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07.30.02 1:18 a.m.

The artist alone sees spirits. But after he has told of their appearing to him, everybody sees them


 -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  




Previously in Xenology: Emily had a poltergeist problem.

Everybody's a Critic
Has it been three weeks? That must mean it is time for the supernatural to arbitrarily insert its head into our little story.
A few days ago, a calm, sunny sort of day, Emily was cleaning out her car and bringing some items that were in it inside her home. Carting an armload of detritus, the dreadful book
haunted  
She has a poltergeist. She is not a poltergeist.
Pandora slipped from M's grasp. She looked at it, renewing her distain for this tedious novel that sucks the life out of the reader just as sure as a vampire would and derided the fallen book, "Good, you deserve to be on the ground." Suddenly, by her account, the nonexistent wind picked up to such extremes that it was whipping her hair about violently. She stated with a tremble in her voice that there was something palpably angry about the wind. I joked half-heartedly that Pandora does not like being mocked. She dismissed me and stated that it was definitely not a fictional blood-sucker, likely it was her poltergeist.
If one believes in poltergeist, and I happen to, it makes a degree of sense that Emily would be a focal point for this phenomenon. Poltergeists usually afflict adolescent females that are undergoing stress in their lives and who feel that they are not as in control of their lives as they want to be (thus psychic energy manifests itself outside their will and causes often violent changes). Granted, she is more than adolescent, but her mood stabilizing medication could be a major factor in the manifestations.
It makes more sense than vampires, you have to give me that.
There was also an intense storm on Sunday. It only lasted half an hour, but during this time there was very little rain and so much lighting the world around me was often illuminated as though by a florescent sun. Every flash brightened the grass just enough that I expected to be witnessed to some perfectly dry and composed devil in an ash gray suit standing ten feet away staring at me. This did not, of course, happen, but it is quite sufficient to explain the lightning. The thunder, as well, had been set on "foreboding." It the world were to end, this would be the storm the gods called in to be the harbinger.
Ghost Cat  
An artist's conception that I just happened to have on my computer.
Emily informed me that, minutes before the storm broke, she had decided to take her dogs for a walk. Really, it is quite necessary if one doesn't wish to be knee deep in piddle, so we cannot fault her assisting the dogs in evacuating before the thunder convinced them that the rug was as fine a place as any.
Close outside her yard, Emily witnessed a perfectly white cat sitting in the middle of the road, paying her and the dog positively no attention. For their parts, the dogs did not pay the cat much attention, which is passing odd since Quest has a liking for chasing telephone poles and small, fuzzy creatures (being a greyhound, as he is). Emily looked to the cat and was surprised that she was not greeted by the green, ocularescense that usually accompanies cat's eyes in the dark. What I found most peculiar about the whole situation is that a cat would immediately seek shelter the moment it sensed a storm, let alone so foreboding a storm that Emily intimated that it possessed an intelligence.
Ghost cats... that seems just about our speed.

A Bundle of Sticks
A few days ago, Emily was standing at the check-out line in her grocery store. Suddenly she began to hear that the young check-out girl was ranting on about how everything that she did not like was "gay." Emily, who had volunteered her time at Gay Men's Health Crisis, was certainly not going to allow this ignorant little bitch to get away with it. She walked up to her and said, "What if I were gay? I am very offended and I am going to talk to your manager about this." At this, the girl ranted loudly about how Emily was a fucking fag and should die, blah, blah, blah you-know-what-homophobia-really-means-cakes. Emily raised the hand upon which she wore a rather engagement-like ring I had given her to prove her current heterosexuality (as though lesbians cannot give one another nice jewelry?) and the girl became visibly abashed. Emily decided that she had scared the girl enough and did not complain to the manager and asked if I thought this was wise. I stated that I did not. The girl likely didn't actually learn any lesson and most probably screamed "Dyke bitch!" the moment M stepped out of the store. However, had the girl lost her job because she is a homophobic little tart, that would have sent a clearer message and she would be more likely to understand that she is the outcast for hating people based upon who they love. Still, I am very proud of Emily for saying something when so many others would have remained silent.

