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12.13.03 12:16 a.m.

Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

 -Friedrich Nietzsche  

Previously in Xenology: Conor and Flynn only existed within special circumstances and for seconds at a time, much like rare elements.

Feliz Navidad
I slouched in the passenger's seat of a car containing Emily and Keilaina, the former driving and the latter chirping nervously about meeting Conor and Flynn. Possibly she was just nervous because these were strange people and they might judge her. Possibly because I happened to let it slip to her that I thought it good sport to talk her up to them as much as possible, comparing her favorably to fantastically fictive flaming fowl.
No apology to Cheney
I was in an odd mood owing both to the possibility of sharing a rare night with Conor and Flynn (and possibly meeting their current and respective objects of fondness) and as it was my birthday and I would have rather spent it having seafood thrown at me at the expense of others. This scenario was evidently not to be, nor should I have held out much hope for it once I heard about Dick Cheney.
Work was running long, as it tends to whenever I am particularly desperate to get home. It is cosmic law that expectation gives undue length to short hours. This is one of the trade-offs humans granted for orgasms. In this case, I was expectant because I was to have a party for my twenty-third birthday that night. Perhaps "party" is a bit generous of a term. "Occasion" seems slightly more apt. In actuality, Zack, Kei, Emily and I were going to Osho Japanese Steakhouse and revel in having onions spurt fire and shrimp fly at the hands of a man who, in another time, could have been a samurai.
As I watched the lazy circumvolution or the second hand I overhead, "...Yeah, all of 84 is shut down."
I spun roughly and grabbed the patron by the shoulder. "What did you just say?" I demanded.
The patron recoiled, for fear I was about to impose a fine on being too loud in the library. When she saw that my words were sharp from curiosity, she tentatively explained, "All of I-84 is shut down right now. No one can even go near it."
My eyes narrowed to slits. "Why?"
"I heard it was because Dick Cheney wanted to go hunting in Pawling, so he ordered it shut down. There are armed police at every exit and underpass... or so I've heard."
I was slightly - though nowhere near totally - incredulous, though a few phone calls convinced me that all of this was absurdly true. My father, for example, was trapped two miles from my home because cops would not allow him to cross under 84. He had been there for over an hour when I called and was stewing in the preposterousness. Neither Emily nor Keilaina could easily get to my home without using or crossing 84. Dick Cheney was trying to ruin my birthday so he could kill innocent deer. If my birthday is ruined, then the terrorists have won. Additionally, if Cheney were so worried that some terrorist would blow himself up underneath an underpass just as Dick and his entourage crossed, wouldn't it behoove him to keep a low profile? Shutting down a major interstate lacks a certain degree of finesse given that it alerted people for hundreds of miles precisely where Vice President Undisclosed Location could be found. From the reports I was receiving, there was even a fleet of helicopters flying directly above the cavalcade of Cadillacs. Even if it was intended to be a clever ruse, it was a bloody stupid and costly one (and not just because I found it inconvenient).
Conor, distracted
In the midst of my panic that Emily and Kei would be forcefully detained by unnecessary hunting related traffic, my pager began buzzing with a strange series of numbers. Perhaps it was a certain government official was calling to apologize for delaying my guests. More likely, it was another informant telling me that they were being held by a modern day Barney Fife because they happen say that the food at the 84 Diner blows.
I dialed the number and was greeted by an effusive voice stretching my name to three syllables.
"Hi, Elizabeth!" I exclaimed, as only Conor's mother can quite manage this lingual feat.
"Hi! I'm not sure if Conor told you - he sometimes forgets that there are other people - but Flynn is having his birthday party in Pawling tonight. You are certainly invited and we would love to have you." Oh dear, Pawling? I hope Cheney at least apologized to Flynn.
I sighed. "I am supposed to be having a party tonight too, but it is not turning out well. So... I will call you back in a few minutes and let you know, okay?"
"That would be fabulous. I hope you can come. You are fabulous."
I called Emily, Keilaina, and Zack as quickly and covertly as I could given that I was still supposed to be toiling in the book mines and our deranged patrons think it sporting to turn stool pigeon. The former two, though annoyed at a certain politico's audacity, were still planning on coming post haste. Zack, however, had disappeared off the face of the Earth, though I thought it a safe bet that he was with his friend Heather somewhere not being molested by the secret service.
