Skip to content

12.07.05 5:05 p.m.

It is dangerous to confuse children with angels.  

-David Fyfe


Previously in Xenology: Children were le dumb.


Objectively, my life is strange. As a writer and purportedly autocentric person, this is exactly the sort of thing you'd imagine I would think. Nonetheless, I shall present my evidence.

We shall start small. I am at least in partial possession - by virtue that I feed and walk him - of a large greyhound. Well, he is a large dog. I'd assume he is a normal size for a greyhound, but it isn't the sort of thing I spend my time knowing. This dog, as anyone who meets him will testify, is terrified of my five pound cat Seltzer, who frequently and unabashedly wails on him. He reacts by running away or peeing on the carpet. Yep, urinating will sure show that tiny tabby who is boss around here. And, as I am the one that has to sop up his urine from the carpet, it plainly isn't me.
Emily the pink lesbian shark ninja  
Pink lesbian shark ninja

I date and will marry a lesbian ninja. She acknowledges quite publicly that she very much prefers girls, though she is years out of practice. We check chickies out together. I know her type: lithe, short hair tom boys. Somehow she is pleased to settle for a long hair boy child of average weight, probably because I don't exactly chastise her for finding girls attractive. I certainly like women and can see why she would. Women smell nicer than boys, on average, and breasts are simply fabulous erogenous areas. She occasionally gives me pause when she salivates over the idea of my hanging around the apartment half naked if I had a vagina, but I can otherwise report no great strangeness. But I tend to believe she is possessed of a poltergeist when stressed, so I may not be a fair judge of things.

She, like the dog, is afraid of smaller things she could destroy with one loud bark, though I find that Emily is usually better about soiling the carpet. Recently, she discovered that in the rivers of the Amazon live three foot long, pink sharks. She has claimed these diminutive aquatic predators as her totem animals. Without boasting, I am utterly confident in her martial abilities in the street. She may argue that she does not always win her sparring matches, but that is regulated. There, kicks to the head score points. In the real world, a kick to the head can and will drop an assailant.

I myself live as a scientifically minded skeptic who tries to provoke ghosts and aliens, if just to dissect them as literally as possible. I practice witchcraft in an age where becoming a cyborg is increasingly a possibility that I cannot explore without losing said pink sand shark - she has an anti-transhuman agenda. I honor a jackal-headed deity of the underworld and a vague goddess of chaos - which are separated from belonging to the same pantheon by the Mediterranean Sea - but I believe entirely in evolution and a lack of divine creator. I can justify and argue my point at length, I just won't happen to take it very seriously. I am aware of how ridiculous I am or must seem do not form my identity around such facile categorization.

I am a freak for linguistics and will argue about grammar at length and with much more passion than if abused for my religious views. I have absolutely no head for numbers and recoil when asked to tutor children as to their proper usage, relearning the rules mere seconds ahead of my charges. Yet I can and do happy uncoil from my day by coding the webpage and picking up odds and ends of new programming languages. This is far more mathematical and organized than anything else I can or will do and still I find it meditative.

The Ending Where the Unicorn Gives Me Treasure

"Do you ever feel like you are having someone else's dreams?" I asked Emily, reclining into the bed and wriggling beneath the sheets to keep myself warm until the heat kicks in. Since getting a new mattress as an early Christmas present from my mother, my dreams have grown peculiar and vivid enough to occasionally be exhausting.

"No, I feel like I am having someone else's life."

She may be. Life is tempestuous for Emily, as it has always seemed to be. She just quit her animal control job for want of health benefits which she desperately needs and which could only be obtained by begging her tae kwon do master and the owner of the adjoining gym to consider her full time. Now she opens the gym at stupid o'clock in the morning two days a week and is boss to a mob of typical teenagers on staff.
She's hot  
But I am le tired

Yet, this is not the end of her changes by far. From here on out, things are mutually contingent. If she gets into NYU - and I truly can't understand why they wouldn't want her - a whole new life will become necessary. Even if she doesn't get in, things will change. She has said that, should she not get in, she intends to spend three weeks in Scotland with an old friend she knew when she went to university in Glasgow.

Her current - by which I mean new - work arrangement is not profitable enough to justify the work she is doing and she does not feel respected enough at her tae kwon do school. Given that she is paying her master for the privilege of benefits after having created and sustained the program that is the main reason he is still in business, she is not without her point.

She is twenty-six and insists that she is having a mid-life crisis.

"I certainly hope not," I reply to this every time she says it, "I would like to have you around much longer that fifty-two." I do understand, however. She has come this far and lived this long and is no closer to finding the destiny she should pursue. I know better than to sympathize with her. I may feel that teaching is in no way emblematic of who I am or what I want to be doing with my life, but at least this has room for advancement. Many people are teachers and lead fulfilling lives. Emily has spent over a decade dedicating her life to tae kwon do and she is beginning to feel that it is not going to get her where she wants to go. She believes that she is not going to the Olympics, save as a spectator, and so that will very likely be the case.

Everything about her leads me to believe she needs to help people. It may not be fiscally profitable, but it is certainly rich for her soul. She interned at Gay Men's Health Crisis when she was in college and, from the journals of hers I have read, it seems that this was the time she felt most fulfilled and - not coincidentally - most exhausted. At New Paltz, she interned at Planned Parenthood for a semester. I can't say that is satisfying for her, but it was also less engrossing. Unlike GMHC, cast members from Rent didn't hang out around the Ulster County Planned Parenthood.

If not helping those who need her, she seems to belong on stage. She sings beautifully and it so quickly that she can improvise a whole scene within moments that is so convincing that I try to see where she has hidden her script. This also makes it impossible for me to know when she is lying, and not merely because I am utterly credulous.

Over yet another visit to the emergency room - where I invariable get dirty looks from nurses assuming that I beat my ostensibly teenage paramour - this time owing to a dislocated jaw, Emily told me that she was offered a tae kwon do school. It would not be the school at which she has trained for the entirety of her adult life and for which she has made oodles of money, but rather a total stranger who just wishes to retire. At the moment, this man is apparently just breaking even, but Emily should be more than capable of bolstering that should she take over the school. I imagine it will be a huge headache for her for a long time - though she has a far better head for business than I have, neither of us exactly have MBAs - but she can likely start turning a profit by marketing programs to tykes. There is big money in little people, and I don't mean midgets.

Though it is a burden of blessings, she does not and cannot yet know which path is her destiny. It seems that, like a "choose your own adventure" book, there may be many destinies that could suit her. She just has to find the one where the unicorn doesn't push her down the well. I always hated that ending.


One of the better parts about being a substitute teacher - and no, it is not the pittance that I am paid - is seeing larval human beings. I just sit and watch them bounce by and I can read their futures like tea leaves in their every expression and movement, every cast off pearl amongst the swine. Not all of them impress me, of course, but the potentiality in some is stunning. I am never with any one set of students long enough to make any difference and barely an impressions - I make a point of mocking those students who think they can butter me by claiming I am the best teacher they have ever had - so I can only get small slices of them.

The shame of it is in knowing that most of the students who I feel can achieve great things won't. They will get lost in the sea of high school drama, get knocked up, get distracted by the easy answer. But that one of them will supplant a WB life this is a relief. The generation to come, as utterly jacked-up as the majority of them are, still as some bright spots, larval people who will become butterflies in time.

Soon in Xenology: Jill Sobule and Cindy Lauper. Amber.

last watched: Rent
reading: Transformation
listening: Carbon Glacier

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.

eXTReMe Tracker