THE SKUNK RIVER MERMAID(Standing on one side of the stage is Abigail, an elderly woman played by Todd with white hair and dress. There are three germans in odd clothes seated in the front row stage right. Above the hole in the wall is affixed a mounted Merwoman with stringy hair, her mouth and eyes sewn shut. A cook, stands with arms folded looking out the window at her "customers" and smoking a cigarette.)
Abigail: I remember just about a year ago today, I stopped in the town of Seventy-six Center for breakfast at the Coal Bin Cafe, and I overheard the most remarkable conversation.
(Lights up on the side of the stage, or maybe the front row, where a group of strange looking Germans are sitting. They speak in urgent tones.)
Kraut #1: Ja, bin ich es... die Tochter von Sarganatanas sicher. Imprisoned in dieser Höllenbohrung!
Kraut #2: Wir müssen sie freigeben, zurückbringen sie zum Fluß.
Kraut #3: Aber wie? Wir zeichnen bereits zu viel Aufmerksamkeit."
All Krauts: "Nannjhizzeedha führt uns."
(At this last there was mad gesticulation and much slurping of coffee. Lights return to Abigail)
Abigail: I copied what I could make out into the little notebook which I always carry. My knowledge of German is very limited, but as near as I can translate it, their conversation ran:
(In bad accents all)
Kraut #1: I am safe it...the daughter of Sarganatanas. Imprisoned in this hell drilling!"
Kraut #2: "We must release them, return them to the river "
Kraut #3: "However how? We draw already too much attention."
All Krauts: "Nannjhizzeedha lead us!"
(All the Krauts repeat the gestures from the previous section, and then look at the merwoman and back to their coffee several times in a very suspicious manner. Abigail follows their glances. They get up to leave and Abigail approaches the counter, pointing to the mermaid)
Abigail: What a terrible sight to see after just finishing a plate of runny eggs! Does that thing really bring customers? I would think it would drive them away."
Cook: Oh, no. She's kind of famous around here. Some folks said Herman ought to have buried her when she died, but Myra would have preferred it this way.
Abigail: Who are Herman and Myra?
Cook: Herman is the guy who owns this place, and that’s Myra, up there on the wall. Herman’s wife. I was at the wedding. If you don't believe it, I can show you the pictures. Herman keeps the wedding album in the office in the back.
(The cook disappears, Abigail turns to the audience. Lights dim on the stage as the three Germans creep in and steal the mermaid in the darkness behind her.)
Abigail: I didn’t believe it anymore than you do, but she took me to the back room and I saw the photographs, and to my horror the bride was indeed that fishy creation hanging on the wall! Herman was a large man who looked freakish enough in his two tone brown tuxedo. At his side was a large glass tank filled with murky water. That thing was hanging over the edge of it and wearing and wearing a white veil. I was about to ask some rather pointed questions about the authenticity of the photos when we heard a resounding crash from out in the main room of the restaurant. We left the album and ran to investigate.
(Lights up again. Cook picks up phone and dials)
Abigail: The Skunk River Mermaid was gone.
Cook: Herman, its Kate. Your wife's been kidnapped again.
(Lights dim on all but Abigail)
Abigail: When Herman arrived on the scene he was beside himself with grief. He was behaving in a manner consistent with a husband whose wife's body had just been stolen. Certainly any man who was capable of marrying a hideous creature like the Skunk River Mermaid, and then displaying her corpse in a restaurant, was capable of anything.
(Herman enters, he is beside himself with grief.)
Abigail: Herman, my name is Abigail, and I have some experience in these matters....I would like to offer my services. I may have some information on the culprits."
Herman: Anything you can do to bring Myra back, I want you to do!
Abigail: I heard your hostess say that this wasn't the first time your...uh, the mermaid has been taken?
