by Darrell Bain
My printer wouldn’t work one morning. I spent an hour with the damned thing, punching buttons, opening windows and following arcane directions, trying this and that and it just sat there and sulled like an old possum. Finally I got disgusted and said “Okay, you stupid printer, I’ll fix you. I’ll just cut off your juice for a while and see how you like it.” So I did. I unplugged it and let it sit until I felt like fooling with it again. I plugged it back in and it worked perfectly. Just another gremlin, I thought. Gremlin? Hmm. Could I make a story out of a gremlin? About that time Betty came into the office and kissed me. Mmm, I thought. Cupid’s busy already this morning. Cupid? Could I make a story out of Cupid? I thought for a while and finally wrote one of the very few fantasies of my career.
“Sonofabitch! Goddamned thing won’t boot up again.”
“Hit it. That’s what you always do.”
Jerry Wilson glared at his co-worker and pounded the CPU with his fist. It promptly booted up.
Beatrice Tomlin snickered. “See?”
“Yeah. But why sometimes and not others? The damned thing is driving me crazy.”
“There’s a gremlin in it,” she said, and laughed. She stood up and pushed her office chair back. “I’m going home for lunch. Want me to bring you anything?”
He glanced at his watch. “Go ahead. I’m not hungry now.”
“Maybe you’d like me to make you dinner tonight?”
“Thanks but I’ve already made plans.”
“Okay. Be back in a bit.”
Jerry and Beatrice were the sole employees and also the co-owners of the little computer shop in the small town of Borderlon, Texas. Contrary to gossip, there was nothing romantic about the relationship, even though Beatrice had thoughts in that direction. Jerry wouldn’t play, though. He knew she was looking for a husband and children and he wanted nothing of the sort regardless of how attractive she was. He resisted her moves on him with great dexterity (and some reluctance, given her 100111-10111-100101 measurements), while continuing to play the field.
The door closed behind her and he turned back to the problem he thought he’d fixed twice already, the computer that was reluctant to boot up on demand. It seemed that a good cursing and pounding on the CPU was the only solution, but he could hardly tell the customer that. He had taken the damned thing apart twice and found nothing wrong, then sent it home with its owner only to have him back in the next day, growling that it wasn’t fixed. Mr. Clemmons was becoming very aggravated with him. In fact, he suggested that if it weren’t properly repaired this time he just might find another place to have it worked on.
“Like he could find another shop in this burg,” Jerry muttered to himself. “Still, he could give us some bad publicity. Goddamned Gremlin, that’s what it is. If I could talk to the little bastard I’d give it what for, all right. Screwing up my work and making me look like a dork.”
A little blue cloud materialized over the recalcitrant computer. Jerry’s eyes bugged out as it took shape. It grew hands and feet and a head with merry eyes and pointed ears. It was dressed in a long sleeved-blue tunic and bloused trousers of a lighter blue. Ankle-high gray shoes with curled up tips and a rakish little pointy hat with a narrow brim completed its dress. Its skin was pink, its long-fingered hands were a darker pink. It had a face with a bulbous little red nose and eyes of bright bright green, set below tangled black eyebrows the same color as its hair.
“Close your mouth before you swallow a fly, Bud.” The specter said. It settled down on top of the CPU and crossed its short, pudgy legs.
“Gug,” Jerry said.
“Gug? Hell, I thought you wanted to talk to me. I don’t know what gug means.”
“What…who…where…how…?” Jerry uttered.
“That’s not a hell of a lot better, Didn’t you want to give me what for?”
“I…a Gremlin? You’re a Gremlin?”
“In the flesh. Er, sort of.”
“A real Gremlin!”
“Look, Bud, I don’t got all day. You want to cuss me, get on with it. I got other stuff to screw up, you know.”
Jerry squinted one eye, then the other. He didn’t know if there was really such a thing as a gremlin but if not, this apparition would do until a real one came along. He gathered his courage.
“How come Gremlins always want to stuff up things?”
“This damn computer, that’s what!” Jerry said, pointing at the guilty CPU the gremlin was sitting on. “Are you the one causing it to boot up only when it takes a notion?”
“Yep, that’s me. I done it.”
It shrugged. “That’s what Gremlins do.”
“Well, how about stopping it? I’ve got a business to run.”
The Gremlin rubbed its pointy chin and wriggled its bulbous nose as if considering a grave question. “What’ll you give me if I stop?”
“I don’t like repeating myself, Bud. You heard me.”
