Thomm Quackenbush, author

Quantum Entanglement | 2009 | Zombie Pin-Up

10.24.09 1:41 p.m.

It is known that there is an infinite number of worlds, but that not every one is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so if every planet in the Universe has a population of zero then the entire population of the Universe must also be zero, and any people you may actually meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.  

-Douglas Adams

 


Party with Intentions

Melanie  
I took no new pictures at this party

I did not attend this party idly. I had decided before the padded elevator doors close, even before we had to tell the intercom the password ("asparagus"), who I am here to shift from "acquaintance" to "friend". Any leisure or fun I happen to have is secondary to achieving this relational shift.

We enter and know almost no one. There is Rob, the man whose home this is and whose birthday is the occasion for festivities. He once told me that he thought me brave because I attended (and largely enjoyed in retrospect) a party at his previous home, but he was well passed drunk when he made this compliment. Aside from him, there are faces I know from tagged pictures, but about whom I know nothing else.

I mingle among the strangers, deciding that cupcakes on the stove are the best place to start. Generally, the overlap of food and drinks is where best to meet people as it gives a topic for conversation ("These cupcakes are carrot cake? Who made them?") and excuse to redirect ("Your dull job makes for truly stultifying discussion, do you happen to know if the punch is alcoholic?"). That is unless one overconsumes from nervousness and thereby becomes a topic for others.

The three who I most want to see - Tom, Ilana, and Renee - are not yet there despite Melanie's and my lateness. (We would have been on time, but she noted our potential for punctuality and semi-clothed states and offered a bipartite solution on my bed.) We mill about, finally settling on a table featuring two custard pies that would provide hilarious ammunition should the party turn south.

Someone holding Jello shots proffers them our way. I abstain, but Melanie's curiosity and anxiety give her reason enough to try. She studies the gel within for a moment before asking, "So, what is the protocol here? How do I eat this?"

Rob tears an edge for her and says to slurp it down. She bites an exposed edge and winces.

"They are made of vodka," I point out.

Swallowing the rest, she points out that she is aware. Its libertine effects rapidly take hold.

"I'm really enjoying the view," Melanie says as one of the guests crouches low in her dress to work the punching bag in Rob's bedroom. I am grateful the woman seated at the table with us misses the Sapphic implication of this statement and just mutters something about seeing the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

Rob settles next to us as we are discussing UFOs, as one is wont to do in mixed company. He says, more than a touch inebriated, "If we could only find the anti-gravity particles that the aliens are using, all our power needs would be met." We are almost positive he is joking.

New guests arrive and inquire about the content of the pies.

"I think this is a Titus Andronicus pie, made of ground up rapists to feed to their parents," I say, then realize this is also one of those things one shouldn't say in mixed company. The guest just comments that this is an obscure Shakespeare reference, but who can resist the x-rated Bard?

Renee arrives and instantly integrates into the conversations Melanie and I are having with people. She takes off her jacket and Melanie takes note of her robot tattoo.

"That’s Blort, he’s my robot," Renee says simply, but when pressed for a reason for the ink, continues, "I got him to remind myself not to be a robot, not to just follow commands."

Tom finally arrives, carting with him two large boxes on a furniture dolly, wearing a neon pink tie over a black t-shirt. As he maneuvers the boxes into a corner, he laughs that Ilana is inside and will jump out. I think it is a credit to them that we are not certain this is a joke until Ilana shows up minutes later.

I introduce Melanie to Ilana and the latter immediately say, "I recognize you from the internet." Though I don't think to ask whether she simply means the worshipful number of photos of her I upload to Facebook or if she reads this site. I will hope toward the former.

Rob opens the two boxes that Tom and Ilana wheeled in for his birthday. The first is a microwave. The second is also a microwave, the reasoning being that they didn’t know what color or size he wanted, so they got him both a black and white one, small and large, so that he could keep the one that better fit his décor and return the other for store credit.

Within moments, Evan had taken the wrapping paper and shoved it in his shirt as a makeshift cravat, proclaiming that he was Oscar Wilde.

"Either the wrapping paper goes or I do," I say instantly, to Melanie’s delight.

This proves prescient. We don't last much longer at the party, as Melanie has grander intentions for the remainder of the evening than nursing another spiked punch to ease burgeoning social anxiety (and a goodly lump of preemptive midterm anxiety). As I make one more circuit of the party, as my goodbyes derail into hearing the story of Ilana's and Tom's first kiss, Ilana asks, "How old is your girlfriend?"

"Twenty."

She smiles. "Now how old is she really?"

"Twenty," I reiterate, wondering whether it is physicality or tipsiness that draws Ilana's question. "But, to my discredit, I've been dating her since seven months after she turned eighteen. It's a long story." If Ilana does become one of my stable of closer friends, maybe I will boast my origin story to her as well. There will be time enough for that, I hope.

When I say goodbye to Renee, she says that we should hang out sometime.

"Absolutely," I promise, then share, "You are basically one of the reasons I came, and why I went to that play on Thursday. I figured, if you keep seeing me in social situation, then we would have to become the sort of friends who intentionally see one another in social situations. Thus my cunning plan is revealed."

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, Halloween, parties, Ilana, Tom.

last watched: Shall We Dansu
reading: Fates Worse Than Death
listening: Regina Spektor

Quantum Entanglement | 2009 | Zombie Pin-Up

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

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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