Thomm Quackenbush, author

12.20.04 10:11 p.m.

No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness.  

-Mary Wollstonecraft

 



Previously in Xenology: Keilaina met Dan over the internet. Xen spent too much time thinking about people who have likely forgotten him.

Chrysalis

Can we punish the butterfly for the sins of the caterpillar? I am a hypocrite.

I forgive most sins done against me like they were done by another person to another person. Those betrayals, slanders, attacks, and other unsavory acts committed against me when I was a teenager seem distant. I am not who I was. I remember with some chagrin who I have been. Those who wronged me are not, I hope, the same people. I can't live my life carrying grudges against people who no longer exist, though I am not conceited enough to assume most people ascribe to my logic.

Why am I a hypocrite, you might ask. Though I forgive these immature acts, I cherish every happy moment that a former friend made my life brighter. These moments are, as far as my brain is concerned, the accurate portrayals of my former friends. If I bear them any angst, it is that the current estrangement that exists precludes a bond from currently existing.

Two things occurred which back this up, though they seem to have happened if only to prove my own hypothesis above.

While I was picking up some essentials from Wal-mart, a casually dressed girl approached me and asked if I remembered her. She said this in a familiar way that usually signaled that my teenaged tongue had poked the speaker's tonsils. After some delaying, my memory kicked in and I realized that this was the sister of Jason, one of my best friends from kindergarten to high school. When my friendship with Nick and Jen became a triumvirate, I may have neglected him (as I did a lot of people in retrospect) but never ceased to think well of him.

Incidentally, despite my indiscretions, I never made out with his sister. I wouldn't want you assuming things.

She and, after a moment, her mother asked how I was doing and were my life had taken me. I asked the same of Jason. They told me that he was living only ten miles away and worked in construction. I did not ask if he was still drawing, as this had long been his passion and craft and I couldn't stand to hear them respond in the negative.

In parting, they gave me Jason's number and I gave them mine. Several days later, I called the number. No one answered. I left a message, informing Jason who I was and how I could be reached. Jason never called back and I, perhaps a coward, have not called again. It would be better that we are deep friend who no longer talk rather than people who no longer can.

I don't really know how much of that justification is fiction.

The second event, spurred on by the first, happened as I drove away from my parents' house. Turning a corner onto a main thoroughfare, I saw the sunlit face of a girl whom I irrationally regarded fondly. The sun was forcing her to squint, but I still thought she was my type of girl. Then, before this thought could develop further, I saw that she was Jen.

Jen, for those of you just joining us, is the sweet girl to whom I gave my virginity. A month later, she had left me for my alleged best friend Nick. This is all high school drama and so long in the past that it seems like a half remembered episode of Dawson's Creek, so that isn't the important part. The crucial part, at least to me, is that Jen was one of the most important people in my life for years, though only in the kissing and groping way for seven months. It was her friendship that I missed.

I had assumed that she had long since moved on to new stomping grounds a state away, if only because I hadn't seen her patronizing or being employed by local business since classes began again.

I weighed my options and, finally feeling confidant that she would be returning to her parents' home, dialed their number. Though it had been six years since I had any reason to call her, my fingers had no trouble remembering the number.

"Jen?"

"Yeah?"

"Hi."

There was a pause before she said hi, but the greeting came and then she said, "This is out of the blue."

To my surprise and despite the fact that I opened the conversation by admitting that I was calling because I had just seen her driving, we talked for ten minutes. It was pleasant and slightly more involved that the superficiality I had anticipated. Her life was evolving in a way that seemed to make her happy.

At the end of the ten minutes, she said she had to go out again. I wished her well and hung up, no longer harboring the feeling that I need to call her again. In this faceless conversation, I learned that she is well and confirmed that I do not think ill of her. I did not offer my contact information and she certainly didn't request it. I don't know why she would have.

