Here, another Halloween has come and gone, and my friend Delbert Earle still doesn’t have a workable definition for a goblin. The dictionary says a goblin is a “grotesque, elfin creature of folklore, thought to work mischief. But Delbert Earle says that sounds a little too much like his mother-in-law. He’s looking for something a bit more specific, and has been, in fact, since childhood.
When Delbert Earle was seven, he announced to his big sister Imogene that he wanted to be a wooly booger for Halloween. Delbert Earle didn’t know any more about wooly boogers than he did about goblins, but he had it in his mind that anything like “wooly booger” must be a fearsome creature. And at seven, he wanted more than anything in the world to be fearsome. So Imogene made him a coat out of a burlap sack and a hat out of a gourd. She covered the whole business with Spanish moss and then, for good measure, spray painted it purple and green. From all accounts, Delbert Earle looked like something that might emerge at midnight from your local waste treatment plant.
Thusly attired as a fearsome wooly booger, Delbert Earle went trick-or-treating. He would go up to a house and knock on the door and a lady would come to the door and invariably say, “Why here’s a cute little goblin.”
Delbert Earle would get hopping mad. “Naw lady,” he would snort fearsomely, “I ain’t no goblin, I’m a wooly booger.”
“Well, do you want some candy?” the lady would ask.
“Naw, I don’t want nothing from nobody that don’t know a wooly booger from a goblin.” And he would stomp off. After about an hour of this, he gave up and went home, his trick-or-treat sack empty and his fearsomeness in disarray. That was, in fact, the very last year Delbert Earle went trick-or-treating on Halloween. After that, he just stayed home and made fearsome faces at himself in the mirror.
Ever since, Delbert Earle has been trying to pin down this business of goblins, and he’s having no luck. Folks just don’t seem to know much about goblins, no matter how freely they use the word. He conducted an informal poll at Cheap Ernie’s Pool Hall and Microbrewery, but none of the guys or gals had a clue. Sure, they’ve heard the word, but ask for details and you get blank looks. Now ghosts, they know. Ghosts wear sheets, moan a lot, and disappear through the wall. Some of the folks at Cheap Ernie’s could probably qualify as ghosts, but there’s not a goblin expert in the bunch.
Last Halloween, Delbert Earle hit upon the idea of bringing Old Shep the Wonder Dog into the business. He found his long-ago wooly booger costume in a trunk in the attic, got his uncle Fitzwaller in Louisiana to send some fresh Spanish moss, decorated Old Shep, and put him on the front porch with a sign that said, “Goblin Dog.” He figured he would at least get some opinions from the kids that came up trick-or-treating. Problem was, Old Shep – normally the gentlest of dogs -- got it in his mind that he was fearsome, and remained so after Halloween was over. Neighbors began to complain about Old Shep’s rude and obnoxious behavior, and the postman threatened to stop home delivery. It took six weeks of watching soap operas to get Old Shep back to normal.
So Halloween comes and goes, and Delbert Earle remains on goblin quest. Next year…well, he’s written to Uncle Fitzwaller for more Spanish moss, and he’s mentioned to his mother-in-law that he has an idea about her Halloween costume. Given the experience with Old Shep, I shudder to think what could happen.