Thomm Quackenbush, author

04.20.04 10:32 a.m.

An optimist is the human personification of spring.  

-Susan J. Bissonette

 



Previously in Xenology: Xen was reticent about then perfectly comfortable with living in an apartment.

Homey Bliss
Emily and I spent the better part of the hour carting books and computer equipment from my car to be set up in the apartment. While Zack is content to scoff when I assure him that it isn't easy (we should bear in mind that Zack takes several dance classes a day and knows exactly how to properly make Jazz Hands), it is several flights of stairs.
Everything is now set up perfectly, or as near to perfect as we could expect considering that we lack key pieces of furniture. The scanner still suffers an identity crisis whereby it thinks it is a rock and my word processor seems to be suffering from chicken pox, but the Internet existed with nearly no effort on my part. We shall look upon this as a gift from the gods until we get our phone bill.
Xen  
Chillin' out max and relaxing all cool
As ridiculous and technologically dependant as I am sure this sounds, the ability to write and research from underneath a different loft bed makes this place home to me. A home, at the very least, as I still feel cloying attachment to my bedroom at my parents' house and I do not expect to complete detach myself from Beacon. Beacon does contain art galleries that will not hire me, coffee shops I do not patronize, and friends I miss immensely on cold spring nights in Walden.
This is a bold sort of move, I have been told. While occasionally frightening (largely before I had actually set foot in Walden), I know it to be a move whose time had come. A month ago, I recall jumping on my trampoline. I turned to look in a mirror while I did it just to see how I looked while I bounced. With due gravity, I realized that I was a twenty-three year old boy-child in a psychosocial moratorium and that I should be something more. I aspired to be more that a malcontented grad student that spent most of the day in front of the computer writing and reading web comics. I needed to be more independent, though I love my family and have no intention to stop pilfering groceries from them when convenient. Independence only buys so many boxes of cereal.
I am getting away from my point, as is my wont all too often. Today, after ten minutes of lying on the floor in gross exhaustion and twenty or so of sorting things out, Emily got up to take a shower. It is the poor design of our apartment that there is little auditory privacy in our apartment (less so since the old hippies who evacuated here for Alaska neglected to leave the bathroom doorknob in the door), so I talked to her as she showered and I washed dishes.
"You don't have to wash the dishes, you know," she informed me from the shower.
M  
Look at my kingdom, I was finally there.
"No, I don't have to, but there are only two of us and you are showering." When Keilaina visited a few days ago, Emily was exceedingly pleased that I felt the need to clean away the plates when we were done eating our overpriced chicken and spinach pizza. She later explained that she worried I would not pull my weight and would generally be slobbish. (Zack evidently echoed her fear, which means my friends discuss my housekeeping skills behind my back.) This small act of common courtesy apparently allayed her fears and I thus was inclined to keep it up, if just to spite Zack.
"Okay, but don't do them all. Leave me something to clean," she insisted. This made no sense to me; I was already forearm deep in sudsy water, so I just finished them and went back to configuring the computer to my liking.
The computer, incidentally, is situated on the floor underneath the bed. We have yet to coerce someone to drive a desk here and Emily knew well that I consider the computer an artistic extension of myself. Were the computer to be sitting in my bedroom at home, there would be less motivation for me to spend my time at the apartment with her.
Despite the addition of the computer, it is still the apartment, not yet ours.
I sat on the floor playing with the Nintendo emulator on my computer when Emily walked out wearing towels enough to constitute a terrycloth dress. "I want to get married."
"That's excellent, Sugarbob." I killed an eight-bit pink sprite to underscore this point.
"To you, I mean," she clarified.
"I got that. Are you proposing?"
She twirled in her towels. "No, boys propose. Girls accept and jump up and down. I am comfortable in my gender roles. We should get married, though. This domesticity is so nice," she enthused.
"It is definitely acquiring those 'bliss' and 'hominess' aspects I hear so much about," I agreed, "though I'm not wholly positive such cannot exist outside legally and theologically sanctioned bonds."
"Yep, we should get married, Thommybones," she ignored with joking finesse. She is not spinning a marital web to ensnare me, she just occasionally thinks it is good sport to pretend she is.

