn't care less. She remembers somebody yelling, high and shrill, "The hell did he ever do to you, pal?" It takes a full two hours for her to process the fact that it was her own voice she heard. Sure, it's two or maybe three on one - not counting the dumbstruck dude and the guy who's hanging back, seemingly hesitant to hit a girl - and she's a dumbshit for trying this at all, but suicide or not, some fights just need fighting. That's both her parents leading by example, thank you very much, asshole in a football jersey.

Said asshole gets his own back when his fist slams into her face at an angle; she doesn't see red, but that's only because the sophomore's fingernail caught her in the cheekbone rather than the eyelid. She gets called things, dike and pussy and bitch and a few others she can't bring herself to repeat. The whole thing's a great big furball, but she does get a glimpse of the brown boy diving sideways and backwards, dodging the fence's far post and managing a limping run into the gathering crowd, so that's something. A big something.

A big enough something, anyway.

If Kendra spoke any Spanish, her insides might be churning at the idea that she could, in one view, have been an instrument of God today. But all Kendra knows is English, and her insides have plenty to churn about as it is. You can't always keep your head down, she tells herself, knowing it's true the whole time, and lurches toward the toilet again. Get me hit, get somebody else hit--okay. Go ahead and hit me. Might as well be damned for doing instead of not doing. Don't I sound a little like Jesus--and Kendra doubles up, clammy to her toes, and dry heaves through chattering teeth.

The word idealist isn't quite in her vocabulary, but the concept of it makes sense enough even if she hasn't got a description. It's the scariest part of all, up to and including what's coming tomorrow. Tomorrow is one day. What's underneath the reason for tomorrow, the cause of tomorrow, that'll be even more obvious now, and it won't go away. And just the same--

Honor thy father and mother.

After a certain point, denial just isn't worth it.

Kendra gets up, rinses her mouth, wipes her face clean of blood, and walks into the hall. She's stickily cold, terrified to her toenails, but she holds her head up.


Footnotes are here:

*The title refers to interference near a receiver's source, such as from electrical wiring or power supplies. This can be very loud, buzzy, ringy, and downright annoying, and it can make hearing fainter signals almost impossible.

*Translation of the Spanish: God help me, please. Please don't touch me, don't hurt me. I don't know who you are.

*Honor thy father and mother is one of the Ten Commandments in the Bible.

Wow!

Date: 2013-06-14 08:02 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This is very dark and powerful. Thank you for sharing. I have linked it on the menu page.

Re: Wow!

Date: 2013-06-17 08:42 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
>> This one started out as a free verse poem, then morphed. I didn't realize just how dark this was going to go until it was finished.<<

Yeah, that happens sometimes.

>> I just hope it was realistic; I've never been in a schoolyard fight, thank God, and I didn't want either the odds or the scuffle itself to seem implausible. <<

It sounds realistic to me.

>>I may end up writing something about Kendra's father, now. <<

I liked how the next story turned out too.

Re: Wow!

Date: 2013-06-14 11:55 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
This resonates deep inside, in a satisfying way...

Thank you, both of you.

Date: 2013-06-16 04:23 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Oh, wow.

This girl is a MENSH!

Sometimes "honoring" means getting dirty,

Date: 2014-06-17 02:32 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
or bloody, or even /dead/.

At least she learned that she /could/ stand up, and honor what /she/ believes in.

Tough to read, but well worth it.

Thanks for posting this.

Date: 2014-06-18 04:59 am (UTC)
thnidu: Red pen. Text: The red penis the editor's friend; editing mark "insert space" in "penis". from lj:stormsdotter (editor's friend)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I just reread this from Ysabet's pointer to the timeline. Still great.:-)

Typo:
•dry heavves
-> heaves

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