Thomm Quackenbush, author

07.05.05 10:42 p.m.

How rare and wonderful is that flash of a moment when we realize we have discovered a friend.  

-William Rostler

 



Previously in Xenology: Xen and Emily, the artful Pagans, met Dives Dives.

Holy Carnival, Batman!

I managed to find my way to Dives Dives's new apartment without getting lost for longer than a few minutes. This may be a record. The place already feels like it belongs to Dives Dives, despite lacking the adjoining stream and her many plants. Much of the furniture is still in limbo with Oberi, her ex.

But it is hers. The bamboo mats she had used as a porch at Free Spirit function as curtain on her third floor windows. Her orange sofas have their place. There is an ancestor altar positioned above her stairwell, featuring a picture of Dives Dives in her previous incarnation as a fighter pilot. Her cat Mouse came up to greet me with a confusedly happy meow. Dives Dives's energy and influence was pervasive.

We went to New Paltz first, as our eventual intention was to watch Emily fight that night and the sun was still too high in the sky. New Paltz is, in general, a good pit stop on adventures, though it can lead to side quests more often than not.
Dives Dives  
Dives Dives

I found Jacki walking up to the coffee shop and darted across the busy street reciting, "I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my lids and all is born again. " Landing with a jump in front of her, I hugged her and assured, "I think I made you up inside my head."

This does not faze Jacki, who merely hugs me back. She is well aware of my Sylvia Plath fetish, having sent me some lovely pins of dear dead Sylvie. Jacki had been working at an acting camp at Vassar, despite feeling unsure about what she was doing. I cannot but imagine she would be good, as she is a college instructor to freshman and frequent dramatic fixture.

We retired to a bookstore to find Jacki appropriate books that would enable her to teach her new students. More accurately, Jacki went to find herself some books and I found books I felt Dives Dives needed to have in her life, even loudly reciting the opening lines of Lolita to her, which she gets full marks for finding arousing.

"You almost want to let Humbert Humbert have her, don't you?"

Jacki found us again as we at on the bookstore floor flipping through illustrated books, mine on the weirdest animals on Earth and Dives Dives's a collection of symbols through cultures, and we then made haste to feed Dives Dives's body as well as soul.

Once Dives Dives was fed on a bag full of rice cakes and organic tea, we found a group of hitchhikers panhandling on the street. New Paltz, being a college town, is always rife with such people, having one of the few youth hostels I have heard of existing outside of European countries. I don't generally think much of the street kids either way, imagining that they have rich enough family connections that they can afford to disappear for the summer.

Dives Dives offered them mint rice cakes, but they preferred the coins and small bills we might be carrying. We can't let the middle man starve or go sober, can we?

Dives Dives engaged a dreadlocked white boy named Stray in conversation as I appraised the rest of his growing gang. They did not look different than ordinary New Paltz students, though they were slightly dirtier than most. She asked the ringleader's name and replied in turn, "I'm Blackbird." I did not have a street name to give, but I was not asked. They were satisfied with the eighty-five cents I gave.

Blackbird is a translation of the name Dives Dives. My given name translates into "Twin."

I cannot say that I do not find the idea of their lifestyle appealing, the lack of responsibilities as such and the ability to see the country from a unique perspective. It hearkens in no small way to Jack Kerouac and the Beats, though this is not a culture I imagine as possible now. I considered Stray and his apparent girlfriend carefully, convincing myself that I had once picked them up on the Taconic and only then because they seemed like innocent hippies who had the ill fortune to have been dropped off in an area utterly hostile to pedestrians. I had left them several exits away where they were, possibly immediately picked up by the police. I do not mention this to them.

As the conversation progressed, a robust girl with one of those names I was sure her parents thought was distinct, along with the other fifty thousand parents of Kelseys and Madisons, approached and greeted us. She handed us cards and ask us about our AIDS status.

I looked myself over. Clean jeans. Fairly kempt hair. Nice shirt. Shaven. I did not think I seemed much like my nomadic compatriots, who both looked and smelled as though they hadn't had the pleasure of a shower in at least a week.

A tattooed girl joined her ebullient cohort and began to offer them junk food and asking if they had a place to stay for the night, along with various health related questions that I would be embarrassed to have to be asked. They were not, though they were surprisingly picky about what manner of food they would accept from the shelter workers.

"Do you need assistance?" I asked the smiling girl and then revised, "You do get paid, right?"

"Yes, we do."

"Ah then. So, I have a friend who is not me - I have a job or two at the moment - who is looking for a change in employ in the near future. She interned at Gay Men's Health Crisis a few years back and intends to return to college to get her Master's degree in nonprofit management. She is currently working in an animal shelter. Interested?"

Dear quasi-Kelsey was sure that her employer was always looking for such people, but she was not in the position to know much more than that. She suggested I have my friend call the number of the card and see about an interview and possibly to check my AIDS status.

Dives Dives and I bid the homeless and Jacki farewell soon after and made our way to Emily.

We arrived at Emily's school just in time to have Beauty School Drop Out tell us that she had given Emily a sizeable bruise. Emily would now have a matched set, one on each thigh. We did not have time enough to conclude whether this meant Emily beaten her, though the assumption is that Emily won. The day when BSDO beats Emily will be a dark one.

Emily happily but brusquely greeted us in her office and then dashed off to a shower. In her absence Dives Dives and I tried our lack of skill at devil sticks, managing to break nothing. Emily returned to us soon after, dressed in clothing that was concertedly sexy, which we delightedly told her, as Emily and Dives Dives were still pushing the idea of a triadic relationship.
Dives Dives and Emily  
You have no idea how much I still love this picture

Our first stop was to Emily's animal shelter to check on her dog. Quest, to Emily's astonishment, had quickly acclimated to the animal shelter, enjoying the company of cats and a domineering lapdog. He even curled up with smaller animals when he slept, quite the step for a dog genuinely afraid of his own bark.

