Thomm Quackenbush, author

10.19.05 2:20 p.m.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixd mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his heighth be taken.
 

-Shakespeare

 



Previously in Xenology: No sooner looked than they loved, no sooner loved than they sought remedy.

Rehearsal

I was overdressed for the rehearsal dinner and, standing before the altar as we ran through our parts, I quickly regretted not being dressed in t-shirts and jeans like my new companions on both sides of the wedding party. What accessories of mine that were inappropriate were covertly removed when Dan's mother questioned what the silver object around my neck was. I stammered that they were Odin's ravens and Dan confirmed that Odin was indeed from mythology. Before he finished telling his mother this, I had slid both my dragon rings off my hands and rubbed my neck to remove the necklace of religious charms, none of them of a Christian orientation. While I am sure she is a lovely and respectful woman, I'd rather not prove this to myself before her son's wedding rehearsal. (She does seem nice, as she asked to sit next to me when Dan explained that he considered Emily and me his "intellectual friends.")

The previous rehearsal dinners to which Emily and I had been invited required that we dress as through we were preparing for a prestigious job interview. Then again, those aforementioned dinners were also held at places that cost more a night than I make in a year, rather than in quaint church basements, so we shouldn't have let pattern recognition get in the way of our comfort.

The wedding ceremony was to be traditional, in that is followed the rules of television marriages and the few actual ones I have attended not thrown by Pagans.

"Why don't I get to give Dan away?" asked his mother, who was not relishing the idea that Dan would no longer be her charge.

"Only the bride is given away," Kei's mother informed her with a cat's smirk, "Dan is just leaving you." The look on Dan's mother's face made clear that this was not the information she desired to hear, whether it were true or not. Perhaps being given away if something I will avoid in my wedding.
the church  
Pretty church

Halfway through our second attempt at getting the ceremony down without stumbling - my part involved standing, putting down a white carpet on a roll, standing, and leaving with a bridesmaid on my arm - Emily came up from the basement where she had been helping the older members of the wedding set up tables and food for the actual dinner. I felt a twinge of guilt for having let Emily stay down there so long, as it meant she had heard more than she ever needed to know about arthritic limbs and rheumatism.

This rehearsal marked the first time Emily or I had spent any sort of time with Kei and Dan in at least a month. Planning and executing a wedding had been far more time and resource intensive than I realized. I hoped that, when Emily and I took the plunge, we wouldn't have to hold our breath as long as they did. I missed seeing Kei's broad smile and know many would miss hearing Emily and me banter should we disappear from sight for months.

The best part of the rehearsal for us was their pastor, Pastor Dave. He had this southern gentility straight out of Georgia mixed with urban hipness and wore it well. During the actually eating portion of the evening, Pastor Dave said the word "goddamn" to Dan's mother, earning Emily amusement and immediate respect. Religious men are supposed to avoid swearing in our estimation, so casual cursing is a rare treat. It is subversive and unexpected, a slight taboo that is it a guilty joy to see transcended. I found it easy to imagine him giving Keilaina and Dan premarital counseling after having listened to him for a few minutes. He had the wherewithal to be both sacred and realistic with them.

Dan pulled me aside when I was in the kitchen of the church (churches apparently have kitchens) and asked why I wasn't going to be playing paintball the next day with the rest of the groomsmen. The bachelor party was going to be an all day affair to make up for the omission of strippers. I demurred and fumbled, wanting to tell him it was because I was poor and a bad shot. I didn't wish to spend fifty dollars to lose in the first ten minutes. Fortunately, Dan got called away to attend one of his many groomly duties and I escaped before having to finish my answer.
Glowing Oldies  
I rock at bowling

After the dinner, we went to the bowling alley as a preamble to the next day's bachelor party. I was fine with this. I find bowling to be pretty fun, even if I suck to a painful degree at it. Or, rather, used to suck. After completely scratching the first frame entirely, I threw more than a few strikes without meaning to or knowing how. As long as I didn't pay attention to what I was doing, I was fairly skillful. Dan seemed politely surprised that I got on so well with the other men and I considered that, perhaps, my being around competitive menfolk had subconsciously forced me to be good to avoid derision. With my own mixed bag of friends, I can be sincerely awful and the mocking will only be in jest. As I tell Stevehen time and again, mocking is how we show love in this family.

