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07.08.02 6:53 p.m.

Be you in what line of life you may, it will be amongst your misfortunes if you have not time properly to attend to pecuniary matters. Want of attention to these matters has impeded the progress of science and of genius itself.

 -William Cobbett  

Previously in Xenology: I agreed to be an RA at Bard Summer Scholars.

An Unclean Dish

It sounds from your message that the shit hit the major fan last night. I hope you are all right and that your girls didn't do anything terribly stupid... Not that sneaking out isn't incredibly dumb, but I hope they stuck to just that indiscretion. I also hope that you sent all the offenders home with their parents today! I'm assuming that it was 2 girls and 2 boys though I could be wrong, either way I hope you're down by a couple of residents. Why are they so fucking dumb????????
Oh the feces-throwing monkey children. How poorly they behave and how terrible they can be.
A few nights ago, we were unable to find two girls in conjoining rooms who we knew to be trouble-makers. In fact, they were the ones behind the obscene flyer "prank," so we thought that this was especially dangerous. I was asked to knock on and quickly search the room of a boy whom we knew had a mutual crush on the one I will call Biollante. He was startled by my intrusion, but allowed me to search. Upon finding nothing in his room, I contritely apologized.
The next morning, Jacki informed us that she had discovered the two of them in the room of the least intelligent juvenile delinquent. Their story was that they had gone into Manor (the haunted part of the dorm) to sleep because they thought it would be adventurous. Of course, they got terrified after ten or so minutes of this adventure and, rather than returning to their bedrooms as would have been logical, they banged on the JD's door until he finally let them in. There they decided to sleep. Well, in theory. In actuality, Biollante felt the need to prattle on in her Chihuahua-like voice to the JD. Of course, given that Jacki's room is exactly under that JD's room, the yipping awoke her and she was distinctly pissed. She told Biollante and her cohort to return to the rooms and that she would deal with them the next morning.
The next morning, with Dexy, Wayne, and me for back-up, Jacki called Biollante and her cohort into her room. Jacki was mostly angered that they had snuck out to a place that could have gotten hurt, not because she worried that they were doing anything sexual with the JD because... god no, he eats food off the ground. Her cohort was considerably more contrite that Biollante and suggested that, rather than being thrown out of the program (which is honestly what should have happened for this offense), they be punished by having their free time privileges revoked for the duration of the program. Jacki said that this might be acceptable as long as they apologized to the group at the next meeting (which never actually happened). She also declared that one girl had to move into a non-conjoining room.
Our little darlings
Next came in the JD. He seemed as clueless and daft as usual, to the extent that he was literally slack-jawed. Jacki seemed to innately know that she had to talk down to him for him to understand a blasted word she was saying.
"Do you know what you did wrong?"
He began to fiddle with his shoes and avoid her gaze as though he was a six-year-old caught with his hand in the cookie jar. As it were. "Uhh... nothin'. I just let them in because they were banging on the door, is all."
Wayne and I exchanged glances that clearly conveyed that we thought he had loaded up on lead paint before entering. Dexy smiled at him, as she was inappropriately fond of the JDs. Jacki continued, "And you didn't know that everyone is supposed to be in their own rooms at curfew?"
"I dunno. I guess."
I will spare you the whole conversation, as it continued in this vein and I feel less intelligent just recapping it. He seemed distinctly frustrated that he was actually going to be punished for doing something wrong (oh, shock of shocks) and made numerous contrived aggravated sighs while rolling his eyes. Well, the boy made it seem like he let them in under duress because he is a gullible and stupid creature. So Jacki pretty much informed him that he was a dork and let him go with his free time removed. We'll see if they really manage to get to the end of the program. I thought we should have kicked him out because he was being damned disrespectful to everyone involved, but Jacki said his relative stupidity saved him. I think this is an extension of the law in Texas that said the developmentally disabled cannot be executed.
We dismissed him just was we got a call that another student's CDs and blankets had been found by security in the other building. It turned out that one of Biollante's friends had lent her and her cohort items for their little camp-out. So she was given one day removed privileges, because she should have known better.
And remember, these are supposed to be the best and brightest of Dutchess County.

