I should perhaps give some explanation of the postages headed The Funnel, Volumes One and Two. They comprise the lists of contents of the only two editions of a decisively obscure magazine entitled The Funnel, conceived and written by Dobson and edited and published by Marigold Chew.
Dobson was insanely jealous of the success of the Reader’s Digest, every single issue of which sold more copies than even his most popular pamphlets. Trudging along one morning past the pollarded willows by the canal just before the level crossing, it occurred to him that whereas his pamphlets tended, in the main, to address one subject at a time, the great attraction of the Reader’s Digest was its variety. Each copy came packed with diverting disquisitions on topics as various as John’s kidney, escapes from imperilment, Jane’s liver, Aztec antiquities, anticommunist hysteria, and astrological flummery.
“To hell with pamphlets!” shouted the pamphleteer, at a siskin perched upon a bough. The siskin is, in the words of one ornithologist, an attractive little finch, but it has no understanding of human speech, so Dobson’s words were wasted. But when he arrived home, having plodded around the edge of the eerie marsh, he repeated his imprecation to Marigold Chew.
“Gosh,” she said, adding “You could just staple four or five pamphlets together, and that would provide the variety you seek, Dobson.”
“Have you actually seen the Reader’s Digest?” shouted Dobson, “It covers far more than four or five topics. It is so packed with prose that its binding needs a spine, unlike virtually ever other magazine available at this point in the twentieth century!”
“So staple ten or a dozen pamphlets together, Dobson,” said Marigold Chew.
“No staple is big or sturdy enough for the popular magazine I envisage!” shouted Dobson, and he began pouring milk into a bowl.
Over the following weeks and months, the pamphleteer and his inamorata thrashed out the details of a publication Dobson was convinced would have the editor of the Reader’s Digest either grovelling piteously at his feet or banging his head repeatedly against the damp stone walls of an oubliette in a secure facility for lunatics. Each issue of the as yet untitled magazine would contain not ten, not a dozen, but thirteen articles, penned by Dobson but with titles provided by Marigold Chew. She would enter into a shamanistic trance-frenzy, cavorting dizzily around a bonfire in the back garden, twigs and bones and feathers entwined in her hair, and summon from eldritch tonybuzanities a set of two-word titles based on the alphabet (issue one) or the qwerty keyboard layout (issue two). Fuelled by plentiful tumblers of aerated radishwater, Dobson would write all the articles in one marathon scribbleathon, the reams and reams of dazzling prose typeset and Gestetnered by Marigold Chew, and untold millions of copies piled high in a convoy of container lorries revving their diesel motors outside the house, ready to fan out across the land to doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms and other carefully selected distribution points.
On a Thursday night in November, Marigold Chew induced a shamanistic trance-frenzy and delivered forth twenty-six titles for Dobson to crack on with. At dawn, brandishing the flayed skin of a wolf on which the titles were daubed in her own blood, she went looking for the pamphleteer, who was nowhere to be found in the house. She found him beyond the pollarded willows by the canal just before the level crossing, slumped in the muck, weeping.
“Here, Dobson,” she cried, still in a partial frenzy, “The contents of issues one and two of The Funnel are ready for you, wrenched from realms beyond sense!”
But Dobson continued to weep, clawing at the mud.
“All is hopeless, hopeless,” he whimpered, “I have just been apprised, by Sputnik or some such space age contraption, of the latest Reader’s Digest circulation figures. I must be mad to think I could ever match them. No, Marigold, I am afraid it is back to the drudgery of pamphleteering for me. Tell the convoy of container lorries to drive away. I shall weep and claw some more and then I shall come home and pour milk into a bowl.”
“Right-o, Dobson,” said Marigold Chew, brightly, “And I shall put the kettle on and pop the smokers’ poptarts into the toaster.”
And thus dawned a Friday morning in November. Far far away, in Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald woke from an uneasy sleep, got ready for work, and before leaving the house, plopped his wedding ring into a pale, translucent, blue-green china teacup with violets and a golden rim that once belonged to his wife’s grandmother.