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02.27.03 12:43 a.m.

The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray, and the advantage of science is that it is not emotional.

 -Oscar Wilde  

Previously in Xenology: Emily's mother becomes ill. Emily wishes to be a nurse. Venessa is attracted to ducks.

Hey Mister
Friday, I intended to go to a divination night at Denny's for the Mid-Hudson Pagan Network. However, given that my car has contracted a bit of epilepsy, this plan could not go forth properly.
I called Melissa and invited her, hoping the appeal of having her fortune told outweighed having it done by old women who speak of Harry Potter as though he is dating their daughters. However, she had wholly different plans. Thus, she absconded with me a few hours after I got out of work to take me to Red Lobster. I find lobster to be poisonous, given that it makes my eyes swell shut, so I was largely attending for the Red.
We met her friend Krista outside the fine establishment and were informed that we had miles to go until we sleep. Or a forty-minute wait. So, we waited. I resisted the temptation to free the pixy that lives deep within the pagers restaurants now give, though it cried out for freedom. Liz began to intimate that she was cold so, doing the only proper thing, I lent her my coat until I desired to be warm as well.
Melissa and Krista
When we decided to wait within, a baby expelled more than the contents of its body upon the carpet and we got to watch the sociological reaction. A small boy looked at the puddle on the floor and making quite clear it held effluvium, stepped in it. He then looked at his shoe and wiped in on the rug. A woman whose life must be quite empty informed the obviously harried employees, who had seen the events unfurl, that a baby had "made a mess" and they "had better do something about it." I saw no reason for any of this, but it happened nonetheless.
Dinner was deep fried everything and intensely fatty and thus delicious biscuits. It was so extreme that the vegetables I ordered with my calamari were batter fried. I have to tell you, the taste and consistency of batter friend broccoli is much worse than it sounds (which isn't pleasant in itself). It was not unlike trying to eat the brains of a desert dwelling lizard.
While we ate our grease, I teased Krista the public school teacher, almost as a matter of policy. I lacked the intimacy or knowledge of her to rightly do so, but this is what my nature called upon me to do. Quite possibly because of a deep sense of loathing and dread about my future career. Or, more likely, because she was an easy target. She does teach math.
Sunshine on Liz makes me happy  
Sunshine on Liz makes me happy
After we ate, Krista treated us to an overlong discussion about the proper way for girls to wipe. It honestly went for ten minutes, and she kept making it go further. There were diagrams. However, as I have already described something as lizard brains, I have met my quota of pointless and immature humor for the entry.
Melissa decided at this point that she needed The Two Towers game. As we drove to procure Melissa a new video game, the stereo excreted the song "Hey Mister" in close succession with a NIN song. Midway between the songs, Melissa became entirely enraged with a car that had been tailgating her. Melissa contrived it so we were behind this cherry SUV and made quite plain her displeasure through the revving of her engine and the shrieking of her horn.
I was intoxicated with the predator nature of this and was grinning fiercely. The car tried to escape us, pulling into the parking lot of the very store to which we had been driving. Unfortunately, pedestrians blocked our way and we lost the SUV. I was disappointed as I, generally a pacifist, craved a conflict with the driver. As we entered the store, I was still aching for a fight and wanted to stalk and eat something. I remarked to Melissa, "I want to eat a gazelle..." Turning toward a blonde girl wearing a tan three-quarter length coat, I continued, "...She could be a gazelle..." Melissa nixed this plan, misunderstanding this as sexual. Why can't she understand the occasional urge to pounce on an unsuspecting person and eat them? It's perfectly normal if one reads too much bad vampire fiction.
Venessa, attracted to ducks  
My rapacious mood only passed wholly only when I discovered a row of gigantic, yellow ducks. They, not music, soothe the savage beast. I quickly picked one up and claimed it as my own, in that I began to call to Melissa and throw it at her. Melissa busied herself with evil rabbit hand puppets and Liz found simple joy in Easter hats.
While fondling my foundling gosling, I was surprised by a slip of a girl coming up behind me and hugging me. Why is it that I can never find Venessa when I seek her, but she will appear and vanish with ease in white trash magnets? I think it has to do with physics, actually. Perhaps superconductivity, given that I had a huge duck in my arms today and was near wee ducks the last time.
Venessa was as she always is, which is wee. I cannot imagine there was ever a time in my life that I would have found her hard to lift and place where appropriate, a bit like a marionette. Her pale features were made more pallid by make-up, though it was ill applied in places, making her entire face seem as though it were swirling. Rob was with her, her constant protector. He looked well and happy, as I think is his wont in her presence.
Venessa suggested I give the giant duck to Emily. I tried to explain that this duck was mine. I had procured Emily some Twizzlers, which would prove distracting enough, should she decide to try to take the duck by force.
I turned around, and Venessa was gone. I knew not where, nor when she will return.
But now I know that ducks are the key.

