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Life inside the Music Box | 2015 | Night of the Kukari


I've been reading reviews of my stories for twenty-five years, and can't remember a single useful point in any of them or the slightest good advice. The only reviewer who ever made an impression on me was Skabichevsky who prophesied that I would die drunk in the bottom of a ditch.  

-Anton Chekhov

Brushing the Fifth Estate

The reporter is late. I assume this is a bad sign, that the interview had been nixed without my knowledge or he is waiting at the Red Hook Library, which I mentioned as the setting of my fair-weather writing.

Amber and I clean our apartment so as to not offend the fifth estate, idly watching a bad superhero show as we waited until a half hour after the interview was scheduled.

This is as close to journalistic legitimacy as I have yet come. Owing to a talk I am giving in a few weeks, a local newspaper asked if I would be interviewed for a feature about me. I understood that there would be no feature without the interview, so I consented despite the fact that interviews of any sort rattle me.

The reporter, Brian, end up being a nervous man with a very good camera. I dealt with this paper before in reference to my teaching the Tivoli Young Writers program-a program that shifted to being run by Veronica the librarian since the library doesn't have to pay her extra for the three to five children I attracted.

Brian introduces himself, takes a seat in my living room, and then tells me that he has no idea who I am or why his editor sent him to deal with me. I spend the next half hour detailing the events to come, the likely topics, and a bit about my books, though I'm too immersed in their world to be a good witness. He seems most interested by the fact that, in the world of my books, the Red Hook Diner is a body laundering operation run by a vampire. I tried to make clear that human customers are only fed wholesome foods, but we get sidetracked discussing the potential contents of chicken nuggets.

He takes me outside for a series of posed shots, though I almost never write in my front yard and certainly wouldn't sit under one of the stubby trees. However, I'm certain the light would be impossible in the ground floor den where I actually write, so I don't argue. I scribble gibberish in the notebook with a fountain pen, irritated that the flow is thin and spotty.

He then says the camera isn't working, so I rush into get Amber, though it turns out to be as simple as a jostled loose memory card. He admits that this is the last story he will ever file for this paper, that he would rather work part time for another paper than full time for this one. I'm not sure what provoked him to tell me this, but I'm grateful for the small human moment. When I'm aware my words and actions are being noted for posterity, I have a tendency to feel tongue-tied and artificial. This gives me the ability to connect a little, to tell him that he should go where he thinks he can be happiest, though my unstated addendum is "after you finish this last story."

After taking some more posed pictures of me and, oddly, Amber, he leaves with little more conversation.

It is unnerving to know that this is one more step on my journey. The discomfort grows in acknowledging that it could be a tiptoe or a leap depending on the artistry of someone who sees this story as the last thing he will do before seeking his happiness.

Soon in Xenology: Depression

last watched: Kung Fury
reading: Hyperspace
listening: Regina Spektor

Life inside the Music Box | 2015 | Night of the Kukari

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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