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07.12.02 8:09 p.m.

A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students.

  - John Ciardi  

Previously in Xenology: The monkey children, they be stupid.

Goodbye to the Monkeyhouse

incredibly fucking stupid. Like so fucking dumb...
Zerk wrote a play "lampooning" the staff at Summer Scholars. Aside from amateurish writing, I initially didn't mind it. The plot seemed to have something to do with my reading tarot cards and getting abducted. At some point, I become a transvestite spy, a part played by Daven in a blond wig.
Sweet transvestites  
Daven, Zerk, and the artist playing Wayne
I was okay with that. However, in the middle of a scene, Zerk appears from the wings and launches into this long, rambling speech about how much she hates Jacki and how all of the scholars are going to do great things, but all of the RAs will lead empty lives. She also chided me for locking myself in my room and refusing to give them free reign over my clothing and jewelry for "added realism." I heckled her by noting that her spiel was largely nonsensical and she should take a Valium before writing. This received a bigger laugh than most of the rest of the show.
I found a copy of the play on one of the communal computers and e-mailed it to Emily, which provoked the comment above. Emily, obviously, did not feel this vignette was quite up to snuff for the cream of the crop (at least the part of the crop that wanted to be stolen away for two weeks) in Dutchess County. I am afraid I must concur, I do not think most of these kids are deserving of the honor of being in Summer Scholars. They have clearly not proved themselves to be above average or, in fact, average. I think the standards should be increased, as I have stated. Aside from a few shining examples, I'm wondering if I got tricked into working a program for those unfortunates that thought lead was candy.
Sweet transvestites  
Looks just like me. Pink isn't my color, though.
A few days after the talent show that spurned Zerk's "attack" on us, I was having the children bake cookies. I walked into the lounge, fingers slightly sticky from raw cookie dough, and still savoring the taste of the good of it in my mouth. I walk to Jacki, hands aloft and to my sides. I smile widely and pronounce, "Cookie dough is proof that god loves us." Jacki looks at me, tells me to stop eating the cookie dough and that god hates me. I do not waver in my happiness and proclaim, "It is better than being ignored by him." Jacki concedes this point and as I walk back into the kitchen to help bake more, I loudly exclaim to the gathered children, "We are god's middle children!"
Okay, now you are in a good mood. On to the bad stuff. Wayne and I witnessed Dexy in very compromising situations with her delinquent. I even saw him try to kiss her when she insisted that she had a cut lip. Wayne saw a full-clothed attempt at a gang orgy scene in Dexy's room with all of the delinquents fondling her. Jacki spoke to her and explained that we do not want to have to, but we are willing to fire her if this behavior continues. Dexy retorted, playing the weak woman defense, that the boundaries kept getting broken and she didn't know what to do. Her friends treat her as the hoodlum gang does and she doesn't stop that. Despite the fact that I think she needs to be educated on the definition of "sexual harassment," "acquaintance rape," and "feminism," Jacki reminded her that these are not her friends. These are her charges. As I explained to Zerk today, when asked why I am mean, I have a job to do and I cannot allow how I personally feel about the students interfere with it. (Incidentally, this explanation was not enough for Zerk, so I told her that I am paid not to thwap her. This made sense to her.) Dexy said she would tell each of the boys, individually, that this was not allowed. But if we do not see the desired change by tomorrow night, she is going to be fired. Which sucks, as that makes everything quite a bit more difficult, but we cannot have her undermining our authority and the respect that is necessary for this program. All the kids should feel like they have an equal footing, no matter how much we secretly think they were repeatedly beaten with the lead-based stupid stick.
All this parlayed into an hour-long conversation about Jacki's life and friends. I didn't add much, I just liked listening and feeling as though I were her friend. I really think I am, which I certainly appreciate. It was great to connect with her, using my ultrasonic babble power (remember? Strangers talk to you for no reason and pour their life stories out to me at the drop of a hat), except I am now exceeding snoozy.
The next day...
hmmm, [dexy] indeed... that is very interesting and for your sake I hope she does not get fired as that would make things infinitely difficult for you. For the sake of the program I kinda hope she does get fired since it would show that you are those who are not to be messed with. I think it's excellent that when you come back to New Paltz you will have a friend. Jacki seems cool and I'm glad you guys are continuing to hit it off. This is most excellent.
Well, as far as I can tell, Dexy is behaving today. She did not sit at their table for meals, which is a welcome improvement. I don't want her to be fired, because that would make my life that much more difficult and I would only reap the benefit of not having to watch her let herself get molested by greasy 16-year-olds with an objectifying sense of entitlement toward females.
I like Jacki a lot. Her boyfriend Josh visited today. He looks like I hope to in a few years. Long, nice blond hair, my kind of glasses and non-icky muscles. Plus, he was my sort of funny. Clearly this means that Jacki secretly lusts after me, having not really met me before this program and despite having had dated Josh for four years. Because I am just that dead sexy.
Zerk is pimping  
Zerk and her boys

