by: Bill Rogers
I will send him, Johnny said, I will send my brute flying, floating like a silent cage, down, past the dark, goblin waters of Skookham, zig-zagging across and hovering over that reasonable Lake Skatchkam, down to the very window where he has always found you. Your north window that does not exist on your own floor plan or even on the outside north wall of your home. In fact there is no north wall but an adjacent apartment. That window. Oh how I see you when you don't know I'm there. How would we even begin to explain how that window continues to stand there though it persists in not existing? This had to have happened through an odd mechanics, and I am about that. So I'm sending him now, I'm sending him rapidly yet sylph-like. I made him from a pair of old cherry red fenders, some glitter, sand, grease, old turkey feathers and a handful of water taken from the Skookham during moonlight. Not quite golem and no wooden witch, he simply shows me things. He's more tool than ghoul. But for now I'm sending my Mallone your way to see if he can find the window once more.
I don't know how the Mallone keeps peeking in my window but believe me, your first sight of him will take the wind out of you, even if you suppose yourself prepared. Although I've grown more used to his visits I'm still not always braced for his arrival. I've seen him many times and, for all that, I've never located the window on the outside of my house. Johnny must know something. Or maybe he's just as baffled. I live in small apartment just a pinch southwest of Lunchbox Point. This is where all the local myths of Mr. Insul begin. You haven't heard of Insul you say?! Well, one day one of the skinniest men, about seven feet tall, walked to the southwest point of Lake Saggett and pronounced the following: After years of searching for a proper mensa domini, I've decided to go into hibernation until something like one is discovered. Wake me please if ever one is found. At this he collapsed into the form of a platypus and crawled into a plastic lunchbox that he had been carrying, leaving behind his tennis shoes, some old brown pants, a white shirt and his pale blue windbreaker. This transformation was a matter of fact for some and a seed of myth for others but for those of sane mind it was a both/and proposition. And among those there are some who say that the lunchbox had even been popped into the Green Zipper, which was new at the time. The locus of his transformation eventually became known as Lunchbox Point and remains commemorated by a now weathered plaque.
If you look at the lakes themselves you can see an overlay of the surrounding townsfolk. The Skatchkam is a perfect picture of the reasonable north Saggetteers. The clear still waters are almost never violated by alien forces and maintain themselves without much intervention by the locals. However, they move very little and mete out a kind of slow grayish tone over the township. Skookham, a few miles to the north is quite another story. If there were ever a vodnik or kappa to avoid, he would surely be happily installed beneath its foggy banks somewhere in its muddy bottoms. With both Skatchkam and Skookham there is the shared deficiency of being landlocked. This isn't to discount the normal principles of healthy lakes. Still, the southern lake is mostly reasonable, that is acceptable -- should we urge, tame. And that to the north, sublime and goblinate. Lake Saggett on the other hand was the 'bay lake' and was known to have hosted sharks now and again. Once when I was swimming along the western edge of the lake, swimming backward toward Lunchbox Point, I spied one just to my left about five yards away. This had to be something between a Tiger Shark and a Great White. Only his head was cocked back in almost permanent cartoon laughter and he was wearing a complete suit and tie and appearing upright. His trousers were simply a reverse cone, a tube all the way down to his tail upon which he was walking down the stairs that ran along side the seawall on the west side of the lake. This was a businessman shark. Now there are land sharks and there are card sharks. Both are to be avoided. But if you see one of these, wearing a full suit, top hat and tie, you are encountering a powerful clown-like entity that can put the flip flop to any system. If you need a quick reversal or have a challenging query these are the guys to call. But I can't promise that they don't get nippy, so be very careful when talking to one of them.
Johnny Walker was a striking sight, strutting here and there in his glowing red and yellow striped pants. He was sort of a cross between Sam Weller and a vintage neon Howard Johnson's sign. Not quite the fella you'd suppose would be creating a wildman in his garage, or wherever he had done it. He found the old car parts at a local junk yard and mixed in the other elements and out came his Mallone. The Mallone was an odd pericope to be sure. In his final version he had none of the hardness of the fender, but in his sheer hairiness bore all the dazzle of the metallic cherry red paint. He stood about nine feet tall but he could also transform into something that looked like an upside-down laundry basket, but red and with eyes. In this form he could float net-like over the streets and houses like some forgotten but moonlit jellyfish. The Mallone could follow you home and you'd never know, but if he slapped on the wall behind your bed as you slept you would not forget it for a very, very long time. Johnny wasn't trying to provoke fear though, and the approach of the brute was unusually benevolent, almost custodial.
I had been trying to send Johnny messages for years. I used to send smoke signals across Lake Saggett or just over the Terraces, but I'd never get a response. Sometimes I might go at the wee hours to a part of town he was known to frequent, and though I'd be right next to him he wouldn't see me. I've even walked with him before and had whole conversations that he did not remember at a successive meeting. I'm not sure why he never remembers. But I recently sent a thought out to one of the sharks about it. So we'll see what comes of that.
One day Lucy Lymon was out writing on a sidewalk with an audacious piece of chalk. She was listing in outline form all the points and sub-points she could about why the myths of Mr. Insul were unreliable and why they should not be believed. I spied Johnny in the crowd, but preferred to interact with him from a distance. I sometimes wonder if I talk to him through the Mallone without knowing it. At any rate, there she was, tearing apart the platypoid mystery and there was Johnny, like a smart little Aquinas, rebutting all her points with clever questions. She just couldn't bear that such a tall tale had ever wandered the banks of Lake Saggett and that he had become a monotreme and then scurried into a lunchpail. Likewise she could not stomach the idea that he was now continually resting under an impossible bridge that would reveal the humility of all who drove upon it. Her Skatchkam sensibilities were triggered by such tomfoolery and she was going to spread her reasoning any way she could. How could he possibly be laying there, she thought, like Merlin all these years? I'm sure if Lucy ever tried to drive on the Green Zipper (which she wouldn't) her car would fall right into the drink. Johnny knew that too. I liked his tenacity by the way, as he prodded her with his various points of view. I don't know what he actually thought of Insul, but I know that he had more room for the local lore than he did for Lucy's clever little sack of unbelief.
The Green Zipper is a mathematical curiosity that exists at the southeastern side of Lake Saggett. It spans the river which connects the lake to the bay. Most of the people who live near Lake Skatchkam don't use this bridge since they doubt that their cars will hold to it and because they doubt that it also contains the resting form of Insul. All the while, people around Lake Saggett and some from around Skookham drive on it daily and trust it without a second thought. It's a modest bridge made of sturdy green origami paper. The creases are obvious and the cars have to travel almost sideways near the center of the bridge, only to flatten back out near the ends. It is said that Mr. Insul lies inside that bridge, that he is still in his platypoid guise and still waiting inside his lunchbox for someone to awaken him if the time is ever right. And it is speculated that such a bridge, containing Mr. Insul is an example in advance of the mensa for which he searched.
Oh yes, the next time I find one of those businessman sharks I'm going to ask it about Mr. Insul and the Green Zipper or maybe about the impossible window that the Mallone keeps using for his peekaboo sessions. In the meantime I'll continue my silent chuckle when the Mallone slaps on my bedroom wall and startles me and I'll keep in touch with Johnny Walker through my various oblique means.