Beltway Gremlin — New Fiction Writing by R. L. Saunders

Indecision has been known to kill people. In politics, it just makes fund-raising harder.

That’s why we gremlins love the politicians. When they built Washington on our swamp, we got the best deal out of it.

Us and the faerie-folk.

Until then, we only had the natives and the migrant colonists to work with. Influencing their minds and helping them to live more “interesting” lives.”

But when they paved over that swamp and replaced it with all sorts of statuary, and homes and lots of un-elected bureaucrats, then the fun began.

It’s said that the Beltway changes people. No — they are all listening to us — and changing their minds, constantly. Just to keep from going crazy…


Beltway Gremlin — New Fiction Writing by R. L. Saunders

(This is available almost everywhere as an ebook — with Bonus short story “The Lonely Witness”. Visit for details and immediate access.)


I

That last committee meeting was the greatest fiasco we ever created. Everyone got pissed off at everyone else, and all but went at each other’s throats. At least in their speeches.

Made us gremlins happy. Upset the fairies. (Well, they only really get very disappointed.) Gremlins can get positively torqued — because we are built that way. Cousin to trolls, you know.

The trick is that we feed off their upset and discord. And when there is lots of food around, we gorge. Don’t want to let all that great angst and hate go to waste, now do we?

Fairies try to balance us out. (Good luck with that.) They live on the great speeches and oratory, where the original high ideals are espoused, and re-dedicated, and repeated in the hallway and building descriptions as so “inspirational.”

Whatever.

Us gremlins live for the down-and-dirty, backstabbing, vicious lying that goes on in the cloakrooms and private offices.

That meeting gave us gremlins just had so much fun, and we rode away on the shoulders of our hosts fat, happy, and grinning from ear to ear.

When you see committee members walk out of a vote, you know we just scored big time. And when they go to complain to the media about how they were treated, or how their witness wasn’t respected, or other complete lies — that’s where we feast.

II

Let’s be clear: Gremlins bring out the worst in humans. They make them say the “darnedest” things. Because humans are often more like children than adults. All that poppycock about brains “maturing” is more gremlin-speak for having parents who were sheltered and spoiled as children raising spoiled children of their own who also can’t determine fact from dreams or from opinion.

There. I said it. Even fairies like me have to stomp our pretty feet at times.

Not that it bothers gremlins. It only bothers humans to be “wrong” about something or to not get their “way.”

And our job as fairies to to bring out the best in humans. So we work to balance the gremlins as we both ride on the shoulders of our selected humans. All around the Washington Beltway.

If you can see us “faerie-folk” you can probably see the gremlins, too — they are just on a different wavelength. We’re both over-talking the other at the same time. Over-shouting, in many cases.

That’s the stupid, blank looks you see on TV. Deer in the headlights. Non-sequitur responses when people are interviewed. Losing their “train of thought.” Even going so far as quoting song lyrics as statistically-proved facts. (I think Meat Loaf still holds the record for direct quotes to support the senators’ arguments.)

Not that they don’t have a lot of actors there (regardless of any witness’s ability to swoon the press.) In general, it seems that if you had a character that ended in -er, like “Gopher” or “Cooter” you had a better chance at a nationwide office. (And this doesn’t include so many who made the transition just up to or beyond local May-or, like Salvato-re Bono) And having a president with an acting background seems to help on the campaign. Apparently, the more movies you’ve been in, the more Republican you get…

All this constant play against the Gremlins has made my own otherwise light-hearted responses a bit sarcastic, so I apologize.

We fairies often have to take breaks in Statuary hall, and read the inscriptions on the buildings around Washington, just to get our balance back. Something like the observation — that you become like the five people you most associate with. So we try to rotate our staff occasionally.

It’s unfortunate that the humans cannot “tag-team” their position.

This is what makes their infection become more permanent.

III

One of our favorite tricks is to get these people to “remember” anything, or place their memory on record. Memories are faulty. When five eye witnesses to any event all come up with different versions, you already see the problem. That’s why there are investigations, after all. Of those five, you’ll start seeing some commonalities. Those then become fact, even if that’s not what actually happened.

Our great talent is being able to infect people’s beliefs so that they keep believing that way long after they’ve left the Beltway.

No, it’s not possible for us to leave with them. It has happened in rare occasions, but humans still out-number gremlins and fairies combined. Of course we live way longer, but that’s not the point. When you have a single spot on this planet as being more effective at creating change on this planet, you have greater number of physical and metaphysical beings aggregating to that spot.

Of course, as I said, we were here first. As the feeding got better, we both increased our numbers. And then you also have chain-migration issues that helped. (Oh, come on — where did you think that idea really came from?)

And it’s also not possible to kill any of us off. Otherwise, our war of words would have become a real bloodbath.

The best thing to do is to turn one of the others over to your way of thinking. And the fairies are better at this than us gremlins, probably the only reason that they keep winning on the long term. I mean, we had all those great global wars that had to end for some reason. Not because either side really ran out of armament. But decided to quit for some reason. Like the Confederates — not that I was on their side, personally I like slavery. But for that goody-goody General Lee, insurgent actions like Kansas would have kept going for a decade. (Wonder what fairy was on his shoulder?)

No, I like slavery, especially the legal kinds we have today. Like Facebook — being able to turn off anytime you want, but can never really leave. Slavery by advertising. Your chains of ads keep “following you around” the Internet unless you use blockers on everything. Like vampires and crosses.

Anyway I think I’m going to have to give this up. As snarly as I get sometimes, I did meet a fairy who got my respect. And made me pause. Of course, my buddies didn’t appreciate me hesitating on the “kill” switch.

