By Daniel Finkel
Not many people are acquainted with the Glump. He keeps to himself, mostly, and people are content with that. When one is, however, lucky enough to encounter him, he makes a definite impression. If you had met him, you would remember him. If you knew him, you would like him. He is the most amiable of creatures. How do I know, you ask? Because I’ve met the Glump, and I know the true gentleness of his nature.
When I first met the Glump, I was lost. I don’t quite know how it happened, but one way or the other I took a wrong turn, and ended up in a deep forest. Afraid, for the sky was overcast, and dispirited, for I had lost my way, I blundered on until at last I came to a break in the foliage. There was a little hill in front of me, and on the little hill was a house. It was a tall, gloomy, dark house to my eye, and quite uninviting. The mortar was crumbling, and the bright red shingles were decayed with age. The windows were cracked and broken, and the door was slashed and charred. A fork of lightning lashed across the sky behind this terrible house, and suddenly the rain came, pouring down in great sheets and torrents, drenching me thoroughly. Unable to think of a better course of action, I went up to the great old door and rang the doorbell. Somewhere deep within the cavernous house, a bell rang sweetly, and all the house seemed to echo with that sweet empty sound until I shivered in my bones. There was a long pause, and then quite suddenly the door opened.
Standing within was the most curious personage I have ever laid eyes on. He was tall, slightly taller than a man, and very thin. He wore a shiny bowler hat, a rather tight, fancy evening suit, and a bowtie, striped blue and white. His face was long and sad and mellow, and his skin was blue.
“Er,” he began politely, “which is to say, greetings, I suppose.” He paused hopefully, shuffled his feet a little, adjusted his bowtie, and began again. “I, that is to say the Glump, extend my greetings to you and hope that you are having a, er, a salubrious evening.” And here he peeked at me shyly from beneath his bowler hat.
“Whoever is the Glump?” I asked, much charmed by this curious fellow.
“That would be me,” he replied delicately.
“Oh,” I said.
There was a long, uncomfortable silence.
“I trust your journey was not, um, not overly taxing,” the Glump said.
“No, it was quite fine. I’m just a little bit lost at the moment.”
“Ah,” said the Glump, and with exquisite courtesy, he ceased his inquiries. “Would you care for a complimentary mint?” he asked after a moment.
“No, thank you.”
“I don’t have one,” the Glump said awkwardly, “I, that is to say the Glump, don’t quite know why he—which is to say myself—why he asked.”
“I’d really just like to get out of this rain at the moment,” I said, “I don’t suppose you have some poor, deserted room where I could stay the night?”
“Tonight?” the Glump asked, rather anxiously.
“Well, yes, that would be nice.”
“Well, it’s only just that I—which is to say the Glump—have several very pressing engagements, and, er, am not quite at liberty to rent out space, especially since it’s a rather awkward time, and—and—well, I suppose you could stay one night.” And with these words he opened the door and I stepped in. We went down a long corridor, fearfully long as I thought to myself, and at last emerged into a neat little kitchen filled with bright silver spoons and forks and knives.
“Would you care for some tea?” the Glump asked.
“That would be lovely,” I said, seating myself at a table as he busied himself with the teakettle.
“So you live out here all alone?” I asked.
“Yes, um, yes, for the present.”
“For the present? Are you expecting someone else then?”
“No, no, say rather that I—which is to say the Glump—am a fish, doomed to wash with the currents, an inconstant, cold, damp thing, and I very much doubt that this—er—this charming establishment can hook me for very long.”
“I think that’s the saddest thing I have ever heard,” I said, and the Glump gravely favored me with a bow.
Soon the tea was prepared and I found that it was delicious. The Glump seated himself at the table and removed his top hat, revealing his head, which was very bald and shiny. Soon the Glump and I got to talking, and I found him to be a fascinating creature. His ideas were properly formulated and eloquently expressed, and his mind was developed to such a point that, I am not ashamed to admit, he quite outstripped me.
“I have always had a great appreciation for the dramatic arts,” he said at one point.
“How so?” I asked.
“Well,” the Glump said, “I—which is to say the Glump—feel that those few who have an affiliation with the theater are generally to be—well—generally to be trusted. I have an especial—an especial—“ and here he gave me a very shy, very eager look, “an especial liking for the ballet,” he finished humbly.
I, myself, had never much cared for the ballet, but I assured him otherwise so as not to injure his feelings.
“I—that is to say the Glump—remember quite fondly going to the ballet with a few choice, um, choice compatriots.”
“You haven’t always lived here alone, then?”
