Apr. 10th, 2013

bluesrat: (cautious)
[Player information]
Player Name: Rey
Age: 34
E-mail: rey at crackmonkeyproductions dot net
Other characters played at Cape Kore: NA

[Character information]
Name: Markus 'Rat' Rathbone
Canon: Original Character, realistic earth
Canon Point: NA/1949
Age: 46

Appearance: At six-foot-seven, Rat is absurdly tall and accustomed to ducking in doorways. He has a very skinny, lanky build to match, and his face is dominated by a beaky nose. He has blue eyes and brown hair, but not as much of the latter as he'd like. Most of the time outdoors he wears a beat up newsboy-type cap, which hides a receding hairline. Apart from being built like a lamp post, there's not all that much physically remarkable about him, though. His height he's learned to deal with, and the only thing he's self-conscious about is the vanishing hair.
Apart from the cap, Rat's clothes are changeable depending on what he can find that fits. His sleeves and pant legs tend to be a little too short, and most of what he wears is generally ragged and old. His shoes may not match, but a 16 narrow is hard to find. Because he is from the 1940's his clothes may seem slightly anachronistic in Kore.

Inventory: Rat carries an acoustic guitar named Bessie, in a beat-up case that also carries a few extra strings and picks and odds and ends like change, matches, scraps of paper and pencil stubs, a harmonica or two, cigarettes and a lighter. Apart from the guitar and case contents, his only belongings are the clothes on his back and the cap on his head.

Abilities: Rat is a baseline human with no super powers, but he is of above average intelligence and his greatest skill is in guitar. He can read and write music and capably play a few different instruments, as well as sing. He has a degree in teaching, and used to be a music teacher, with all the necessary skills that pertain to the job. He has also done a lot of odd jobs and lived on the streets, so he's reasonably handy at a lot of basic things like carpentry, yard work, and janitorial stuff.

History: Markus grew up in the gray area between lower and middle class, in Kalamazoo Michigan. Markus was an only child, and his father was an assembly line auto part maker, a dead-end job for a man with little education. He drank a little too much and sometimes got loud about his frustrations in the evenings. He worked hard for his family, though, and wasn't abusive either physically or verbally. His constant struggle hung an air of depression over the family, though.

His own escape from the despair of his family was in music. Although he was very bright, he had few friends, and was teased for his shabbiness and his gangling, big-nosed physique. When a bully nicknamed him 'Rat' (a play on both his looks and family name), he adopted it in a good-natured manner, but that was not enough to win over the popular kids. Although it stung privately to be teased for things beyond his control, he learned to put on a good face. His parents believed in stoically bearing up under the drag of poverty, and he learned that from them. He did eventually develop a close friendship with a boy named Charlie Thomas, whose father was a janitor by day but a gifted musician working nightclubs whenever he could. Charlie's father, Willie 'Strummer' Thomas, took Markus under his wing and taught him to play the guitar and sing the blues alongside his own son. Markus took to music with a passion, and his one great disagreement with his parents was when he saved up money from odd jobs during the summer and bought his first guitar. His father saw this as a frivolous pursuit, but in the end they agreed to disagree. Markus did very well in school, and as long as he maintained high grades his parents had hopes that he would escape their social strata and have a better career. Optimism was very much a forced thing in his family, but they did struggle to find hope.

When Markus Rathbone was sixteen, his father developed cancer and died, leaving his family little to live on. His mother scraped by a living as a cleaner while her son finished school with impressive marks, and she lived to see him graduate and get a decent job, before dying early herself of prolonged pneumonia. Despite the poverty and depression that haunted his childhood, Markus admired his parents for their struggle. From them he learned a forced cheerfulness, and the importance of putting on a smile to the world even when dragged down by life.

Markus went to college on a scholarship and obtained a teaching degree, and worked his way from substitute jobs into a career as a music teacher for middle school, while also teaching other classes as needed, such as homeroom or study hall. He loves kids, and was very devoted to and happy in his job, although it didn't pay especially well. At night, he continued to pursue his own music, and joined Willie Thomas's band, in which Charlie was also a performer. The band was a surrogate family for him, and if he was the only white boy in the group, they seemed to think no less of him for that since he came from the same neighborhood and background.

