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09.08.04 2:19 p.m.

It is work, work that one delights in, that is the surest guarantor of happiness. But even here it is a work that has to be earned by labor in one's earlier years. One should labor so hard in youth that everything one does subsequently is easy by comparison.  

-Ashley Montagu


Previously in Xenology: Xen hated the idea of student teaching. He also, and coincidentally, likes scaring children.

Dark Clouds
Mount Saint Mary had scheduled the health seminar that I had to attend on pain of death for Friday. Actually, to be wholly forthright, they had scheduled it for Wednesday, then rescheduled for Friday without informing me. I only knew because I had bothered to confirm on-line. As such, you can understand my annoyance when I arrived to discover that it had been re-rescheduled for Wednesday and I had missed it. I was far from the only one so mislead, which did not offer me much solace.
I politely confronted the education department secretary who took full giggling responsibility for the "error." Before her sat a pad full of students she had apparently screwed over, the names crossed out for those students who had not checked for confirmation and thus attended the mandatory health seminar. This, I feel, rather nicely encapsulates the Mount Saint Mary philosophy.
While put off and unfortunately conscious before nine in the morning, I sought not to waste the day and so drove to various high school board offices. Two happily gave me forms to fill out so that I may one day teach there. One nearly tossed me out of the office when I revealed that I was yet uncertified, pausing only a moment to confirm that I wasn't seeking to teach math or hard science. I suppose then, I would have been butterflies and starshine.
The final school was my ideal: the Randolph School. It is a two-story brick building set in a glen with playground equipment to either side. I had passed this building innumerable times in my life, never really noticing it. It was hiding in plain sight, as I assumed it was a preschool or some manner of home for the criminally insane. Only once the despair of another year of Mount Saint Mary education classes stuck me did I investigate them further and discovered that this institution actually thought the best way to teach children was by having them be intellectually curious and active human beings, and not by stressing their rote memory in standardized tests. What a shocking and revolutionary concept; the student as a valid human being.
The building was being refurbished, so I wandered about to a side door and walked in.
"I am looking for administration?" I asked of a woman inside.
She gave me an appraising glance which resulted in a warm smile. "I'm about the best you are going to get then. What can I do for you?"
I leaned against the bright blue wall. The room into which I was jutting seemed to be for kindergarten, but perhaps this is the color scheme of the whole school. "I would like to know what I need to do to apply for a teaching position here," I said as confidently as I could muster. It was not nearly as hard as it would have been were I not in a place that felt so much like an oversized camp common room.
"Why here?" she asked immediately, with a slight edge to her voice. I could tell I was not the first to so inquire of late and, though she seemed to approve of me based solely on the cut of my jig or hair, this question was still an ambushing necessity.
I looked her in the eyes through her blue teacher frames and grinned. "Because, from what I have seen and read, this school is actually focused on the students and their educational needs and not..." - I paused, seeing approval grow in her - "Not teaching to standardized tests."
"In that case, you need a resume." I lifted my right hand which was already gripping a freshly printed resume. I had been trying to give this sheet of paper out for hours; she was the first person to actually ask for my resume and not send me off with forms to fill out.
She looked at my resume over her glasses and murmured, "We don't have any openings right now... but we can put you on our list of substitutes."
"That would be superb," I said. I hadn't expected anything quite so dramatic and heartening when I entered. At best, I thought they would accept my resume without having me fill out forms in triplicate stating the same information that was found on my resume.
"Also... I'd really like you to come back in October, visit for a day. Really get the feel of this place when it is working. We're kind of rebuilding right now," she said, motioning to the teenagers cleaning floorboards and to the workmen on their scaffolding.
I bit back a laugh of joy. This was very, excellently good. I could and would student teach here. This idea fills me with considerably less soul sucking dread than the idea of laboring under a humorless and emotionally drained public school teacher.
I left the building fairly glowing and feeling as though I could be a teacher and a content human being concurrently. This was very nearly a first for me.


