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10.16.02 6:11 p.m.

A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

  - Albert Camus  

Previously in Xenology: I tried to keep the crazies and drug dealers docile. I volunteer my time in a realm of ghosts and goblins, only some aren't masks. My family liked traditions involving food. I loved and missed Sarah a great deal. Melissa was delightfully impetuous.

I Hear a Siren, How Fast Were We Going?
I got a letter from a new fan who was inquiring about Sarah. Realizing that these sorts of things are often harbingers of events in the on-going story (such as, perhaps, the welcomed return of Sarah), I am going to update you newer readers using my response. If you feel you have read enough about my fondness for Sarah, feel free to skip to the next section.
I have met Sarah. She came into my life a little over five years ago. I was an awkward and half-blind teenager at a two week seminar for acting and storytelling for gifted students held at Bard College. When I arrived, she had already settled into her room and was strumming her favorite blue guitar under a shady tree. I think I quite loved her then, though my more shallow friend (at this time) Nick disliked her because he thought she was unattractive. As a side note, Nick always suffered from a lack of vision and was smitten with the most arrogant and annoying girl at the seminar. His loss, to be sure. We grew close over the two weeks we resided there, though our friendship only blossomed into something deeper a year later. We had exchanged letters for that year, however the physical distance between us was two great given that neither of us drove.
Sarah, today.
It again came time for the seminar, however we were sent to different campuses. I brushed up on social psych and she learned about web design. However, our two programs connected for joined events a few times. The first meeting occurred a few days after the programs began. My program was supposed to interact with the other program and do various activities to acquaint us. However, Sarah's group was afraid my group was psychoanalyzing them and my group was too annoying not to play into that. Sarah and I were attached at the hip. When we came to an activities when we were to pair up with members of the other program and learn about them, Sarah and I made up elaborate false histories and introduced each other using these. She was Suzie, I believe. We didn't care about our seminar, we were creating our own universe.
Our respective groups got together another evening, for a bonfire behind the dorms at which I was staying. Members of her group that wanted her to sing trite, radio-friendly Jewel songs despite her laryngitis were harassing Sarah. Finally she convinced them that she was really unable and they beat a disrespectful retreat. I went over to soothe her and just listen to her strumming her guitar. She really had to intense aura that was almost visible against the night sky. I was hopelessly in love with her. She asked if there was a song I wanted to hear. I responded that she shouldn't strain herself as she could barely speak. Nonetheless, she asked if I would like to hear her sing. I asked her to play Jewel's "Sometimes It Be That Way." She smiled and sang it beautifully, the loss of voice seemingly banished. I wanted badly to kiss her and would have, save that I had a girlfriend and wished to be loyal. As another side note, while I was holding back from giving my siren the reward of a kiss, my girlfriend was shagging Nick. In retrospect, I really wish Jen (the girlfriend) had the gumption to just tell me she no longer cared for me and was degrading herself with Nick, as I would have granted Sarah a thousand deserved kisses. That night, however, I only hugged her deeply and regretted my fidelity.
Her seminar held the next meeting, wherein we were to listen to some washed-up crooners sing about the Hudson River. She and I snuck off to her dorm room and listened to Ani DiFranco. I wanted even more to kiss her, but I couldn't conceive of how. I had no idea if she could understand the depth and meaning of my kiss. After a tense forty minutes, she stated that we needed to go to the picnic in the common area. As we reached the elevator, I swallowed my fear and croaked out, "Can I have some of your lip balm?" She sighed that she had left it in her room and I tried to kiss her. I kissed the corner of her mouth, which lacked both the finesse and the magic for which I hoped. She became very quiet and when next I saw her, she would barely acknowledge me. I was crestfallen, as I did have love and not merely infatuation for her. I enjoyed and respected her company immensely and didn't wish to lose her because I had a clumsy wish to physically show her my affections. She would later confess that the kiss had confused her and she had to evaluate how she felt about matter. However, by the time she was resolved that our feelings were mutual, we were hours from one another and sans cars. However, she did send me an audio cassette (nearly dead from overplay by now) with the following song:

