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05.27.05 9:03 p.m.

The more materialistic science becomes, the more angels shall I paint. Their winds are my protest in favour of the immortality of the soul.  

-Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones


Previously in Xenology: Emily's father was forgetful.


Pathetic fallacy is a literary device authors use to signify that nature is mimicking the emotional state of a protagonist. It is seen as lazy writing today. It was more common during the Romantics, Percy Shelley and his kith, though you still find television producers having their cardboard cut outs having revelatory moments in the shining sun.

It is raining and gloomy. It has been for days and, in all likelihood, will continue to be well into the weekend. I didn't get Emily's call, but instead was roused from reading a magazine in the library by my mother telling me to call Emily immediately.

Her father had been forgetting things and so had been trying to get a CAT scan. Owing to the sheer glut of people getting tests they did not need, the hospital was slow to deal with Emily's father. Getting news that I was to call Emily with all possible haste only confirmed the worst thoughts I was not allowing myself to think.

And the thoughts, in their abstract way, were right. Worst case scenario and my darling was crying to herself, though her smallness betrayed that there were not new tears.

"I'll skip work" - my second job, the second library - "and come to you."

"I don't know where I am," she said heavily, meaning sitting heavily, "but when I figure out where I'll be, I'll call. Don't do anything rash until then."

I did not think I was necessarily one for rash actions. Part of me became the Eternal Observer, just watching things that were going on and noting pertinent details. I couldn't make any sense of the words, multi-syllabic monsters like stereotactic radiosurgery. I just wanted to know that he was going to be okay, that there is such a thing as a benign brain tumor. The best I could straighten out is that there are brain tumors that are not quite as bad and that one of the cumbersome terms meant that no one would feel it necessary to cut his head open. It just seems too cozy with trepanning and that never seemed to help.

I am going about my day as normally as I can, though I want to shout at the purposely obtuse children that I feel I have a very good excuse for yelling at them at the moment. I try not to yell, for my sake more than theirs (some children respond only to loud sounds, as this is what they grew up hearing). How much of my life is dedicated to the brave face, to keeping silent when all I want to do is confide in the nearest person that I am scared and unprepared for this newest rain squall? Some galoshes would not be unwelcome. I do not wish to be allowing prepubescence to indulge their corporately mandated indoctrination time (they invariable play on the trichromatic website of some sugary advertiser). I want to be rushing food and sympathy to Emily, possibly in that order. I want to be lying to her and telling her that I am completely certain that this will work out well, that the Divine Screenwriter isn't typing her script for Lifetime.

I feel that this sort of thing should put in perspective the petty, high school drama that seems to be plaguing my personal life of late, but it just makes me sad. Not sad as in, "oh, how they are wasting their lives with misdirected strife when they could smell orchids," just sad in conjunction.

They say that into each life a little rain must fall. They, the ubiquitous and faceless they, also say that it pours when it rains. Why does it feel that Emily, dear sweet honest M, is getting soaked?

The sun won't be coming out tomorrow, according to the weatherman.


It is my lunch hour and I am sitting in the teachers' room researching lung cancer. Yes, you read that right, lung. It seems that the cancer developed in Emily's father's chest and made its way up to the brain. More tests will have to be done, of course. Emily is still strangely calm, if utterly confused. I cannot say I blame her in the least.
Emily's father

I wish I could research my way to curing him, which is a patently stupid thing to say. I cannot ever research my way to having more hope. All my hope, or Emily's for the matter, seems rooted in our ignorance. The chances of further tests showing the tumors being marzipan is very slim.

Articles tell me that the rarer forms of lung cancers seem very happy to mosey on up to the brain. "Rare" is not something I want to read. "Rare" means doctors have less experiencing in fixing it.

I was not as grossly ignorant of the disease as it must seem. However, the articles I had read in my last twenty years were just academic points. Real life shows everyone unprepared, because this is not the sort of thing that happens to people I know... as frequently.

Emily speaks in terms of months. Months for a cure or months for there to no longer be a need for a cure. I have known this man for four years and his life is now confined to a few pages in a calendar.

I'm thinking selfishly now, or thinking selfishly for Emily, which hardly feels like a different thing. Emily's father is moving into her mother's apartment in Warwick, forsaking his city apartment. Emily's house was sold from under her feet and they have offered her an extra fifteen days of occupancy. Then, as far as she is concerned, she is homeless. She is speaking about asking her Pagans to house her and her dog until I have a steady job. I do not like things to rely upon me and my employment, but they do.

If asked a week ago what I thought the next Friday would bring, I would not have imagined it would be this.

He is going to be in the hospital for days while further testing is done. Lung cancer that spreads is much more dangerous than brain cancer. Brain cancer has the good manners to stay where it is and turn men into beasts, but at least they are beasts we can help with invasive surgery and chemotherapy.

I spoke with Emily again and she says she is anticipating a life without personal pleasure for a very long time. Any optimisms she has is faked, she assures me. I did not know that she was being optimistic and am a bit concerned over how she actually feels, this being the case. I intend to rally what friends I can to take to her home (which she is now addressing as the base of operations) on Sunday or Monday and have an impromptu Memorial Day picnic.

Soon in Xenology: I do not know.

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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