Buckle Your Safety Belt, It's Going to Be a Stony Brook
Returning home from her mother's first surgery in New Jersey, Emily (quite spent physically and emotionally) dropped less-than-gracefully onto her pillowy, blue bed that is like the ocean off of Canada. In her hand was the day's mail.
She tossed most of the envelopes onto the floor, because that seemed a proper place for it. One item remained in her hand, a thin letter from Stony Brook, the grad school to which she applied. The letter contained foreign, unanticipated words such as "sorry" and "reject" in it.
This thin sheet of paper, this form letter, had severed an avenue of her life. No longer would she live the life where she attended this liberal arts college on Long Island and learned to heal and help women remove smaller people from their bodies. No longer would she be able to support her lazy, writer boyfriend (deftly played by none other than Your Humble Narrator) while he lethargically wrote his first novel in her apartment. This almost crushed her more than anything else, as she had these lovely visions of postmodern domesticity. Gone.
I assured her that this was not the end of life and she was quite adept at doing many things. She wept for a while, floating atop the lake of despair yet never really taking the plunge. Then she reassured her buoyancy and began to look for jobs in gay rights advocacy or helping AIDS patients consider themselves persons living with AIDS. She had done both with great success in the past (though she suffered from transference with the AIDS patients that resulted in the formation of her adolescent eating disorder, but we cannot expect perfection so early in the game). I had always felt that she would find her destiny in these fields and she can still pursue a nursing degree while helping people. As she astutely put it, we will be poor, but very fulfilled. (My father has said as much in the past.)

Never Was and Never Will Be
As my father has a penchant for the newest bands, particularly when these newest bands features attractive, young lead singers, he surprised Emily and me with tickets to a band known as Evanescence. I had not heard of the band, though I knew the word meant to disappear like vapor, so I had hoped their choice of title would not prove prescient. It became apparent that the band provided two rather generic tracks for the Daredevil CD,
The only picture of the outfit involves a giant duck. (Why do I feel like this won't be the last time I say this?)
which is fitting given that Daredevil seems to be a generic superhero movie.
Emily arrived at my home a few hours prior to the concert, arrayed as though she had stepped out of a club in Edinburgh. I knew, of course, that this was her whole reasoning for the ensemble of kick-ass boots, dark stockings, a short plaid skirt, and semi-tight black shirt (which she obscured with her sweatshirt because I would have become a viscous puddle otherwise).
The concert was held in a new area of the local club The Chance (which I believe to actually be called The Last Chance Nightclub and Bar, however I had been there ten times before this dawned on me). This upper area on the club was cleverly called The Loft. Connected to this complex is also Club Crannel Street. The Chance itself is sometimes Club X. I think it is this whenever I am not there, like Shroedinger's cat. If I approach, it ceases to be the hip place to have a really commercial rave. It does sound like a fascinating place, however it still looks when approached from outside like a half block factory that should be condemned and there is a separate cover for each area, including the parking lot (which, on the second Tuesday in march, is known as Club Pavement). This is especially obscene given that The Chance didn't expand to acquire these new venues, they just made creative use of particleboard and sheetrock. Eventually, there will be more clubs than the space can hold and it will enter critical mass.
The line to enter the club stretch for a few hundred feet. This little seemed like a good sign to M and me, who are wary to attend events that might be popular. If people know about it and like it, it is already passť. Because M and I are so very hip. Of course. Our fears of this event were exacerbated by the presence of several people shorting beer bellies, bald spots, and clothing that was geeky when these people were our age. My parents were dressed and acting in a fashion that was still very much hip, so you needn't worry that this is a slight to them. But, really, did these people not know that they were in the wrong place? Perhaps they got lost and were actually going to a sports bar or dog show. No... they were definitely ascending the flight of stair to the club.
After glaring at the bouncer so he didn't frisk us, we entered. The club, despite its website's assurances, looked very high strung. It is the architectural equivalent of that annoying kid in everyone's high school class who tries so hard to hang out with the cool kids that he seems utterly socially inept and harshly self-conscious. There was a large, exposed heating pipe that began and ceased its rigid assay on the ceiling suddenly and arbitrarily. Unless it somehow could heat the club using five feet of duct, it was an expensive piece of modern art masquerading as functionless neoindustialism. Also, it's fucking stupid. The rest of the club faired little better in our esteem and every corner gouged our eyes some point piece of metal or faux antique jukebox that seemed to be put there to assure the clientele that this was a happenin' place to spend ones time.
Emily and I made our way toward a dark area by the windows. Unfortunately, the owners of this establishment are under the mistaken assumption that cool people chain smoke, thus nearly handed unfiltered Camels out at the door in an attempt to condone the utter inability to breathe. Nix what I said about this club being like the overzealous high schooler, it is actually the ultra-permissive parent who tries too hard to seem cool to his or her children by using slang learned from bad teen movies. The end result is that a noxious cloud pervaded the crowd before the smoke machine was activated and anyone who wished to breathe clean air needed to suck it from between slats in the window grate.
Evanescence got on stage. They could have been almost any band, actually. I think they had lyrics to that effect, but they were modulated in a manner that, at best, could be called "obnoxiously bad." I suspect this was another misguided ploy of the club owner to seem hip, though I am not exactly sure when or where "poorly modulated" could be equated with "cool." Factoring the dearth of breathable air, the monotonous basal sound that would result if the lead singer so much as exhaled, and the old, drunk couple attempting to simulate anal sex ten feet away, and Emily and I were not long for this concert.
And she cried one perfect tear.
After the concert, Emily was quite emotionally wasted (as she often is these days). She curled up on my bed with Jung the Giant Yellow Duck and insisted that he now belonged to her. I had given her Twizzlers and had grown quite fond of the duck, so I tried to remove him from her arms. When he dropped to the floor like an etherized turtle, Emily made her sad face. I assumed that she was joking as she mewed, "Give him back, I need him!" Only when I saw real tears slide down her pale cheek did I know the seriousness of her mood. I returned the duck to her arms and she sighed, "It's not really about the duck." I knew this, of course, and told her as much.
We held one another and talked. I know I can't possibly really understand what she is going through. It seems so all-consuming. So I did all I can, which is to say, I held her and we talked.

