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05.26.04 1:14 a.m.

The Promised Land always lies on the other side of a Wilderness.  

-Havelock Ellis


Previously in Xenology: Xen was fired from the Howland Library.

M's Trusty Sidekick
Emily insisted upon spending the night at my parents' house with me after hearing that I had been fired. I am certainly never averse to the lass's company and, though I felt largely composed, I knew better than to turn away a friendly ear should I awaken at five in the morning in desperate need to cry. My psyche tends to wait until dawn to give me any pending messages.
When I awoke in double digit morning hours, the space in my bed that Emily had occupied was long since cold. With a pang of regret, I remembered that she still had a job.
I walked around my parents' house, wondering if it or I would feel different given my change in employment status. It had been years since I was last gainfully unemployed. Emily reminded me that I was prone to bouts of depression and angst when last this happened. I felt the roof of my mouth with my tongue, as this seemed a likely place to store angst. It felt smooth and pink, neither of which were very conducive to spontaneous depression. Nor had my subconscious paged me with guilt or inadequacy in the wee hours. Emotionally, I decided, I must be largely copasetic.
My mouth tastes like vague apathy.
This left the state of my financial well being, quite clearly. That would have to be remedied as quickly as was feasible and I was helping the process along by posting my resume to every online job site I could think of offhand. If the job market can be fairly judged by the posts offered, I am in a sorry state. For the first time in my life, I have bills that must be paid or I lose accoutrements that would make my life not merely less comfortable, but quite a bit more difficult (a car and an apartment). Thus, as my nest egg is only scarcely larger than a robin's, I should waste little time in reentering the workforce.
As I mused my coming fiscal woes, my mother handed me a letter from Mount Saint Mary. "And then there is tuition so I can get a halfway decent job," I announced aloud to no one. I folded and pulled the letter (colleges can never just send a leaf of paper in a paper envelope, it must now be a perforated reverse origami) until it revealed its contents.
"This looks... like a check?" I whispered. I blinked my eyes, but the letter still looked like a check. To wit, it seemed to suggest that Mount Saint Mary felt I was owed nearly six hundred dollars for overestimating my financial needs the last time their computer insisted I was delinquent on tuition. While I am well aware that this is student loan money and must therefore be paid back, it does grant me a convenient reprieve on dire financial lamentations.
Feeling pleased that the Fates of Bureaucracy had ostensibly conspired in my favor for once, I decided I would round up what remaining library items Emily and I had out and return them to a sister library to Howland. I was feeling lucky, but not stupid. Howland could not be trusted.
This library, still linked to the same system as my previous employer, was only too glad to provide me with receipts of every item Emily and I had outstanding. As I thought, nothing was overdue and there were less than ten things between us. The clerk at this library even pleasantly renewed a video that would be overdue in a few days.
"Oh, wait, there is a strange message on your friend's account," the elderly clerk explained. She called a coworker over, who also thought the message odd and told the clerk to ignore it. This message, which the clerk happily showed me, warned libraries against checking items out to Emily as she "is not allowed to use any Mid-Hudson library as she is not a patron of the system and is delinquent." Those slimy, conniving bastards. Not only did they fabricate and inflate crimes against me, but they were behaving like gossipy hens to Emily.
I returned home, irritated enough to vent my annoyance for Howland upon my father. "I wish that there were some way that I could make quite clear to the world the manner of people running this library. Hurt their reputation as they have hurt mine. Make them understand the severity of their atrocious behavior and that this is not how one treats people. I can't, of course. I don't want to hurt the library, which almost entirely provides DVDs to crack addicts, because they occasionally get it right and foster a love of reading. Any glaring truth sent there way is very likely going to hurt unintended recipients. But, really, what complete and utter bastards."
My father, trying to placate my anger or at least send it toward productive channels, suggested, "You should talk to the new trustees that were just sworn in."
I stopped mid-rant. "What did you just say?"
"The library got three new trustees and just had their budget approved," he explained.
Suddenly, though I couldn't explain it, everything started to make sense. "I don't know how, Dad, but I can practically guarantee my being fired and there so suddenly being new trustees is no coincidence. Somebody didn't like me... or wanted a position opened up for their son or daughter over the summer. Something is up."

Pudding Weasels Are Terrifying
I woke up to a sweaty, pleased person poking me.
"No more pudding weasels... oh, hi M. I was just dreaming about you," I murmured.
She smiled wider. "Ask me what I was doing."
"What were you doing, oh drippy one?"
"I went for a run, thanks for asking. On my run, I went past what looked to be a Buddhist monastery. This didn't quite make sense, so I ran backward. Before me was a Buddhist monk. But not just any Buddhist monk, not by a long shot. This was a Tibetan Buddhist monk in front of a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery." She said these words with great importance. I just smiled glibly in return, to her confusion. "Do you know where there are Tibetan Buddhist monasteries?"
Tibetan monks rarely ride wooden bears.
I considered this for a moment. "I hear there is one in Walden," I finally answered tentatively. It seemed like a safe bet.
"Yes, there is one in Walden. The next closest ones are in New York City, Seattle, and Los Angeles. This shouldn't be here. The monk invited me into the temple and gave me water. We talked for quite a while, since I couldn't get over there being a Tibetan monastery within walking distance of our apartment. The monks, in turn, thought I was much younger and were pleasantly shocked that I mentioned that I had my Bachelors in Comparative Religions. Oh, and they gave me new Tibetan prayer flags. They even smell of Tibet."
"How do you know what Tibet smells like?" I asked as, though she is far better traveled than I, she has yet to have the pleasure.
"I remember," she answered simply.
"So, are you going to become a Buddhist now?"
"No, though I probably should. It would just be so convenient." She was positively buzzing with inner peace as she stripped off her wet clothes.
"You could become a monk," I suggested.
"No, you wouldn't like that. I would have to shave my head and abstain from sex."
"Oh well, maybe in your next incarnation."

Soon in Xenology: Interviews. Brooke and Eliot. A wedding.

last watched: Lost and Delirious
reading: How to Stay Alive in the Woods
listening: Pink Pearl
wanting: answers.
moment of zen: M finding religion down the road.
someday I must: see this Buddhist temple.

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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