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08.28.02 11:10 p.m.

Why should I tolerate a perfect stranger at the bedside of my mind?

 -Vladimir Nabokov  

Previously in Xenology: My family and I vacationed in Lake George.

Illin' Villians
Obviously Emily and I are back from our illustrious vacation to Lake George. I expect I was missed? I do hope no one felt the need to throw him or herself on any pyres for fear I would disappear? Good.
Monday: We left Monday, as bright an early as I can ever expect from my family, which is slightly before noon. I cannot fault them this, sleeping is a lovely thing and punctuality is a dangerous habit to pick up.
Speaking of dangerous habits to pick up, Bryan's young girlfriend Jesse couldn't seem to arrange a way to get to our house before we were scheduled to leave. She and her parents were busy skiing the Alpines or some other such activity that does not elicit pity from my heart. As such, we picked her up at a truck stop off of the interstate. I do hope that she does not make a practice of being absconded with from truck stops by older men...
Fortunately, from M and my perspective, they rode the rest of the way with my mother. I had no interest in having Emily ponder how one gets those sort of stains out of car seats. I was that age once (well, average their two ages together), I know what goes on. Though I was distinctly unlike them, so perhaps it would be best if I did not.
Once we arrived, Emily and I landed with a satisfying groan on the starched quilt of the hotel bed and refused to move for many hours. Bryan and Jesse did the same but, as we had to share the room with them (it possessed two large beds or we would have forced them onto the floor), we had to make sure we wouldn't tolerate any sort of horseplay that could be construed as illegal by the state of New York. As such, Emily and I screamed the word "fornicators!" every four minutes to keep their libidos in check.
Bryan and Jesse had put Jerry Springer on, clearly feeling they had far too many brain cells to begin with. Always up for a good freak show and far too lazy to do much more that eat chocolate pudding from the mini-fridge, I watched right along with them.
I got my camera back.
As far as I could ascertain, the plot was that a woman had a fight with her boyfriend and thus had a one-night stand with a midget named Meatball. Well, who among us can say they haven't done the same in that situation? I turned to Bryan and asked, "Have you ever had sex with a midget?" Evidently, I should have excluded present company because the diminutive Jesse took slight offense to my asking after their sex life (which, if Bryan should not like to be buggered by men named Royce, is nonexistent).
Emily and I, having an angry dwarf after us (no, Jesse was fairly cool with it), realized we needed to escape. Having built up enough energy by eating pudding, we decided to inflate the neon pink raft my parents had purchased. Neon pink, I suppose, so we could be easily spotted and reeled in, should we escape successfully.
Once in the lake, we had to figure out the best way toward locomotion without a paddle. As the tide seemed to think we wanted to go to the rockiest area on the beach, I knew we could not trust it to navigate. It was clearly drunk. For future reference, kicking seems to work best. At the very least in convincing children on shore that you are a lake monster.
Tuesday: My father awoke quite sick from having eaten far too much Pizza Hut the night before. As such, he expected my mother to get him medicine to help him to feel better. When she only went as far as the snack counter associated with the hotel, he was less than pleased and stormed out to buy something from the drug store up the street. As such, things became quite strained between the two of them for the duration of the vacation. However, this was less the cause and more the symptom.
As we did last year, we took a short boat ride on the Ethan Allen. However, our tour guide this time was suffering from a combination of emphysema and Alzheimer's disease. Even if we could understand what he was saying, there was a good chance it wouldn't have made any sense. He also drove us to areas of the lake we had never before seen. On the boat ride, Emily again told me the story of the Whatsits. The Cliff's Notes version goes something to the effect that, when she was little, she did not have television. As such, she would make villages of creatures called Whatsits out of leaves stuffed with grass on sticks. Eventually, the leaves would wither and the grass would pop out. When this happened, it meant the Whatsit was dead and had to be buried. She would have these mass funerals for them, saying the Jewish prayer for mourning. Just picture this Shirley Temple cherub burying stick people and chanting a prayer. So adorable.
After the boat ride, Emily and I bought KFC and hurried back to the hotel room. There was a young man purposefully standing in our room. He did not seem to startle M, so I just looked at him and waited for his presence to make sense. He stared at me in turn, but in a disaffected way. Finally, he said that he would finish with the beds soon. Oh. Maid. Right. I never expect to see people like maids. They are like elves in fairy tales. I know they are working because I see their results. I just don't put a great amount of thought into how the results came to be.
