Gremlins? Leprechauns? Us?

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

The last piece of the pie, left out when the family went to bed, and gone at daybreak?

A key that worked before but cannot be depended on to open a cabinet door again?

A window that blew open just as the rain came and left the table wet?

A runaway roll of toilet paper?

Which are real?

My parents called any such mysterious anomaly the work of a “gremlin.”

In retrospect, I don’t remember any special rationale for gremlins except, perhaps, to find a source of mischief to clear one’s childhood reputation as a mischief-maker.

I tend to think this was a WWII-era tag for some wise guy who kept things stirred up a little bit, and popularized by troops who returned from foreign deployment with lots of new and irreverent behavior. I seem to imagine them as very small or even invisible, with big ears and a certain malevolence.

And they may be related to Kilroy or Leprechauns. You know Kilroy, who was always here, wherever “here” might be. Leprechauns were the Irish cousins of gremlins, any there are many more little-people pests peculiar to ethnic folklore. {Why do Leprechauns usually rate capitals, but gremlins get lower case?)

With the world of the Internet sitting here at arm’s reach, I expected to come across more stores of gremlins than I could possibly use, but to my surprise only Wikipedia ventures to identify gremlins. There are pages and pages of references to The Gremlins, a movie and its sequel described as “horror-comedy,” about 1943.

Wikipedia says a gremlin is “an imaginary creature commonly depicted as mischievous and mechanically oriented, with a specific interest in aircraft.”  The term was traced to a printed quotation in an aeronautic magazine in 1929, but became widely used among Royal Air Force fliers stationed in Malta, the Middle East, and India.

They appeared to be equal opportunity tricksters when a careful examination of the phenomena determined that the Germans likewise reported the mischief-makers to be gremlins too. Their allegiance seems to be self-interest driven, not nationalism.

There’s plenty more at the Wikipedia website, but I really meant to solve my little list of questions at the top of this column and got carried away with research.

I discovered about 10 feet of toilet paper stretched from the toilet into the center of the bathroom floor, unwrinkled, untwisted, dry, looking like it belonged there. I checked with Dave and neither of us could account for the paper ribbon on the floor, but obviously it had caught on a shoe or slipper and torn at the perforation.

You know those home video clips and comedy cameos, in which an adorable pup or a toddler gets hold of the T-paper and runs with it until it gives out? They are so cute that it’s easy to laugh and scold them gently, but T-paper, like most household staples, is more expensive by the week, and pretty soon the trick loses its amusement. Oh, of course we rolled these errant ribbons up again to use them, but got no help from the perps that did this dastardly deed.

Later in the day, I found myself on the couch getting 40 winks to relieve the drowsiness caused by some minuscule bit of housework. Dave came in from the garage, made a pit stop, and lay down on the loveseat. Sunlight moving across my face woke me up and was so bright I squinted my eyes shut until I was good and ready to get up. I got a micro blast of golden light across the room. Thinking I was about to miss something, I forced my baby blues to look at what appeared to be a dazzling mystic river hovering in the air before me.

I rubbed my eyes, then opened them in spite of the sun full on my face. The flying “river” was a strip of T-paper that ran from the bathroom, around the bed, through the double doors, and through the great room, nearly to the kitchen – smooth and airy, bouncing gently in the breeze of the ceiling fan.

Three times in 24 hours something (?) — someone? — yanked a roll of paper halfway through this house. Lacking witnesses, pups, or toddlers, do we question a manifestation of the twisted humor of gremlins? Leprechauns? Kilroy?

That’s a lot more amusing than T-paper caught in the elastic band of someone’s pajama bottoms. But why now and never before? We’ve lived in this house almost 30 years, with no major changes that might confuse an elf. Why now?

Has the date of this writing – March 17, St. Patrick’s Day – anything to do with it?

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