There is such an intense sort of spiritual energy at Bard.
Her garden
It practically vibrates, especially once the sun goes down. I think I may have to return with M in the fall and worship the statues here, because they are clearly worshiped by others.
I tend to the stretching one by the campus center whenever we pass. She is hidden by the mediation garden, so most don't see her. When I first encountered her, I thought she was just a girl sitting on a rock because she seems real in that "eyes on the back of your neck" way. She looks very much like a steel girl who was frozen in mid-yawn after an immensely pleasant dream.
I visited the goddess statue in the garden with the piezoelectric stones, the one that Conor uses to judge people. I had to escape while the others were playing Quiz Bowl in the campus center, as there seemed no other time to go. Nonetheless, feeling that I should at least be in contact should I desperately be needed, I put my phone on. Also, remembering that a particularly brutal and unsolved series of rapes occurred on campus and I was making this trip alone at night, I procured a sharp piece of wood. I am useless in a square-go, but lethal with any sort of bow.
She was a little worse for the wear, her nose having been lessened by erosion (I hope). I kissed her several times and spoke reverently of how she had been missed and how I hoped she was well. She smiled fondly, which I took to mean she is taken care of. I smoothed her stone hair, more a gesture than an attempt as change, and cleared the webs from her and her pets (she has stone dogs). In doing so, I discovered a small poem on parchment in her left hand. I unrolled it and read a lovely ode about how the world changes around her but she remains constant, then mentioning that her nose is smoother and even she has changed. I wanted to pocket it because it meant so much to me, but it was hers and I couldn't fathom taking anything from her.
I wanted to leave her an offering, but I had not been planning this excursion. I searched though my pockets and gave her a pack of gum I had bought from the hospital vending machines when I was trying to get change. It was not frankincense, but it would have to do. I also surreptitiously picked a few different kinds of flowers from around her newly installed pool. It seemed so tragic that should could see these blossoms, but not touch them. I laid them in her lap and, with another slight kiss on her cold lips, bid her adieu with a promise to return as soon as I could.

One of our students, the one I call Gem, seems to have been afflicted by some strange malady. Evidently, she had been rendered deaf for most of the day before someone caught on that she was hard-of-hearing and not scatterbrained. During Quizbowl, her ears began to pain her so much that she was moaning and shaking. We could not deduce what, exactly, the source was, so Wayne volunteered to drive her to the hospital.
Honestly, shouldn't we get a free emergency room visit after bringing them so much business?
When it was my turn to participate in Quizbowl, I was so distracted by what was going on that my answers were deemed wrong. For example, I was asked, "Why is it ironic that more people listen to Betty Crocker than Mother Teresa?" My answer: "Because Mother Teresa actually fed the hungry." Which, to my thinking, was right. And Betty Crocker was fictional, which I was trying to explain. He shouldn't ask opinion questions.
The doctors ran a battery of tests and found absolutely nothing that would be causing her to behave so. They gave her some antibiotics, because we desperately need super viruses, and sent her on her way.
The next night, I was sitting in my room after curfew, talking with M on my phone and flipping through a marble notebook I found that contained the script of the movie that was being filmed. It is drek, by the way. It's almost hard to not write better dialogue than this. However, inside I found the following love letter that never reached its recipient:
Although I never actually expected to write this letter to you, it seems that it is needed. Or maybe it is self-serving, as to that I am not sure... I know writing can be somewhat cowardly, but it is the way I can most effectively express myself.
With that said, I will waste no further moments and tell you straight out my explanation for my bizarre behavior this past week: I have fallen in love with you. I'm not sure quite when the defining moment to me was, but it was somewhere between meeting you for the first time at that bar, and driving you home late that one night. I would go into further detail about my feelings, but I hesitate to do so considering the circumstances I face.
In the end, what I face is that you have a boyfriend whom I'm sure you love dearly, and in no way would I want or wish for the end of such a thing, being that it would no doubt hurt you.
I never meant to seem mean, nor hurtful. I'm not good at hiding my feelings, and my attempt this time was better than to be expected, but the idea was to hide my feelings, not to hurt or upset you.
In the end, what I really came up to Bard to do was to make a movie, and I will do anything for the movie (including going through any and all emotional and/or physical pain it might take). You are a great and talented actress, and we are all gifted to have you, and this seemed to be my only way to possibly explain how much I DON'T hate you.
I feel I have so much more to say, but no cause or reason to say it. In the end all I want is for you to continue to work with me and will
That, my dear readers, is all he wrote. Thank god. I think I understand from where the scripts dialogue problems come. Run-on sentences, ending sentences with prepositions, and unadulterated attempts at emotional manipulation of this actress (whom I recall as looking loose, if by nature or design). The handwriting also gets hard to read near the end, suggesting to me that he was more than a bit tipsy while writing this epistle. Doesn't he think his lady love deserves a bit better? Then again, he fell in love with her at a bar, so possibly not.
I felt I needed to immediately share this jewel with Jacki, who would crack up at the sentiment if she did not groan at the sentence structure. I found her in Gem's room, surrounded by a very hyper Zerk (who kept trying to kickbox the wall), a concerned Daven, and a frenzied Dudley (pseudonym, of course). They were rubbing Gem's legs (not like that!) because she couldn't stand and was in considerable pain. I was surprised Gem's symptoms had progressed this strangely. Deafness to migraine to leg pain? I though we needed professional help. So I asked Emily, who was still on the phone, what these symptoms meant. She was baffled and I gave the phone to Jacki so they could share information.
Emily gave Jacki various tests we could run on Gem to see what was wrong with her. We did several and then I asked M what this meant. She replied, "I have no idea. None of her symptoms make sense together." I thought carefully and suggested that maybe, possibly, all of her symptoms were not physical. Emily had already jumped to this conclusion and stated that Gem was likely getting a lot of positive attention, especially from Dudley. She might not be faking it, but their attention might feed into her symptoms. That explanation made more sense than anything else.
The next day, Fred (whom we like) made a fake program code for Gem as a get well card. I can't really explain it well, but it is overwhelmingly cute and an amazingly geeky way. He gets a gold star.
Jacki is going to ask Gem to go home if we have to deal with her symptoms once more, though. Her friends had to carry her to class after lunch today. She was more than fine throughout lunch, laughing and talking loudly. The minute she stepped outside to walk to class, her legs suddenly did not work at all. She is making other students late and compromising the goals of this program. If she is this sick, it is not appropriate for her to be in this program. If she is not sick, it is most definitely not appropriate for her to stay.
While I am sort of on the subject, I had to yell at some boys on the walk back from Quizbowl because it was very dark and they were scaring the girls. I explained how there were three ways this could end: 1) I could attack them, thinking they are a stranger trying to harm one of my kids, 2) I will be desensitized to their fearful screaming and not know if they are in honest danger, 3) they will try to scare me by sneaking up and earn an elbow to the chin. A few of the kids seemed to get the danger of these, but I don't really think they much understood. I am sure this will be tested before long.

