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Of Befriending a Comedian | 2018 | On the Anniversary of Your Death


People get so in the habit of worry that if you save them from drowning and put them on a bank to dry in the sun with hot chocolate and muffins, they wonder whether they are catching cold.  

-John Jay Chapman

Of Chocolate Marmosets

He seems wise.

I suggest the Trevor Zoo because they are having a free hot chocolate day. Even though it is likely from Swiss Miss packets, something I could buy for a matter of pennies if I did not have boxes of it in my home in preparation of sledding adventures, it is still a good excuse to spend with friends looking at caged animals. What is better than a sweet, hot beverage and marmosets?

The zoo is run by the students of the adjoining Millbrook School, along with trained vets and zoologists. Amber visited them in her educational capacity months ago, coming close to cuddling a sick red panda, a feat on most people's buckle lists.

It is a small zoo, but it feels cozy rather than spare. It is not the sort of place that would try to pass off an odd breed of domesticated dog as an exhibit.

Today is warmer than usual for late January, though not warm. I do not have to wear a coat, but I would be remiss not to put three layers of cloth between the air and my skin.

We wander through the zoo on an ambling course. The speedy and disinterested could consume this whole zoo in the matter of half an hour, though that would be vastly missing the point of the exercise.

The trees were full of vultures. They were not an exhibit.

Chris joined us for this excursion. I asked Susan, but she had to go for a job interview in Virginia, there hopefully to get a professorial position that could promise her more potential security than Bard College, a place too inclined to chew people up and spit them out. She expressed regret that she might have to leave so soon after meeting us, but I want her to have her best life, even if I no longer connects immediately with mine. Any college would be lucky to have her.

Call it a quirk of the weather or the novelty of the experience, but my spirits are high. I feel an energy that manifests as discoursing to strangers about the vocalizations of a lemur and lecturing a turkey about how it is not the most attractive beast and how it should not trust the white man. Amber offers tidbits she learned on her observation, such as that the captive raven was raised by humans. Free ravens will come to visit, only to be ignored because he doesn't understand that they are his species.

We get to the car again and Chris suggests that we go to Poughkeepsie to wait at a coffee shop for Sarah T to get out of work. My vague plan was to return to my apartment and make her meet us, but I have no reason to do this except that this is where Chris's car is.

Don't trust the white man.

Once we arrive, there is no sense in waiting. We catch Sarah just as she is heading out the door. I wonder at pressing my whole body against the glass to get her attention, but decide that this is an exuberant bridge too far.

I suggest we have sushi, since we are a block away from my current favorite sushi restaurant, which Amber helpfully points out has a nautical theme. Sarah redirects this to a restaurant she likes better. Atmospherically, I agree. However, the sushi is inferior, which might be why I am the only person to order it instead of a sizzling black iron skillet of meat and vegetables.

I still don't quite know what Sarah sees in me, though it is possible that she is just inclined to See Things in people. She is conspicuously fond of Chris, though she pointed out in a previous conversation that she didn't know she would, since she met him when she was a student and he was "so much older." I do not, as point of fact, have any idea how old Sarah is. Old enough to have graduated from Vassar and been wooed back in a professional capacity, but it does not seem to be the sort of question a man is still permitted to ask of a lady. Her age is irrelevant to our friendship.

My kinsman.

After dinner, Sarah invites us back to her apartment. She specifically invites me to look at her books that I might judge her, which shows a keen insight into what I was going to do anyway. The apartment is spacious and pleasant. I immediately go to interrogate the books to beat out of them further insight as to Sarah's character and virtues. She passes my critical muster, additionally so because, when I look at her DVDs and notice the shelf of musicals, she informs me that they are in chronological order.

"I'm not sure if I have any movies you would want to see," she says.

Among her collection, I could surely find something I like. Then I realize the implication, "I do like movies that aren't terrible. I just also like bad movies."

I select Kung Fu Hustle, which she assures me is good, vaguely citing her time in China, and which proves to be better than it has any right to be, though I know I am missing half the tropes they are lampooning.

I start to mention that one of my books deals with the magical resurgence of the Swine Flu of 1918. Sarah's eyes go bright and she expresses sudden interest as to my novels, which she had not investigated prior (because she is not the one in this relationship apt to creep on internet profiles; I am much easier to cyber stalk if one has a mind to.) She directs me to a shelf I missed, on which she has multiple books about the flu. She would have been a fantastic resource a few years prior, though I cannot assume she would be equally versed as to the particulars of the life of an occult rocket scientist, a local UFO infestation and the surrounding mythology, tulpas, or flavors of witchcraft.

Hi, Sarah!

Then it is late and time to bring Chris back to his car.

"I'm going with you," says Sarah.

"Why?" asks Chris.

"You don't want to drive back alone," she says warmly, putting the issue to rest.

In the car, driving Chris back for his car and Sarah back for her company, I end up, somehow, on the topic of sex. "I swear to you, I am not a pervert."

"I know," says Sarah, though I do not think ending up on stories of this ilk proves my point. Chris thinks that I ought to find a way to tell stories for The Moth, though I feel Risk! might be more my speed. Anyway, I would likely do a fine job telling and MCing live storytelling, as proven when I try to untangle to them my romantic history through the lens of oral sex.

Soon in Xenology: Meaning. Melissa. No Such Convention.

last watched: Penny Dreadful
reading: Annihilation
listening: Kate Nash

Of Befriending a Comedian | 2018 | On the Anniversary of Your Death

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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