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07.20.04 12:06 a.m.

I feel that there is an angel inside me whom I am constantly shocking.  

-Jean Cocteau


Previously in Xenology: Xen was a writer, but you might not have noticed. Emily and Xen moved to a land of yokels.

This entry is not safe for work.

Walden Pond
Despite Walden ostensibly being a breeding ground for neckless hicks who stand outside of bars to watch traffic, there is a Walden Pond. It is a few blocks from my apartment, a fenced off faux beach nestled between rocks and a plastic playground. The water is covered in green algae, despite the best efforts of a lazily spurting fountain beyond one of the boundaries.
It is not much and I wish we had found it sooner, as the summer is half over, but it is something of a respite for us. It is a tiny corner of this bizarre town where we can sit on a imported sand and pretend we are not a town away from space alien cultists and a mile away from a man with a branchless family tree.

Trade the Cash for the Beef for the Body for the Hate
M massaging
I miss the deadline for a writing contest I was going to enter. The local paper (the one fortuitous enough to have recently promoted Stevehen to assistant manager) was soliciting 3000 word stories from local writers to be evaluated by local authors, who are distinguished from run of the mill authors by their tiny residual paychecks from rivulets of inspiration. The top prize was $500, which I very much needed given that my bank balance was actually negative for the first time in my life.
And I missed it. I failed. I had written more than the requisite number of words and needed only to edit the story down. I had read what earned the prize last year and was certain I could surpass in my sleep stories about cowboys in love with horses and inspirational tales of the first day of school. My story dealt with the beginnings of a romance spoiled by one party committing suicide and the other party realizing in the least banal fashion possible that life did go on. It was clever, if I may so boast, and realistically inspirational despite what may seem apparent. For my source material, I was relying on my reaction to Todd's death.
I had given my soul and tens of hours of nocturnal activity for this lucubration and... it wasn't enough. I ruined it be ignoring the calendar page, the mundanity of daily life.
M and Zack  
Emily and Zack sampling Nipple Nibblers
Stevehen assures me that I would not have won with my story, despite and because of my skill. The Poughkeepsie Journal, he says, was not looking for something brilliant and heartbreaking (not to say that my story would have been). They wanted something that would not tax the average sixth grader's imagination. Nothing involving the paranormal, save cherubs. Nothing involving death, unless it is the wasting sickness of a loved one that teaches the narrator the meaning of some intangible concept. Nothing that he thought I was able to give and retain any semblance of self-respect.
He is not wrong, of course. I knew in my heart that, while my story felt like the birth pangs of a novel to me, it would be eliminated in the first round for being morbid or having characters that differed from cardboard both in dimension and taste. If I were going to lose, however, I wanted to lose because I had submitted a pint of my soul and not because I was too busy writing to remember the deadline correctly.
The sting of this is ebbing even now, but I can't help that I won't wholly recover until I actually manage to win a writing contest or get published based solely on my own burgeoning abilities.

