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02.01.04 1:09 a.m.

It is not lack of love but lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.  

-Friedrich Nietzsche


Previously in Xenology: Keilaina started going out with Mike.

Command and Conquer
"Hey Kei," I called over the phone, breaking the law which says cell phones should be heard and not seen, "Zack and I are going to Melissa's to play videogames. You should come."
"Can Mike?" she asked hopefully.
"Only if he rolls a critical hit on the twenty-sided die," I informed her, offhandedly.
"Yes, he can come," I sighed, trying to stop Zack from telling me that he just rolled a critical hit in his pants. (Don't think about it, it'll stain.)
There was silence on the other line as Kei fielded Mike's question. "Mike wants to know what games are you guys going to play?"
I raised my eyebrows incredulously. "That's not really the p... Fine, we will be playing many games. All of which are great fun. And count as socialization, which is necessary and good."
There was a pause as Kei relayed this message. "We will need names. What systems?"
I threw the phone at Zack as our light turned green again and my illegality matched the bounds for my tolerance of this line of questioning. "She wants to know what systems and games Melissa has."
He gave an abrupt laugh, "Melissa has every game ever created for every system prior to X-Box. Satisfied?" This was patently a lie, but the question posed to us deserved it.
Again, the pause and then she responded, "I think I am going to stay here and play 'Command and Conquer' with Mike."
"Oh," teased Zack, "A good old game of 'Command and Conquer' with the boyfriend, eh? Rousing!"
"And his little brother!" she huffed in her defense.
"Now, I've rolled a critical hit in my pants, you kinky she-beast," I gasped in mocking.
"You guys suck," she laughed, "I'll see you later. Bye!"
In this way, Keilaina missed out on the intricate beauty of killing eight-bit ducks and playing DVD Trivial Pursuit (a game which never actually ends unless one decides to change the rules). Then, as the poets did in the eighteenth century, we lay on one another and read Simpsons trivia until we were lulled into a stupor. It does not take long.