It was while playing a nightclub that Markus met Marietta, a young woman with dark hair and eyes, and passion to contrast with his calm. She was from a similar blue-collar background, but hoping to marry upwards. Rat's music drew her in for a brief fling, but his degree and day job as a teacher kept her with him longer, hoping for upwards mobility, or at least stability. She was often frustrated by his lack of ambition, though, and their love affair was long, but tempestuous. She was passionate, argumentative, and had a wild streak. Her family was Italian, from Chicago, and ever the wild child Marietta had struck out on her own against their wishes. In Markus she may have seen someone steady and reliable to give her the support she was unwilling to admit a need for. To him, she was glamorous and gorgeous and everything he was not, a woman of fire. He considered her his muse, and he tended to bow to her will in nearly every argument. His own family had been a quiet one, and he never understood why it irked her that he didn't know how to argue back as she was used to. Markus' friends in the band tolerated Marietta, but sometimes teased him out of her hearing and Willie in particular tried to open his eyes to how bad of a match it was.

The advent of World War II cut the band down when Charlie Thomas, and another young musician Davis Whitson left to join the war effort. His position as a teacher kept Rat out of the draft, but it didn't shield him from losing friends to it. The band was down from five members to three, and two of them older men. When the news came back that Charlie Thomas had been killed, his father Willie was devastated. There were no more performances, and the struggle to make sense of the loss was the only thing left to hold Markus and his mentor together. When Davis Whitson returned, he was injured badly, and he had no desire to pick up an instrument again. The end of the war came, but too late for Markus and his friends.

He was still desperately in love with Marietta, blind to their difference of goals in life, but the increasing time spent consoling his friends drove the wedge between them wider. At last she decided he had nothing to offer her that she wanted, and Marietta left for good, vanishing from their apartment while he was at work, and taking anything of value she could carry with her.

The loss of friends and love was too much at once, and Rat began to slide into depression. The deaths of his parents had been difficult, but made bearable by the second family he had in the band. With the dissolution of that family, too, he was adrift. Willie Thomas fell swiftly into mental instability, unable to cope with the death of his son. There had been hints of alzheimer before, but in depression it worsened rapidly into a crippling ailment that lost him his job. Markus did what he could to support him, but the time commitment to care for him detracted from his own work. Possibly he drank a little too much, and slept less, losing focus in every area he needed it. His job performance suffered from his hangovers and mental and physical exhaustion, and he was let go by the school which only furthered his slide. Unable to secure another job, Rat's finances were drained away by his attempts to find care for Willie, while he himself ended up losing his apartment and living on the street, where he struggled to turn himself around again, albeit too late. Willie was at last admitted to a small living facility, where his care is limited, but government funded. Rat has been homeless for a number of years, and settled into life as a street corner musician

Personality: Despite spending most of his life struggling, Rat tries to maintain a very pleasant, friendly disposition. He tends to focus on other people, on helping them and lifting them up, and consoling them when they're down. Living on the street, he's met a lot of people that need far more help than he does, and it's possible that trying to help them out has kept him from picking himself back up sometimes, at least financially. While his efforts may not always be successful, Rat grew up in the kind of poor community where the only way for anyone to get anywhere in life was if those around them helped support them however they could, and he has carried this ideal of friends relying on each other with him into the broader world. Unfortunately he also has a tendency to take his caretaker nature too far, even into martyrdom. Rat wants to help everyone he meets, unless and until they give him a good reason not to, which is a virtue taken to the extreme. It's held him back in life, although he's not very aware of it.

Naturally very laid-back, calm, and patient, Rat tends to get along with nearly everybody. Not everybody gets along with him in return, although that's frequently due to his current position in life. Acutely aware of how he may be perceived by others, Rat tends to think before he speaks and make a deliberate effort to put others at ease. Possibly his absurd height has also contributed to his desire to seem easy-going and soft spoken. He could loom and dominate with his sheer physical presence, but he prefers to slouch and go along with what other people want to deflect that. Sometimes his desire to appease other people, or avoid conflict, can be excessive, although he's willing to break from that if he sees someone bullied or otherwise under attack. While his temper is slow to rise, seeing anyone outnumbered and picked on riles him up. Part of this stems from his experiences of seeing his friends be the frequent victims of racism. Seeing other people who are homeless and sometimes mentally impaired is just as likely to bother him. Due to his size, speaking out against what's going on is often enough, but when intimidation and reasoning isn't enough, Rat sometimes struggles with how to put a stop to unfairness. His pacifistic nature sometimes leaves him helpless in the face of trouble, and frustrated by the sense of helplessness. He's more likely to throw a punch in instinctive self-defense than in anger.

