Thomm Quackenbush, author

07.05.02 6:53 p.m.

Statistics show that we lose more fools on this day than on all other days of the year put together. This proves, by the numbers left in stock, that one Fourth of July per year is now inadequate, the country has grown so.


 -Mark Twain  




Previously in Xenology: I agreed to be an RA at Bard Summer Scholars. America declared its independence from British rule.

Sluttishness May Come Hereafter
I have many, many things to tell you and little time to tell you in. Oh well, it is the way of the world.
Dexy and I were speaking and it turned out that she and Eileen went to the same high school. Given that Dexy is only a year senior of my dear Eileen, it seemed likely that they were acquainted with one another. Of course, I cannot merely tip my hand and ask Dexy. Where it the slyness in that?
I encountered Eileen online a day or so ago, when I was supposed to be keeping a careful eye on the monkey children. I'm sure they were fine, playing Starcraft on the LAN a floor above. Some of these kids would no more leave a computer of their own free will than a crack fiend would walk by a succulent crack rock (even the green kind).
Anyway, I mentioned to Eileen, ever so casually, that I was currently working with Dexy and she knows her. As it turned out they were the best of friends last year and had not spoken recently owing to a complicated high school melodrama involving scurrilous rumors about Eileen. Furthermore, Eileen made it quite clear that Dexy was a libidinous creature, given to frequent one-night-stands and ignorant of the idea of sexual reciprocation on her partners' behalf. Huh. Eileen suggested that Dexy would be bed-hopping among the boys, before I clarified that I meant the students, not the counselors. Certainly Dexy would not be keen on boinking students.
I casually mentioned that I was once very close with Eileen to Dexy. Dexy's face brightened and she fondly recalled her friendship with Eileen and, when I told her that Eileen and Jared had broken up because he was cheating on her, informed without a hint of malice me that Eileen cheated on Jared just as much as he cheated on her and was hardly the ingénue which I had thought her to be. Huh and double huh.
Eileen, of course, says that this is a product of the selfsame misinformation that distanced the two lasses. Oh, and she is back together with Jared because they are addicted to one another and... such. It's not a song I like to hear sung, now that I have forgotten the words.

