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05.12.04 6:32 p.m.

I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.  

-Mark Twain


Previously in Xenology: Emily and Xen moved into a new apartment. Emily hurt her hand trying to break the immovable force.

" Conor...? Margaret? Jesus?" I asked after knocking until the door slid open.
"One out of three isn't bad," came the congested response from the living room. I peeked around the corner and saw Margaret covered in blankets.
Sick fairy
"What's this all about?"
She sniffled and smiled weakly. "I'm sick, so I am watching MTV. Shutting my brain off lets me heal faster. Plus, I have chicken soup and soda, so I'm good... except for the prom... which is tomorrow."
"That is the saddest thing I have heard all day."
"Yeah, I was... am going to be a fairy," she grinned.
I nodded fondly. "I always did like the theme prom."
"Oh, it's not a theme, I'm just going to be a fairy. I have wings and glitter and everything."
"Your boyfriend is a lucky fellow, Margaret."
"He is. But he's not going because he is the jealous type." She took a sip of soda as a means of punctuation.
"So, the brightest fairy in the forest is going stag?"
"No, I am going with my friend. Who is a boy. Haldane couldn't deal with my going with a girl." She smiled at my concerned look, as I was still stuck on how going to the prom with a male friend will palliate the jealousy of a boyfriend. "However," she mock whispered, "my friend is of the darker skin, and Haldane just loves an interracial couple. Conor said he wants to wait in the car with the engine running for when the lynch mob appears."
I bit my lip thoughtfully. "I'm not even slightly sure how this will help his jealousy. Your whole generation is a mystery to me."
"Lynch mobs are fun though."

It Buys a Lot of Thin Mints Too
I nudged the door to Zack's house open. We were supposed to see the next showing of Hellboy and time was of the essence. I would have knocked and the core of my brain formed in fourth grade that is concerned with societal norms tried to force me, but Zack has specifically and at length chided me for knocking on his door when he was expecting me. The etiquette was to just open the door and hope he was nearby.
As I poked my head in, his unseen hand pushed a black disc into my mouth. I pushed it into my hand with me tongue and demanded, "Gah, what the hell is it?"
"Thin Mint," he answered simply.
I bit into to cookie quickly, enjoying the aberrant pleasure of a chocolate covered mint wafer. "The ideal greeting," I conceded. "All interactions should begin with a Thin Mint. The world would be a much better place."
After the movie - which was better than I had expected but one should bear in mind that I have no idea what to expect - and in the men's room, Zack asked if he had told me his thousand dollar bus story.
"Why, no. You haven't." I looked around the bathroom, just to assure myself that we were outside the prying ears of the rest of my gender. Both of us had just broken the Sacred Code of Manhood by speaking in the men's restroom, while at the urinals no less. Were we heard, the penalties would leave us broken and empty, only able to articulate our thoughts by screaming them out of car windows at women passing by.
"I was on the bus, returned from Massachusetts. This Middle Eastern guy sits down next to me and we start talking for most of the trip. Basically polite, you know. Chit chat. So the bus is about to stop at Peekskill and the guy turns to me and say, 'You want to get off with me, have sex?' I told him no, of course. So he sits there for another moment. I'm not saying anything obviously because I am freaked out. 'For five hundred dollars?' I told him no again, more forcefully. Then he turns again and asks, 'Thousand?' And I say, ''"
"It is a thousand dollars, Zack. That buys a lot of mouthwash."
For telling this story as we washed our hands and as a bald man in a wrinkled cream shirt entered the lavatory, Zack's punishment will be to be hit on by inarticulate and awkward gay men in public buses. The sentence will be commuted to time served.

Emily and I were at the mall. I had wandered away from her and was looking at videogames to play when we got back to the apartment. She was perusing the cell phones, seeking out the one which would be least destructible.
"This one is certified by the US Navy," the salesman monotoned.
"That's all well and good," she sighed, "but how does it stand against dog feces? I need your most feces-proof phone that can also stand to be stepped on and chewed up."
I sidled next to Emily, as choosing videogames lacks real fun and purpose without Emily, and assured the salesman that I personally intended to both chew and step on this phone. He was not in the least bit amused by us, and proceeded to run Emily's credit. Buying a phone is evidently as fiscally important as buying a car or home. I hoped we wouldn't have to take out a loan.
"It's denying your application," he said with no affect, "says you had a phone with us within the past three years."
Emily began to argue this point when her current phone rang. From six feet away, I heard someone yelling.
"No, that's not... it's not possible... no... I didn't... I didn't bounce the check... no, I don't know what is... I understand that but... there was more than enough money in my account..." began Emily's side of the conversation. This did not palliate the yeller. When Emily got off the phone, she revealed in a defeated tone that the yeller was our landlord who insisted that we had bounced our first rent check. Emily took this as a personal mark of shame.
"I don't buy it for a second, M."
"Why not? He's right; it doesn't make us look responsible. He had every right to yell."
I held her shoulder to stop her from looking away. "No, he had no right to yell at you. If there was some genuine problem - and I frankly don't think there was - then he can discuss it with you like a reasonable human being and the problem can be resolved. He had no right to yell."
What the hell is up with that?
Emily walked over to an ATM at my urging to prove that she had not come to penury. The machine, however, was uncooperative, merely telling her to contact her financial provider.
"You are my financial provider. Provide me finances!" She seemed on the verge of tears, taking this all as a very personal insult to her character.
"This still doesn't mean anything," I tried to assure her. "Maybe this whole situation is the product of some bank error. Obviously your bank is currently jacked up, there is no reason to assume that is was less jacked when Vince tried to deposit the money."
"If I bounced the check... we'll just have to get rid of the apartment." She began to cry quietly as she sat in one of the plastic food court chairs. "I can't handle having this. I thought I could."
I wiped away her tears with my thumb and kissed her. "I really, truly, completely don't think you did anything wrong."
Emily called her parents, trying to uncover whether they had received any letter telling her that her account was overdrawn. Emily's mother began to chide her before making any step toward discovering the letter. "Listen, just go find the letter and open it, okay?" she growled.
After several minutes, they found a letter from the back detailing that Vince had deposited the check weeks before it was dated. Instantly, the sad pallor of Emily's face grew crimson and sharp. I had never seen her quite so angry and told her so.
"You have no idea how pissed I am," she grimaced. "That he put me through this... that he had the balls to yell at me? Oh, god no. How dare he, that unprofessional prick. We're still getting out of that damned apartment. I don't want to have to deal with someone like this. And that my mother thinks this is the right time to get on my case?"
I looked down at Emily's knuckles, turned white through anger. When she unclenched them at my behest, she noticed absently that she had hurt her good hand in the anger of the moment.
The anger subsisted after an hour and some ice cream. She decided that moving everything out of the apartment was not worth the effort. Besides, we really do like our cozy nest. In the future, though, Vince is only getting paid with money orders, since he is the sort to yell at innocent girls for mistakes.

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

last watched: Memento
reading: Little Green Men
listening: Want One
wanting: a purpose beyond these walls.
moment of zen: being the voice of optimistic reason.
someday I must: be an equal contributor to our success.

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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