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11.14.05 10:13 a.m.

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.  

-Agatha Christie


Previously in Xenology: Xen proposed to Emily. Virgins annoyed us.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Zack's and Cristin's new house - yes, house and not apartment - is gorgeous, a rustic little two story affair with exposed beams and real wood floors; the sort of place wandering souls should fight with one another in spectral death matches to haunt. (Though I suppose they have already matched Death and come up wanting.) They had not been here nearly long enough to be as moved in as much as they were, as it seemed fully furnished. Perhaps they are just more industrious and eager than I had been to move into my apartment. Perhaps they have more than enough space to comfortably accommodate the two lives in two homes they once had.

Next to the bathroom in the minimalistically decorated living room lay the innards of a piano on its side, the physics of which confused me. If I tried to move this five hundred pound conversation piece onto a wood floor, a deep gouge would detail my travel. Drumsticks lay on top (side?) of the piano and guests were invited to play it, such as it was. I did not but touch the strings for fear of breaking something.

Despite my initial belief and Zack's statement that getting this house was his favorite mistake, it looks as though he is not going to lose it in the foreseeable future. The rent is significantly more than I could afford as far as I know and with good reason. As a waiter, he would have to perform sexual favors on the dishwashers to make this living arrangement feasible. However, he is working fifty hours a week as the ground crew for a construction company rebuilding churches. It involves spending much of his time cutting block of solid slate, an act that seems Herculean but only owing to my complete ignorance of masonry not involving lasers. You can do most anything with lasers.

"Well, Zack and Cristin, I have to say that your house is hideous in every way and you got ripped off. And I am not at all jealous of you," I said, poking about their full kitchen and grimacing.

"Glad to see you like it so much," Cristin said.

"Oh yes. Who on earth would want a yard? And multiple floors? They are so eighties."

I was sniffling through much of the party, which was primarily composed of the parents and immediate families of Zack and Cristin initially. Cristin's mother inquired if I was allergic to something.

"Oh no, I caught a cold off this little girl I was teaching. After yelling at her class a few times, she walked up to me and hugged my leg saying, 'you are the best teacher ever.'"

"How do you know it was her?" Zack asked.

"It had to be her, she was the only one who got through my five foot student-teacher barrier. Plus, it makes for a better story this way." Then I sniffled and popped another cold pill.

This was not the end of my interaction with Cristin's mother, though I am sure Zack wishes it had been. Later, in a conversation about her knowing Zack liked Cristin the first time he met her, I remarked, "Emily's parents thought I was gay for about six months after I started dating her. I protested, 'but I am sleeping with your daughter. How can you think that - ?'"

About this time, Cristin's mother winced and covered her ears.

Logorrhea took hold as I tried to fix things. "Oh no, I just mean me. Nothing about Zack. He could be pure as the driven snow for all I know. Which I don't. Know anything. I'm just going to drink my tea now."

Sex has always been a very open issue with my family. I recall my mother once idly explaining the proper way to go down on a girl while my friend Nick and I were eating spaghetti. I thought little of it, only laughing and mocking her when my mother used the phrase "tongue skating". Nick, on the other hand, was silently aghast, hardly touching his food.

Even if not for my familial relaxed attitude toward human sexuality, we are talking about two twenty-somethings who are cohabitating and share a bed. Not to rub anyone's face in the issue, but this almost has to result in sex if the parties involved are not related. (And, with some people, even if they are blood relatives.) I respect the religious beliefs of Cristin's parents. They did, after all, send her to the Catholic school where she met Dezi and eventually are to credit for the coupling of Zack and their daughter (in a roundabout way given a decade and a half). Still, we are spiritual beings in animal bodies.

I vacated the situation to sit next to Dan Kessler, of whom I grow increasingly fond, particularly because he walked over to me like a marionette and was not offended when I told him he moved just like a puppet. The cold medicine may have been slightly to credit on this account. Upon meeting Kate for the first time, I almost kissed her because I was so full of medication and she was just beautiful to me. Kissing her seemed almost appropriate, though I did not by some beneficent accident.

I'm afraid I bored Dan terribly telling him how proud and in love I am with Emily. I did not need medicine to be so loquacious. He bore the burden of my affection well, to his immense credit, and said he would be very happy to sit down and chat with her some day soon.

He then spoke on behalf of the Virgins and Lesbians, calling them by the appellations I gifted upon them. The Lesbians, he stated confidently, are certainly not and are perplexed that men have a tendency to assume the close and affectionate girls are in a homosexual relationship. I am good either way, though Dan and I then bandied about the term "Lugs" with no infrequency. He then explained that the two Virgins are just enthralled with everything as though it were utterly new to them. As a hypothetical example, he stated that they would see a jar of grape jam - I do not know if Dan stated it was grape, but all hypothetical jam ought to be - break upon the floor and just stare at it, reveling in the patterns it made as it soaked into the wood floor. Then he would have to explain that it was all well and good that they enjoyed knocking over the jar, but someone still had to clean that up. One of the Virgins, I believe named John, was definitely going to progress and use his wonderment for good. The other one is from Long Island and is therefore a lost cause.


The Ouija board was spouting nonsensical gibberish, as seems to be its wont in my presence. Very rarely do I have success with such mass produced divinatory tools and I really think perhaps I am the root cause. It is not so much that I lack the ability to suspend my disbelief in the divine or infernal - I believe quite a few things every day before breakfast that are utterly ridiculous - but that my subconscious mind may not want a bit of cardboard and plastic to give insight into itself. I am far more of the opinion the Ouija board grants access to a sort of collective unconscious mind, to purloin Jung's term and little of the associated dogma. Or, possibly, I get distracted and fuzzy minds are not ideal tools for the forces.