Jesus on a Bottlerocket
On the fourth, because we are not godless communists, we were to take the kiddies to see fireworks in Hyde Park. Literally and metaphorically, I felt a storm brewing. When I boarded the bus ready to take us to the fireworks, I knew I would not be coming home on it.
Wayne and Jacki had left all of the kids in the care of Dexy and me because one of the girls had been stung by a bee on the way to dinner and was developing a severe allergic reaction that necessitated a trip to the emergency room. Few stories end well with this at the beginning. Still I tried for the best. I tried to calm my nerves by hand juggling my two moki stones (large, spheroid gray rocks). One of the students Nido noticed and asked what those where. I looked at him, feeling extremely apprehensive, and answered simply, "Rocks. Surprisingly round rock." He took this for a good answer and went back to discussing sports or the like. He is one of the members of the Delinquents, though he is definitely smart enough to belong in the program. I cannot say the same for his cohort, who laughs like Fran Drescher and revels in eating the most vile concoctions of food that his friends find.
She is about to mate with him and then eat his head.  
Zerk in non-lethal mode
We arrived in the crowded back yard of a small church. The moment we stepped off the bus, we were handed rather lame religious tracts. I snagged them out of my students hand without thinking saying, "My kids don't need to read this sort of trash... um... unless they want to owing to religious beliefs... which is fine." The students nodded their consent for me to destroy the pamphlets. Good kids.
I sat down and was promptly surrounded by students desiring tarot readings. It was my own fault, really. I had my backpack with me the other night, after we cleaned up all the water from water wars (they had managed to completely soak a 100 year old dorm in under twenty minutes). I was trying to bond with Zerk again, because I was stubborn enough to firmly believe in the possibility. I had even let her paint my toes Slut Red, because I am comfortable enough with my sexuality that I can allow this. I brought out my tarot cards in hopes that I could give her a reading and learn more about her. See, deep slyness. Instead, the Delinquents crowded around asking such brilliant questions of mystical forces as "Who am I going to score with?" Still, I tried to be sporting and give them readings. Of course, I got nearly nothing because it was like trying to get a single reading off a herd of hyenas. The cards were totally confused and confusing.
Later, Zerk approached me alone and asked for another reading when there were only a few, more focused people present. During her first reading among the hyena-like Delinquents, I got very vague information about some hardcore guy that would be into her but not focused on being honest to himself. This time, the cards spun out a tale of her college life and the fact that she would likely make a very good psychotherapist. I said to her affectionately, "Well, you certainly know how to punch people's buttons, this will put that to use." I was greatly satisfied with her reading and felt we had bonded a little.
I also, incidentally, gave a reading to Wayne wherein the cards told of a change of jobs before him. At both sides he could be a success, but he couldn't do both. It turned out that he was considering changing his job and, like I suggested, one was a less stable prospect. Evidently, I can read tarot cards. Though I read cards for one boy and he prefaced his reading with, "do not tell me that my girlfriend is going to leave me," but the cards missed that second word and spun a long tale of heartache and betrayal involving a trusted male absconding with the boy's girlfriend while he was away. This is what he gets for trying to order the cards. The next morning, he informed me that his best friend (who was supposed to be attending Scholars at another campus) went home early and took the boy's girlfriend out to the movies. It's better that he knew in advance, right?
Given that I stumbles upon the idea for a personified Fate when I was at Bard years ago (a few years after Kate broke up with me), I think it is no real surprise that I was spontaneously adept at a form of divination with which I had my success before. After all, I am reading to these people what Fate has in store for them.
Anyway, back to the main story, I was sitting on my blanket at the fireworks and being hounded by the hyenas for more reading in a similar vein as days ago. I obliged and gave one kid a reading that he would most certainly die because he was drunk and did something so completely stupid that he became a joke. He replied that he didn't like alcohol and I suggested he keep that attitude. I gave Nido a reading, but I didn't much note the content.
I gathered the kiddies back so they were in my sight for the fireworks. I wouldn't want them stolen away by the church and made to work the printing presses for the proselytizing pamphlets.
When I fireworks started, I was a little surprised at how close they seemed. Certainly the people actually setting off the fireworks were trained professionals, however, and knew about fire hazards and such. Then I felt little pieces of scorched paper fall upon me like snowflakes. When I looked over, I noticed that Zerk was suddenly in possession of a flaming piece of firework and was yelling that God had chosen her to bear the fire. I took it from her hand and put it out admonishing, "We'll be having none of that, Prometheus. Besides, I don't think a deity would willing let you have fire." She conceded this point.
Still shrapnel rained upon us. Nido was balled up, having evidently gotten some ash in his eye. I didn't think much of it, as it was just ash and he would complain if he was in any real pain. I worked on making sure none of my charges exploded and mentally assessed if one could sure a church for gross negligence.
Near the of the fireworks, Nido groaned that his eye hurt a great deal and he wished to go to the ambulance stationed at the edge of the field. Damn, this could be bad, especially since Jacki, who had all the paperwork on the kids, was still at the hospital with the girl who was stung.
We waded through the sea of humanity, Nido doing a good job of keeping up given that he kept rubbing his one eye. We explained to the workers what had happened. They flushed his eye out a few times and declared that there was really nothing wrong with it. It only hurt now because he had been rubbing it. The woman dealing with him was all but calling him a baby. Then, getting to formalities, they asked for his name and the like for their record. When he uttered his last name and confirmed his lineage, they suddenly were treating him as though a firework had gone straight into his eye and exploded. I was significantly baffled. Then the woman started going on about Nido's father, the regional director for EMTs in the county. Oh. Damn.
As such, I got to take a very fun ambulance ride to the nearest hospital. This is sarcasm, people. I just wanted to go home and have my nightly phone call with M. What was worse is that my backpack and phone were left in the field and Dexy had taken them back to the dorm with her. Though on the way to the hospital, I did get to listen to a little drama about three girls who were lost in the woods and surrounded by fire on the emergency radio. It seemed to me that they would be rather easy to find if they were really surrounded by fire.
When we arrived at the hospital, the security guard asked what was in the backpack I was carrying, if I had fireworks. I explained that it was Nido's bag, I was just holding it. This seemed to satisfy the guard, though Nido may well have had high explosives in there.
Everyone at the hospital seemed to know Nido's father and was treating Nido as a VIP. I was very worried that I was going to catch hell when his father appeared, especially since I was supposed to be taking care of him. I was far more concerned with trying to secure Nido and me a ride back to the dorms. Dexy said she would send Wayne out to pick me up the moment she got back, but this was not forthcoming. I had very little change to make calls, so I had to buy packs of stale Juicy Fruit for the vending machine to make change. Finally I called my mother and told her to try the Jacki's number at the dorms and my cell phone, which had been left on when I was at the fireworks in case Jacki or Wayne needed to contact us.
I returned to Nido, walking right through the secured door that should keep non-staff from entering the emergency room. The doctors had poured various liquids into his eye and basically said that he was fine, no damage, he had just made the mistake of rubbing it.
Nido's family arrived and was quite pleasant, to my immense relief. After the doctors explained that Nido would go on to golf again another day, the released us and his parents drove us home.
Back at the dorms, Jim (the RD for the other Scholars program on campus) and Dexy were up and waiting for us. They informed me that, despite the fact that it was after midnight and Wayne and Jacki left at six, they were still not back. It seems that the emergency room they went to functions a great deal slower. Six hours to take care of a bee sting? Ridiculous.
I decided I greatly deserved some beauty rest, as I still had to wake up bright and early (7:30). Or even brighter and earlier because of Zerk's anal-retentive obsession with over-punctuality. She has a tendency to bang on our doors, you see.
The best part? Today a yodeling girl whom we will call Gem came down with an ear ache so severe that she was deaf, moaning from the pain, and rocking back and forth. As such, she had to be rushed to the hospital by Wayne. I wonder if we can get a volume discount there?

