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11.30.05 3:13 p.m.

"I'm like a monk with a taste for hookers."  



Previously in Xenology: Children were le dumb. Jenni and Dives Dives were awesome together.


Children are self-absorbed idiots. They almost have to be; it is an essential part of their psychosocial development. You, in all likelihood, were just as self-absorbed and idiotic as the students for whom I am a sub. Not me, though. I was an angel, who certainly wasn't surprised that my seventh grade English teacher was aware that Kurt Cobain died.

I was monitoring a class as they trod through the pages upon pages of work left for them by their regular teacher. One girl in a grinning Jack Skellington shirt protested that she wasn't going to do the work.

"That's fine. I can't force you to do it, it is entirely on you; I won't be here when you turn in nothing for your teacher to grade. However, you have to look like you are working. Write down the lyrics to A Nightmare Before Christmas."

Her eyes lit up. "I didn't know that adults knew about the movie!!"

My face dropped. "I was younger than you when it came out, of course I know about it! How old do you think I am? No, don't answer that."

This scene replays itself at least once every subbing experience. I will reference Napoleon Dynamite or know what the angry snowman on their hoodie actually represents and the student will wet themselves, almost never in the literal sense. In a particularly jarring interaction, a student was amazed I knew about Pink Floyd. I glared at him, "I wasn't even born when Pink Floyd was a band. Your parents were still too young to have listened to them. Besides, they aren't exactly an underground band." The boy understood none of what I said. He was the first person ever to have really heard the music of Pink Floyd.


"There's another hunter," Stevehen exclaims looking out of the diner window. Indeed, there is a man with a long bushy beard and radioactively orange vest limping past the window. Thus far, in the fifteen minutes we had spent in Dover, we had seen nothing but variations on the theme of proud NRA member. Some of the boys seem like what we consider normal teenagers, but we saw the camouflage and orange caps on them soon enough.

"And this is the place you want to move?" I asked, giving voice to the question that refused to be left unsaid.

"No, we can afford to live here," Melissa corrected. "If I get a second job."

I can't blame Melissa and Stevehen for wanting to leave their respective homes. No matter how friendly and hospitable one's parents are - and mark that I doubt either set of parents much cottons to the fornication going on under their roofs - living at home in one's middle twenties begins to smell of despair and basements. They are both more than ready to take this step in their lives, though there relationship is still fairly young. We can't apply a traditional template to them however, as they readily defy such pat categorization. Even affixing an exact date to when they became a couple strains memory and common morality. If they had their way, I sometimes think that they would be married before Emily and me just so they can use the song to which we intend to do our first dance.

Nevertheless, I would prefer that Dover were closer to anything of worth, though specifically me. It is all well and good for me to suggest I am going to toddle off to Colorado, but I firmly believe Boulder has more to offer than trailer colonies and brush fires, both of which exist in a surprising abundance in Dover. As point of fact, the only thing we saw that was even remotely interesting was a castle Melissa said was created by a man who did not have the money to undergo such an ambitious project. As such, it sprawls on a large tract of land, ramshackle abandonment. Even that den of ghosts and trespassing is a good fifteen minute drive to an adjoining town.

Nothing is definitely yet, though even looking at the town bespeaks a certain sincerity that they will make a home here. They could, for instance, happen upon a house closer to Melissa's and Stevehen's respective places of employ (Stevehen the Hardcore Atheist very recently began his stint at a Christian bookstore Melissa's boss owns). These things happen all the time.

Most of this pretty much happened
Jerame, Ann, Jenni, her boy, Dives Dives, and Emily  
All of these people rock the 'Stock.

Woodstock is a perfectly lovely place for people like me, but significantly less so when our wallets are as empty as mine was when we made our visit. At every turn, I would see Emily glowing over a mala that she swore was vibrating in her hands or a garnet necklace that would look perfect with her wedding dress. If I wanted to make rent, by which I mean "not spend the money Emily gave me for her half of rent," I could buy us nothing more substantial than a burrito from Taco Juan's.

Commerce, while an overwhelmingly pleasant and apparently necessary component of the Woodstock experience, was not the entirety of our goal in the town this day. Emily's friends Ann and Jerame had come to visit from New Jersey with the express purpose of visiting the town. Emily made these plans before we realized how dire our fiscal situation was this month (about as dire as it usually is) and certainly couldn't cancel them.

"Maybe I could busk for loose change," I offered.

"No, it's much too cold to busk," she replied, looking toward the bearded man playing a Beatles' tune on a cold iron bench. Woodstock - rain, shine, hail, or lava floes - always has street performers or possibly the roaming crazy. It is hard to tell the difference, particular as a sexless woman a hundred feet up was reenacting the holy movements of each religion (Emily insisted this was the case, the person in question just seemed twitchy to me, more so when an old man dressed in pink wizard garb and authentic knotted beard walked up and joined her).

Dives Dives, her cousin Jenni, and Jenni's boyfriend joined us an hour after we arrived. I had been looking forward to meeting Dives Dives's new boyfriend, of whom Emily spoke well. He is a musician and mortician with silver nails and eyeliner. I suppose if you are around make-up as an occupational hazard, some of it will rub off, so to speak. Unfortunately, he was feeling under the weather. Or so Dives Dives claims. I've never met the boy. He may well just be a story made up to confuse me and make me look foolish. It happens more than you might believe.

Watching a woman lead a pack of eight children into a store dedicated to teddy bears - a situation that has to turn out badly and with great expense to the woman - I asked, "Isn't Woodstock a lovely place?"

"Those children have very different shoes on," Emily answered.

"Certainly the sort of place for people like us."

"That boy is wearing sandals and socks. There's snow on the ground!"

"And I could work at one of the Woodstock schools, couldn't I?"

"And that little girl is in white high heels. Even I wouldn't wear those."

"And you are very talented, I'm sure we could get you a job. They'd love you here."

"I mean the other shoes seems fairly normal, don't they? But maybe only by comparison? Like pink Chuck Taylors aren't really normal, right?"

"Do you want to move to Woodstock?"

"What? Oh, yeah, I'll look into it. Might be expensive. Are their shoes normal?"

"Not in the least."

"Oh, good. I didn't think so."

Soon in Xenology: Other people's dreams. Larva.

last watched: Rent
reading: Transformation
listening: Rent

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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