As our room was occupied and we were not greatly interested in being indoors, we walked out to the docks and had a picnic. The people passing us to go to and from boats didn't seem to think it was a great idea to be having a picnic there. However, the duck that I fed part of my biscuit to seemed to appreciate my presence, so everyone else is overruled.
After eating, we dove into the lake. It occurred to Emily that the thick, rich mud was fun to squish ones toes in and, in her devilishly twisted mind, this meant a muck fight would be a great deal more fun. I pointed out that we could not get back into our room to clean up afterward. She insisted that a dive in the nearby pool would remedy out dirtiness. Completely out of objections, I picked up a gob of the black mud and smushed it into her back. It really was the only justified retort. And the game began. I had the advantage, because I was sitting in the lake bottom. I could dunk my head to avoid attack and was closer to the ammunition.
We only played in filth for ten minutes before deciding it wasn't as fun as we had hoped it would be. Jumping into the crystal clean, highly chlorinated pool and trailing a cloud of dirt like Pigpen in the Peanuts was quite a bit of fun, however.
That night, we ate at a common enough Italian restaurant. Emily and I split scungelli and pasta. We asked the waitress what sort of mollusk one would find in the dish. She dithered that she thought the mollusk was, like, a kind of fish. I tried carefully explaining to her that a mollusk is a family of shelled bivalves. This concept was beyond her. Halfway through the dish, Emily inquired to me if she was eating octopus. I thought about it and pronounced that it was not chewy enough to be octopus. She looked horrified. I backpedaled that I wouldn't know that from experience (only having eaten squid, which is obviously totally different) and that octopi are cephalopods, not mollusks (actually, octopi are sort of mollusks). She seemed at ease enough to finish the dish. Though she cried when I later used an octopus puppet to pet her.
By the way, do you know what scungelli is? Whelk. You know what a whelk is? An 18 inch long snail. I ate a huge snail. I am not pleased. I am quite irritated that the dippy waitress couldn't have told me what I was being served. What if I had an intense allergy to concepts that make me nauseous? She never even bothered to ask.
After eating a huge snail, Emily and I wandered though out the streets of Lake George, trying to find a chess set. Our current obsession is chess, specifically clever theme chessboards. We especially liked the Egyptians versus Roman one and Evil versus Good. Still, none that were exactly us (especially given that we do not have $200).
We happened upon a magick shop Practically Magick, which every town evidently needs. The owner was immensely pleasant to M and me once he surmised that we knew that of which we spoke and were not interested in love spells. Also, we purchased items after careful thought. Though we were unable to procure a Gaia statue that had captured Emily's fancy. If by fancy, you understand that I mean "all consuming attention."
That night, having bought books of this nature, Emily and I decided to hold a ritual. We were not certain as to what sort should be done, so we randomly poked through our books, occasionally tittering uncontrollably at "The Navel Ring Blessing" or "Sex Magick for Dummies." Finally we decided that we should bless and charge the angel egg pendant.
Away from her Gardnarian circle, M is quite eclectic and thus was fine with my drawing the circle in the sand with my finger. Though she still felt the need to consecrate it with lake water she had gathered in a discarded soda can. I drew a large pentagram in the circle and suddenly realized what we should do. We had a general sort of plan, but I saw this in intense specifics. We needed to consecrate the pendant to Anubis, Egyptian god of the Underworld and weigher of souls. Using him, we could make it sort of a guardian angel pendant, using the souls of the departed who I knew in life. Emily thought this was a fantastic idea, after asking me what sort of a sacrifice Anubis would need. None, I thought, given that the amber in the pendant was once the blood of a living thing and had long since been dead and made solid.
I raised power and M and I drew appropriate glyphs in the star (a jackal head, scales, a feather, elemental signs, the eye of Horus). I honestly cannot remember too much of the ritual. I recall petitioning Anubis reverently and feeling as though I were listened to. Details, however, are lost to me. I recall Emily lying down on the star and my continuing to draw glyphs around her. She says that, while I was drawing and calling Anubis, she was overwhelmed with tears and the words "It's been so long since I've seen the sky." I felt her tears, they were genuine and streaming. I did not undergo anything quite so profound except witnessing M.
It is late. More on this soon.

Soon in Xenology: Before Sunrise. The Princess Bride. The beginning of school. No working at the Ren Fest. Jacki's party. The rest of vacation.

last watched: Waking Life
reading: The Salmon of Doubt, Flashbacks, The Truth Behind the Men in Black
listening: My Muse.
wanting: an Egyptian gods chess set.
interesting thought: School is begun.
moment of zen: touching divinity.
someday I must: discover my other patrons.

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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