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07.21.03 12:38 a.m.

Where does the violet tint ends and the orange tint begin? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blending enter into the other. So with sanity and insanity.

 -Herman Melville  

Previously in Xenology: Some of my friends tend to be flaky, unreliable, passive-aggressive, underestimating, or some combination thereof.

Firebugs and Felons
As you may know, my father suggested having a sort of combination party, encompassing my little brother's graduation as well as mine, his birthday, and Emily's success at Nationals. I have a profound pessimism when it comes to parties at all involving my inviting my friends and associates for reasons which are well documented.
I invited a few of my students from Summer Scholar's, largely because Daven was giving me a hard time for not including him in my plans. I'm not exactly sure why this bothered him, as we are not terribly close and my plan generally are, "Go. Do something. Sleep."
Nonetheless, I invited him and a few of his cohorts from the program. However, he declined my invitation in the pursuit of something vaguely like academia.
I do declare  
Emily feeling faint as Chris plays
His cohorts Chris and Tom did not decline. Tom quickly asked if I had a wireless hub. I blinked at the words on my screen. "You understand this is an outside party?"
"Right. Of course. I just thought we could have a marathon session of Doom," came the response.
I blinked again. Several times. "Why would we do such a thing? The party is outside. There won't be computers."
This did not dissuade him, "I could bring mine!"
This should have been my first indication that I had possibly made a mistake in my guest selection. However, I was planning on casting a wide net and welcoming whomever deigned to come. Knowing my parties, as I do so intimately, it was certain many would "forget" or, in certain cases, purposely avoid the party. I thought - or rather I latched on to the reasoning when the concept was presented to me - that having a quarter keg would encourage the latter group, who evidently feels that parties cannot occur without copious amounts of alcohol present. We shall see how well my logic worked.
Later and ominously, Tom asked me if there would be alcohol. "Yes, there will. It is not for you. Or Chris. Or, in all likelihood, me. You are underage and I am disinterested. So, yes but no."
This did not sit well with Tom who followed up with the undeniably denial, "I was only asking so I could figure out who the designated driver will be."
"It will be both of you. No underage drinking."
get off the damned phone  
Bryan on the phone still
When Chris and he arrived at the party, they immediately set to talking tech with Bryan. This annoyed Emily, who rightly feels that Bryan should not be encouraged in any manner. The lad has a proclivity toward spouting off until he is in the realm of dragons and wearing Quixote's armor. Within five minutes, Tom had threatened Bryan's life if he did not stop talking. This may well explain why he was in a gifted program.
Tom occupied himself, once he saw the lack of social drunkenness, with setting things on fire. This activity was a bit off putting given that we dislike burning, but we could always douse him in beer if he misbehaved too terribly much.
This particular punishment originated with Bryan. He was lethargic from having spent most of the night and day talking on the phone long distance with a peculiar and secretive pubescent by the name of Angel who apparently lives in Kentucky (Land of the Morlocks). At the party, once properly threatened by Tom, he lay on a bench with his cell phone to his ear, ignoring the people sacrificing seconds of their lives trying to engage him in human interaction.
We warned him that terrible fates would befall him should he not wise up and enjoy the company of persons actually in the flesh and not incurring triple digit phone bills to murmur sweet and inarticulate nothings in his ear. He sleepily flipped us off. Emily poured a slip of water on him to rouse him to sensibility. He made a pouty face and laughed, but did not stop. Corrine, my older brother's assertive girlfriend, then poured half a bottle of beer on his head. This was a tad more effective a tactic. He was much more irritated, but would not move. Therefore, taking the only action that seemed practical, I tried to weave almonds into his hair.
The almond, as Tom discovered, burned much longer than any other popular party nut. This does not speak well of their palatability.
Almonds burn well
I know, there seems a distinct lack of excitement thus far and you are not wrong to believe this. You sell us short however. We also had fireworks with the proportional fierceness of an elementary school's Chinese New Year display. Oh, and our party was graced by a fellow that is currently on bail for certain severe though nonviolent crimes we shall not detail. He is not on bail from anything so positively banal as the local or even state police. No, he is on bail from the FBI. They had been tracking him for five years - tapping his calls and reading his mail and the like - and had finally nailed him the day before Emily and I left for Nationals. Emily was uncomfortable with this idea that an accused felon was happily sipping a red party cup full of beer just six feet to her left. It almost caused her to remove her "Happy Birthday" tiara.
I called to said family friend, "What will you do if you hear a siren?" I was honestly curious as to his reaction and legal status. Certainly he was not an escaped person. The feds evidently trusted that he wasn't going to fly to Bolivia. Still...
"Ah, dude, my ass will be down the bank soon as I hear anything." He motioned to the embankment that separates, after a steep seventy-foot jaunt, my yard from the road below. I took this to mean that his legal status was still iffy enough that massive tapping of the keg and random firework explosions would be a poor idea.
This is not to say we considered stopping.
After having tolerated with nominal cheer the company of no one beyond my family, the family friend currently on bail from the FBI, and my two former students, Emily began cursing Zack's absence. I tried to remedy this situation by calling his house once again. After a brief conversation, I hung up.
"Where is that boy?" she spat.
"Take a guess." I offered.
