Thomm Quackenbush, author

09.10.06 6:41 p.m.

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.  

-Buddha

 



Previously in Xenology: Dezi got a degree in Comic Books. Xen and company were interested in giant Buddhas. Emily felt the need to torture herself to save others.

Zombie Barbecue

Zack and Cristin called to invite us to a barbecue at Dezi's. The next order of business for them was calling Dezi to make certain he was willing to play host to whomever they could manage to invite on short notice. Were this one of our parties, Emily and I would be sitting with two people and enough food for twenty, but we lack the wiles and fundamental telephoning tenacity of Zack and Cristin.
Dezi  
Dezi

Emily and I arrive before most of the guests, giving Dezi an opportunity to show us the comic on which he is working at present. It is various panels of monochromatic paintings, much larger than they will be when reduced to glossy book form. The plot, it quickly becomes evident, involves zombies and lots of them. I am far more linguistic than I am spatial and so am glad to know that these panels will be sent to someone else for captions and bubbles. The art is great - that should go without saying given his degree in visual arts and his new job at DC Comics - yet different from what I expect. I have seen his more conventional comic work, the bulging muscles of superheroes that can seem as though artists are interchangeable, and this digression into this form of media surprises me. I forget, I suppose, that my friends can use their talents in a variety of ways and are not restricted in style.

I had days earlier spoken to him to invite him to Dan Kessler's concert. While he could not go owing to a previous engagement, he was glad I called as it gave him an opportunity to ask if I would be willing to collaborate on a comic with him. He seemed almost unsure of asking me, as though I might turn him down rather than delightedly repeating that I would be thrilled. He is the only person I have ever know who has made it in the comic industry, who can casually mention hanging out in bars with Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman. There is no way I would turn him down, especially given that he has sketches and a rough idea of the story. He just needs me to find a way for it to make sense. Even better, he says he really won't have time to work on the comic for another five months, which should be more than enough time for me to finish Delirious. I like deadlines, they give me a structure.

Everyone at the barbecue brought something, though Emily and I got away with only bringing lettuce and some packaged desserts. I love the idea of a potluck as it really underscores the concept of community, of which I am plainly an adherent. I am exactly the sort of person to rent a house with a bunch of kindred souls and live as a collective. Plus, this commune meant that Zack and Cristin took over the kitchen out of a sense of guilt for offering Dezi's home up as the party's locale, creating delicacies such as grilled veggies and steak with a ground coffee dry rub. It sounds gross, but it is absolutely not. I enjoy in the extreme having friends who are good cooks, given that Emily and I subsist on the simplest things we can make. That will be Zack's job in the commune.

In all, it was a lovely evening of catching up, complaining about jobs, hearing improbable stories of a drunken Dezi, and listening to the eighties station on TV; exactly the sort of outcome I hope for parties and rarely seem to achieve.

International Education

Emily realizes too late that she doesn't have her expected buffer day to process that she would be returning to school. She had such grand plans of staying in her pajamas and playing video games all day. Instead, she has to dress to impress despite our mountain of dirty laundry and take an early train down to NYU.

She starts breaking, tiny fissures of dashed expectations widening to visible tears, until her mother has the prescience of mind to call and try to set M's world right. The tears contract and she seems whole again and capable of facing the challenge of grad school without the benefit of her psychological day. She feels that tonight is the end of the life she knew and wants every second of freedom from the scholastic to count. The rest of the night, I comfort by holding her and watching TV, trying not to mention anything that could be construed as academic.
Emily  
Still not about the duck

This is going to be the biggest trial Emily and I have ever faced together. For the next two years - and possibly quite a few more given that International Education tends to suggest a doctorate - her life will consist of train schedules, six hundred pages of reading a week featuring phrases like "epistemological didacticism", statistics homework, and very late nights. I have to take over a larger portion of our household bills. I feel I am so little help to the life we are building together as I cannot find a job in my degree field any better paying or steadier than substituting, though I have received unofficial conformation that my job troubles are directly proportional to the level of my degree; legally, a Master's requires that I earn more as a beginning teacher than I would with a Bachelor's so it is more cost effective to hire an underqualified person. Despite all idealism, schools are run to make money by babysitting your kids, not to educate. My added ability to feel self-righteous does not begin to offset how much I will have to struggle to make ends meet.

Emily is leaping headfirst into the ocean. The debt she will certainly accrue is one thing, but she has wavering faith that she can manage this at all. She has a point, given that four days a week, she will be in the city from dawn until past dusk, her only solace that she is on an amazing campus in New York City and studying something she truly loves.

Owing to our conflicting schedules, we will largely only be allowed quality time on weekends, though I am resigned to the necessity of her needing to work on assignments during free time; the daily train ride can only provide so much opportunity. Her college and major are certain to be a bit more taxing than the busywork I pounded out for Mount Saint Mary to get my blasted Master's.

I don't know if I can process both of us working harder than we ever have before with the reward being unconsciousness next to one another and no interaction until the weekends.

I love her more now than at any other point in our relationship at least partially owing to the month we spent rediscovering one another when she returned from Israel. Cuddling up to her can make all the difference between insomnia and a night of vivid dreams, even if they are dreams she cannot share. We talk often of marriage, prodded by strangers in ice cream shops and the like. She always replies and I vehemently agree that there is no need ceremony to declare what we feel, so we can wait to have an overpriced shindig to appease propriety. I want what is best for her, which is one of the only reasons I can effortlessly take responsibility for a greater degree of our finances. I do not even have to think to know it is the right decision, no matter how intimidating it presently feels. She - and the achievement of her lofty dreams - is worth the struggle.

Unforgivable Curses

After we leave the sanctuary of the Great Buddha - and you cannot imagine how I love that such a clause is even a part of my life - Melissa derides the tourists. "What the hell is wrong with those people? First, they are talking. Didn't they see the sign that says 'Holy Silence,' because that suggests to me that I should shut the hell up. Then, they are taking pictures of the monks and people meditating. Hey, Stevehen, can we go to a Catholic church tomorrow morning and take pictures of the people praying?"
Kwan Yin  
"It's okay, I know you are dorks anyway."

Melissa was far from wrong. I was frankly shocked people were physically able let alone obliviously willing to speak in the presence of a Buddha statue bigger than my apartment building and surrounded by tens of thousands of smaller Buddhas. I am invariably struck dumb in the sanctuary, capable of communicating only through slight hand gestures and small bows to the entering, orange robed monks. Sound seems a blasphemy. While I am tourist enough to take pictures of the Buddha, they are never flash and most definitely not of worshipers. I am a bit embarrassed by association as we four entered just after the philistines.

I am not maintaining our holiness; we were probably just as crass as the tourists, but more appropriately so. As we walked to the shrine to Kwan Yin, Melissa chided Stevehen for his WarCraft addiction, though her Dark Elf Warrior Mage Ninja Panda is a level ahead of his. As we set next to the empty shrine - Kwan Yin was out for repairs - I was relating a site I had seen about Harry Potter and, pointing my fingers, yelled "Crucio!" Emily then grabbed her chest, as my torture curse had undone her bra. You can never be too careful with the Unforgivable Curses.

At least Kwan Yin wasn't there to see us acting like dorks.

Soon in Xenology: Apples.

last watched: Little Miss Sunshine
reading: Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult
listening: Fashion Nugget

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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