Maybe this is the way things progress, but I simply can't imagine I should still feel negatively about most former relationships I have had. Most of the hurts inflicted came out of a stumbling attempt at affection or self-discovery. The road of adolescence is a rocky and barren one to walk alone, despite the paving my memory can give it.

Dan

Dan, Keilaina's Idahoan boyfriend and occasional fiancÚ, made his first appearance to us. Nothing it real unless we can touch it and no one can truly be real unless fed chicken tacos and brownies.

Emily and I invited Kei and him over to our apartment for dinner. We had spent the entire day enthralled by the predictability of "Boy Meets World" (There are few variations on the plot: Cory and Topanga are in love/Cory and Topanga are broken up and, once or twice a season, Shawn has a sanitized and Disney-fied "real world" problem because he is poor). Understandably, we needed some stimulation that was slightly less formulaic. More importantly, we didn't want to have to leave the apartment to do it, because actual life is never so simple that it can be wrapped up in half an hour (or, when Topanga moved to Philadelphia, a rare full hour).

I greeted Dan and Kei at the door to our apartment building, as our doorbell has never worked. I gave Kei a quick hug and offered Dan my hand.
Dan  
Dan

"I'm more of a hug person," he said, demonstrating this without a doubt. I made my way to the apartment half a step before them, just enough to warn Emily that I had been hugged. Alas, I was too late and Dan hugged her as well.

Dan is a few inches taller than Keilaina and has an innocent, boyish face that he cannot manage to hide beneath a goatee. He is the sort of boy colleges pay to guide the parents of prospective students around the campus in order to convey how wholesome their institution can be. Next to "Boy Meets World," he is only slightly badass, somewhere on the spectrum between Cory and Shawn.

Emily was beginning the preparations for our meal and Dan looked at our seven foot book case. He muttered the interest of commonality over several of the books, including such dissimilar fare as Douglas Adams, Anne Rice, and Hunter S. Thompson. I cannot swear that Kei didn't coach him in what to say, but he did seem to have a fairly good indication nonetheless. His profile on the internet dating service where Kei and he found one another does suggest that he is more literary than most boys his age.

Over a meal and a game of Simpson's Clue, Dan unfurled a story of his journey getting to New York. Around Illinois, his car died. No, that is underestimating things. His car committed automotive seppuku, only stopping at having the engine fall out, roll away, and implode. He and his cousin were waylaid in a town that closed at nine with nothing to eat that couldn't be found in a vending machine. They stayed the night and, hearing that the mechanic would not even begin work on the car until after the weekend, bought tickets to New York. The car is still in Illinois and can only be rescued once he earns enough cash to pay for repairs and finds a free weekend to go there.

Dan is staying at Kei's house. Keilaina says that he is staying at her grandmother's, but the houses are attached by a hallway so the point is just semantics. They are cohabiting, a situation which is apparently perfectly acceptable. My parents had no trouble with Emily moving into our house (before the knee injury and subsequent surgery that necessitated her life getting radically shifted), but we are godful heathens and my mother is a permissive atheist. Keilaina's soul had a good chance of... oh, who am I kidding? We are placing friendly wagers as to how soon after the wedding Kei will get pregnant, though she insists they are behaving. The odds are not good, but the goods are very odd.

(The above is a joke. We do not think Kei will actually get pregnant. She knows how to use condoms, at least in theory. All of this can be retracted in the event that Danny Boy's seed succeeds... which it won't, because they are good kids. Their internet dating profiles say so.)

Soon in Xenology: Zack's girlfriend in the flesh. Christmas. New Years. Conor.

last watched: Dark Crystal
reading: Silent Invasion
listening: Legs to Make Us Longer
wanting: butterfly net.
moment of zen: I haven't a clue.
someday I must: Bug more old friends.

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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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

The Night's Dream Series

We Shadows by Thomm Quackenbush

Danse Macabre by Thomm Quackenbush

Artificial Gods by Thomm Quackenbush