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An Outdated New Year | 2014 | No Such Convention 2014


A search of one's life and soul will reveal the hand of God. The outpouring of his blessings come with our afflictions, not in spite of them. Afflictions be praised.  

-Elaine Cannon


Brigid's Cross

I am in the bathroom at Rhianna's, drying my eyes from editing Find What You Love and Let It Kill You, when I hear shouting for 911. I don't know if this is a joke, but deeply hope. In-jokes bloom quickly among this group and I, partly by virtue of my gender-based exclusion from full moon circles, am only in on a vicarious few. "Call 911" could well mean "Break out the vodka!"

I exit quickly in hopes I see shot glasses. People rush about, moving furniture and demanding again for help to be called. I reach into my pocket, but so have three other people who know their phones better.

"I... uh," I stammer to no one in particular. "I know CPR. Technically." Every six months, my day job goes out of the way to make certain I can resuscitate and bandage any student who might need it, though to my relief none ever has in my presence. I would not want my lungs and hands to be the only thing standing between a stranger's life and death.

Another attendee rushes into one of the back rooms and someone shouts that it is good that we have a nurse on premises tonight. I am relieved they are so levelheaded in the face of an emergency. Years ago, an anonymous breakfaster at Free Spirit Gathering was struck by a seizure. She shuddered on the floor, unresponsive, while something mentioned that she had gone off her diabetes medication during the festival. Finding a qualified medical professional was my immediate instinct, but I was aghast that several other people instead tried to psychically heal this woman to the exclusion of involving authorities outside the camp. I am copacetic with leaning on the sacred, but I need to make sure all the mundane bases are covered before we break out the crystals and incense for a good chant.

I retreat to the living room at Rhianna and Sue's and ask everyone what is going on. Most agree that someone fell, but don't know much beyond that.

Nicole, one of my assistants during a Samhain rite where I portrayed Hades, tells me to remind the people inside to remove anything that might be suspicious to the EMTs. I relay the message, but I am so inured to the quirks of Paganism that I am uncertain what in there would be ruled unusual. Swords and knives would be a given, except that there are none present. This had mostly been a party with a few rituals interspersed. Rhianna and Sue's home is a wonderful collection of baubles from their travels, some of which might be curious to a stranger, but I sincerely hope the EMTs have a better focus than gathering evidence against a party full of weirdoes. A donation bucket is slipped under the stairs. I don't know what else is hidden away, but other guests move with purpose to do whatever might be necessary to expedite this process. With gallows humor, I remark to Amber that I do not want to imagine the headlines should this man not survive until the ambulance comes. The media rarely deals well with minorities when a salacious lede is possible.

I find my way outside, to wait in the relative comfort of the early February night. People stare down the thin road, half-clogged with our cars. I do the same, occasionally asking, "So, what is actually going on?" I am aware that I am a spectator in this tragedy, whatever it might be, and I have no right to any clarity, but I am also curious as to whether there is someone in the house dying. Aside from pounding a chest to the beat of "Stayin' Alive," there isn't much I could do in an emergency, but I want to know how justified by anxiety is.

It slowly comes out that one of the late-arriving guests had a heart transplant in the recent past. While he had suffered few consequences prior to this party, he turned pale, his eyes rolled back, and fell to the floor within an hour of arriving. I was assured he was responsive now, but not well.

I gather the Brigid's crosses that had been made earlier, which were being blessed by the moonlight and the invisible steps of the goddess herself, because these woven stalks of wheat would soon be blessed by the stomping of EMTs if I don't protect them. I want to have a way to help, a way to make this easier and less painful. I can't picture the afflicted, but it is hard to miss how distraught Rhianna is as she complains that the 911 operator hesitated in sending an ambulance our way, that the operator even argued with her about the severity of the issue.

The EMTs arrive in fifteen minutes to stabilize the guest. We could have had a pizza sooner. If the man had been dying, he would have been well passed gone.

They remove the man after ten minutes more.

When we all settle back into the house, the festivities are squashed under somberness. Rhianna is rightly furious at the operator who procrastinated in summoning help. I don't know what to say, if anything, so I remain silent. Rhianna, seeing how out of sorts we all are, suggests that we should join hands and send healing energy to the afflicted man.

I understand that spirituality tends to be frowned upon in American culture, alternative spirituality much more so, but this feels right. Spirituality could do less for the man than modern medicine, but it could do plenty to soothe our jangled nerves.

After this, thing return to normality, though a muted version. We eat berries and popcorn while talking together, watched over by a sculpture of Brigid. Some smiles return, though I keep my editing in my bag. My presence is more important than finishing an anthology about love.

Soon in Xenology: Wedding planning. The perils of poverty.

last watched: The Vanishing of the Bees
reading: Thank You For Smoking
listening: Lorde

An Outdated New Year | 2014 | No Such Convention 2014

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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