“What’ll I give you?”
A look of long suffering exasperation appeared on its face. It motioned with a hand toward its chest. “Right. What’ll you give me?”
“Well, uh. Uh. Well, what do you want?”
“But you asked…”
“Doesn’t mean I want anything you can give. Tell you what, though. Suppose I be nice and leave this piece of junk alone. How does that sound?”
Jerry looked at it suspiciously. “And then what?”
“That’s my business,” it smirked. “Just remember, Yin and Yang. Plus and Minus. Everything has a consequence.”
“And this is my business.” He thought of how irate Mr. Clemmons would be if he returned and his computer still wasn’t fixed. Besides, the Gremlin couldn’t cause much more trouble than it already had. “Alright, already. Leave it alone. Okay?”
“Glad to be of help. It’s done.” There was a pop of displaced air and the gremlin disappeared.
Jerry slowly eased his body into his chair. He stared at the CPU. It sat innocently on the work table. He punched the on button. It booted up.
Beatrice sighed as she sat down at her kitchen table with a sandwich and glass of tea. It was so frustrating being hung up on a guy who was avoiding commitment like the proverbial plague, going so far as not allowing himself to even have dinner with her for fear of finding himself in front of a preacher before it was over. “Damn his big brown bedroom eyes,” she muttered between bites, “not to mention his broad shoulders, slim waist and tight buns. And oh yes, his handsome face and keen intelligence. Have I mentioned that?”
“Nope, not on my watch, but now that you have, I can only agree.”
“Eeek! Who’s here?” She rose half way from the table, almost tipping over her tea. She looked frantically around the room.
The voice spoke again, this time seeming to be muttering to itself. “Damned uppity little good-looking bastard, making himself visible and playing hard to get. Nothing I can’t do, too.”
“Who is it? Who said that?” Beatrice turned in a circle gazing frantically for the source of the voice.
“I said it, Cutie. Hey! Up here!”
Beatrice trained her gaze toward the ceiling. There, hanging in space above the table on tiny, lightly fluttering white wings was a Cupid, straight from the pages of innumerable stories and cartoons. The only difference was that this Cupid (Cupette?) was female rather than male. She was about a half meter in height and possessed a nice but slightly chubby body. It was completely unadorned. Well, she did have a quiver full of arrows slung over one nicely rounded little shoulder but that was all. Her face was heart-shaped with red lips and nicely flushed cheeks. She was as pretty as a miniature, slightly overweight September Morn of photographer’s fame but her hair was taffy-blond and shoulder-length. It waved gently in the breeze from the movement of the diminutive wings that didn’t look large enough to keep a hummingbird aloft, much less a Cupid.
“I don’t believe it! I don’t, I don’t!”
“You don’t? Then I guess you don’t need my help with that hunk you’ve been mooning over so long, huh?”
“I…I…” Beatrice’s mind raced. Help? With a hunk? Did she mean…? “Are you talking about Jerry?”
“You mooning over anyone else, Cutie?”
“No! I mean…I must be going crazy. You look like Cupid.”
“No reason I shouldn’t. I am Cupid.”
“I thought Cupid was a male.”
“Nope, the artists all got it wrong. See?”
“No, I don’t see! You can’t be real!”
“Want to pinch me?”
“Want Jerry to pinch you?”
“No! I mean yes! I mean…what do you want, anyway?” She sat back down, fearing she would fall down if she didn’t.
“It’s not what I want, Cutie. It’s you that’s doing the mooning.” The self-professed Cupid crossed her legs in mid-air. “Hmmm? Isn’t that right?”
“For all the good it does me, yes, damn it.”
“So, want some help, huh?”
“That’s what I thought. Okay, I’ll take care of it.”
“Wait! What are you going to do?”
Cupid (or Cupette) assumed an air of long-suffering patience. “What do you think I’m going to do? I don’t carry this bow in my hand and that quiver of arrows over my shoulder for nothing. Damned thing, strap always getting in the way of my boobs. Sometimes I wonder why I do it.”
“Why do you?”
“Why do I do what? Shoot arrows at idiots to make them realize they’re in love?”
It shrugged. “That’s what Cupids do.”
Beatrice closed her eyes then covered her face with her hands for good measure.
“What’s wrong, Cutie? Afraid to ask?”
“Yes! I mean, no!”
“You want me to take a shot at the hunk, huh?”
She nodded helplessly. “At Jerry.”
“Who did you think I meant? The meter reader?”
