Everyone has them; they just don’t know it because Goolies hide themselves. Very few people have ever seen a Goolie, yet, intuitively we know they’re with us. We sense them. We can walk into a familiar room, or one we visited for the first time, and all of a sudden we experience strange feelings, vibes that weren’t present moments before. I have experienced this innumerable times.
I am not a Goolioligist (an individual who scientifically studies the behavior of Goolies), but I am an amateur Gooliogist; this was a hobby I picked up from my father, whose knowledge on the subject of Goolies was encyclopedic. He met his Goolie twice: once when he was about to die from Typhoid fever, and again when he missed a day of work at the Triangle Shirt Company which prevented him from being killed in the fire.
The Goolies, despite their bad name, are seldom mean-spirited, but they’re not particularly well-meaning either. More often than not, they’re benign and let human affairs run their willy-nilly way. But now and then they become involved in the “affairs of men”. These encounters occur in many different ways: dreams are the most usual way, but face to face meetings have also been recorded in Goolie historiography. They are also partial to very young children and play with them for hours. They consort with cats and dogs, but prefer cats because of their communication skills, though they don’t deny that dogs communicate just as well. The choice between one and the other, lives somewhere in their remote past.
The record of one such encounter involved my great-great-great grandfather, Max Giovoni Petraroja, also known as Big Foot, because his feet were indeed very large, a trait that all his male decedents exhibit. I, myself, have very large feet.
Big Foot was a Venetian trader, during those years when Venice just about controlled all the trade between Europe and the Levantine. He was very successful, but saw an opportunity to be even more successful if he followed the “silk road” to India and brought back camel loads of spices, perfumes, silks, and hand woven rugs. So, off he went leaving family and friends in order to seek out the riches of the Far East.
Somewhere in the middle of central Asia, after a severe sand storm that blew for three days and three nights, Big Foot realized he was lost with a desert on one side, a river on the other, and mountains in front of him. His supplies were low, enough for three days—a week, if they were cut in half.
Not sure what to do, he went into the desert to “think things out.” He wasn’t the first man to go into the desert to think; “a few good men” went before him to meet their particular Goolie. Like his predecessors, he fasted and denied himself water. Both actions were guaranteed by Biblical precedent and the learned doctors back in Venice to help a person think. Neither authority made any mention of occurrence of hallucinations, which happens to be a favorite place for a Goolie to “hang out”.
Going into the desert to think serves no purpose unless the day is blistering hot, and there’s a nearby rock formation in the shape of a large throne. Both requirements were happily met, and Big Foot ascended the throne of rock and sat.
It didn’t take long for him to see the un-seeable: flights of angels, his garden back in Venice, and his wife in all her naked glory. All of that was just for starters. Unicorns came next, followed by all sorts of colored birds. But by then, Big Foot settled down to do some hard thinking about his predicament, at which time an old man showed up.
He was glad for the company. Thinking turned out to be more difficult than he thought it would be, and what he recognized as chimaera was bothersome. The old man looked as if he were a thousand years old; Big Foot greeted him warmly but this was not reciprocated.
The old man carried an odd shaped staff; it was something like a twisted snake, but made of wood. Silently, he looked at Big Foot for a long time; and as Big Foot looked at him, he had the sense of knowing and not knowing the old man.
The old man didn’t waste any time, and with his cane he pointed to where the sun sets, and in a thunderous voice said, “Go!”
That was enough for Big Foot; he wasn’t about to discuss the matter. Even if he’d wanted to discuss it, he couldn’t have—the old man vanished.
Big Foot headed west, to where the sun sets, and much, much later arrived back in Venice, where he was proclaimed a hero: the next Marco Polo.
From what I wrote about Big Foot’s encounter with a Goolie, it should be obvious that Goolies inhabit strange places. I know for a fact that when I was child a couple of Goolies lived under the coal pile in the basement. Of course I never saw them, but at night I could hear them laugh.
