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01.07.05 12:10 p.m.

Getting to know someone is not a task - it's an art.  

-Pierce LeBlanc


Previously in Xenology: Kei found love across the country. Zack found it a town away.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I saw A Series of Unfortunate Events with Zack as a pretext for meeting his girlfriend Katlyn. Zack had said so much and so little about her, respectively, that I was half-prepared to see a throbbing brain with a mop of red hair and a Dave Matthews t-shirt.

I wanted to bring Emily with me, despite the lateness of the movie, because she needs inclusion into most activities and my overwhelming approval of Katlyn would not be the final step in his being given consent to continue to date a brainy and leggy girl. Emily, however, was fostering an illness. When I arrived home to her, she was wearing her green bathrobe and sniffling. She could have had a mercury thermometer under her tongue and a hot water bottle tied to her head for all the effect a few sniffle gave her. She had been sick all day and had stayed home from work, but I held high hopes that she was grow healthy and glowing given a few hours of rest while I was toiling in the book mines.
Zack and Katlyn  
This was actually the better picture

Despite being far too sick to join in my nocturnal approval of Zack's lover, she was apparently not too sick to clean dog excrement. As we were just sitting down to dinner, the phone rang and Emily's mother informed her that the dog had befouled the carpet on the ground floor and thus she thought he might be sick and wanted Emily to take care of this. She would not look at the dogs gums. She certainly would not obtain a sample of the mess to take to the vet. She wouldn't even go near the dog. She just wanted Emily, who was too sick to do anything social, to drive home and take care of this. This meant that she wanted Emily to drive half an hour to clean dog shit. The dog, it turned out, was perfectly fine and did not need to go to the vet, something that could have easily been ascertained by telling Emily over the phone what color his gums were. (I don't pretend to understand the vagaries of doggy doctoring)

Emily returned just in time to inform me of all of this before I went to see Zack. A quick kiss and I guiltily departed.

I arrived at the theater just behind a strangely familiar girl in a gray coat. She was one of those people I have seen a thousand times before, but with whom I have never had any meaningful contact.

As I approached, Zack opened his arms for a hug. This was slightly odd, but not outside the realm of credible behavior. Embracing the girl in gray instead of me was, however.

"This is Katlyn," Zack introduced.

"I gathered. Nice to meet you finally. Though you are really familiar."

Katlyn took my extended hand and agreed that I was familiar to her as well. I wanted to flatter myself that I cut a more unusual and therefore memorable figure, but she was pretty memorable in herself.

Zack handed us both the tickets he had purchased. I leaned over to Katlyn and stage whispered, "He likes me better."

"It's true, I do," he joked.

The movie was pretty good, though I found myself uneasy at the attractiveness of Emily Browning's sixteen year old lips. In a few years, that girl is going to be gorgeous.

After the movie, I tried to snap a few photos of Katlyn. Each had all the clarity of the photos of Bigfoot or 1950's UFOs, leading me to suspect that she is not of this world. Or, more likely, it could be as I warned her, that I take terrible photos. If a person turns out even remotely attractive, they must be transcendently beautiful.

As the night was still relatively young, the rest of our party (aside from Dezi's friend Cristin, with whom I would like to speak more - or any - in the future, who needed to return home) went to the nearest diner to talk.

I sat and ordered a glass of water, which was promptly slid my way. Then I was given a complimentary glass of water. Apparently, water comes with an order of water.

In the course of talking, Katlyn asked Zack if he had seen the movie I Am Sam.

Dezi and I both, independently, started stifling laughter. Katlyn, understandably, thought we were laughing at her. Zack, of course, happily insisted that we were. Dezi sought to clarify that we were laughing at an episode of Drawn Together, but only got so far as explaining the premise before the laughter was too much for him and he gave up. I concluded that, in the episode, there is a retarded, but hot, girl named Bleh who can only speak in movie reviews for I Am Sam.