The Thong-Maker
Emily, Bryan, Jessie (Bryan's girlfriend), my father and I went to Mountain Creek Water Park. It was either spend my first day off in two weeks there or tubing the Esopus River. Far too many people have died on the Esopus this year, a nice water park with safety inspectors seemed a lot closer to a good idea to me.
We began out journey in Bryan's boat-like car but the shocks blew about three miles into the excursion. As such, we had to return home and squeeze into my more compact Grape Ape. I was reading Who Censored Roger Rabbit? and not letting the regressively and affectedly saccharine couple in my back seats much get to me.
We picked Emily up, as she was on the way, and she guided us to the park easily, having spent too long living in New Jersey. She had to yell at Bryan and Jessie more than once for being too disgustingly affectionate in so enclosed a space. Though the real offender seemed to me the 19- going on 14-year-old Bryan, who couldn't seem to stand to not be out of arms reach of Jessie, despite the fact that we hardly had breathing room. This is what psychologists call "manic love." Jessie seemed less than happy that Bryan was being quite so cooey. She even seemed a little annoyed. This is want they call "ludic love." Be good little monkeys and look the terms up. I'm sure at one point they both thought they were experiencing "erotic" (As in, pertaining to Eros) love, but it seems different now.
The party decided that climbing to the very top of the hill and working our way down was the best course of action. The paramount held the H2Oh-No!, a slide that went almost straight down. I had gone on this slide the last time I was at this park and had renamed it The Thong-Maker. Water goes places it just shouldn't. I walked up the water derrick with Emily, asking her the whole way if maybe, possibly she didn't want to chicken out. She replied that she did not and I should stop asking before she changed her mind. When we arrived at the top, the life guard explained that shirts were not allowed to be worn on this ride. Behind Emily came my father, Jessie, and my hirsute brother. I took their shirts and informed them that I would meet them at the bottom. My father gave me a wry smile that spoke volumes. The spine of the volumes said, "How Xen Learns from Experience: Why He Chickened Out." I climbed my way down, legs shaking a surprising amount. Not from fear, clearly, as I had dodged that bullet.
At the bottom, I inquired to M how it was. She moaned, "I think I just got an enema..." It was, indeed, still The Thong-Maker." After this, it became our practice to yell, "clench your butt!" when one of us was going on a slide, as this is the advise The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook gave me about jumping from a bridge. She explained that, just as she was descending (at 9.8 feet per second, if I recall physics at all) she screamed to me, "Don't do this!!!" Luckily my yellow streak made her advice preaching to the choir.
The next ride was a bumpy side that went down a small hill. Somehow, my body was such that I skipped my way across the landing pool and was close to hitting the far wall. Emily did not skip. She just lost her top.
Emily, who is brave in the face of long plummets and deep water but not ghosts, felt it was wise to next go on a slide called The Cannonball. The idea here was that it would push you really fast through a totally dark slide only to stop over an 11 foot drop. Sound as a pound. As I had already wussed out on one slide, I had exhausted my ability to sit out slides and still be allowed to keep my testosterone. I went in just after Emily. She insists that, as I was coming out, I somehow spiraled very fast like a bullet does coming out of the barrel. I guess title does dictate behavior.
By this point, my legs were shaking a great deal and it was a little difficult for me to walk and not shake. Emily checked me out and pronounced that the steep hill and my wet sandals had resulted in my having completely overworked my calves. Oh no! I need my calves to breathe! Incidentally, it is Tuesday and they still hurt like the Dickens.
We ended up becoming very fond of the tube rides, which was fine with me. I prefer rides where my body is not part of the ride. I told M that, when I was a kid, I used to pretend that I had to use the rafts for escape because I was being chased by killers. It made the ride that much more exciting and my fear that much less present. She thought that was quite adorable.
There was one ride that boasted to recreate the Colorado River (seems rather short...) and required a large raft that came up on a modified ski lift. The second time Emily and I did it (this time with my father in our raft), the man grabbing the rafts ended up getting it flung directly into his crotch. He grabbed betwixt his legs and groaned, "It got me in my boys!" I managed to stifle my laughter. As punishment for laughing at the pain of another, Emily ended up hitting her forehead on my head. This hurt quite a bit and, just as she reached to rub it, the other side of her forehead slammed full force into my father's head. As such, she was loudly crying and huddled up in a ball when we got off the ride. However, we managed not to break her nose. That's good, right?

Soon in Xenology: more shenanigans with one character or another. A trip to the Renaissance Faire, perhaps? A vacation in Lake George.

last watched: Who Framed Roger Rabbit
reading: The Screwtape Letters
listening: Shooting Rubberbands At The Stars : Edie Brickell
wanting: to love Emily even more.
interesting thought: It is important for writer to know just how rotten they can really be.
moment of zen: the moment when I realized that Kate and I always had the same problems we have right this very moment.
someday I must: share a storm with M.

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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