Herman: That's right, its the third. The first time it was some kids, just playing a prank. The second time was after this van full of long haired heavy metal boys stopped in here on their way to Mardi Gras. They broke into the place after dark and took it with them to New Orleans. Sold it to one of them Voo Doo places. I went kind of crazy....till I saw her picture in a World News Weekly story. Myra was on the cover, and they said the name of the place that was displaying her. I drove down there the same day and it cost me $500 to buy her back from that damned voodoo queen.
Abigail: I see. I don't think this time the theft---
Herman: Body snatching.
Abigail: I don't think it was a teen prank or for profit. I think there is more at foot here than any of us realizes. There was a table full of Germans here a while back, do you remember?
Cook: Yes, All they wanted was coffee and they did seem awful interested in Myra. Abigail: Yes, they did, didn't they? I copied down some of what they were saying....it didn't make much sense at the time, but now..some of what they said I don’t recognize as German. Sarganatanas or Nannjhizzeedha?
Herman: Well, yeah, that first one. That was Myra's maiden name. She ran away from her father, she never spoke of him.
(Lights dim as Abigail addresses the audience again)
Abigail: I told Herman I had a few phone calls to place. To get the necessary background information on this case, I spoke with a contact at the B. Lavatsky Museum in Hopkins Grove. What I found out was startling. Iowa Native Americans had a river god who lived in the Mississippi, named Saargantaanas, or "the Keeper of the Deep. The entity had been described by Marquette during his explorations, saying that it was a gigantic aquatic monster having the head of a tiger set on a long eel-like neck, and the body of a giant catfish. Further, both this name and Nannjhizzeedha had been mentioned in the journals of Professor G. G. Angel on the date of June 22, 1864. It seems that a group of German cultists had been involved in some sort of incident on a riverboat which sank, and had used those names in a ritual to conjured up the beast Saargantaanas. Perhaps these Germans were cultists themselves, and somehow they saw the little mermaid as the true daughter of this river god.
Herman: (screaming with rage and pulling a pistol out of his coat) They're not gonna toss her in the Skunk!
(Herman runs from the theatre out the door.)
Abigail: I raced after him.
(The sounds of a struggle, a shot is fired, Herman stumbles back into the theatre and falls onto the stage, with an ornate dagger protruding from his back.)
Abigail: In a pool of blood lay Herman, an ornate dagger protruding from his back. His gun lay about three feet from his hand. Torches were ringing the area and nine black robed figures encircled a carved stone altar upon which the Skunk River Mermaid lay. The altar depicted some obscene fish god with a mass of tentacles supporting its body, each tentacle covered with either suckers or eyes. The cultists were chanting, not in German but some strange tongue which might have been the language of fish, for it made me feel slime covered and cold just to hear it.
Krauts (behind the window, in red light): "Sargantanas , nigass mitak! Sargantaanas tanstpost bedow neb ta nig wassertum! Nannjhizzeedha! Surpenst nal deebt! Otak al dur , datne ma intur! Meeyrall, su dankulrna, sumo nig suug!" (repeat)
Abigail: All around a dark fog seemed to rise. I heard splashing noises then, like hundreds of large stones were being tossed into the river, or that many fish were leaping out into the air and falling back again. As I crept forward, blinded by the fog, I was hit from behind and struck unconscious. When next I woke, the cultists were gone. The idol I had seen earlier was just a jumble of rocks and sticks covered in slime, and Herman’s body nowhere to be found. The entire incident was officially put down as a simple robbery, and a merchant slain attempting to recover his property. Since Herman's murder, there has been an increase in sightings of "merpeople", a male and female of the species, playing in the waters of the Skunk River.
Kraut #1: Clinton
Kraut #2: Sean
Kraut #3: Leeyanne
"The Skunk River Mermaid" debuted August 9, 2002, performed by Todd Ristau, J.D. Ruelle, Clinton Johnston, Sean Nitchman, Leeyanne Moore, and Sherwood Ross.
It is an adaptation of an article written by Todd under the name Abigail de la Badie for Third Eye Over Iowa.