"Bleh's kind of like you, red haired and hot... and cross-eyed and retarded," I stated. Thereby, a running joke was born. No ringing bells are needed for jokes to get their running legs. Mocking is how we show love in this family.

Katlyn took this extremely well, which speaks volumes about what a good match Zack and she are. Katlyn, as has been said before, is an English major and intends upon becoming an English teacher. She narrowly avoided going to Mount Saint Mary with me, so she isn't really cognitively impaired. Even though she does like Dave Matthews Band.

No Year's Eve

It was to be an occasion beyond reckoning. The perfect combination of raw fish wrapped in seaweedy rice and pajamas, presided over by everyone in my address book. It was to be... New Year's Eve.

Except everyone cancelled, and I do mean everyone. Excuses ranged from the entirely reasonable to the ridiculous, but the end result was the same. A party composed of only Emily and me.

All of this put me in a foul mood, which I tried with little success not to take out on Emily.

We ended up going to a party with some of Emily's clan. I recognized some of them from the Yule party and other such gatherings, but I couldn't say that I had any sort of attachment to them. At least it was some sort of party.

M and I ended up back at her parents' house a few hours before midnight with Chinese food and pajamas. It was not what I had planned, but it was still quite pleasant, despite the lack of Dick Clark. Even he had an excuse not to come.

I read bowling pins like tea leaves

"I suck at bowling," I insisted as I slid around the lanes. Though I spent a good year of my childhood in this very bowling alley on a team with a boy named Nevada (if you are a boy named after a state, you can innately bowl), I had lost all ability to make the ball connect. I tried naming the ball and then threatening it, but Purple Thunder refused to condescend to my requests.

"You don't suck any more than we do," insisted Kei. "Okay, maybe you suck a little more." Dan smiled sheepishly in agreement.
Kei and Dan  
Every pin I knock down is a boy who'll break my heart

This was true; I was a good turn behind everyone else, pin-wise. M and I wanted to get together and see Kei and Dan again and bowling was the most novel solution that we could come up with. I do not think any of us had set foot in a bowling alley in years, and our scores attested to this. I distinctly remember there being cigarettes and beer when last I was here, both items being largely verboten for five years.

Before they arrived, Emily fed a dollar's worth of quarters into an antique Ms. Pacman machine that rested next to an equally ancient vending machine that theoretically could dish out food from the eighties.

Eventually, nearing the last frame, I figured out how to bowl again. I wholly credit this to the ugly bowling shoes.

After finishing the game (I think Dan won, but I am not sure; I just know that I lost), we ended up at a Border's where we all ended up looking at entirely separate items. This tends to be what happens at stores specializing in disparate media, but it is an irrational amount of fun to scan a CD into the machine and sit of the store's floor reading about mice of death.
And I always bowl a perfect game.

While I did this, Emily walked over to me and motioned for me to take the headphones off. She had been reading a book on cats a dozen feet away, trying to find ones that looked like our cat.

"I am so hungry," she groaned.

"Yes, but you are juice fasting. So no real food for you." Emily had been trying to drop weight to stay be in a specific weight class when she competed at the World Games in Mexico in a few weeks and, after the usefulness of healthy dieting was exhausted, she had found her way to juice fasting. She and the bottle of juice feel that this is effective, but I have my doubts.

"Can I tell you a secret?"


"The weight classes are based upon height, not weight. I was only juice fasting so I could look good in my bathing suit."

"Then you need Italian food." There is no need to starve on juice when there is Italian food on the horizon.

Over a tomato sauce covered meal, Dan regaled us with stories of his native land of Idaho. Idaho seems like a far more pleasant place once I have Italian food. It's a panacea.

Soon in Xenology: Conor. Student teaching. A goth fishwife.

last watched: Coupling
reading: In a Sunburned Country
listening: Tonight and the Rest of My Life
wanting: To get paid to work harder than I ever have before.
moment of zen: getting a spare.
someday I must: get that bastard bowling clerk to put up the bumpers.

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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