I want Emily to come to the closing ceremonies at Vassar. She is certainly welcome, but it is a tedious exercise in self-congratulation. I don't know if she would enjoy it at all. I would have to sit with my students and not with her. Thus, sadness. However, afterward, we can go to the Juliet's and the Cubbyhole.
Now for further Summer Scholars news: Joanne and Jason are not a couple. They just behave in a very close manner. Or, as she put it, "He's not my boyfriend, but he plays one on TV." I do not think Joanne has a boyfriend, despite being a total sweetheart. And, of course, everyone worthy needs to be coupled. It is just the way of the world. I think she likes Jason and wishes he were her boyfriend, a little. But I could just be reading far too much into this.
I teased Zerk again today, only because she is ubersensitive and thinks every remark is about Daven. I was gentle, until I noticed the "Property of Daven" mark on her arm. No really. She insisted that she hadn't written it. I scoffed and said, "Of course not! There is no way that you could write that legibly on your own arm."
Zerk and Daven, sitting in a tree  
Zerk and Daven, rather close at the movie
I am evil. Speaking of evil, when the cat's away...
Jacki and Wayne were out shopping during lunch today. I walked by Dexy in the lunchroom and saw her delinquent almost kissing her. She pushed him away with a loud, "No! Stop!" when she saw me. I am not sure how to judge this. She then sat at their table and chatted, though Jacki had been clear that Dexy should not do so henceforth. She may be a truly stupid girl. I will also try to share with you one of the funnier conversations I have had here:
X: "Gem seems to be sick again. I wonder if it is testicular cancer."
J: "Possibly an enlarged prostate."
X: "Or a bit of the plague. I hear that is going around."
W: "Or an irritable bowel."
X: "Maybe it is spontaneous lycanthropy?"
W: "Nothing worse than a werewolf with an irritable bowel."
J: "She'd get all furry."
X: "Yeah, and she used all my razors."
W: "Don't worry, it is still light out. We'll just keep her in direct sunlight."
X: "Oh no! Then she will get melanoma! Possibly black lung..."
See, aren't we terribly amusing? Note the total lack of "D."
The last day...
They actually did clean this up.
I am rather glad to be done with this. It is not so much that it was a bad experience; I just miss the concept of "air conditioning." If I do this next year, I am going to specifically ask for the dorm with AC.
Last night, the kids went wild. To a degree, we were letting them. For example, we welcomed them to devour any food we had left and didn't yell at them for trashing the dorm and one another's rooms, as long as everything was clean the next day. We were even planning on letting them play in the haunted dorm. This was rather liberal of us, I thought. Evidently, my opinion was not unanimous.
The juvenile delinquents thought it would be funny to try to TP the dorm that was being renovated because it was full of asbestos. If that were not enough, they moved a tall light post that had yet to be installed into the street so no rescue vehicles or campus cops could get to them. The immense lack of common sense here is astounding.
Watching robots (you can see M and me)
Of course, the campus police, alerted by the alarms in the building, drove over and moved the light post back. Then they bitched Jacki out, which she took with dignity. We summoned all of the monkey children forth and informed them that all the fun things we had planned had been cancelled because some of their "peers" are fucking idiots. Since we couldn't throw them out of the program the last night (well, actually, we could. We just chose not to), we had to deprive everyone. I thought Wayne was going to destroy them, his contempt for their actions was so intense. The students I tended to like took this pronouncement well, acting in a positive manner because of the generalized guilt they felt. The JDs sulked and acted like jerks, as would be expected.
The next morning, they had to give their presentations to their parents. Not all of the robots worked as planned, though I got the general idea of what they should have done. We handed our "yearbooks" around to have them signed. Jacki looked through the signatures of the books of the bad children that came into her possession. Dexy was stupid enough to write, in detail, that she was either complicit with or the instigator of most of the trouble we had with the kids. What a dense human being. She certainly will not be rehired.
Returning to the dorms, we packed all the kids up as quickly as we could and urged them out the door the minute their parents arrived. No long goodbyes for us!
The religious girl who had homesickness for the entire two weeks rewarded us all with lottery scratch-offs. None of us won, but I appreciated the sentiment. However, we did tease that gambling is a sin.
The final ceremony passed with little note. All the other campuses, even the other Bard campus, were spirited and excited. Our kids wouldn't even clap for one another.
Really, I think that just about sums it up.

Soon in Xenology: Life goes on, in its lifelike way.

last watched: my spiritless monkey children.
reading: notes
listening: my air conditioning humming.
wanting: to do this again.
interesting thought: this experience may have changed a monkey child or two. It changed me and gave me Sarah. It also deprived me of Jen... fair enough.
moment of zen: seeing my bedroom again.
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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