“Not always,” said the Glump, and I fancied that he looked at me almost slyly out of the corner of his eyes. “As a matter of fact, I still don’t quite, um, quite live here absolutely alone, but my companions are rather upsetting to some. Shall I summon—er, that is to say—shall I send for them?”
“Please,” I said, which was a mistake. He knocked three times on the table, and through the open doorway boiled a silvery scuttle of clattering legs. This, sadly enough, resulted in pandemonium. With a shriek, I jumped to my feet, upsetting the table, and clambered away. The Glump, mistaking my movements for a violent fit, dropped to the ground in a tangle of limbs, covered his head with his hands, and cried, “I surrender!”
“Call them off,” I yelled, “call them off!”
“Yes, yes, don’t worry, they won’t bite,” said the Glump, and that was when I got my first good look at his companions. They were giant metal spiders, the size of crabs, with cruel pincers and mandibles and glittering legs. They swarmed around the Glump, clicking and rustling, quite upsetting his neat attire. “They wouldn’t hurt a fly,” said the Glump fondly as they stamped and trod on his arms and legs.
“Call them off, I say!”
“A moment, just a moment,” said the Glump, obviously quite distressed, and his distress so moved me that I granted him his request. When he had thoroughly recovered from the shock, he told the metal spiders to go off a little way, and with several snaps and clicks and clatters, they obeyed. Then we resumed our seats, both a little embarrassed by what had happened.
“Sorry,” I said finally.
“The Glump also wishes to extend his—that is to say, my—apologies for startling you. His little friends can be rather . . . rather startling. But they’re very gentle, I assure you, very extremely gentle.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Why, because I made them, of course,” said the Glump, fiddling with his bowtie with genial pride.
“You made them?”
“Yes. It was a long time ago, when I—which is to say, the Glump—found that his position in the social stratosphere was rather lacking. Once, once, the Glump was renowned for his gourmet cooking and his eye for architectural detail. I remember passing the evenings quite pleasantly. Quite pleasantly, indeed. But then there was a war, with swords and all, and all the pleasant people went off and, for some reason or other, never came back. I do wonder what happened to them, sometimes.”
“Were you their pet?” I asked interestedly.
“I?” thundered the Glump, leaping to his feet. “I, who watched the deserts turn to seas and the seas turn to ice? I, the pet of a few restless, crude, unfocused men? Forget not to whom you are speaking, for I am—I am—I am the Glump.” And here he sat back down and rather dispiritedly sipped at his tea. “I am the Glump,” he repeated softly, “I am the Glump.” There was a pause, and the metal spiders watched their master warily, as if afraid of another outburst, but none came. “I’ve forgotten, you see,” he said sadly, looking back up at me, “I’ve forgotten ever so much that I used to know. I—which is to say, the Glump—used to know a great deal. But now I’ve forgotten. Come, my little pets, come and comfort your poor master.”
And if by “comfort” the Glump meant stamping on his feet, climbing up his head, toppling off his hat, rubbing and rustling against his legs and shoulders and making a dreadful clatter all the while, the metal spiders could be said to thoroughly comfort their master.
“I’m sorry,” I said humbly, after a long pause.
“Thank you,” said the Glump, with infinite dignity, and after that we got on quite agreeably.
I stayed for several weeks in the Glump’s house. I found his tastes to be refined and his conversation eloquent. He surpassed me in almost every particular, and yet did so with such gravity, such grace, such calm, cool, humble bashfulness, that I was far too charmed to be jealous. Eventually, the Glump and I got to be friends. And then one day we parted, and went our separate ways, which is to say that I left and he remained.
I went back once, much later, to that battered house on the hill, but I found that he had departed and taken all his little companions with him. I found also that once his spirit had ceased to haunt those lonely halls, the house had lost its terrible grandeur. The outside was no longer grim and forbidding. The inside no longer sparkled and shone. There was not a single metal spider to be found. It was just a sad, empty house on a hill, and I felt almost as if my heart would break when I saw it.
Soon afterwards, however, I was delighted to hear news of my friend. The Glump, you see, had begun to travel. He wandered constantly, in good weather and bad weather, by moonshine or sunshine, on rainy days, on cold days, and on foggy days when the sun was weak. I would often, of a morning, receive a very neat postmarked note from him, which always began, “Dear Sir or Madam: Greetings.”
I looked forward very much to these notes, for there was always some interesting anecdote or tale to be found in those neat spidery lines, and they had a kind of magic about them, a spell of solemnity and mirth. I do not know where the Glump is now. I am convinced that he could be virtually anywhere. I only know that I remain, forever, his faithful correspondent.