As I was on cloud eight and a half, which was conveniently quarter of mile from Kevin McCurdy's Haunted Mansion. I had been a fairly disloyal ghoulie monster, putting my personal and professional life before scaring the piss (sometimes literally) out of small children. My personal life seemed to allow for at least one day a weekend and my professional life no longer required that I toiled for the ungrateful insane on Saturdays and Sundays. Yes, I might as well pay a visit.
People did not so much as bat an eyelid at my speeding up the exit, which is to say both that there were people finishing up last minute repairs (last minute repairs start happening in early spring and don't really stop until November 1st) and that they were apathetic to my presence. When I exited my car, Kevin McCurdy himself was grinning at me from behind a rope barrier he had just created to guide the eventual crowds of customers. In one hand, he held a banana, which I took to be a remnant from his lunch. In this other, he held a skeletal hand. Despite my mental prodding, he used the former to wave at me. It was good to be back.
"Hi, Kevin!"
I just want a hug.
"Hi. Are you going to go through the Mansion this year?" Kevin McCurdy is not at all how you would imagine the ringmaster of a yearly horror event. To look at him, an awkwardly smiling forty-year-old with wire rim glasses, you might expect that he is his kids' soccer coach. You would not imagine that his use of pneumatic corpse designs are world renowned.
"Actually, Kevin, I intend to work here. Fewer commitments keeping me for terrorizing."
His round, stubbly face brightened. "Why don't I show you around then?"
Seeing the Mansion through its designer's eyes on a guided tour took the experience to a higher level for me. He was as thrilled as a kid in a candy store, albeit one that more closely resembled a morgue. Though the lights were all on and all the traps tripped, I could not help be repress a shudder at the half eaten latex corpse that would spring out at visitors. The plans were elaborate and remarkable, though I am not about to give away the secrets. I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise for those of you that will be forking over your eighteen dollars for the privilege. I am confident that the Mansion has been largely restored to its former glory, however, and I feel that the tour is just about worth the price of admission for the first time in five years.


The day was not yet over, though I had already accomplished more that I ordinarily did in a week. I supposed Mount Saint Mary screwing me over could be credited with this, but I still have a good deal of annoyance with them for waking me up. These silver linings are purely incidental.
Guitars and Heart  
Lauren and her band
The day ended in Lauren's bedroom, which is every bit as intimate and nowhere near as sexual as it sounds. After getting fattening food from the local Greek place in New Paltz, which the trim Lauren gobbled quickly - "I have a huge thing for French fries," she confided - we found our way back to her house. Her bedroom is on the topmost floor and it roughly the size of my closet. She has made the best use of what little space she has, though I can't imagine it offers her much privacy.
I wish I could have recorded our conversation with clarity, but it is all muddled in a series of holy moments. Perhaps it is enough to say that we sat three feet from one another for four hours, just talking about art and life, aside from intermittent bathroom breaks. I dare say that I was asexual infatuated with her.
I am not alone in these feelings. Zack and Lauren had evidently met up with the intention of playing music together earlier in the week. I was amused to note a pang of jealousy that I was not privy to this congress, as I really have absolutely no cause for such feelings. Both parties care for me as I them and their spending time with one another, even outside my company, only improves those feelings. Zack confided in me that, as he is single, he was developing a crush on Lauren. He said he would not, as there were so many young ladies before Lauren in his heart. He underestimated, however, the power of her musical and artistic appreciation, which is Spanish fly for Zack's tender soul.
Not to worry or anticipate, dear readers. Darling Lauren is taken and, unless I miss my mark, happily. Zack and I had met Lauren's beau Alex (short for Alexandra) a week before, but did not wish to presume beyond a friendship between them. Zack would be displeased to have this confirmed, but his heart is resilient given the consolation prize that is being called friend by Lauren.

Soon in Xenology: Sarah. More Randolph.

last watched: Almost Famous
reading: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
listening: Rasputina
wanting: to live in New Paltz to be closer to those I care for.
moment of zen: realizing that Lauren is amazing beyond my expectations.
someday I must: move out of Walden.

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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