"I bet Zack is at rehearsal or something, right? Grrr!"
I averted my eyes from her eminent anger. "No, not exactly. His brother says he is with Veronica."
I did not see the facial reaction this caused and I am grateful. I imagine her pupils turned to slits. "What?! Veronica!? What about Eve? But... No. No. I refuse. No. He is coming to our party. The bastard. What is he thinking?"
Glancing over her shoulder, I ventured, "I believe he is thinking 'why are there cinderblocks in the back yard?' and 'I'm walking, yes, I am and I'm talking... well, maybe I'm not...'"
She spun and saw him coming from the driveway. "I politely request to rescind my prior statements, sir."
"Request duly noted, madam."
We walked over to and fondly greeted him, for here was our mental escape from firebugs and felons.
"Where's Eve?" Emily inquired.
Zack smiled the grin of one who has just been poked on a hidden and bruised shin by an unwitting child. "We broke up, actually."
We immediately demanded the details of this. "Eve and I just began fighting a lot and she decided that it wasn't really worth it since she was going back to Belgium in a few days."
"How did you two fight? She barely spoke English," I asked.
"Oh, we managed. She picked up just enough. And cursing in French is damned effective. But that's okay. I have a new girlfriend."
Now it was Emily turn to ask the surprised questions. "Who's she? Where'd she come from?"
Zack blushed slightly and tentatively gazed heavenward. "Her name is Betsy. She's an engineering major at MIT. I've kind of known her since I was in Fiddler on the Roof six years ago, but we started hanging out because she was my stage manager when I was just in 'Joseph.'"
That tiara seems to be aflame
Emily was massively impressed that the lass is attending MIT. As this is not my particular brand of intelligence, I nodded absently. Evidently, this is worth astounding Emily; it is no easy feat. Were she at Oxford for Theater, my jaw would drop as Emily's did.
The party was officially to go from five until eleven, but I knew this was really just a suggestion. The hours of six until nine were occupied with watching Tom indulge in pyromania, trying to convince Jacki to call our dear estranged Kate for a ride to the party, rightly haranguing Bryan for ignoring the delightful festivities, and complaining to Emily and Zack that every friend of mine who was not at my party sucked. At nine, my mother tugged my sleeve hard and hissed, "Get Ren and Stimpy out of here!" as she tried to wish Tom and Chris away. Emily and Zack echoed this sentiment, so Emily formulated a plan whereby we would pretend to go to buy things for Emily and thus necessitate the end of the party in their eyes.
"Sorry, guys," I sighed to Tom and Chris, "we have to go get things for Emily... at the store. So you have to go."
"Bu... but the party...?" Tom began to protest, given that the promised end was still two hours away and he had brought a full videogame system and monkey game.
"It is over. Sorry."
My father was not clued into the plan and reacted to out abandonment with the eyes of a kicked puppy. Before Tom and Chris had left the driveway, Emily "forgot something" and she ran back into the house to tell my father that it was all just a ruse to dispose of certain guests. Nonetheless, we did drive around and got fast food to eat while we await the final gush of guests that was to come at 10:30.
We peaked at my computer, expecting some additional last minute rejections from purported guests. Instead, we were greeted with an IM from Kei, who had left this story years ago. I asked her how she was after all this time. The answer, after very slight prodding, was "single." Evidently, her long time love had left her for some reason that one person leaves another. Such reasons are never very satisfying or honest, like hors d'oeuvre at a postmodern gallery opening. She asked what my status was with the stealth of a pachyderm. I replied that Emily was a National champion and we were quite happy. She said she would speak with me soon and signed off.
You're not my father!  
To the pain
At the appointed half hour, Angela, Melissa, and Dezi joined the soiree and... it was actually immensely fun, as I expect parties to be. My father quite happily provided us freshly grilled hamburgers and liquid refreshments for it meant he had not spent quite a lot of money on a dud.
We whiled away our hours fighting to the pain with double ended light sabers. They weren't really very good fights, mostly existing to cause the sabers to light up and make satisfying roaring sounds. Jedis we are not.
We sat around a metal table in my back yard and just talked. It was indescribably nice. Zack set a party tiara aflame. Somehow, this abuse of fire was a great deal more entertaining, especially when we wore it for a picture.
Angela kept alluding to Harry Potter, so I forbid her to speak of it or, in fact, to allude to anything whatsoever. She was struck totally dumb, so I granted her to speak in Family Guy-ese.
"Hey," Angela asked of me, "why do fat guys have man boobs?"
I thought for a moment before responding in inquisitive kind, "Why?"
"So you have something to look at when you're talking to them!"
Unfortunately, this was hilarious to me and I fell off my chair.
My older brother, sitting at a table on the hill and drinking with my father, asked me if Melissa or Angela would be willing to flash him. This was likely a joke, but I asked them nonetheless. Melissa offered to pimp Angela out for "fi' dolla'" but Angela seemed to have some qualms about this.
The party ended a bit after midnight because Emily was sleepy and Zack and Dezi needed to return to their appointed beds. Emily wishes you to know that the party did not end because midnight qualifies as bedtime for her and she has never ruined a party ever.

Soon in Xenology: More weddings. Witchcraft. Mantras. The Betsy. Lake George.

last watched: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
reading: Canticle for Liebowitz
listening: a random party mix my father made
wanting: My friends to actually attend my get togethers or be honest that they are not.
interesting thought: I really just need a few close souls and light sabers
moment of zen: The saber fight.
someday I must: throw an amazing party.

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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