Living on the street, Rat has come to accept the idea that people will see him as a worthless bum, and although he knows this to be untrue, he anticipates being seen that way most of the time, and goes along with it peacefully. This is a double standard of sorts, since he's offended by seeing others in the same situation treated unfairly and looked down on for their position in life.

His calm, humble, friendly manner sometimes lulls people into thinking he's a big dumb guy, which is very much not the case. Rat is fiercely intelligent, and deeply philosophical. especially now that he has too much time on his hands, Rat spends much of his days observing people, and thinking about the why of things. He's very curious about what makes people tick, about how the world works and why people do the things they do. People-watching is one of his major pastimes, and he's usually very sensitive to other people's moods. As long as there's no conflict with his own ideas of right and wrong, Rat is willing to let other people take the lead in any given situation, but this doesn't mean he's lost without guidance. When a situation calls for it, he is capable of swiftly, if gently, taking charge of things. His years as a teacher actually make him very good at guiding other people to work together in a group toward a common goal, it's simply not something he tries to force on others unless a need to do so arises.

Rat is not religious, being raised with only a token nod to Christianity. But his long ruminations about life and the world have led him to a very strong moral compass. This is an influence in his focus on helping people, and it has also led him to be a pacifist, at least in principle. He's smart and realistic enough to understand that sometimes principles must be compromised, but he is very much a non-violent person.

Given the opportunity, Rat loves to read, and learn, and engage in intellectual discussion. With so much time on his hands, he tends to think very long and deeply, about a wide variety of things. People and philosophy are his main focus in life. He balances book learning with real life observations, for a practical and thoughtful perspective on the world. He is a great observer of life, attentive to detail, but sometimes prone to over-thinking things. Having too much time on his hands sometimes leads to him over-analyzing what's around him, or the people he's been interacting with. This over-thinking sometimes feeds into worsening his self-image, as he is aware of his own intelligence, and feels that should enable him to find a way out of the bottom-rung existence he's sunk into. Despite his outward cheerfulness, Rat suffers from some underlying depression and self-defeating attitudes. Focusing on lifting others up is a relief, easier than working out or taking steps that might raise him out of his own poverty.

Rat is very much a people person, outgoing and friendly in a calm, relaxed way that tends to invite people to talk to him. Frequently he learns more about other people than they learn about him, but there's no deliberate deception or concealment on his part, he's simply genuinely interested in other people's stories. While he doesn't find himself all that interesting, he's convinced everyone he meets is fascinating, once you've scratched beneath the surface.

Some of his perspectives and attitudes about classic gender roles, homosexuality, and other aspects of culture seem dated when applied to a world of a different time or culture than his own. For his own time, he's very open-minded and non-judgmental, but some things outside the normative culture he's used to make him uneasy. He likes strong, even socially aggressive women, but is still used to the idea that men are expected to be the breadwinners for them, and he's not unfamiliar with prostitution, but male prostitutes or homosexuality are things he prefers not to think about at all. In his world, they do exist, but are usually swept under the rug.

[Samples]
Prose 1: With Willie 'Strummer' Thomas, performing on a street corner.
Prose 2: Visiting a friend in a diner
Prose 3: Random encounter with the angel Balthazar
Action spam/Network: In which he isn't quite sure how to work this fancy technological doohickey.

Anything Else? Rat was originally a fandom OC for a community set in the aftermath of the movie Dark City. It's an anachronistic, vaguely 1940's-ish world, and initially Rat did not know his memories of the past and who he was were a lie. Outside the setting of that community, his past being a false memory is pointless, so this reboot version has changed very little apart from his history being genuine and just a little more detail-specific. I'm explaining this here, though, in case any part of the prose linked above is confusing. Those threads (under the user name call_me_rat) are from the Dark City community. The character has changed very little, but the circumstances in those threads are a little odd.

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Markus 'Rat' Rathbone

September 2013

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