I would say living in a haunted house and unable to leave counts as being “up a tree”.  The adventure clues seem to point to a need to go further than ‘spending a night in a haunted house’.  It’s almost like a mystery play, with the experience akin to spending a night in the woods to prove your readiness to become an adult.

But to go beyond the transformative journey implies something else.  I’m thinking of a role as a mediator between the two worlds.  I’m feeling there’s more to it than that.  There isn’t just the shaman or the chief who tells the tribe how to live in harmony with the supernatural.  There’s the fighter who takes decisive action, and the artist who manifests joy.

And there is the idiot who doesn’t belong anywhere.  Who roams to and fro as they please.  Many times the fool is a victim, or a stranger who is not appreciated or wanted.  The dunderhead makes mistakes and messes up despite the best of intentions.

Out of nowhere, I think of Punch.  The beak-nosed, hunchbacked, slapstick fellow from Punch and Judy shows.  I start looking up this character, and it’s as if I’m discovering a part of myself that has been sitting in an attic waiting for me.

For those not in the know, Punch is a character in a puppet show that originated (as far as is known) in Italy, took root in England and became an institution, and was very popular in the states at one time.  The show goes up and down in popularity and goes through changes according to the times.

The show consists of a puppeteer who stands inside a tall, portable, makeshift stage.  The puppeteer manipulates the puppets to tell various aspects of Punch’s story while soliciting responses from the audience.  The show is performed for both kids and adults, with the tone of the show depending on the mood of the puppeteer and the audience.

The puppeteer, called a “professor”, uses a secret technique to give Punch a distinct voice.  Punch is a violent, loathsome fellow who goes about smacking the other characters of the show on the head with a big stick.  Usually to the line of “that’s the way you do it.”  The various characters can include:

  • Judy:  Punch’s wife.  Thus, the show is called “Punch and Judy”.
  • The Baby:  Punch’s infant with Judy.
  • The Policeman:  Tries to arrest Punch for his crimes.
  • The Alligator:  Tries to eat Punch.
  • Pretty Polly:  Attractive woman Punch tries to get on with.
  • The Ghost:  Tries to scare Punch.
  • The Doctor:  Tries to cure Punch of his ills.
  • The Hangman:  Tries to hang Punch for his crimes.
  • The Devil:  Tries to make Punch pay for his crimes.

The show can be quite vulgar, and it can also be goofy fun, depending on how the professor plays it.  I’ve never been one for puppets, but the whole world of Punch seems so darn interesting, it draws me in with the temptation to take it up for myself.

The slapstick (a stick that makes a slap sound when it hits someone) Punch uses to do the other characters in comes forward in my mind.  That must be the arcane stick I was seeing earlier.  There are some schools of thought that Punch is descended from a mystery play from ancient times, and that his story represents moral lessons and catharsis of an incredibly civilized kind.  So it makes sense that the Hek-mail was trying to get that across in a mystical, magical sort of way.

In a psychic sense, the slapstick must be the tool I’ll need to help the monsters.  And it might be what I need to delve into the haunted house.  Of course, it’s Mr. Punch’s slapstick and not mine, and coaxing him into letting me borrow it might prove interesting.  Well, as long as the audience gets a laugh out of it, I suppose it’s all good.

This could get real weird.