Come On, Dexy
We think that Dexy might be sleeping with one of the hoodlums. We warned her to back off, because the students were talking. Still, she lets him rest his head on her shoulders and spends far too much time with him. I have conferred with Wayne and he wholly agrees at my assessment of this unprofessionalism.
I don't like having to think this way, as she is my coworker and I would like to respect her. However, I cannot if she is undermining out authority and, worse, letting a rat-like JD think he is attractive. This is a great sin to humanity.
I don't know that Dexy is really sleeping with him. But I honestly don't know that she isn't. Eileen gave me the indication that Dexy spreads easier than warm creamy peanut butter. After a meeting with Rose and Jacki about this behavior (in a separate meeting with the JD, she told Rose that there was no problem whatsoever. I had to rat her out), she offered to walk the JD to class. Wayne was incredulous, as they had just had a very long meeting about how such actions were in no way appropriate. While she may not get fired, I have the sneaking suspicion that she will not be welcomed back as an RA. At the very least, she undermines what Jacki is trying to accomplish and at the most, she is committing statutory rape. Not cool.
I hope to not have to deal with this behavior in the future, because I am rapidly losing my respect for her. If I were told what she was told, I would make certain to not be seen in close quarters with the student in question. She still is nearly always within an arm's reach of him. It is sickening and all the other RAs don't want to have to deal with it.
I am hoping, however, that this is all just a misunderstanding.

Scholarly Assessment
I get the idea that Summer Scholars has become immensely less stringent in their acceptance policies since I attended. I am fairly sure it has become less rigorous in Rose's hopes that more students = more taxpayer funding.
Let me share an anecdote, if I may. I started an improv group in my high school and ended up getting school funding. It was a cool, funny group for the disenfranchised actors in the school. However, the next year, the faculty advisor decided the group should be used in order to help the egos of less-than-functional students. As such, it was from a cool group of which people wanted to be a part to something that became synonymous with social failure. I am fairly sure the group no longer exists. I certainly hope not.
Obviously you see that I share this tale because it mimics what I fear is occurring with Summer Scholars. In order to appeal to more people, the standards are let go. As such, it is no longer serving its intended purpose and it turns on itself.

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: Sometimes, being smart is good.
moment of zen: kissing the statue.
someday I must: do this again.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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