My encounter with Goolies goes way back to my grade school days, when, as a student, I spent an enormous amount of time trying to ignore whatever was going on in the classroom. Because I was so good at doing what I was doing, a couple of Goolies favored me with their presence. Of course they were invisible, and though our communication was not verbal, we did carry on lengthy conversations. Like me, they were heavily into adventure and together we traveled to every place from the deepest jungles to the far reaches of our solar system. But as I grew older the Goolies visited less and less. And though they did not fade from my memory, they were pushed far back from my consciousness by my real world encounters, and my efforts to deal with them.
Goolies, because they have been around a lot longer than human beings, understand us better than we understand them. They accept our strivings as part of what we are, and find in them a comic futility.
Growing up provided me with a college degree, a girlfriend, who later became my wife, and another contact with a Goolie—perhaps my own personal Goolie. The door for that experience was the United States Army and the war in Korea, a far away and deadly place in the winter of nine-teen fifty.
The Goolie came at night, only it was brighter than bright day in June. The sky was filled with flares and exploding star shells. Tracers left ribbons of white and red and the flat whamp of mortar fire seemed to be everywhere. The ChiComs were doing their best to kill us, to stop us from braking through their lines.
I was trying to get to the top of a ridge. I was almost there when I was hit. My legs gave out from under me and I fell. The pain in my gut was excruciating. I was vomiting blood. I blacked out, and there was my Goolie.
This time I could see him quite clearly. He was very old, an old papa-san. He picked me up and held me. He said nothing, at least nothing I could understand. The next thing I knew I was in a Med-Vac plane on my way to a hospital in Japan.
I didn’t tell anyone about my Goolie. I had enough physical and psychological problems to overcome without adding another one to the list.
Now, as the expression goes, flash forward a couple of decades. I am past middle aged, and kind of played out, weary. Not an uncommon condition for a man of my age. My wife and I live in a small house on a high hill in Staten Island. My two sons are grown, and on their own. My constant companion and good buddy is my dog, Dimitri. He’s a big guy: a combination, Doberman, German Shepard and wolf. And I have no doubt that he is a Goolie, though he is in every way a dog. That might be difficult for the doubting Thomas’s to reconcile, but you’ll have to take my word for it. I am not one who speaks lightly of Goolies; they have played important roles in my life and I have a deep respect for them and their powers.
The moment I saw Dimitri—he was six weeks old at the time and the runt of the litter—I knew I had to have him. He, of all the other puppies there, spoke to me. Don’t laugh. He has done it several times since. I understand what he says just as I understand what anyone who speaks English would say.
I chose him because I needed him; someone threatened my oldest son, and my wife and I decided that a dog would offer him excellent protection when he was out of the apartment. This occurred several years before we bought the house on Staten Island.
Dimitri was almost the size of Great Dane. He had white boots, a white chest, and brown legs and black flanks. He seldom barked; he seldom had to. Strangers gave him a wide berth, and other dogs were intimidated by his size. Though he looked ferocious, he was a gentle animal, especially when he was around children, a definite sign of his Goolie-ness.
During the witch craze in this country and Europe, Goolies who opted to take the form of a cat or a dog were called familiars by witch hunters, and burned at the stake with their unfortunate masters. But that kind of brutality has passed, and for the most part Goolies are now free to choose whatever form pleases them, or remain totally invisible as most do.
Dimitri and I communicated the way we had at our first meeting. There was never any doubt in my mind that he was a Goolie. Of course, my wife allowed for my eccentricities, and we seldom spoke about Dimitri’s Goolie-ness. Though he was “my dog,” he became “her dog” whenever she played the piano. He was particularly fond of Debussy.
Nothing remarkable occurred until one day my wife’s brother, Laurie, came to visit for a few days. He was a physicist, and there were important conferences being held in Manhattan on subjects that interested him.
Laurie had open heart surgery several months before his visit, and still suffered the possibility of another major heart attack. He was a big man with a shock of gray hair, and a large beard the same color as his hair. He was one of the few people I knew who carried their eccentricities on their sleeves, so to speak. But when he was in a good humor, he was a fun guy; with a few drinks in him, he would think nothing of climbing on to a table top to recite long passages from Shakespeare’s plays, or give his rendition of smutty limericks. The short coming that bothered me most was his lack of personal hygiene; he had to be reminded when it was time for him to shower.