I had asked Melissa and Stevehen to bring over Melissa's board because it seemed a fun and potentially noteworthy way to spend an evening. It gave us some of the tingling uncertainty of the otherside that comes from ghost hunting with absolutely none of the driving or trespassing.

Her board, it should be noted, glowed in the dark, as all occult tools made by Parker Brothers should. I have to applaud the marketing whiz behind the creation of this version as it further brings the user back to the reality of things. Satan thinks better of speaking through glowing cardboard. He is, after all, a man of wealth and taste.
I love her so  

It soon became apparent to Melissa, Stevehen, and me that Emily - who was assigned the job of taking dictation from the other side - was the one in whom the spirits were most interested. She would ask a question and the board would respond with incomprehensible gibberish far more quickly. She was thus put in charge of asking questions and, through a series of reassignments, Emily and I ended up sitting in the middle of our living room surrounded by four tea candles and a pillar candle. The answers started actually being in a form of English that we could understand, which is not to say that the answers had very much to do with the questions. We spoke to a spirit who, as it repeatedly claimed to have been 920 years old at its time of death, I named Methuselah. His answers stated that he was somewhere sunny and felt joy. Then he proceeded to object to me, calling me Xen rather than my given name (which perplexed me not a little bit) and saying I should "dye."

"Clearly Methuselah has an issue with my hair color," I scoffed. We had spent much of our time with the board teasing spirits from the other realm about their spelling and inability to answer questions. I felt that Melissa, Emily, and I were fairly safe, as any offended demons would have to possess Stevehen. He is the most sarcastically disbelieving and horror movies lead me to believe that this makes him the ideal target.

"Look behind you!" Melissa exclaimed after having been told tat I should dye again.

I peered behind me, expecting to be laughed at for my gullibility. I wasn't scared, but it would be worse not to look and there actually to be some shrouded wraith leered over me. That's the sort of thing that makes for good entries. There was no ghoul, but the red tea candle behind me was flaring far too large, though in a self-contained way. I blew it out and tried to move the candle, but it had adhered to the carpet. My finger was slightly scorched and the carpet now had a slightly melted circle, but everything else was fine.

"Oh, that's it, I'm done," Emily said, blowing out the remained candles and throwing them in an empty mug before they could explode as well.

"That was probably nothing. A coincidence," I stated, looking for corroboration and finding, even when I got it, that it was insufficient. I was far from scared, but I couldn't dismiss the niggling suspicion that ethereal forces think my hair should be a different shade. Singed black, for example.

When Emily went to walk the dog, she insisted someone accompany her, just in case. This meant we would have effectively paired off, the harbinger of movie death. However, I went with Emily because at least I was pairing off with the person most likely to axe kick a zombie in half. The dog, I knew, would be of absolutely no help. Nonetheless, I picked my phurpa dagger off of the altar and twirled it.

"Isn't that the demon killing knife?" Melissa inquired.

"Yes, technically. I'm using it as the Blunt Instrument of Doom, though. Cover all bases." Emily and I would make a good paranormal investigating team because I have very little fear of ghosts and such, as I feel I could successfully take them on. However, if anything had mass, I would be frightened. Emily, who is a ninja, would pummel a corporeal danger into quick submission. We might be weak against a colloid, though.

The Wedding Planners

Emily and I had our first visit with our wedding planners. The two men started out merely as caterers whom Emily knew and wanted to give business. However, within a few short minutes of the beginning of our meeting, it became clear that they would be more than happy to take over the troubling little minutia of planning for which Emily had been making meticulous notes and lists.
Emily and Victor  
There won't be picnic tables at the actual event

I hate to fall into a stereotype, but I have been copasetic with letting Emily gather a folder full of articles and ads from bridal magazines. I nodded blithely when told our wedding colors were apple and off-white. These things are more important to Emily than they could be to me. When I find something about which I have a compellingly strong opinion, I won't hesitate to make it known. Up to this point, however, I have adored Emily's ideas and yield to her greater experience.

This whole marriage thing is still a bit off-putting and I cannot deny that there is a part of me that thinks very highly of flying to Vegas and getting married at the Little White Chapel. Eloping does have a very attractive ring to it and I can well imagine Emily and I doing it. It seems our style and fodder for a damned good anecdote.

As it stands, the wedding seems fairly divorced from conventionality, though only by degrees. It is going to be held outdoors in a pavilion and tent. This will allow us a fairly pastoral setting and a playground with which to distract the kids. Instead of full meals, there is going to be a variety of Oriental, Mediterranean, and Italian appetizers to choose from, along with soups and salads. I expect there to be a lot of autumn leaves. Originally, Emily and I had talked about having a wedding cake composed entirely out of cupcakes of variety flavors, but I believe we are back to having a fairly normal tiered cake. I suppose cupcakes are a bit much and would be needlessly complicated.

It seems like a very big production just to state that I am sticking by this girl for as long as our love shall last - that latter part is going to be in our vows at Emily's behest. If our love should last five years, than five years we will be together. If our love should last beyond the gates of death - which seems more likely to me - then Anubis can stick his jackal tongue out at us as we Eskimo kiss while our hearts are weighed against feathers.

Emily's friends Orien and Christine are performing the actual ceremony. I have yet to find my comfort level in this respect, but I am sure it will come soon. They are not my clergy and they are most definitely Emily's friends to the exclusion of me. However, they are also the people with whom Emily most often practices her religion. But, as I said, I will find my comfort with this, though I have yet to thus far. I certainly like them well enough.

Soon in Xenology: An excellent question.

last watched: The Maxx
reading: The Maxx
listening: The Nightmare Before Christmas

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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