Emily and the Chamber of Secrets
Emily came to Bard to visit me yesterday, which was unbelievably pleasant. She found me sitting on a rock outside one of the dining halls, waiting for her to appear. I showed her my dorm room, which was not all that remarkable. However, no one had endeavored to enter my room yet, so I felt someone should see it. I worked so very hard finding just the right place for my three foot tall Jack Skelington doll, after all. Such hard work should not go unappreciated.
She rewarded my hard work of making my dorm room look like I actually belonged there by giving me many gifts. Granted, every one of them could have been and likely was procured from a dollar store and were very silly (i.e. oversized, glow-in-the-dark sunglasses), but that made me enjoy them all the more.
After becoming reacquainted sufficiently on my bed, I showed her around campus (from the air conditioned goodness of her car). There was not a great deal I could show her while still in the car, so I just pointed to pretty buildings.
Goin' to the chapel...  
Conor tells me that he has never been in this chapel in daylight...
Those Bard had in excess, owing to particularly generous philanthropists many years ago. Bard is clearly one of those places where I have a deep connection. Likely this is partially owing to the statues surrounded by trees. A certain sort of psychic residue results when people happen upon comely statues in the middle of natural settings. It is how one can quickly cause idolatry.
We ran out of exploratory steam on campus rather quickly, largely because the air outside the car felt like steam on its own. I informed Jacki that I would be leaving campus to get myself supplies and ice cream in Red Hook. I needed to feel like I had gotten the okay of a supervisor, because I am a well trained worker monkey. Jacki would have to do.
We ended
I wonder if I'm secretly alien, my skin is not like yours or hers  
Emily says that Sarah does not look like this. That might be because Sarah is not a photograph.
up at Sarah's apartment, as it was rather on the way to the CVS where we would be getting the necessary supplies to keep me a happy, healthy, clean Xen until the end of this program. Seeing her was much different than the last time. It wasn't even slightly as urgent. It wasn't like a religious calling. It was just seeing someone with whom I am close, mentally and emotionally intimate. With whom I have history. A part of my life, but nothing overwhelming. This is sounding decidedly negative, but it truly wasn't. It was that I was seeing Sarah and not all the things I had assumed Sarah was. She was real and that is what I wanted her to be. She seemed... sad. When she turned to look at me from the exterior doorframe in which she was sitting, pulling a deep drag off her cigarette, she turned her slow, rather full eyes, that had been drowned in such fathomless disillusion, on Emily and I, and I trembled a little. She seemed so old... endlessly old, built up of layers of disillusion, going down in her generation after generation, like geological strata; and at the same time she was forlorn like a child. We left her after but fifteen minutes, as we had to attend to other business. I do not think she is well or contented. I don't precisely know what ails her, but I can certainly imagine that she feels a deeper pull than she can ever suck off a cigarette to escape her current life, or parts thereof.
We returned to campus shortly afterward in order to have lunch in the dining hall. The food was being served outside, which pleased me not in the least. As I have made clear, all of humanity that was ridiculous enough or brave enough to remain outside was being slowly broiled alive. Still, it did allow for the divine goodness that is painfully cold lemonade on a hot day, so I cannot wholly fault it. The Service Master of Kline (what a title to have) was irate in the general direction of Jacki because some of out more enterprising students boldly went where they were not to go and had set up table in the hallway of Kline. Jacki promised that the kids would not mix the condiments together (for they had a penchant for doing just that), would not have a food fight, and would put the tables to their rightful places immediately after dining.
I sat on the edge of the lawn and, to her amusement, pointed people out to Emily, largely explaining them via the sins they had committed against one another, the program, the staff, or the college. Wayne rightly ragged on me for having neglected to introduce my lovely girlfriend to my fellow RAs. Where are my manners?
After lunch, Emily and I beat a hasty retreat to a cow-themed ice cream store that Wayne and Dexy highly recommended by the canny name of Holy Cow. Terribly subtle. The ice cream, however, was remarkably good given that two small (thus, incredibly large) cones cost Emily pocket change. They get my Xen Stamp of Approval and, when the apocalypse comes, will be the sole purveyors of both ice and cream as long as no one ever explains to me why the ice cream was so cheap. I have my suspicious, mostly involving mutant cows from Siberia.
Emily begrudgingly left shortly thereafter, as she needed to work and I should return to my responsibilities as a child rancher.

