Thomm Quackenbush, author

04.02.06 8:54 p.m.

Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful or to discover something that is true.  

-William Inge

 



Previously in Xenology: Xen was a librarian from way back.

Library Science

Life does not consist of easy choices, but it does consist of choices, even if it is nothing more than breakfast or suicide. I just received a call from the Mount Saint Mary library in Newburgh offering me a job for the next ninety days. When I interviewed with them, I felt it went well though my application apparently gave them the idea that I was very actively pursuing my degree in library science. I bluffed that I will be doing so in the fall, which might be true. It is certainly more possible than seducing a lesbian and I've done that a few times. The position is a temporary one, so I figured this was a fine exaggeration. I would certainly prefer to have a Master's in library science.

The choice that presents itself is this. In the depths of a cold medicine funk, I interviewed with a preschool for the children of migrant workers. They offered me the same amount of money an hour, as well as medical, dental, and vision insurance after ninety day. This would be a permanent job tangentially in my degree area. Despite this, I couldn't let myself do it. I don't want this to be my livelihood and couldn't imagine I would last there long enough for the benefits to matter. Besides, they felt it necessary to inform me during the interview that I was only permitted two bathroom breaks a day and had to clock out for my half hour lunch. I bristle against the very idea of such regulation. I am a big boy, I think I can manage my bladder functioning without oversight.

Perhaps there is a telling moral to the fact that I keep getting pulled back into library work. This job, where I am given unfettered access to the lavatory and a one-hour paid lunch break, is more responsibility than any library gig I've had before. I have underlings, though they insist they are more properly called "student aids," and am responsible for their getting paid. They seem so young, though they are all over 18. The MySpace pages they so consistently check affirm this.

Harlequin Ichthyosis

"Ugh, we are going to look at something exceptionally beautiful to make up for that," I groaned to Dan as he surfed away from a picture of a man's foot that had become the home of a flesh eating worm. Somehow, the night sidetracked into looking at genetic abnormalities and hideous afflictions. This was at least partly my fault. Dan had showed me a webpage about a couple of tattoo artists who, instead of wedding rings, bit the first joint off the other's ring finger.

"You are given these beautiful bodies and you destroy them in such an ugly way?" I exclaimed to a picture of their scabbed stubs.

"Only she is beautiful. He's kind of ugly," Keilaina pointed out. "Even before they did that."

"Okay, granted, but now she is missing part of her finger and for what? So she can look back in ten years after they break up - and they will break up - and always know what she mutilated herself for this loser. Emily makes me watch these terrible shows on TLC about people with improbable and horrific conditions. They have titles like 'The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off' or, last night, 'My Skin Could Kill Me.' They are not always about skin. These people make the best of flawed bodies, bodies that literally are trying to kill them, so I have no sympathy for people who destroy their perfect bodies. The girls last night had a condition called harlequin ichthyosis, which I joked to Emily should turn them into clown fish. What actually happens is that their skin grows as much in one day as your skin grows in two weeks. They need to be scoured every morning and bathed in special lotions or they will become as hard as armor and will crack. When they are born, they look like hideous, venous clown demons. If one of them suddenly had a body free of the condition, I am damned sure they wouldn't let someone bite their fingers off to be quirky."
Emily  
This is completely unlike harlequin ichthyosis

Dan could not accept my words as description enough of the condition and so had to google for pictures himself. I advise you against it, but doubt I will be heeded. From information about this condition, our stream of consciousness inquiries brought us to sites about people suffering from pica, pictures of trichobezoars, and finally OOPARTS. I welcomed this last topic of conversation and searching, as it meant I no longer would look up to see a face eaten away by syphilitic sores.

This had not been the plan for the evening. Ebullient on caffeine and pork fat from dinner with my parents, I made plans to go bowling with Melissa and Stevehen. I had hoped to include Kei and Dan, as Dan called up and referred to himself as my "sometime" friend and I needed to disabuse him of this notion, but they needed late night haircuts and to buy some groceries before they could be social butterflies.

I met Melissa and Stevehen outside of the Fishkill Bowl. I was still high on spring night air and complex strings of chemicals inherent in diet cola and was therefore singing They Might Be Giants at the top of my lungs and to the befuddlement of the flocks of teenagers. I function better when the winter ends, closer to how I feel I truly am. A breathe of cool - note I said cool and not "frigid" or "frost-inducing" - night air does more for my Zen then ten minutes of mediation. By this token, ten minutes of meditation in the cool night air does utter wonders. I turn into a unicorn with a +3 horn of virgin spearing.

Outside the bowling alley, Melissa and Stevehen leaned against her SUV and smoked, cherry red dots and smoke hidden in the yellow grey of the bowling alley night. I ran up to them excitedly because the world was mud-luscious and they were my friends and how much better could the night be?

Actually, it could have been improved. Emily could be with me this night rather than home because she had worked her body well past a natural breaking point, which resulted in her heart racing until well after dawn the next day, getting no sleep and working a full shift before working out once again. She returned home and promptly found her way into bed and unconsciousness, her natural state on weeknights.

Melissa, Stevehen, and I walked into the alley but I knew in seconds that, despite our emphatic promises, we would not be bowling this evening. The place was lousy with children loudly enjoying the lovely night indoors.

We exited into the night again, which was where I had wanted to be anyway. As he claimed the bowling alley bathroom was out of service and was therefore being used to molest young boys, Stevehen entered the SUV to make use of a now steadily filling Mountain Dew bottle. As Melissa and I bounced on the bumper and rocked the SUV, I suggested that we all go for a walk somewhere.

"No, no walking," she insisted, "That is all I did today." Melissa just started a new job doing teen outreach and it required her to find the homeless teens. Outreach is somehow less successful - though infinitely easier - if they have to find an outreach worker.

We ended up at Denny's, which stands as a sad testament to the dearth of decent social opportunities after dark in the Hudson Valley.

Around 10, Melissa and Stevehen pleaded fatigue and excused themselves from further attempts at making the night worthwhile.

My night, however, was still young. I rang up Dan and Kei and headed to their house. Unfortunately, I was supposed to have met them at the grocery store where they were still shopping.

Dan told me that I could enter their house if I wanted and wait for them away from the night. It I smoked, this would have been the time where I sat on their porch and lit a thoughtful cigarette, but I find smoking to be disgusting, so I went inside. Their apartment is a section of Keilaina's family's home that had needed refurbishing. They have done their job of making it into a home. However, in the first twenty minutes or so that I was there, I did nothing more that stare at their refrigerator door, on which was affixed magnetic poetry. I may not smoke, but I have strong addictions. I picked the words off and rearranged them, ignoring any sentence that nameless others had made. I worked well within my restrictions, creating the following poem, which I retroactively titled "Eden."

[Remember][ing] [summer] [flowers]
[I] [draw] [each] [who] [read] [into] [my] [book]
[in] [silent] [always]
[I] [name] [truth]
[I] [live] [through] [pink] [window][s]
[monsters] [leave] [song][s] [for] [us]
[whisper] [something] [that] [came] [fast]
[dark] [noon] [where] [spring] [could] [hide]
[or] [follow] [rain] [ear][ly]
[believe] [to] [answer]
[understand] [to] [know]
[bite] [the] [white] [apple]
[no] [more] [child][s] [garden]
[fall]

We never did find the beautiful picture to combat all the ugliness nature can inflict upon the human form (or we can inflict upon each other) but, stumbling home at two in the morning, that silly little poem was almost enough.

Soon in Xenology: Prejudice. The King of Narnia.

last watched: Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
reading: History of Magic and the Occult
listening: The Greatest Songs Ever Written (By Us)

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