I'm alone in the room with him
I think everybody's gone
I think everybody's gone

therefore is it still a sin?
is it really really wrong
is it really wrong
to kiss him
to kiss him

it is his fault
he's the one involved
and it is not my concern no,
she's not my concern

is it an insult
to feel this resolved
I just have to take my turn
I just have to take my turn
and kiss him
to kiss him

the air is heavy with aromas of his skin
and he is oh so close
sighing oh so close
I can taste him
I could drink him in
can I please have just one dose
can I please have just one dose of him
and kiss him

he might surprise me
he might take initiative
he might fill my lips with song
he might fill my lips with song

I can't wonder even who she is
at this moment I belong
at this moment I belong
kissing him
kissing him

the air is heavy with aromas of his skin
we are oh so close
I am oh so close
to kiss him
la la la
I was, simple put, floored. And very, very much in love. The kiss, which has really yet to be resolved, had become this almost mythical act between us. We stayed very much in love for a very long time, however it has become a thing fossilized in amber. We have never dated. Very likely, we never will. In a way, it is better that our relationship never got the chance to move to a further level, as that might have unfavorably altered our conjoined universe. She said for a while after a hard break-up with another girlfriend (Katie) that she couldn't be around me because she would destroy me. She loved me too much to let me become one of the men that she has a flitting romance with, and I do respect that now. At the time, I wanted to be destroyed if it would mean I had one moment with her. A chance to belong to her.
Another bit of our shared mythology is that, when I had a car, any attempt on my part to drive to her would result in my car breaking down and requiring costly repairs. I have seen her a few times, though it took three years between sightings.
Currently, she is a waitress far upstate in NY and living with her mother because she couldn't stand the life she was living and needed perspective. However, she is playing music more and writing. She may, again, create a website to display her talents. Perhaps she will return and play a greater part in the story than a distant muse. She is always and forever in my heart though.
You can see my profile about her a here, read other Xenology journal entries that may talk about Sarah here, sign up to the mailing list here, or chat about her here.

Last weekend, after pumpkin picking and another fun day at the library where I had to deal with an unmedicated crazy
Not the maiden or the crone. Maybe not even that.
who thinks the world is conspiring against her to prevent her from urinating on hobos, I ended up offering my services to the Haunted Mansion. Yet again, I was denied the chance to actually work within the Mansion itself, where I could investigate the core of the paranormal phenomena on the grounds (though all of the grounds have been mentioned in context of the phenomena).
I was told that I would be stationed at the Signs shack.
You can barely stand the fear, can't you?
However, they told me that no one seemed scared of the Signs theme, so they were just having people act creepy. This, fortunately, is where I excel in the realm of scaring. As they could give me no costume or make-up for being creepy and I anticipated the temperature dropping along with the sun, I grabbed my leather biker jacket from my car. I didn't know for what, but I was sure I would figure something out. I always had a penchant for improv.
As I still had a good half an hour before I would have to deal with any potential groups, I returned to the make-up trailer to speak with Venessa. I settled in and tried to make the immensely dull plot of land I was ordered to haunt a wee bit more frightening. The shack contained many old props, both from this season and ones past, though I didn't have much interest in touch most of them. As I discovered in years past, the barely pubescent actors at the Mansion have a fondness for anything made of latex and rubber to the extent that I once had to hit a group with sticks because they were salaciously fondling the dummy of a dismembered woman when a group was coming. I brought out a rocking chair and a few alien props in order to give the scene something vaguely bordering on a scary mystique.
Grr, arg.
I did not succeed.
I spent the night babbling like a crazed conspiracy theorist. My spiel went something like, "You're here because of them, aren't you? Well, I'm going to let in on a little secret! 'They' aren't 'real'! 'They' are a prop imposed upon you by the tuna industry. Mel Gibson tells you water will hurt them, but he is a tuna shill! On the dole and delmontey! Then you take your precious water and throw it at them, but what good does it do? None! At all! Then the tuna men come along and scoop up the tuna in little, tiny spaceship-shaped cans. Only there are no spaceships! It's all tunamen! It's not real! All marmalade and marmosets! You fools! They can't hurt you! They lack the equipment!!" Then I would send them on their way, where my assistant would growl at them with all the menace of a cancer-ridden Chihuahua and they would laugh. I set 'em up, he... leaves them set up because he cannot manage a simplicity of a boo scare. Worse, he would complain endlessly on his cell phone to his mother that this was boring.