Saturday started with my being furious at the incompetence of my Literacy teacher. She intonates as though we were in preschool, yet concurrently presumes we are all senior teacher and know how to teach children to read. She also cannot seem to grasp that, while my future students may have some deficits, they won't have the same literacy level as four-year-olds. I hope. Coupled with a Literacy and Technology teacher that outright and publicly threatened us with making sure we won't get jobs to prevent the class from badmouthing her, I am having trouble this semester.
Mike and Kei  
Kei and Mike
When I got to work, I had a note in my box accusing me of all manner of unprofessional behavior of which I was not the least bit guilty. I am hardly the poster boy for being a proper library clerk, but I would much rather I be accused of, say, writing Xenology entries during work than insulting the patrons or slacking off on my work. It is perfectly possible to be writing and attending to the needs of the sanity and tact impaired.
When I finally got home, I wanted nothing more to tidy up my room a bit for Emily's arrival and psychically detoxify from the long day. However, my living room was on fire. From what I can piece together, my cat Myles jumped on the incubator my mother had set up to hatch more jende conures (the birds pull their feathers out to keep the eggs warm and the sight of a bald bird saddens my mother). This knocked the relatively lightweight incubator to the floor. One of the eggs broke on the heating element, causing an electrical fire. I did what any former boy scout would have. I told the cat to put the fire out, was annoyed that he just licked yolk off his paw, and then unplugged the incubator. My hitting it repeatedly with a towel put out the remaining fire.
Emily arrived soon after to find me picking up the pieces of egg, in hopes that one was intact and fertile. My mother advised that I place any surviving eggs back in the jendes' cage, where they would ignored it completely. Emily proposed that we go out to dinner in order to subsume the weight of the day in empty calories.
The wait at Red Lobster was estimated at close to an hour when Zack, Emily, and I arrived. My brain had slipped a gear, however, so I was very zen about waiting. We sat at the bar. I traced the lines in the glossy wood countertop, hoping they would lead me to god. They led to Emily's small lobsterita (like a margarita except... made of lobsters?). On the back of a coaster from Canada, Zack drew cartoons in the blue TV screen light. Aside from waiting for a table, Keilaina and Mike were going to join us.
"So, did I tell you about The Betsy?" Zack asked Emily. He had told me, so I nodded once, slowly and went back to tracing.
"No, what about The Betsy?" responded M, her voice thicker from the sugar and alcohol.
Zack added an arm to a character he was drawing and answered, "You know how she and I were sort of seeing one another and she got a million points because she told Randy Milholland, author of Something Positive, that she would be using a picture of PeeJee and Choo-Choo Bear as the t-shirt design for the production of The Vagina Monologues? Well, she lost them all because she decided to make-out with some ugly guy."
Emily looked covetously at the lobster beads that did not come with her drink. "That is terrible. You deserve better than an android macking it with an ugly guy." She returned to slipping her drink slowly and Zack went back to he napkin sketches.
"Where's Melissa?" asked Kei when she arrived, alone.
Zack, shaven  
He shaved for you
I shrugged, having been interrupted in my tracing of the wood grain by Zack placing in front of me a napkin with an alien sketched on it twice. "Melissa said she might connect with us later... Or not. Where's Mike?"
"He's coming," she assured us. We all continued about our respective tasks of drinking, tracing, and drawing. "I told him about Zack," she said finally.
I patted Zack on the shoulder. "Yes, our Zack is a fine lad. Arms like trees, chest like a horse, hills like white elephants... wait..." I arrived at the end of one of the wood grains and my brain shifted back into gear. I looked up at her tentatively. "What did you tell him about Zack?"
"About Zack and I," she stated, matter-of-factly. "And sex."
Emily smiled, very slightly and charmingly tipsy, "And how did Mike take this bit of information?"
"He said it was fine."
I scoffed despite my best intentions.
Kei nudged me playfully, "I'm serious, he really had no problem with it."
"Hmmm. I would have a problem with it. Perhaps he is a better man than I am, Gunga Din," I mused. The wood grain no longer seemed worth my fascination.
Over dinner, we interrogated Mike about his likes and interests. He likes Super Smash Brothers. He is interested in Command and Conquer, and not in the euphemistic sense.
The meal concluded without Mike knowing who Tom Robbins or Joni Mitchell was, so I solicited suggestion on how to continue the evening. "And I would like to include Melissa, is possible, since she missed seeing the seafood lover in you."
"We could play Super Smash Brothers," suggested Mike.
I cringed slightly and poked a portion of uneaten scrod with a fork. "That's an idea... you would have. Anyone else?"
"What about Barnes and Noble? They have both books and coffee. Think of the possibilities!" enthused Kei.
Emily quickly agreed, "And Mike can... smash the coffee cups. Everybody wins!"
As we wandered through aisles, seeking out the precious fruit that is quality discount books, I stumbled upon a large tree. "What the fuck is a redwood doing in the middle of a bookstore? It this some sort of recycling program gone awry?" I said to the trunk.
"Hey," said the tree. A stoat clung to it, but said nothing and made no sudden movement, so as to not arouse my suspicions.
"Hi, Evan. Hi, Lauren. ...Are you following us?"
"Yes, I am a spy and an assassin," he responded from on high.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "You're neither. You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill." Then I spun and walked away. Stoats become agitated when confronted, thus showing her my back would confuse her delicate stoat senses.
When I reached the front of the store, I chanced a glance over my left shoulder and could no longer see the hirsute visage of Evan rising over the stacks. He is wilier than I gave him credit for.
"What are you looking at?" asked Melissa, who had suddenly appeared behind me.
"You are wily as well... Evan was just here. I just saw Lauren and him. I think they are mercenaries."
"This is Evan we are talking about. He is practically Canadian," she reasoned.
"Ah, touché."
I wandered up the escalator while Melissa tried to find Evan. Though I am disinclined to actually buy books given their availability in my library, it seems polite to peruse.
M, pointing  
I'm not sure why she is pointing at her nose.
The occult section was attended by a New Age "crone" (nee spinster) and a girl-child in black make-up. I scanned the cover for hilarious titles before coming upon one called The Book of Lies. Not the Crowley tome, either. I reached over the head of the sullen girl, who shot me what I am certain she thought was a withering glare. It just made her look constipated.
I know this sounds cheesy and (I hope) unlike me, but I felt that the book was calling to me. I read the back cover and noticed an eloquent review, which solidified my need to buy it. When I realized the quote was from Grant Morrison, I was practically positive I needed the book. Morrison is the post modern sage of Conor and wrote a comic book series called The Invisibles. I thumbed through the index and noticed with shock and glee that Morrison wrote one of the first chapters and was, in fact, a Chaos Magickian (the "k" makes it pretentious!).
I feel as though this is part of a small journey I am on. The book is not an end in itself, but a stepping stone. I don't know where it is leading, but I am excited to find out.
After I rediscovered my crew at the built-in Starbucks, happily sipping overpriced teas, the loudspeakers announced that the store would be closing. The announcer had the particularly petulant tone of someone who had been forced to work two shifts with no breaks.
Mike quickly said his surprisingly chaste goodbyes to Keilaina and left. This is wrong; to paraphrase Margaret Mitchell, Keilaina should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.
Thereafter, we retired to Melissa's house, where Emily suffered a headache at watching Keilaina demonstrate a strange mastery of Sonic the Hedgehog. Despite Zack's assurances to Kei that she was "dead to [him]," her skill did not flag, so Emily had to. We left Kei and Zack there, playing Sega with Melissa.
"This isn't weird, M?" I asked as we left.
"No. I don't think it is, actually. Everyone seems to really get along." Her voice betrayed some of my uncertainty. However, this was practically the first time Kei and Melissa had been in a room together and we were leaving Zack and Kei for Melissa to ferry home. "Besides," she purred, "since we don't have to drive them home, I will be much more... alert... when we get home. If you follow?"
"I follow," I smirked.

Soon in Xenology: apartment hunting. Ouija. Titanic 2000.

last watched: The Family Guy
reading: Book of Lies
listening: Hits
wanting: To be done with narrow-minded schools.
interesting thought: My brain handles fire better than arbitrary work.
moment of zen: slipping a gear.
someday I must: spend more time with my friends

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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