The Wooden Lake

The vast expanse of the wooden lake out past the spinney has been wilfully ignored by the writers of gazetteers of the hinterland of the spinney. Why should that be? It is as if they want it kept a secret, the vast wooden lake, stretching as far as the eye can see, with here and there along its shore clumps of aspen and larch and plane trees, clumps of lupin and hollyhock and spurge.

I lie secreted in one such clump, armed with my binoculars and a bird scarifier. My socks are damp.

The wooden lake is not a lake entirely of wood, of course. Only its surface is of wood, plank after plank after plank of planed and varnished hornbeam slotted together by master carpenters to form a vast flat expanse covering every inch of the lake which broods below. You need not ice nor skates to cross the lake, you can simply walk across it, though early in the morning when dewdrops have fallen it can be slippery, so smoothly planed and varnished are the planks.

I stamped across the lake to reach the clump I hide in, I stamped in my big black boots.

When you read the gazetteers, or look at maps, loose-leaf or in atlases, you will find not a trace of the wooden lake. Sometimes its location is simply ignored, sometimes there is a pretence that it is the site of wild woods or a donkey sanctuary or an industrial estate riddled with canneries. But here is only wood, not metal, unless one takes into account the nails used to strengthen the slotting together of planks hewn from thousands upon thousands of hornbeams.

Along with my binoculars and bird scarifier, I have a hammer, stowed in my clump, but no nails.

In the village on the other side of the spinney, the village nearest to the wooden lake, you will never hear a word spoken, in the pub or the post office or at the smithy’s forge, about the vast expanse of wood stretching as far as the eye can see on the other side of the spinney. Just as in the gazetteers you can buy in the village shop, there is a conspiracy of silence.

I am persona non grata in the village.

Under the surface of the wooden lake, the waters churn and boil. Somewhere in the vastness of the deeps there is a creature, fierce and flippered and gigantic, a blasphemous cephalopod such as no one can look upon without being frozen and blinded and driven insane. At least, that is my theory, a theory which over the years has grown into a conviction, calcified into monomania. I know I am right. That is why the lake is covered by a vast expanse of wood. That is why I was physically ejected from the village with kicks and curses. That is why I am hidden in a clump with my binoculars and my bird scarifier and my hammer.

I am not so foolish as to think that I can scare the monster with the scarifier, as it might scare a starling or a sparrow or a pipit. But I have no proof that it will not be, let us say, slightly disconcerted, long enough, at least, for me to hare across the plankage to the spot where it has burst forth, and to bash it on its giant head with my hammer.

And when I have bashed it unconscious I shall pull it from the lake, and patch up the hole it has made in the wood, and I shall drag the monster all the way across the vast expanse of the wooden lake towards the spinney, and through the spinney to the village, and I shall shove it into the duckpond on the village green, and sit upon the grass, and wait for it to wake.

And its name shall be Dagobert.

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