Well, no one is perfect, and if you have your head in the thick clouds of theoretical anything, you can’t be expected to remember something as mundane as a daily shower.
To make life as easy and comfortable as possible for Laurie, my wife even bought special food for him. The only thing we didn’t reckon with was the hill on which we lived—it was very steep and our house was in the middle of it. Nor did we realize that Laurie would not take a cab from the ferry to where we lived, but would, instead, in keeping with his frugal way of living, use the bus, which would let him off a distance from where we lived. It was grievous oversight that almost cost Laurie his life.
When Laurie first encountered Dimitri, he accepted him as he would accept a rainy day. And Dimitri accepted him with the same lack of enthusiasm. He was not one to beg for recognition or affection where he knew none would be given. He was very good at reading people, a skill most people lack.
So, off went Laurie to his conferences. Going down the hill presented no problem, and it was an easy walk to the overpass where the bus stopped.
The day passed without anything dramatic or, for that matter, interesting happening. It was a lovely warm spring day. A day for poets to rhapsodize about and young lovers to find in their beloved’s eyes, the secret of the universe; or so they would like to believe until experience would prove them sadly wrong.
That day, late in the afternoon, I was in my basement working when I suddenly realized Dimitri was agitated. He moved from place to place unable to settle down, and I heard a voice that told me something was out of kilter. The voice came from Dimitri, from his Goolie-ness.
It was not verbal. Yet, I heard it. A feeling of danger became omnipresent.
From the sound of the piano coming from the living room upstairs, I knew my wife was all right.
Dimitri trotted off, and went upstairs, no doubt to enjoy my wife’s piano playing. But in a matter minutes he was back again with my wife fast behind him.
“What’s wrong with Dimitri?” she asked.
I shrugged, but didn’t mention the voice I heard or the sense of danger. More pragmatic than I when it came to Goolies, she had little appreciation for my take on Dimitri’s Goolie-ness.
“He’s whining. He never does that.”
“The door,” I said, somehow realizing Dimitri’s whining had something to do with a door.
I immediately went to the side door, which was closest to where we were, and opened it. The deck was empty. There was nothing there. I closed the door, and tried to assure Dimitri that “all was well with the world”. He would have none of it, and ran upstairs.
We followed him.
He went straight to the front door and back to us. He did this several times.
Whatever was bothering him was outside of the front door, not the side door. The views from the opened doorways were different. From the front door, you could see down the street and up the street, depending on whether you looked left or right. But from the side door the view was limited to our alleyway and a narrow portion of the street, or narrow section of our backyard, if you faced the other way.
Dimitri continued to move between us and the front door.
As soon as I opened the door he bounded out.
There was Laurie was on his knees in front of the house. He was going into cardiac arrest. Walking up the hill was too much for him. Within minutes we brought him safely into the house, and put a Nitro pill under his tongue. A trip to the local emergency room followed. He was released several hours later, and much to our surprise and delight when we arrived back at the house he made much of Dimitri, who deserved every bit of attention Laurie gave him.
Much later, when everyone else was asleep, Dimitri and I went out for a walk. The night was quiet, and few cars whizzed by on the highway below. He walked on my right side as he always did.
Rescuing Laurie was a “job well done” and he knew it. He walked with a special bearing; he was a hero. From time to time he looked at me. There was laughter in his eyes, and the unspoken but clearly understood exchange took place between the two of us.
Dr. Irving A. Greenfield’s work has been published in Amarillo Bay, Runaway Parade, Writing Tomorrow, eFictionMag and the Stone Hobo; and in Prime Mincer, The Note and Cooweescoowee (2X). Soon he will be published in THE STONE CANOE, electronic edition. He and his wife live in Manhattan.
He has been a sailor, soldier and college professor, playwright and novelist.