Emily and Keilaina arrived at my home shortly after I returned from work. However, in the course of driving the three miles to my home, the plans had changed. In order to better accommodate my older brother and his bantlings, my mother had moved my family festivities earlier. This successfully precluded my being taken to dinner by Emily. The faux samurai lament my lack.
"Gah, it is my birthday, I don't see why I should have to accommodate these pint sized interlopers," I whined.
"They are likely to eat most of the ice cream cake, which you don't much like," reasoned M.
"But I don't even know their names!"
"You do too. You just choose not to remember."
Kei piped in, "And they are cute when they aren't growling and hiding."
"Point, though a reticent one. But they are the reason I am not having flying Japanese food."
"No," reminded M, "The reason you are not at Osho right now is that you told your mom it was okay."
"For the greater good of seeing Conor and Flynn."
"I'm scared to meet Flynn's mom. Will she be there?" Kei quaked.
"As she is Flynn's mother and it is his birthday, she may well be." This did not assuage Kei's evident fear, so I offered, "Just don't make direct eye contact with Ci Ci and only speak to her if she speaks to you first..."
"Definitely specify that you are also Conor's friend, even though you haven't met him yet. I once called Flynn and Ci Ci answered. When I told her I was Emily, she said, 'who?' like she was aiming for my jugular. I quickly added, 'I'm Conor's friend.' Then she was pleasant."
"You guys aren't helping."
After eating a nourishing meal of tacos and ice cream cake, we arrived at the pizza place an hour late but still within the realm where it could be considered fashionable. Conor and his crew had other ideas, as they were in the process of leaving. Had we been two minutes later, we very likely would have missed one another.
Flynn gesticulated wildly at our sudden presence. I won't bother to transcribe the various sighs and groans that issued from his lips, save to tell you that they were exceedingly pleased.
Emily and I quickly surveyed the company gathered. They were nearly all wearing long dark coats, as is unfortunately the fashion of late. Our eyes flickered over them, only stopping on the mocha skinned creature. I recalled Marina telling me Conor's girlfriend was gorgeous (and that she would cause him intense pain should he screw it up with her) and hoped this was the aforementioned girl.
[[Dude]] said Emily's eyes [[She's really hot.]]
[[I had noticed.]]
M's head flicked to the side. [[She is Conor's?]]
[[We hope,]] said the side of my lips.
[[He's got damned good taste.]]
We walked outside, where Elizabeth and Ci Ci were waiting in a car. She saw me and leapt out.
"Oh, I'm so glad you could come! I got something for you!" Elizabeth reached into her coat pocket and removed two bits of metal. She lifted my hand at the wrist and placed the first of these in my palm. "This is a globe, because you hold the world in your hand." Indeed, the pewter marble had all the right demarcations. "And this is a heart, because I love you." I smiled widely, impressed at how easily these simple gifts meant so much to me, and enveloped Elizabeth a fond hug.
I placed these two curios in my mojo pouch for safekeeping and turned to Emily. [[So, what are we doing now?]] asked my raised eyebrow.
[[We've driven all this way; we cannot just leave.]]
[[Yes, but it is cold and Bard is far.]]
She affected a stern, transparent air. [[You aren't driving, you don't really have a say here. I want to go.]]
I smirked at her, impressed. [[Adventurous M.]]
I turned to Kei, "I think we are joining them in going to Bard. Any objections?"
"None, I'm not driving," she grinned.
Before commencing the journey we had to take a quick stop as Flynn's house.
"Is all of this Flynn's house?" asked Kei with a bit of awe.
"Yeah, I think so," I responded. "I'm pretty sure Flynn's family owns a large chunk of Pawling. At least all of this fenced in area is theirs."
"How do we get past the fence?"
"Someone will buzz us in. Of course, then there are the DNA tests and the vicious guard gibbons." We were already through the fence when I finished spinning my yarn.
I had not been to Flynn's house in years. When last I looked on it, I had just begun dating Katie. That places me at about seventeen, which is quite a chunk of time to have spent not visiting Flynn's home. It was a strange sleepover with Conor, Venessa, Flynn and me. I only remember brief snatches of it, like that Venessa seemed so very young and that we had crepes for breakfast. And, of course, that Flynn accused a flashlight of molesting him for an hour.
Incidentally, Katie's parents were highly impressed that I warranted an invitation to Flynn's home. I didn't think very much of it because he is and has always just been Flynn to me. This is not to say I was not grateful to have some method of breaking the ice to the parents of the girl I had given a hickey.