Xen 6:14
The Monday after I worked at the Mansion, I was brushing my teeth before bed. As I looked in the mirror, I saw a small dark shape with tiny hands crouching on top of the cabinet. I spun quickly, to see this better, but of course nothing was there. However, I was just as certain that I had not imagined it. I told it as much and that I would be warding my room against its presence.
One needs more than moldly bread for this illness
A few years ago, I recall awaking in the middle of the night. My hand was on the edge of the mattress next to the wall. Just as I was about to get up to get some water, I felt a tiny hand gently grasp my finger. A tiny hand coming from under my bed. I did the only logical thing I could think to do. I stabbed one of my daggers where I felt the hand and blasted the site with a krypton flashlight. Not surprisingly, I didn't see anything then. After an hour of being thoroughly freaked out and trying to convince myself that even with a hand that tiny, nothing could have grabbed my from under my cluttered bed. This experience was similar.
When I awoke the next morning, I was so sick I could hardly move. I quickly decided that school was not in my cards for the day and thus sat, wrapped in a comforter, on my bed and tried to read Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. This was not terribly successful, nor were attempts to use the computer or eat. So I mostly slept. However, I awoke from a nap because the phone was ringing. I moaned out to my father asking whether the caller ID advised we answer. He informed me that it was an unknown caller and it didn't behoove me to answer. Nonetheless, I did and was greeted with a growlingly mechanical voice clearly trying to speak with me. However, it was far too distorted to make any sense. Still I tried to engage it in a conversation to keep in on the line as I walked the phone out to my father. When I got within ten feet of him, the line clicked dead. I tried to explain the voice to my father but the best I could do was to say it sounded like Indred Cold from The Mothman Prophecies.
I told all of this to Emily on the phone, relating the dark figure, my illness, and the phone call. She calmly suggested that I had been paid a visit by a brownie (and not one selling cookies). Were I in a more lucid state, I would have looked up brownies in A Witch's Guide to Faery Folk. As I could barely maintain consciousness sitting, I decided to just accept it and ward my room more when I was well.