Superman for $5
Days before I left for Summer Scholars, Emily and I were bored at my home and desperate for entertainment. As such, we thought it might be a good idea to raid Blockbuster and see what family friendly, Christian approved slasher flicks we could find in the horror section.
We were driving there, bantering as we are wont, when we spotted the very tip of a ferris wheel coming from an area I had assumed to be undeveloped forest. After several valiant efforts to locate the carnival, we stumbled upon it in a muddy lot. It seems like a fiscally unsound idea to have a carnival which is difficult to spot and which does not have posters (we asked). However, they were still doing brisk business with the white trash sector of mankind, so I suppose they know what they are doing. Pheromones are likely involve to some degree.
Emily confessed that she
It is actually a ski gondola in the south of France`  
Emily enjoying her first ferris wheel.
had never actually enjoyed the pleasure of a ferris wheel. I was incredulous, as I thought this was one of those formative experiences everyone is forced to have at some point. Possibly as a prerequisite to graduating high school. Emily reminded me that she had grown up in Brooklyn and thus had little exposure to random carnivals. More the shame. I bought tickets and we gave it a whirl. Emily was more frightened than I would have expected. Evidently the combination of height and tons of shrieking metal spinning around her head frightens her. I can't imagine why.
After this ride, we found a ride that allowed one to lie on one's stomach and pretend one is hang gliding. This could not be passed up. The ride was marketed badly. They should have painted it red and blue and called it "Be Superman for $5." I guarantee more people would pay for that experience as that is precisely what Emily and I pretended. Because we are five.
Before leaving, Emily and I took a stroll though the carnie games to see if there was any prize we desired. Carnies don't get this ethic at all. One man hassled us when we said we would consider his game after studying the others. He proclaimed that if we gave him a few dollars, he would know for sure that we were coming back. I informed him that he would likely just keep our money and we had far less trust in him than he did in us. We eventually happened upon a dart game where the objective was to hit the circle containing Mario and we would be rewarded with an alien. Easy enough. Emily threw the dart and got it in the circle. The carnie hag said, "Oh, too bad. Mario jumped out of the way." Emily her daggers and exclaimed, "I got it in the circle! Give me the alien!" The carnie hag said, "No, you have to get Mario in the stomach. You lose. Here, have a fan." Emily was furious, but finally understood my deep seated hatred of lying, filthy carnies.


Soon in Xenology:More on Summer Scholars.

last watched: The Matrix
reading: American Gods
listening: I Never Learned To Swim Jill Sobule
wanting: Emily to visit again.
interesting thought: Americans celebrate their independence by blowing things up.
moment of zen: Sarah coming into focus for me.
someday I must: get better at tarot cards.

Thomm Quackenbush is the author of the Night's Dream series - We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods - published by Double Dragon Publishing. He has previously written for Cave Drawing Ink, Broken City Magazine, Paragon Press, and The Journal of Cartoon Overanalyzations. He likes when you comment.