After the bowling adventure was at its end, the other men didn't want to end the evening so soon and relatively soberly. While the sky drizzled down on us, we stood in the parking lot trying to make plans. The drunkest member of our cadre, the best man, kept insisting despite our arguments that it wasn't too late, that we should order hot wings. Our disagreement using logic was useless, he had drank enough that naked reason posed no problem for him.

Eventually, and despite again assurances that the Hudson Valley holds no better nocturnal entertainment than bowling and bars, we were able to corral our group into cars and drive to a nightspot that fell under the latter category.

I ended up with only Dan in my car, which I considered something of an honor given that this was the preamble to his bachelor party. Of course, as someone who doesn't care for alcohol, I was the soberest and thus the safest bet that he would not befall a debilitating car accident just in time for his wedding. I've seen enough television to not tempt fate with invitations to "very special" episodes.

On our car ride, Dan asked me what sort of music I like because, he admitted, he really doesn't know me very well, only what he has read on Xenex. I laughed nervously, because I find it awkward to talk about myself, though clearly this does not extend to written communications. I told him that I liked female folk singers most of all, and he began to expound his theory that the Hudson Valley is a far more culturally and ethnically diverse place than the area of Idaho from which Dan came. Here, people of all races and musical tastes commingled without thinking about it but, where he was from, people tended to stick with their own kind. Most of my friends are approximately my skin tone and none of them would turn off Green Day were it playing, but his point is not without merit. Philosophically, we certainly run the gamut and I want to believe that the content of their characters is why I spend my time with me and not merely how close we are on a paint chart.

The nightspot at which we arrived was a very upscale bar catering to the needs of men in artfully mussed white shirts and women in cheap looking dresses that cost a month's salary. We arrived mere minutes before the sign out front claimed they were to close which meant, at the very least, they would not be serving us groomsmen-to-be chicken wings. We sat in the plush wine sofas and plotted out next moves, which could only be a strategic retreat back from whence we came and a renunciation of following the plans of anyone with a blood alcohol content higher than .02.

Over plates of appetizers and harassing Dan about his fondness for girly drinks that taste like Hawaiian floor cleaner, one of the groomsmen said, "You can't hunt me in heaven, because Jesus will punch you in the jaw."

I laughed and said, "Yeah, Jesus is a badass, always telling the other kids 'my dad can beat up your dad.'"

While I was bowling and eating with the men, Emily was in a hotel room in Fishkill, enjoying the bachelorette party. As I have XY chromosomes, I was not privy to the story of much that happened. From what I could piece together, Keilaina was given lingerie, the other women oohed and ahhed over it, nails were done, and Dan's little sisters gave hugs to all her new sisters and all her new sisters' friends (i.e. Emily). The Idahoans are a physically affectionate people.

Party

I heard Emily talking to familiar male voices and was prepared to be kidnapped by the fellow groomsmen when I emerged from the tux store's dressing room, but this doesn't happen. Instead, in the midst of this small rental establishment, we all sit in a wide circle to have a powwow about how to best capitalize on the dismal day. Owing to the rain, more torrential than the previous day's, the paintball fight had been called off. As the plan was to simultaneously gang up to shoot Dan into bruised submission (being careful not to wound his face or genital region for the wedding and honeymoon, respectively), I was somewhat grateful. Much of the male side of wedding preparation seemed to be verbally or physically assaulting the groom-to-be before he has an additional family legally required to care about his welfare.