Brace Yourselves
When Emily was at Disney with Kelly, she lost her cherished, silver bracelet. It was a gift from her parents many years ago when she was suffering through the pains of adolescence and was inscribed with the words, "Believe in Magic." To have lost it hurt her greatly and she insisted that Kelly keep checking the lost and found at Disney, a bit like asking her to uncover a hay colored needle in a pile of hay that reaches to the stars. So, it is wholly and entirely unlikely that this keepsake would be recovered.
Thus, she was quite satisfactorily startled when she went to her car one morning and discovered in lying like a silver serpent on her front seat. Note that her car had nothing to do with Florida, is quite clean, and she most definitely lost the bracelet in the House of the Mouse. Quite strange indeed.
On a perhaps related topic, Emily has noticed that her poltergeist has suddenly become quite active. His (for she believes it is male, though it is an output of her brain) modus operandi seems to be organizing objects when he is not busy dropping them. It makes a degree of strange sense that Emily would have the first OCD poltergeist, a species usually known for throwing things and causing havoc. Most recently, her family awoke one morning to find all the pot and pans in the house neatly stack on the counters. They merely asked Emily why she felt the need to organize in the middle of the night.
No, I can hear the responses from the skeptics, so I will fend them off immediately. It could not have been a conscious M by virtue that she would have woken her very skittish dog merely by sitting up in bed, not to mention alerting her household by stacking pots under cover of darkness. This also quite deftly assuages the idea of a somnambulistic Emily, as well. The only other viable solution, I suppose, is that a particularly stealthy burglar felt the need to silently break into their home and, equally as stealthily, rearrange the kitchen. Now all we need is the motive...

At nearly the same time, both Zack and Emily lost their jobs. Well, they didn't exactly lose them. They know precisely where they are. They just happen to not be in the same place at the same time.
Zack's loss of a job was first. He had worked several very quiet days at his store, the store that we believed he would soon buy. He was clearly not doing anything that would account for the slowness. Short of refusing to serve people, I don't think there is much he could do to make business slow. Nonetheless, evidently seeking a goat to scape, the current owners took this out on our dear Zachary and fired him. In the long run, this is a very good thing. Zack is destined for many things, without a doubt, but his future biographers (of which I will be one) shall not start any chapter with, "And his career really started up at this small deli, which he was soon to buy." This is not merely because it is bad form to start professional writing with a conjunction either.
Emily's loss of job was quite necessary. She quit her job one day because one of the new supervisors was giving her a hard time because... she continued to exist in a gym that was rapidly firing its qualified personnel. Emily, having just suffered through another night of worry over her mother, said, "You know what? I quit. My mom is sick. And if she says jump right now, I say how high. I don't need this, but I do need to be with my mom." I would like to say Emily quit Sweeney Todd as an act of necessary martyrdom too, but she just got tired of driving so much.

Emily's and my Valentine's date was low key. Originally, we were supposed to go to one of the most expensive restaurants in the Hudson Valley and dine on animals that only existed for three months in the seventeenth century. However, Emily's mother's sickness had taken a lot out of Emily's spirit and (as we see above) wallet, so we settled for a quiet night at Johnny D's and seeing Chicago. We were together, and I gave her the products of my depressed shopping trip through New Paltz, so it was more than enough.

Dog Named Plot
I had this dream. I know other people's dreams are only interesting if you are in them, but I usually spare you the products of my subconscious mind.
I am walking down a small road that I drive to get to the mall. It is still dark, during the pre-dawn hours or before a storm, I cannot tell which. Next to me? Ernest Hemingway. We are just talking about nothing important. The walking is what is crucial. We keep walking. At our heels is a small, black dog that is likely a Scotty. The dog's name, for what it is worth, is Plot. We don't pay much attention to Plot, who yips after us. We just walk and talk.
When I woke from this dream, I was shivering cold in bed next to Emily. I whispered, not fully in the world yet, "The dog is the plot and it follows after us." Then I realize I have the flu and won't be at all useful today.

Soon in Xenology: Our Town

last watched: Eddie Izzard - Dress to Kill
reading: The Sun Also Rises
listening: An audio recording of The Glass Menagerie
wanting: My two stalkers to meet one another and leave me out of it.
interesting thought: Things will work out.
moment of zen: The literal dreams of a fevered mind.
someday I must: write something that is truly worthy.

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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