Lady Of The Lake

Jason Mallory
Jason Mallory

The other day I saw a businessman chasing a pretty girl in tight black jeans and a flannel shirt across the parking lot in front of my office. He yelled, “Excuse me! Hey!” at her, but she turned a corner and vanished into some trees before he could catch up to her.

She had slipped into the little wooded patch by the parking lot like a wood nymph, or a forest spirit. The last I saw of her was her shirttail disappearing, like the hand of the Lady of the Lake sinking into the water.

What do you think the Lady of the Lake did all day when she wasn’t handing out swords? She was essentially an underwater coat check girl. Just hanging out at the bottom of the lake next to a big pile of enchanted swords, waiting for knights and kings to come along so she could swim up and hand em’ over.

“Here you go, buddy. Just take the sword. Jesus.” And so on.

Do you think King Arthur took his sweet time riding his boat out to come and claim Excalibur? Must have been a pain in the ass holding that heavy sword up over the water waiting for him to paddle all the way out to the middle of the lake. If I was the Lady of the Lake, I’d have tied the sword to a mannequin arm and weighed it down with rocks at the bottom of the lake until King Arthur showed up—and then, whoosh! Up pops the sword after you remove the rocks.

You’d have to time it so the buoyancy of the mannequin arm didn’t send Excalibur’s tip right into King Arthur’s face, though. You know he’s going to be leaning over the side of boat peering down into the water, all “Where’s my magic sword?!” like a guy peering into an Apple Store on iPad launch day, and you don’t want to poke his eye out. Or you shouldn’t want to poke his eye out, would be a more accurate way of putting it.

Maybe you could yell, “Watch out!” or something before you sent the sword to the surface, or put a sign by the lake that said ALL ONCE AND FUTURE KINGS MUST WEAR PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR WHEN RETRIEVING SWORDS. Maybe next to an icon of a guy in a crown with a sword going through his head.

Does it diminish the magic of an enchanted sword to have it delivered via mannequin arm? It’s still just as magic, maybe with a little less pageantry. Does everything having to do with magic swords have to be some huge production?!

As I watched the girl disappear, I thought about how my life has been so bereft of magic lately that anything out of the ordinary leads me to think it’s a manifestation of the spirit world.

I’d seen the owner of this particular parking lot charge as much as $30 for parking when special events were being held nearby. Sometimes when I see someone in this lot who looks like they might be the owner of the lot, I imagine walking up to them and asking them how they live with themselves. Like, just coming up to them and saying, “How do you sleep at night?!”

But then I think, what if it’s just a regular employee, and now I’m a crazy person inquiring about their sleep habits? “On one of those Tempur-Pedic mattresses while my wife jumps up and down next to a wine glass, thanks for asking!” they’d reply, in the best case scenario. Not sure why I think these parking lot attendants can afford luxury high-end mattresses, or have fun-loving wives who drink wine and jump on the bed; whoever owns the lot hasn’t exactly demonstrated a generous nature, and beautiful women who like to jump on the bed and drink wine are probably going to go with the guy who owns the parking lot, and not the guy who boots the cars.

So I try to discern by their manner of dress and mannerism whether they look like they could own a parking lot, or if they just work there. So far, nobody looks like the cross between Doctor Doom and Daddy Warbucks that I envision in my mind when I think of a man who’d charge $30 for a space in a parking lot with no in/out privileges.

I wonder what it must have been like for people who weren’t part of the Knights of the Round Table to be on the periphery of magic all the time. That’s what it feels like to work at my job most of the time. Like people somewhere else are having a more exciting time than you, and every once in a while you catch a glimpse of it.

Which is why I assumed the girl in the flannel shirt was some kind of Hayao-Miyazaki-Studio-Ghibli-by-way-of-Camelot spirit creature, and not a dirty thief, which the parking lot was also riddled with. It’s common knowledge that if you leave your car in that lot after sundown, it WILL be broken into. There’s even signs up everywhere that warn you not to leave your headphones, or iPads, or spare change out on your dashboard.

I think leaving an iPad on your passenger seat is the modern day equivalent of leaving a pie cooling on a windowsill. On an apple-picking trip with my girlfriend recently, where the orchard had a barn full of cooling pies, I started thinking about how great it would be if criminals who stole pies off of windowsills had their own convention for it, like “Pie Windowsill Con” or SillCon for short. “Hey, are you going to SillCon?” one criminal in a bandit mask would say. “Yeah, I pre-ordered my badge but I can’t get a hotel room.” would say the other, in a whisper, as he gently lowered a piping hot blueberry pie into a big bag marked PIE$ (that way, you can put both stolen money and stolen pies in the bag, and it will still be marked correctly).

But then I realized that nobody steals pies off of windowsills anymore, and they haven’t for a long time, long before I saw the pie-stealing gag in cartoons I watched as a kid in the 80’s. Also, nobody leaves iPads cooling on windowsills, so SillCon is probably cancelled this year, which is a shame because I bet the hotel parties would be awesome, once you managed to get a reservation at this inexplicably-popular convention.

After watching the businessman return to the lot, I left my headphones and a bunch of change out on my dashboard, and walked in the direction of the office building with him. When he held the door for me, I waved him on. I was not yet ready to go inside, taking my sweet time like King Arthur paddling out to the middle of a lake. TC Mark

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