Thomm Quackenbush, author

Hierarchy of Need | 2011 | No Time for Principles


When other beings, especially those who hold a grudge against you, abuse and harm you out of envy, you should not abandon them, but hold them as objects of your greatest compassion and take care of them.  

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama


Applying Restraint

This helps a lot.

I have spent the day learning and performing how to execute therapeutic holds, how to cuff children efficiently, how to repel clumsy attacks with irresistible force. This is perhaps a part of my job, though as a teacher, I would just as soon leave the regular exploitation of these skills to the omnipresent guards in my facility.

Muscles I forgot I had are sore and I realize how this job creates, from necessity, compartmentalized versions of me. The self that works in this facility needs to use muscles other than the one between his ears - and despite the appearance I cultivate, I do have functional muscles under my sweaters and jeans. He is guarded, implying he has a life outside the locked sets of doors but going no further than that. He leaves this job behind him when he walks out the door, when he gets his car keys back, when he again steps into the fresh air and realizes he has missed a snow squall in his hours of voluntary confinement for a paycheck. His overreaching thought while behind these locked doors with adjudicated minors is that he gets to go home at the end of the day. They do not, so nothing they can do short of physical violence bothers him. His best response is the outside door clicking shut at 3:30. (I do not mean to imply that - for their various offenses - I see the residents as other than boys whose needs I cannot hope to adequately meet in the half a year the court mandates they spend in this facility. Some of them would have been happy and law abiding given a different environment and I have yet to meet the boy beyond redemption.)

Then I drive the few minutes back to my messy apartment, where Amber is waiting. I vent for all of five minutes before we make preparations for dinner, chat about irrelevancies, or cuddle with a movie. What I do to give us this home has no place within its doors. I would rather keep the purity of this respite. It is returning home to her that pulls me through my days, especially those days when I am being trained in skills I hope I never have to use, even as the muscles in my back can still remember dozens of hands pushing me down and my wrists bear scrapes from the inexpert application of ten sets of handcuffs.

Soon in Xenology: Amber. Merrill.

last watched: 10th Kingdom
reading: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
listening: Christmas music

Hierarchy of Need | 2011 | No Time for Principles

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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