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05.07.04 5:11 p.m.

The world is not yet exhausted; let me see something tomorrow which I never saw before.  

-Samuel Johnson


Previously in Xenology: Emily is a ninja and an animal control officer.

"Arrr, matey!" Zack asked Emily through his invisible hand puppet, "How did ye hurt your hand, good buddy? Are ye in need of a hook?"
Ye scurvy, garlicy dog!
"Curse breaker!" I exclaimed and rang the bell sitting between us all, "Zack, you are supposed to name a food before speaking. You lose a card!" We had been playing a game Emily bought on discount a few weeks early. The tenor of the game was to manage to play for as long as possible without breaking the curses placed upon you by other players. Each time someone successfully completes a challenge ordered by a random card, they earn a new curse card to foist upon another player. Showing that we have a healthy amount of schadenfreude when it comes to Zack, we silently chose to try to give him as many conflicting curses as we could find. By this point, he was a pirate vampire gorilla who could only speak through clenched teeth with a bit tongue using an invisible hand puppet and a CB radio and who needs to preface all of his comments by standing up and naming a food. He was managing far better than we had hoped and I was eager to catch him breaking a curse. I had already broken one that insisted my wrists were glued to by head.
Emily, herself afflicted with curses forcing her to speak in proverbs and behave like a Vulcan, intoned, "It is better to blow the popsicle stand than to receive an early worm. It is actually the result of my Tae Kwon Do test. I tried to break the wrong type of cement block." I tittered at this, so she added, "That's not funny," though by this point, she was beginning to see the humor.
Melissa, Angela, and Keilaina were variously shocked, though not nearly as much as they would be were this anyone else in the known universe. Motioning my fingerless stumps (a curse had deprived me of digits), I explained, "The best part is not that she may have broken her wrist trying to break a block through which a jackhammer would struggle. Oh no. The fact is that she may have broken it the second time she hit it. She had one, good clean palm strike to establish that this was the hardest thing she had ever tried to break. Anyone can hit their hand against a stone wall and realize that this is not meant to be broken with bare human hands. She tried twice against the immovable block. That, my friends, is why she is the taco ninja."
"Just a sprinkle a day keeps the bedbugs away. That is why I have a cast on my wrist," she sighed, embarrassed.
Zack nodded sagely, a difficult feat with on hand under his arm and another fashioning a hand puppet. "10-4, ye be as tough as me coffin's nails."

Twenty Eight Days Later
I picked up the phone and, before I could speak, heard Emily sobbing. "What's up, buttercup?"
"I've got rabies," she cried.
I adjusted the phone against my ear. "No, your wrist is broken."
"No. I mean yes, but I also have rabies. Could you come and get me?" She sounded so small and vulnerable and, while she is small and often vulnerable, she almost never sounds it.
"How did you get rabies?" Before I could proceed, I needed to fulfill my brain's hunger for logic. Though she does make a good portion of her income tending to the needs of lost and forgotten animals, I didn't think people very often got rabies in modern times. Maybe it was amebic dysentery or polio.
"I'm full of the rabies!"
"Come get me and I will explain."
I got in my car and queued Flea to play music. I felt immensely calm, almost serene in the face of having to console a self-reportedly rabid girlfriend. This was just a task I had to complete, I thought, and there really was no reason to feel put out or strange about the whole situation. At the very least, I reasoned, it made for a good story.
When I arrived, Emily was reclined on a wooden bench in the office, seeming calmer but bearing the frizzy hair of prior distress. I walked over, smoothed back her hair and kissed her on the forehead.
"Now, why don't you explain why you are rabid?"
"We got a new kitten in. The person who brought it in thought it had been hit because its back legs weren't working. That should have been our first indication, but it was just so cute. So it walked all over me while I played with it, scratching me along the way. I got off lucky, Susan actually got bitten by the kitten."
"Is that better? Does that mean you are less rabid or need fewer shots?" I asked hopefully.
She sat up on the sweatshirt that had been under her head. "Well, no. I might actually have to get more prophylactic shots because it works by weight..." She drifted off and gave me a querulous glance. "You haven't told anyone I am rabid, have you?"
"Oh course I haven't!" I insisted sharply, not mentioning that this was only because I had neglected to charge my cell phone.
Rather than going straight to the hospital, as I had expected from the initial call, we sat in the shelter waiting for Emily boss to return. Emily coworker was walking about and tending to various animals. She brought out a cage of sleeping kittens, one of the cuter sights on Buddha's big, blue ball. Despite this and Emily's assurances that these kittens were very likely not afflicted with neurotoxins, I kept my distance.
After a half an hour of waiting and carefully reading the posters on rabies (which specifically enumerate that cat scratches can harbor rabies), Susan returned and we made our rabid caravan to the hospital.
"So, how many shots is it?" Emily asked the nurse.
The disease began to take hold
"More importantly," I interrupted, "where will she be receiving them?"
The nurse looked down at the chart she was holding. "It is based upon weight, but there will be one in the arm and... a couple in your posterior."
Emily moped, "I wish I went on a crash diet before getting rabid."
"Don't we all?" I commiserated.
After the nurse left and Emily began to worry about the potential side effects of the shots, I asked nervously, "Can it be sexually transmitted?"
Emily stared at me, shocked. "I didn't bite you," she reasoned.
"Yeah, you kind of did. And you got it from the kitten potentially licking her paw and scratching you."
"I didn't lick you," she defended.
"Yeah, you definitely did."
She blushed at the memory. "Oh. It's not sexually transmitted though."
"Go ask," I urged.
"Fine..." Emily walked out to the nurses' station and, entirely pinning her question on my ignorance of diseases and human biology, asked if I could have contracted rabies from making the beast with two backs.
Rabies is not, in fact, sexually transmitted. Just so you know.
Also, it takes a special kind of woman to genuinely be amused when you note that sex would be the best way to get a disease that results in madness and death.

Soon in Xenology: The Howland Public Library earning my eternal disrespect. Interviews. Prom dates.

last watched: All of Me
reading: Practical Demonkeeping
listening: Pink Pearl
wanting: Emily to lead a life involving
moment of zen: flirting with M in a hospital.
someday I must: attack Emily with a rabid vole. Or kiss her. Whatever.

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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