As we were about to leave for food and intimate conversation, Emily got the call that a dog was seen several miles away. She dropped Dives Dives and I back at the shelter and dashed off to do battle with Chihuahuas, wearing a green top with which she was not able to wear a bra.

Dives Dives and I stayed at the shelter only long enough to decide that we had too much energy to remain within the bounds of barking dogs. We walked along the side of the road as traffic bore down. Still, it was lovely to walk beside her. She is marvelously enjoyable travel partner.

Emily's white car pulled up when we were halfway to town. She took us to a small venue that was crowded with hipsters. Dyed black hair and ambivalent looks graced at least twenty of the people lounging outside in white lawn chairs. Emily just whispered to the girl at the door that we only wanted their food, not the atmosphere or entertainment (a loud, appropriately angsty band), and we were let in without a second's hesitation. As we waited for our food to cook, we signed an environmental petition and copped a couple of free CDs.

We ate our dinner behind Emily's car in the parking lot of a spontaneous carnival. Emily had just intended to bring us to a field where we could get better acquainted, but bumper cars and haunted houses wait for no man.
Fricking hotness!  
Not the best shirt in which to chase dogs

It was one of those holy moments. Drawing the attention of the people who are sharing the moment shatters it. So we sat and ate delicious sandwiches and talked of the nature of love. Dives Dives rested her head on Emily and it just felt right, a scene from a book made flesh. I wanted to always have this in my life. I kissed Emily on the forehead and Dives Dives on the hand for just being with me at that precise second. Kisses rarely break holy moments.

Every breath of it had a richer quality, even the bite of balsamic vinegar from my sandwich tasted sweet. The stars were coming out of blues and blacks. We all watched as a satellite lurched across the deep velvet of the sky. Nothing needed be said.
Emily, head cocked  
I won this flower by killing a frog

We entered the fair and made several rotations before actually deciding that we needed to go on rides. My vote was for the ferris wheel, as the baskets were large enough to easily accommodate the three of us. Perhaps I was forcing the hand of poetry too much with that. I tend to.

I was overruled by a two thirds majority and we three went of the bumper cars. Life transcended. We laughed and bashed into one another, the sort of scene overdubbed with Lou Reed crooning. We silently teamed up on one person, then the dynamic reversed.

After bashing one another, we walked arm in arm in arm, sharing a large lemonade that was made just for us. Emily and Dives Dives were beautiful beyond compare to me, already attractive women enveloped in a lovely night. Enveloped in one another, as close as sisters.

As we were leaving the carnival, we stopped before a glen of trees, lit up by thousands of amorous lightning bugs. The world stopped as we held one another. Then some utter jackass blaring the hip hop "artist" of the week shone his halogen headlights at us as he parked. The moment was killed and we walked on, disappointed to have had this holiness blasted from us so callously.

It was more than worth it to have had the holiness at all, though.

My Little Stoner

"So what are we going to do tonight?" Melissa asked from the driver's seat as she lighted another cigarette.

"I will call Zack. Then you can use the chance to hang out with Zack as a hook to bring Angela with us."

"Yeah, we are way better than hanging out with Mario and Craig. What can they do for her that we can't?"

There was a pause while the possibilities presented themselves.

She took a drag off her cigarette. "Well, that. But otherwise, we are awesome."

Zack invited us to Annie's graduation party. Melissa questioned if I was actually invited given that this was the first I had heard of the party.

"Of course I am invited. I am implicitly invited to any party Dezi or Annie throw." So much so, I did not add, that is does not occur to me that I would not be invited. Similarly, they are most welcome at any party I might throw and will certainly be asked to come to the apartment warming party Emily and I are planning once we are moved into our apartment. It is the law of reciprocity of festivities.

We wandered through the toy aisle of the local Megalith-Mart, settling on a pink My Little Pony with half-closed eyelids. She was plainly high and thus would be the ideal present for any young college graduate.

The party featured Dezi, Zack, and two twin boys playing covers of a variety of songs as loudly as possible. They go to eleven. It occurred to me too late that these parties always feature this form of entertainment and I should have warned Melissa. I must strategically repress the music, otherwise the amps will slowly give me a sonic lobotomy.

I spent my time watching Cristin take pictures and dance to this music. She is not merely in love with Zack. She is enraptured in the most literal sense. Were they not together, her devotion would be at the very least the mark of a trained groupie. However, as they are very much together, it is endearing.

Annie stumbled up to me a few minutes after I settled into a lawn chair and prayed to Bacchus that he would take offense and kill the mics. This eventually happened, incidentally, but he is a fickle god and they found electricity again. Annie, her eyes a little unfocused, asked if the girl I was with was Emily. Every third person at the party asked where Emily was. As the answer was "practicing mass witchcraft with her clan in Connecticut," I simply said that she had other plans. To Annie, I pointed out that Emily was shorter and blonder and completely different. The woman she was pointing to was Melissa. This seemed satisfactory to her and she walked off to speak to another partygoer.

I rarely see this particular group of people, typically only at parties. Dezi and Annie aside, I wasn't close to them. As such, it is strange to see them leading adult lives and getting pleasantly drunk legally. They exist as slide of high school memory and have no right to be fully realized people I do not know.

Melissa and I did not last long at the party. Melissa is used to a different sort of party and, while there was alcohol available and readily indulged in, the proper dynamic was not there. We wanted to sit and talk and loud music did not accomplish this.

Soon in Xenology: The further, further adventures of Dives Dives, Emily, and Xen. The Big Buddha. Comicon.

last watched: Land of the Dead
reading: Under the Banner of Heaven
listening: Little Shop Of Horrors

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