Keilaina observed, "Flynn's house has turrets."
"Yes. And stone lions," noted M.
Possible Flynn's  
This might be Flynn's girlfriend... or an orb...
"Shh! Quiet! There is Ci Ci! She'll hear you," I gasped.
The fearsome woman emerged from the house, hugged her Conor and her son, gave them the keys to one of the cars, and waved to us. We rightly cowered.
We did not quite get to Bard, though it was not nearly as far from Pawling as I thought. Conor and his crew needed to add a few more members at Vassar, so we decided to follow along.
I had not really been at Vassar with any depth since spending a day with Kate. Silently I told myself to frequent this place more often as it gives a warm glow outside the company of its self-righteous student body. (I deeply lament not having been one of them. They sought me out, but not to the extent that they would give me a reasonable scholarship.)
Shutting away these memories for a time, I turned to Emily and tickled her with the story of my having been forcibly ejected from the premises for having a rather large kriss dagger. "But my reasoning was good. I had just come from a ritual to their carnival. I realized I still had it in my bag and asked if they could hold it for me at the security office until later, as it wasn't exactly the appropriate. They responded by threatening to have me arrested. It wasn't even sharp..."
One of Conor's cadre interrupted us and asked, "Did you just say 'ritual'? You are my friend."
Bloody hell, a witchlet in need of acceptance. "I did say ritual." I turned to M, [[I made no mention of Paganism, just ritual. Maybe I was killing babies in a studied fashion. Mountebank.]]
The witchlet continued, "They tried to throw me out of Bard for lighting sage because they don't understand." Rather an unlikely story to spin considering the campus. Far more aromatic and illicit herbs are burned their nightly and security looks the other way. Plus, carrying a foot long blade and burning incense are two very different infractions. I chose not to use mine as an expression of how misunderstood my faith is, but rather how I could be massively absentminded and a big vague on social mores.
It was cold, as winter nights are wont to be. Bundled in my long black cold (it is perfectly okay for me to wear long black coats because I am not trying to conform to any neo-cinematic sartorial trend. My interest in the fashion is at least seventy years old. See also: why I have long hair) the cold meant little to me. However, Emily and Keilaina share the curse of their sex and are perpetually chilled by even the slightest breeze. Coupled with Emily still limited mobility and the hidden patches of ice, wandering about this dusky campus for extended periods of time seemed ill-advised at best.
Kei and a static chicken (it happened the same night)
As we walked, Flynn confessed to me that he was intimidated by Keilaina. As far as I could tell or he would admit, she had done nothing particularly breath-taking, unless one so regards her mere existence. I judged that Flynn was not so easily taken in, so decided he was intimidated because I describe her in such pavonine terms.
We eventually stumbled upon the missing members of their party, more black enshrouded creatures awkward in their skin. I stayed close to Emily, for warmth as much as protection.
Kei approached us and said, "I think you are right. Conor and Janaya are together."
I was unsurprised. "Why do you think this?"
"It was something Flynn said to me. He ran up and said, 'Janaya has a crush on Conor. Conor has a crush on Janaya. That's good, because they go out.'"
Emily and I giggled, "Yes, that would be a good indication."
By the time we had returned to the cars, Emily was confident that she did not like Conor's and Flynn's friends enough to warrant finishing the journey.
"But you guys are coming to the New Year's Eve party, right?"
"Wuzaha?" quoth Conor.
"Trust me, you know about it."
"Then we will definitely be there," assured Conor. "But you should call Flynn a few more times to remind him."
"Yeah! That exactly what you should do," exclaimed Flynn. "You got my info?"
I pulled out Flea and clicked on Flynn's name. "Is this your card?"
"What the hell...? Yes. But..." He reached his finger out to touch the screen and a cursor appeared on Flea where his finger pressed. He jumped back into Conor in terror.
Conor righted himself and assured, "I swear we are definitely coming to the party."
"Which doesn't necessarily bind you to come, but it does bind Flynn. Where there is Flynn, there is Conor. It is done."

Soon in Xenology: Sleepovers. Recovery. Christmas. New Years.

last watched: UFO File
reading: Giovanni's Room
listening: Aimee Mann
wanting: Hibachi sushi.
interesting thought: I still doubt Conor or Flynn will show up.
moment of zen: holding the world in my palm.
someday I must: eat the fricking hibachi suchi.

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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