Thomm Quackenbush, author

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    Xenology: Through the Snowstorm

    Wandering by others through a snowstorm, there is a feeling that, no matter what brought us to this moment, we are here together. In all likelihood, they were drawn into the cold and wet with a similar stripe of insanity.

    Given the weather and my proclivities for my free time on this winter day, I saw that my typical workout gear would not suffice. I searched my closet for my sturdiest pair of boots - my mother has, in recent years, given me three pairs with increasing utility because anything worth doing is worth doing three times. As I put the best and still newest on, I noticed that there was a lot already in the right one.

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    Xenology: Hell Has Frozen

    Hell is within my head. It is not your Hell, though I sympathize if you can boast a personal Hell. Given my relatively privileged life, I cannot imagine experiencing three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - War, Famine, Pestilence - but my depression and anxiety cycling faster is the closest I come to knowing suffering.

    Hell infrequently flares, but it is always present. When I check on it like a child with a wiggling tooth, it notices me in return. I try never to meet its gaze for then I remember its heat.

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    Xenology: A Place Where We Would Find Ourselves

    Since this idea of farming for a new friendship has become my current hobby - at least until I get distracted and lose interest - I have sought to go about this in the most logical way I can.

    To find a new friend, I must plumb in the locations known best to me. I must understand who I am so that I can find either a complementary or similar person.

    This pretty nearly precludes a Craigslist ad, as funny as that was to imagine, since I am not presently trolling Craigslist for any reason and don't know I would have much in common with someone who did for anything but secondhand pets or used cars ("For Rent: Two Friends, Gently Used"). More than likely, my people are not Craigslist people. .

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    Xenology: Friendless without a Fight

    The Inciting Event

    Kest, some months ago, proposed to Daniel. In a technical sense, I may have known this at the time. He showed me a ring she had given him (two rings, in fact, one fancy and one he pulled from her scrap heap - the latter which he prefers for daily wear). We cooed over it, but I did not ask him what this ring signified. It could be that I didn't want to ask because the significance of that ring could be an expiration date for our friendship. It was clarified when Kest boasted online of having proposed marriage to her Monster. (I don't know that it would ever have occurred to him to propose.)

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    Xenography: Pizzagate Is not Slenderman: The Responsibility of Fiction

    Pizzagate, more so than other fake new cluttering the internet, is a fine lesson in the responsibility of fiction.

    The alleged perpetrator - though we have a statement from him and footage of his arrest, the fashion is to use "alleged" until a conviction in court - is 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina. He "stated that he had read online that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves and that he wanted to see for himself if they were there." He apparently intended to do this by pointing a rifle at an employee and firing several rounds in a crowded restaurant, becoming a much bigger and more immediate threat than the "alt-right" fairy tale or the salt and fat of the pizza.

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    Q's in a Pod: "Uncle Christmas" and "Merry Christmas from the Family"


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    Thomm reads two stories from his Christmas anthology A Creature Was Stirring.

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    Xenology: Bryan's Engagement

    "You aren't going to say anything awful at my wedding, right?" Bryan, my younger brother, asks before his fiancée arrives to the restaurant for Thanksgiving. This is close to the first thing he says to me all day, as though he needs to get this squared away before we can begin our annual meal.

    "Of course not!" I protest. "Why would I?"

    "Colleen thought you might, then her mom asked me, so I got worried."

    "No, Bryan, I wouldn't," I say, feeling a touch offended that he would suggest such a thing. "Then again, now that you are telling me not to, I have to admit I am tempted. You shouldn't have put the idea in my head. What exactly could I say that would be most awful...?"

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    Xenology: The Time I Didn't Die of Breast Cancer

    Amber brought about this latest bout with death, while cuddled against me. "You have a bump," she said, jabbing at my chest.

    "How do I have a bump?"

    "Does it hurt?" she asked.

    "Because you jabbed at it. Otherwise, no."

    She poked it again. "Well, it's there."

    "About how big is it, would you say?" I asked, trying to keep my voice even.

    She directed my fingers to it. I feel a slight difference between the surrounding tissue and the bump, but then I want nothing more to do with it and do not want either one of us to touch it, as if it might subside if we just turn our backs on it.

    Men are much more likely than women to die of breast cancer because we are just too stupidly manly to get it checked out. A quick visit to Doctor Google told me that the best case scenario is that I have a lipoma, a harmless but obnoxious lump of fatty tissue, treated by surgical removal if they pass a certain threshold of annoyance or size. Mine is invisible except to careful touch.

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    Xenology: A Week in San Antonio

    We began our journey on November eighth, Election Day. If this is not one of the most stressful days to travel, it may only be because it does not come as often as Christmas. When we land in Detroit, I switch on my phone to see who has which electoral votes. Bearing in mind that I dislike both Trump and Clinton in uneven quantities, it is merely a question of how painful the next four years will be, on social media if not in life. The news sites report a shooting outside a polling station, but we cannot find the details fast enough. We barely get a heartening whisper before we are on another flight that technically offers WiFi, but at such a premium that we would rather be surprised on the ground.

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    Q's in a Pod: How Did We Get Here Edition


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    So, you elected Donald Trump to leader of the free world?
    Did you really think that through?

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