“No. At Jerry! God, this is crazy!”
“That’s love, Cutie. Crazy as all get-out. Shall we get on with it? I’ve got other people to see. I can’t sit here jibber-jabbering all day. There are other love-sick idiots I’ve gotta take care of.”
“What will the hunk, um, er, I mean what will Jerry think when he sees you?”
“Get real. Who ever admits to seeing Cupid? Anyhow, you’d be surprised what he’s been seeing. Everything except the love of his life. If you’re finished with that sandwich, let’s go, Cutie.”
She got up from the table and pulled on her jacket. Still bemused, she left her apartment and began walking the three short blocks back to the shop.
Jerry looked up from where she had left him when she went to lunch. He was still turning the CPU on and off.
“Is it fixed?” Beatrice asked, more for something to say than anything else. It worked perfectly every time he touched the start/stop button.
“Yup. It’s fixed.”
“What was wrong with it?”
“Right.” She rolled her eyes then hastily averted them as she saw Cupid overhead, fumbling an arrow out of her quiver. She gulped, settled down at her desk and began fooling with a software program. Men! He took no notice of how agitated she was or how she kept glancing up into the air to see how Cupid was doing. Or not doing. She seemed to be having trouble getting an arrow loose.
“Ouch! Damned things. Always poking me in the boobs,” she mumbled and began fitting the arrow she had finally gotten loose onto the string of the tiny bow. It didn’t look big enough or powerful enough to shoot a missile two feet, but then it would be shooting down, not up. That ought to do it, she thought. Maybe. I hope.
Jerry took no notice of Cupid’s comment but he did peer inquisitively at Beatrice as if finally noticing her agitation. She looked hurriedly away then back again. Now he seemed to be staring at the top of the CPU that had been giving him so much trouble. He said something she didn’t quite understand.
“Ah, now if he’ll just hold still…” Cupid said in a barely audible voice.
“Ouch!” the Gremlin said.
“Uh oh,” Cupid said. “Sorry. I never was much of a shot.”
Beatrice stared in utter amazement at the tiny little being who had suddenly materialized atop the CPU. The arrow from Cupid’s bow was stuck firmly in the tiny, oddly dressed little man’s chest. He stared down at the arrow in horror.
“I didn’t meant to!” Cupid said loudly. “I was aiming for the hunk! Hey! Why are you looking at me like that?!”
“What’s that thing sticking out of your chest?” Jerry asked the Gremlin. His look of befuddlement was genuine. It went perfectly with Beatrice’s countenance. She was radiating disgust. Three feet away and she missed! And hit whatever that thing was.
“You missed, damn it!” Beatrice shouted, uncaring of what Jerry might think. The situation had rapidly gone to hell. “Shoot again!”
“Who is that wiggly little thing in the air with the thick waist and that toy bow and arrow?” Jerry asked the Gremlin.
“Thick waist? She’s got a perfect waist, you Dummy!”
“Who is that?” Beatrice asked. “How did it get in here?”
“I might ask you the same thing,” Jerry said, pointing at the Cupid. “And she does too have a thick waist. And her boobs are too small.” He raised his brows at Beatrice.
“That’s it, brother,” Cupid said. “Small boobs, huh? Now it’s your turn.” She let fly with another arrow. It hit Jerry squarely over the heart.
“Ouch!” he said.
“Serves you right, Bud,” the Gremlin said. “Hey Cupid, let’s blow this burg and go pitch some woo.”
“Sounds like a good idea to me, Sweetie,” Jerry said to Beatrice. “Let’s close up shop and go breathe heavy.” He had completely forgotten about the gremlin and the other little being.
“Not without a preacher,” Cupid said to the Gremlin.
“Not without a preacher,” Beatrice said smugly to Jerry. Hooked, by God!
“Alright, already, we’ll see a preacher,” the Gremlin said to the Cupette. “Let’s go!”
The two small beings disappeared in puffs of pink and blue smoke.
Beatrice hooked her arm with Jerry’s. “Let’s go, Big Boy.”
And they all lived happily ever afterward.
Without a single Gremlin ever bothering Jerry and Beatrice again.
Multiple Dream Realm winner
Multiple Epic Award winner
Fictionwise Author of the Year
Darrell and I became friends when both of us had books published by now long-defunct publisher Bookmice, in 1999. Since then, he has had a huge number of books published, many of them award-winners. His writing has a rare combination of humor, exciting action, and ideas that make you think. OK, this story only has one of those three, but you can check out his books.