Toys in Babeland
Emily had been planning this party for at least a month, in order to hedge our bets since our friends had a well known and documented propensity toward not coming to our parties. However, this time, I knew I wouldn't be too upset not to see their faces.
Emily's friend and high priestess Christine makes money on the side selling sex toy. The business under which she works is very female positive and asks their representatives (or, in the sex toy parlance, "goddesses") to vend their wares at gatherings. It is like a Tupperware party with dildos and lubes.
M with schlongs  
Emily with Zack and my glowing penises in her mouth
Despite being fairly open-minded and honest when it comes to my sex life, I just couldn't feel any shade of comfortable imagining that Dezi or Jacki would be watching a vibrator demonstration in my living room. As such, I was silently grateful that our friends had remained true to form, by and large neglecting to inform us that they weren't coming, or even acknowledge that they had been invited. It was no puritanical impulse that led to their neglect, just the delightfully simple sin of omission. Never before had I been so quietly pleased to be ignored.
Despite the absence of any friend with whom I do not live, Christine had been promised that a crowd had been invited (which, as point of fact, it had). They had even been enticed by the offer of a free pocket vibrator if they brought three friends Emily didn't know, which is really only an offer that is useful for women. Men with a gratis vibrator on their persons either have to be gay or very strange. There is no middle ground. To make up for the lack of company, Emily sent me to New Paltz to steal Zack away from the sanctity of home.
On picking Zack up, he revealed that he is smitten. "There is this girl named Crimson who works at Starbucks," he began when he got into my car.
"Is her name really Crimson or is she a goth?"
"She is not a goth," he answered instantly.
"Are you sure? Have you seen her driver's license? Does it say 'is not a goth'?"
I smiled and patted him on the back, affectionately. "So, how are things proceeding?"
"I have spent a lot of money on coffee," he admitted, defeated. "I have not had much of a conversation with her, though."
I stuck out my bottom lip in sympathy. "Don't let goth baristas get you down, I'm taking you to play with sex toys." This is enough to cheer up any lovelorn boy.
Christine was already set up when Zack and I arrived at the apartment. Several suitcases full of assorted sex toys stretched from our living room table toward us, most prominently a penis shaped ice tray. Christine looked displeased with the lack of substantial turnout; it seemed unlikely that Zack was going to buy enough (read as: anything) that would justify her carrying her wares up the stairs.
M with dicks  
M, the Penis Walrus
Judging by the sheer volume of products, it seems a safe bet that she expected at least ten more people to be joining us. Nonetheless, Christine is a consummate sex toy professional and soldiered on bravely. At the very least, we could serve as a test audience for new sales techniques. She began her demonstration by handing out a bowl full of tiny plastic penises and breasts, telling us each to take one as our free gift for coming. Emily chose a tiny pink pair of breasts and both Zack and I opted for the clear green penises.
"It's funny," Christine noted with a broad smile as we prepared for the next exhibition in this cavalcade of cock rings and vibrating eggs. "The guys always choose the dicks."
"In my defense," I interjected, pointing the plastic penis at her to punctuate my point. "I only chose this penis because it glows. No one can resist a glowing penis... Except Emily. But she's the gay anyway."
Zack nodded at me, both amused and in agreement that glowing phalluses are good fun. You can't shake a stick at a luminescent John Thomas.
"This bends so much, I could almost..."
Christine continued to try to hawk her goods to us in almost the same way a soccer mom would Avon. That is, of course, until Richard made his appearance. Richard was Christine's pet name for a twelve inch, realistic to the touch (we will have to take her word for this) dildo. Not only did Richard wobble about like the trunk of a new born elephant, but he had a suction cup. Christine demonstrated Richard's tenacity by slapping his latex testicles against our television. He shook like a bowl full of jelly (or, as was offered, a shaft shaped Jell-o mold), but he kept his grip on the television. I could not help but feel he was winking at me.
"When you say Richard is your dildo...?" asked Zack amused.
"He is mine in name only, not in action," assured Christine as she lubed Richard up. Then she removed a pink masturbation sleeve and slid in onto Richard.
"He looks good with a turtleneck. Maybe I should wear turtlenecks more often," I told Emily playfully. Her look suggested that I should not be thinking of my clothing choices while one of her close friends was busy jerking off a dildo.
"Trust me," Christine laughed, "this is the only toy personally approved by my husband Orien. He cannot say enough good things."
"He can say things while using it?" inquired Zack, as Christine stretched the masturbation sleeve out so that a wrist could fit through to demonstrate that nothing any human male could do to it would hurt it in the least.
After this, she brought out the heavy duty vibrators, explaining that one had a motor so strong that no human force could prevent the beads from spinning. Evidently, some women climax so hard that they have a tendency to choke the vibrators motor and subsequently break them. I had not decided whether I pitied or envied the partners of these hypothetical women, however I did take Christine's caveat as a personal challenge to stop the beads with my hand. Only in hindsight did I realize I was tricked into giving an adolescent hand job to a forearm length dong with a beaver at the base.
In the end, pun sadly intended, the only sex stuff that we found awkward involved anal sex. I was later to learn from Emily that Christine had apparently assumed that Zack and I were gay lovers up to the point where we pronounced our rectums as non-sexual and impenetrable. I can only assume my attempts to kill the vibrating one-eye beast increased her certainty. This leads me to believe that Christine has a shaky awareness that I am quite content only sharing my bed with Emily in a conjugal sense. While Zack is a very sweet and charming boy, we both like people with breasts and vaginas. It's a weird kink, I know, but it was one shared with everyone in the room.
M with penises  
Just because our glowing penises are against one another, it doesn't mean we're gay.
Unfortunately, Zack and my pronounced dislike for the idea of vibrating butt plugs only led Christine to believe that Zack, Emily, and I were in a three way, polyamorous affair. Emily later tried to alleviate this notion, but I get the feeling that Christine held as fast to the idea as her dildo did to the television. As the fortune cookie reads, the thief thinks that everybody steals.
Before Christine left the apartment equally as burdened as when she arrived, Emily stopped her and said she was interested in a few items. I cocked an eyebrow at her, trying to surmise if these were pity purchases for making her come all this way or if M just needed some essentials.
Either way, as the purchase commenced and Emily's pile of purchases next to Zack grew, I started blushing. "Emily," I chided, "Zack is sitting right there!"
"I know you two have sex," he answered simply, flipping through a catalogue Christine had left behind.
"Right there!" I pointed, gesturing toward the seat on which Zack sat. He gave no outward sign of revulsion and fear, but I could only hope it was silently welling up within him. If it wasn't, I would have to attack him with Richard.
Even big men fall down if attacked with dildos.

Soon in Xenology: A job in detail. Crouching tigers. Lake George. An old friend.

last watched: Almost Famous
reading: Odd Thomas
listening: Patti Smith
wanting: To have won that contest.
moment of zen: I played with sex toys, what more do you want from me?
someday I must: win a writing contest.

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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