A Fuzz
Having only explored so far as the Throughway Mart (Walden's slurred answer to Wal-Mart) and foreseeing much of the day bored without Emily, I sought to remedy both by taking a run around town. Take in the lay of the land, as it were, and hopefully discover playground or cemeteries (the meeting places of my people).
I loaded various fairly fast-paced songs into Flea, borrowed a pair of Emily's Tae Kwon Do pants and set off. I ran fairly arbitrary, save that I endeavored to run downhill if geographically and humanly possible. As a found my way toward the river (water runs downhill too) and "Jesus Was a Dreidel-Spinner" blare in my ears, I heard and then immediately felt a car getting uncomfortably close to me without slowing. I was as far left as the law of impenetrability would allow and there was quite a lot of road left and so was surprised that this car had been so reckless. Then I noticed the black and white of it, the sun reflected through the red plastic of the roof lights and knew precisely why the driver was so irresponsible. This didn't faze me unduly and I kept my pace.
Xen  
When a couple of guys who were up to no good
When I got near a church several songs later, I suddenly and with little warning became too weak and dizzy to run. Or to remain vertical, for that matter. I did what I thought reasonable and sat down on a patch of grass. I concentrated on my breathing to slow my pulse, though my heart would have absolutely no calming, so I rested for about five minutes with little interest in moving. Any attempts on my part to try to move were met with waves of blue nausea and a general inability to see properly.
It was this way - eyes closed, reclined, and breathing carefully - that the cop found me moments later.
"You can't sleep here," he yelled out his window.
I opened my eyes and focused on him. "I'm not sleeping, officer. I was running and I overexerted myself, so I am sitting here until my pulse slows down a little. Then I will get up and go home."
"What were you running from?" he demanded gruffly.
I squinted, hoping he was joking and was not honestly that much of a dense hard-ass. Bear in mind, I was practically wearing a tracksuit and that this porcine fellow before me was very likely the same cop who thought it good sport to drive too close to a pedestrian earlier. Even had he been blind to these facts, my t-shirt featured Einstein in front of Stonehenge, the very antithesis of intimidating. "I was not running from anything. I was just running. You know, for my health?" It is possible this concept was unfamiliar to him.
"You can't sit here. I am going to have to get an ambulance if you don't get up."
I raised my eyebrows at him, making no other movements. "Sir, I overexerted myself. When I calm down a little, I will happily walk back to my home. However, it would not be wise for me to so at this very moment."
"Get up now or I'm calling an ambulance." He waved a radio at me to underscore his threat. "For all I know, you are having a heart attack."
"Sir, I am twenty-three. I was running. I overexerted myself. I am not having a heart attack. I'll be okay, I promise."
"I'm about to call the ambulance if you don't get up right now," he insisted in the same tone he might use to threaten a minority with arrest for loitering in his town.
As I saw no other way out of his impasse, I tried to stand as naturally as was possible. This was not easy was all of my blood insisted on evacuating my head will all due haste. The blue blindness oppressed my movements. I was lumbering through an overexposed, monochromatic landscape, each step a concerted effort not to fall to the comfort of pavement.
"That's not the way back to your apartment," the cop protested with delight. I was opting for the flat, slightly longer path that would afford me potential places to rest once I was out of his sight. The other route was straight up hill. As though this weren't enough, he turned his car around and followed me for several blocks.
My vision was only barely clearing as I moved, but my body resisted no less. I could only see small circles of clarity in front of me, but I assumed straight was a safe direction. As I got to a corner and whispered a hope for no oncoming traffic, another cop walked out of a building and laughed at me, "That's not the way to your house. Or don't you know that?"
"I am new in town," I breathed out, "I was just exploring today. Now I know where the police station is, at least." He didn't seem to think this was a good observation and called me something under his breath before walking back into the station.
After ten or so minutes, I made it back to my apartment and collapsed onto the sofa. My pulse was still racing, through being reclined helped quite a lot. Within a few minutes, I was composed enough to call Emily and my mother and tell them my experience. M was rightly furious at my harassment, though my mother assured me that the cops always used to follow her friend and her around. Whenever they stopped at a parking lot, the cops were there within minutes and were consistently disappointed by not happening upon something illicit.
I do imagine that this will not be the last time we encounter one another.


Soon in Xenology: The Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Walking the rails. The trouble with cops.

last watched: Clue
reading: Subversive Laughter: The Liberating Power of Comedy
listening: Cheap & Evil Girl
wanting: More company.
moment of zen: having a connection.
someday I must: find some of the better points of this town.

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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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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