Emily and I recently met Melissa and Liz at the mall for some general hooliganism. I believe Emily had some sort of purpose at the mall, but I certainly did not. I was just there for the free samples of bourbon chicken, the food staple of mallrats (of which I have not been one in six year, but old habits and the like).
After a very brief shopping stint, we decided we needed Angela and then food, in that order. Angela was actually busy working when we arrived, so we asked about the appliance to our right. She reverted to her salesgirl persona and informed us that it was a combination oven and refrigerator. Obviously we were flabbergasted, who wouldn't be? We genuinely inquired further and she related its purpose. You place the food within it while it is in refrigeration mode and, at a preset time, it will begin to cook the food so you arrive home to dinner already cooked. If you decide to go out for a few drinks after work, it will go into "stay-warm" mode after an hour in the food is not removed. If you get plastered and end up at some one-night stands house, it will refrigerate the food so it stays good. This is the most brilliant invention ever. Everyone needs at least two.
After voting in the Meliza! Awards that I would be the first president to be killed by zombies, we convinced (in a record second and a half) Angela to leave work and get dinner with us. She said they don't mind when she takes hour-long breaks and she had done that very thing today because she wanted breakfast at IHOP. Brave girl.
We ended up at one of those eateries that tries to convince you that it is authentic southwestern cuisine, but it is exactly the same food one can find in a Friendly's. The moment we were seated and our waitress asked our drink orders, Melissa, Liz, and Angela began the Great Daiquiri Bender of 2002. When one frosted, tinted glass would empty, our waitress would promptly bring another. I don't suppose the waitress though they were in much danger of getting drunk on iced drinks, though Melissa had a near constant ice cream headache near the end.
I realized halfway through the meal that I knew the waitress from high school, a fact that she shared with me several minutes after my realization. In high school, she had seemed like this vaguely crass girl who was very into rap music. We, thus, did not run with the same crowds. Now, she seemed like a perfectly pleasant girl. Her features had softened from the quasi-gang banger with whom I shared biology to a sweet, feminine person. As such, I hadn't the slightest clue how to act. I am always immensely polite with waitstaff, both out of fear that my food will be tainted and respect that these people are giving me food. I didn't know what responses she desired, so I just acknowledged that I knew we were classmates once and politely asked if she could give me a bun, as she accidentally brought me the wrong meal. I do not think this is quite the response she desired, but I had no points on which to connect with her.
While I was washing up, Melissa and Emily decided to get a pet. Emily desired a gerbil. However, as she was now full of daiquiris and excitement, Melissa proclaimed that they needed a chinchilla. I did not find any of this out until we were standing in the pet store over the chinchilla cage. Despite there immense fluffiness, or perhaps owing to it, I am possibly allergic to chinchillas. Also ferrets seem to be sneeze inducing, in case anyone is doing some early Yuletide shopping for me.
We herded Emily away from the puppies she was cooing over and outside to safety. However, outside there was this black, lopped-eared bunny in a cage full of guinea pigs. He was chasing them around the tiny cage at top speed until he would get tired and stand still until another guinea pig appeared in his line of vision. This is exactly the sort of work ethic we enjoy here. Melissa and Emily seemed to be in love, despite the lack of space in Melissa's room and Emily not being allowed pet at her apartment or bunnies near her greyhound. Melissa also had moral objections about buying and animal when the profits would go to maintaining puppy farms.
As we ponder how to procure the animal, we witnessed three security guards running up the escalator at top speed. Liz and I looked imploringly at Melissa and M, respectively, and were told to give chase. Half way through the mall, our chase turned to a slight jog, and then a quick walk. When we arrived near the food court, we saw several cops with guns pulling people (most male teenagers of African descent) out of the crowd. They had a police dog with them named Officer Patches, a name that strikes fear into the hearts of all criminals. I paged Emily on my cell phone and related the situation. She told me that she was worried for my safety and I shouldn't be the next person pulled from the crowd. I retorted that I was not of their racial profile, evidently, and I would quickly assert my rights. Living the adolescence I did educates one on personal rights. However, M did bring up the excellent point that my clothing could contain the scent of drugs given with whom I associate and Officer Patches might decide to growl my way. Also, Melissa had bought the bunny while we were being the Bobsey Twins. As such, Liz and I beat a retreat.
Once we had carried the cage to Melissa's car (everyone we passed looked into the cage as though the bunny would be there rather than in the cardboard box Melissa held) and loaded it into her backseat, we pondered how to get it into Melissa's house undetected. We are practically spies. Bunny spies.
The bunny was no problem. We carried him and his cardboard box into Melissa's room in much the same fashion one would carry a bucket of fried chicken (I am hungry writing this). Melissa's mother has this amazing ability to not see things anyway, which I always enjoyed about her. We played with the bunny and pondered names for it. Most of them revolved around objects on her floor or shelves. We are not terribly creative. Our lack of creativity might have been exacerbated by the fact that we were critiquing the porn on Melissa's television. We always hold out hope that this one is going to be the porn where there are loving relationships and afterplay. We are frequently disappointed.
The name we finally settled on was Benson, though Melissa now informs me it is named Shit Head. I like Benson.
The next day, Melissa informed me that she needed to find the bunny a new home, as he parents forbade her to have it and it kept her up at night. As of yet, we have not found it a new home. This kills M, as she has so much bunny related love to give, she just doesn't know where to put it (both the bunny and the love).

Soon in Xenology: Girlfriends and family. M's party. Grad class. Biting Leah. The Fourth Reich. A pretentious girl playing dyke. Jessie leaving these pages (like you noticed). Loneliness. Red Dragon.

last watched: Midnight Cowboy
reading: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
listening: Elza
wanting: for my wisdom teeth to just vanish painlessly.
interesting thought: no amount of distance can separate people who are truly close.
moment of zen: having a fan.
someday I must: understand the subject of tension in Russian Formalism.

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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