Emily was entirely behind my spending time with the other men helping a bachelor party to break out. I was not against the idea of a bachelor party, but the practice of it left something to be desired. Do not worry, I am not about to burst into a screed about the state of strippers in America, though I can't say I find the idea of a stripper arousing. They make me a little sad to be frank. At most, I would like a belly dancer at my own bachelor party. (You hear that, Zack?)
Kidnapping is fun  
Kidnapping is fun and easy

My issue with this party is that people keep regarding me as though male companionship were foreign to me. Emily pushed me along as through I were a surly child in need of a playdate with some boy named Skyler. I admit that my male friends tend toward the "sensitive artist to metrosexual" end of the spectrum, however, and that I would be far more likely to have introspective conversations while walking at night than to play hockey.

I sprung off the sofa in Keilaina's house when the other men burst through the throng of woman with a ball and chain, the latter of which was about to be wrapped around Dan in order to ferry him to his party. The mood at the house had been tense - too many things had been left to last minute - and I was grateful for the excuse to leave for a better party.

A few moments into driving to the hotel, I was lost, half because of the rain and half because I was the back of the caravan. Still, I soldiered on, figuring that I know the way. Forty minutes into a fifteen minute drive and I was perpendicular to the road in several feet of water that, until I was in it, seemed to be nothing more than wet pavement. I tried to slow my velocity, only to have my car turn toward the concrete supports of the bridge, stopping far too close for comfort. It was here that I decided that a bachelor party was not for me this night.

I called Emily who advised that I rejoin her at Keilaina's house, where the girls and a few unlucky spouses were scurrying to do the multitude of wedding chores that grew like hydras' heads each time one was completed. To minimize the ballooning cost of weddings, both families were working together to finish touches usually reserved for professionals.

One sister was making place settings in the kitchen when I arrived. I sat near Emily and her and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible to avoid being dragged into service. Service found me nonetheless when the boys called and said they were dining in Fishkill in a very easy location, so one of the husbands and I drove down to be a bit more social and less useful.

We Go Live!

I arrived at the church again, having not seen Emily all day. She had gone down to the reception hall that morning before I woke up to help decorate, though she first had to sop away flood waters Tropical Storm Tammy - a most unwelcome wedding guest - had left inside. Emily had been rather busy with the wedding, which she would have been in had Keilaina not had sisters exclusively. Emily took a broad view of the experience, as it helped her to see the drama and anxiety that go along with planning a wedding and how utterly crucial it is to have things done early. She assured me that we would be using professionals wherever possible just to avoid as much stress as we could, and I find it odd to think that the next wedding I will likely go to will feature me as a groom.

Emily was also glad to be put to work as it made her feel like a part of this wedding, an experience to which she was greatly looking forward. "If you got to do all of their wedding-y stuff and I had to sit home alone, do you know how much worse that would be? Trying to figure out the seating arrangements and making seed balls is a pleasure compared to that," she assured me when I asked if she was feeling overworked.

The pre-wedding stress was palpable, with all of the groomsmen avoiding the mothers for fear of being told that our vests were not tight or that our heads were not screwed on just right. We all looked quite dashing in our tuxedoes, though I felt particularly sharp given that Emily had put enough gel in my hair to harden it to a point.

I made my way up to the alcove atop the stairwell, where the other groomsmen, the pastor, and Dan were all standing. Dan seemed the picture of composure, having just finished nervously explaining his every thought to anyone who would listen. Still, arriving as I did in this moment, I thought that sage words were required. I do not know any sage words and instead called him over, saying, "Zack says that, to get married, you should have to wrestle a bear together. I think you have wrestled a couple of bears today." In this, I had specific visuals of mother bears and those unlucky and mauled few who step between them and their cubs, but he seemed to take this in a more philosophical sense and I was loath to stop him thinking me more clever and appropriate than I actually was.

The ceremony went off with few hitches, beyond the white carpet another groomsman and I unrolled getting stuck halfway down the aisle and thereafter trying to attach itself to the heels of everyone traversing the aisle like errant toilet paper. Keilaina cried her ways through her vows, joined in her tears by several of the bridesmaids and the best man. Dan smiled placidly, reveling in a happiness I think few of us manage to hold for very long.

