My father yelled up the stairs, and Sean and I raced out from our rooms. In the driveway, there slumbered a decommissioned telephone company truck, its metal walls a chalky flat white, the wheel wells accented tastefully with a touch of red rust. My dad would throw the handle of the sliding door on the side, and the door emitted a shriek as it begrudgingly grinded ajar.
In we would go, climbing over halogen lights, leaping dusty piles of drop cloths, tripping on sanding poles, hurdling shop vacuums, extricating our feet from misshapen plastic crates. Eventually, I would pick this spackle bucket to sit on, and Sean would pick that one. Then we looked about- I chose the metal grate, he chose the hole in the shelving. We inserted our arms into these openings, much in the same fashion that a rock climber wedges his appendages into facets of sheer, rock wall cliff. A turn of the key, and suddenly the van grumbled awake. My dad looked through the wire mesh that separated the cab from the back of the van, and yelled “Are you guys holding on to something?” “YEAH!” we screamed back, giddy with excitement. The van took off, and as we rolled around the corner we yelled “WHEEEEE!”. And the debris in the truck slid from back to front, and now from left to right, and we happily held on to our grips as tightly as our little hands could muster. I was ten, Sean was thirteen, and we were on our way to a spackle job with my dad.
At a red light, with the engine idling, we could shout loud enough for my father to hear. “Dad, a spackle bucket fell over and opened!! I got spackle all over my leg!!” “Okay, okay, we’ll clean it off when we get there.”
Arriving at some enormous castle-like home on the east end of Long Island, my dad would throw the side door open. Life could present no greater joy than a huge, empty construction site, deep in the woods, three quarters of the way through completion. Reams of nail-gun nails, still in their wire binding, looked remarkably similar to machine gun bullets. Two by four debris could be assembled into just about anything. Spackle bucket lids made superb ninja star disc things. But first, we had to help my dad bring some stuff into the house.
And so, the drama began.
“Uhhh, Kevin, where is my six inch spackle knife?” “Sean, Sean, this halogen bulb is broken. How did this break? Did you break that?” “Kevin, uh, where’s my phone?” “Uhhh, what is this extension cord caught on?” “Uhhh, what is the hose for the vacuum caught under?” “Where is the hand held heater?” “What happened to the screen on my cell phone? Who cracked it?” “I only have one sheet of 200 grit sandpaper- where on earth did the packet of 200 grit go? Where on earth?” “It’s like, come on, what happened to the drill? Oh, there’s the drill. But, come on, what on earth, where on earth is the drill bit? The battery pack? Oh, it’s in the cab. But oh, agh, the cab is locked. Where are my keys? Who took my keys? The, the… it’s as if…”
And then he would say it.
“It’s as if there are these gremlins, these little gremlins just running around, tying up my extension cords. There are gremlins, crawling through my van, breaking my cell phone antennas, popping off the lids of my spackle buckets, gremlins spilling coffee all over my Hagstrom maps and making their pages stick together, making my halogen light bulbs break. Agh.”
What amazed me most was his amazement. He managed to retain this sense of wonder- nay, awe- for the absence of reverse entropy in his spackle van. I mean, the entire universe abides by one law of entropy- order always descends into chaos. But, my father seemed indignant that his spackle van stubbornly refused to go from chaos to order. A scapegoat was needed. Hence the gremlins, his organizational frustration reified. Gremlins notwithstanding, he managed to run one of the biggest spackle companies on Long Island, with the signature of his company being absolute perfection. Try as those fangled gremlins may, my father left every homeowner satisfied with a perfect spackle job.
One December evening, at fifteen years old, I sat down at my kitchen table with pencil. For hours and hours, I drew my father’s gremlins. The drawing spanned several days. I framed the drawing, on the 22nd of Christmas or so, and had it ready by Christmas morning. As he unwrapped his present, I clearly recall him laughing so hard, that he nearly had tears rolling down his cheeks. What a wonderful thing that, sixteen years later, my father still brings this framed drawing down from his bedroom. Tonight, he brought it down to show some guests, while Margaret and I visited. And as I looked at my drawing, I laughed too. I apologize for the poor quality photos I’ve taken, I hope to get the drawing scanned soon. Hope you enjoy this drawing, as much as my father still does.