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02.24.07 10:29 p.m.

Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself to life.  

-Adele Brookman


Previously in Xenology: Zack had bad luck with cars.

Stickshifts and Safety Belts
It was then that I carried you

Zack nixes my yen for buffet style Chinese food, instead guiding me to the Maya Café and I let him because I am not the one who suffered a concussion and severe blood loss. These latter factors provoke a strange sensation, as I retell stories to him with the caveat, "You might not remember this, but..." Stranger still is that he very nearly could have died, or killed Cristin or his dog Berty (short for Liberty, the name the pound gave her), had the car veered a few inches in either direction. I don't feel much about this hypothetical, as no one animate died. Their car will never again see a road and that understandably complicates their lives for the immediate future, but I have I hard time panicking over something that didn't happen. Likewise, one could say that a few inches in any direction and nothing would have happened but a good scare for all concerned.

He doesn't remember the accident, which is very likely one of the blessings of cranial trauma. What he knows it only because Cristin told him. It sounds as though he was pulling the car off the shoulder, overcompensated, and spun out into a tree. The car - Cristin's car and their only means of transport - is wrecked. Zack got airlifted to the hospital at a considerable cost because he was covered in blood dripping from the back of his head and, when asked his name and age, said, "Alan? Twenty... two?" Which is only nominally correct, Alan being his middle name and twenty-two an age he was a few years ago.

Cristin also reports that, as she waited in the hospital, a dowdy nurse came out and said, "He wanted me to ask you something: would you marry him?" Cristin said she definitely would. "He said it would be funnier if I did it," the nurse replied in what I can only imagine was an irritated tone, something like Nurse Ratchet after a double shift.

Zack does not remember the proposal, though he apparently kept looking up at Cristin as the doctors looked him over and saying, "We're gonna get married!" He also could not retain the fact that he had been driving the car and had to be told - and Cristin assures me this is no exaggeration - one hundred and fifty times before it sunk in and he stopped asking. He likewise has no recollection of having hung out with me the night before the accident, though Cristin gave him a thorough enough briefing that he is not lost when I tell him that I enjoyed the pizza he made me and wished he still knew what he did to make it quite so tasty. Perhaps the gods of Italian cuisine did not care for a mortal meddling with their ambrosia and sought to erase this experiment from the record. This supernatural intervention would not be without precedent; Zack's last exposure to a car involved his buying a very used one, spending almost a thousand dollars to repair its various ailments, locking his keys in it, then watching as it caught fire in the parking lot for no discernable reason and was rendered a useless heap. As he had the car less than a week, he had yet to get insurance. Clearly he vexed some automotive deity who could easily be bribed by the Vermicelli, the worm goddess of red sauce.

He is feeling like seizing the day as much as possibly, unfortunate given that he spent the week recovering at his parents' home with no way to escape, his car being little more than scrap. His carpe diem involved commiserating with his semi-drugged father as he healed from back surgery and catching up on TV, a vice he likely did not miss. This containment tempered his attitude by Friday and he was content to merely tell me that he was appreciating waking up every morning. Rather than jumping from an airplane to reaffirm how wonderfully alive he was, he read of great adventures and focused on not bursting the sloppy stitches in the back of his head.

Over lunch, he described a fantasy comic he wished to create with Dezi, one that bore more than a few flourishes that resembled Delirious. I would be flattered or amused save for the fact that there is little to no chance that Zack read page one of my novel. The resemblances are viral, mutual but independent exposure to the same source material. There are no new ideas, least between acculturated friends.

Facing what could have been his closing sentence, it is perhaps easier to deal with the accomplishment of fantasy. Who doesn't look back at what they have done and think that is simply isn't enough? It is the human condition and the reason it is said that one sees one's life flash just at they escape the pointed end of the mortal coil. He wants to play guitar more, to have more spring mornings. Zack has always seemed a trifle more aware of his surrounding and blessings than most, so I do not think that his conversation of conversion is idle.

Soon in Xenology: Lora. Randy Milholland and Jeph Jacques being Positively Questionable.

last watched: Midnight Cowboy
reading: The Physics of the Buffyverse
listening: Reprieve

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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