When Emily and I finally escaped the bounds on the church after performing our respective duties, mine standing with the groomsmen for pictures and hers doing everyone the favor of transferring their bags to their cars, we made our way to West Point for the reception. I initially found it perplexing to have festivities at West Point, however the campus is much more pastoral and less militaristic than I had been led to believe. Also, I believe several of Keilaina's sisters are married to men in the armed forces so there is a degree of tradition to uphold, even if I cannot imagine Dan ever shooting a gun that didn't fire balls of paint.

The best man walked into the reception and looked emotionally drained, as though he reached and surpassed his breaking point. He reached for a beer from the cache the groomsmen had acquired to combat the idea of a dry bar and, when that one was empty, reached for another. As he had cried quite a lot, unashamed, during the ceremony, I considered this an extension of that, albeit an extreme and perplexing extension. Moments later, settling at my table with Emily, I overheard a sweet faced blonde girl - this wedding was a veritable sea on the variations of sweet faced blondes - who said he had actually gotten into a fairly serious and damaging car accident just before arriving at the doorstep of the reception hall. His emotions were drained not because he felt he was losing his best friend to the fair temptress Keilaina - legal binding or not, that happened a while ago - but because he drove into a chained off area of West Point at fifty miles an hour, running into a pole and gouging the side of the car. In our uncomfortable formal shoes, Emily and I snuck outside to inspect the damage, which was tiny pings on one side and shredded metal on the other. It looked as though a massive can opener had been applied from they front wheel well to the trunk. Luckily, this was a rental car, but he still would be responsible for the damages, which is hardly a burden anyone wants suddenly thrust upon their shoulders at such an occasion or, indeed, ever.
Kei and Dan  
Mr. and Mrs. Dan

Returning to the reception, we found Dan apart from Keilaina and without anyone pestering him for a moment. We immediately sought to change this.

"So, Dan, does being married feel any difference?" Emily asked.

I assumed that it didn't. My archetype of ideal romantic love, Leslie Parrish and Richard Bach - who divorced after twenty-five years of marriage, but we won't speak of that - were married on a whim just to make what was in their souls legally binding. To them, marriage felt no different since their souls were already conjoined and they were cohabitating together for some time. I had heard from several other couples that the transition from being together to being wed was a subtle one and few actually told me it felt different.
Kei and Dan  
Mr. and Mrs. Dan kissing

"Actually, M, it feels totally different," Dan assured, scattering my belief system and leaving me to intellectualize why this should be. "I can't really explain it, but it feels totally different now." While Dan and Kei had technically been living in the same house, I didn't get the feeling that it was really like living together. I can turn over in my sleep confident that I am going to accidentally elbow some part of Emily. There is a familiarity and comfort to that that I expect to extend into marriage. For Dan, this wedding marked the religious and social transition from the two single beds (though I believe they were actually both sleeping in larger beds than this, but we won't let that spoil our metaphor) to the one queen sized bed. In the eyes of God and the law they are completely allowed to sleep together. This is pat and minimalist for the sake of humor - certainly they are married for more reasons that the goings on in the boudoir - but it is macrocosmic. They are one entity in many ways now, though tradition seemed to indicate that Kei loses more of her individuality. He is, after all, not Mr. Keilaina and she had already been formally and delightedly announced as Mrs. Dan.

As a part of the ceremony, the two mothers had walked up to the altar to light one candle that represented their respective child and the bond they shared. After the tearful recitation of vows, Dan and Keilaina walked up, jointly lit a pillar candle with the two tapers, and extinguished the latter. They are and will continue to be one glowing light until death comes for them.

Soon in Xenology: The Haunted Mansion.

last watched: The Aristocrats
reading: The Picture of Dorian Gray
listening: Underdog Victorious

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

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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