IV

Bonzo is his name. That gremlin I’ve been working with.

See, we fairies have to believe in a lot of things. And one of those is the impermanence of mental habits. You’ve already seen how working with them can put an “edge” on anyone’s daily attitudes. (Again, sorry about that.)

In the same way, little unwarranted acts of kindness can defuse a gremlin’s attack. Like letting them have both first and last say in a matter. So they end up “owing you one.”

And then you can let some little points go in order to win a bigger one.

Like that poor woman who had to witness something she couldn’t recall with any real accuracy. And then had all her witnesses to the event say they weren’t there or that wasn’t the way it happened, or were too ill to remember right. So sad. You really felt for her.

Something happened sometime, and now she’s on record as having a faulty memory. In front of everyone.

Now, of course humans have faulty memories. Period.

If that’s not bad enough, belief “becomes father to fact” and can change the current events around them. Some of these are called “miracles.” And others erase any record of there being an alternate fact in existence.

(You’ll have to forgive the media these days. Even their own recordings are suspect, as they will edit them to fit their own beliefs. This isn’t what we are talking about. Believe something long enough and hard enough and it comes into play. True. But most of the reporters these days are addicted to Twitter, and Twitter feeds are rife with lies. Just another form of social slavery you’ve been shackled with. I know. Where do you get the idea to share all those delightful cat pictures? Twitter is entertainment — so entertainers get top billing, if they know how to use it to captivate their audience. Otherwise, it’s must more shackles you don’t need.)

Bonzo, anyway, is coming around.

He owes me quite a few “gimmes”. Because he is so aggressive about “winning” his arguments. And winning to him is having the last word. Even if it makes him look really stupid and defeats the reason for having any argument.

That poor woman again. After weeks of preparation, she came off with a good delivery, but now will be forever known by her holey memory. Which is weird to anyone who has studied psychology. They have all these fascinating terms such as “victim mentality” and “Stockholm syndrome” where they believe they are being persecuted when they aren’t, or their persecutors are blameless. Of course, the mind is another thing like fairies and gremlins that can’t be seen. Operating on a brain doesn’t improve perception of it or us. Poor psychologists.

And I’d say poor politicians as well. Those blank looks and non-sequitur comments aren’t theirs. It’s just us invisible people yelling into their invisible mind with conflicting suggestions about what to do.

Bonzo is one of my pet projects. I’m being polite to him. “No, please, after you. Isn’t there something you want to say that would sum up your position on this?”

You should see the look on his face. But you can’t, so that’s why we are co-authoring this book. Right — one on each shoulder of the author. And we’re taking turns.

Isn’t that right, Bonzo?

V

Layla — that’s the one who is trying to persuade me to go “straight.” And she has some good points.

Being grouchy all the time isn’t all that much fun. And all our shouting makes these politicians get any number of worry lines and ulcers. Of course, the lighting in these committee rooms doesn’t compare to especially thick makeup and filters on cameras that they need for their TV ads to get re-elected.

That’s where we both agree on term-limits. Because humans are so fragile. Their minds go “poof” after too much strain like this. Saying the “darnedest” things is just the tip of the iceberg. Then there is the quasi-legal action of pay-for-play that no one wants to actually prosecute. If they did, we gremlins would have a pretty rough time of things.

Fairies and their sympathies get to us at that point. Humans don’t live long, and we live forever. Plus, it gets pretty hard to get anything through their minds after awhile. Like shouting though Swiss cheese. More holes than cheese. Nothing to get a grip on. Dying in office is just sad. They are better off like ex-presidents who can get out as millionaires after only eight years. Look them up. Since they have been guaranteed an income since Truman, it’s become pretty commonplace to start earning 7- and 8-figure income even if all their “legacy” is undone in just a few months.

But the other thing that Layla and I have in common is appreciating the beauty of Nature. At least even humans can see that.

When Washington is shut down for bad weather, we’ll often go up to just watch that huge storm, like the weather satellites do. Amazing stuff. hundreds of mile-per-hour winds. Tides that are several times their normal size. And in just a few days, it’s gone.

Layla keeps promising to take me out to Hawaii when the volcanoes are exploding. It’s tricky with our schedule. But it’s a “date” for us — sometime in the future.

No, dates between opposites like gremlins and fairies isn’t unknown. We work so much together, it’s bound to happen. Not like we are drinking buddies or some other “buddy” like humans have.

Just check out “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. We virtually dictated that to Bill Shakespeare. So you know it’s pretty accurate.

Look, just because we are on the other side of the fence doesn’t mean we are trying to destroy each other.

Actually, if you don’t have two pretty evenly-matched teams, it’s not a good game.

Ours is called “gridlock.” And humans only complain about it when their side isn’t getting what they want. Spoiled, like she said.

Old surveys of the rest of the country say that they are happiest when nothing happens in Washington — other than renaming post offices and so on.

So I guess that this tit-for-tat game we are playing with the fairies is more or less pointless…

Other than the simple idea: what else do you do when you’re basically immortal?

VI

That’s the point I keep making to Bonzo.

Take the long view of things.

Like that “Golden Rule” I keep pointing out to people. If you treat people like garbage, then you’re going to get treated like garbage. (Reminds me of that old computer maxim: “garbage in = garbage out.”) Not quite the same, but close. Maybe shouting at yourself in the mirror is more accurate. Neither of you is listening. Both of you got it “out of your system” but nothing changed.

And why people like the Hallmark channel now more than ever, and why you can make more money selling “cozy” mysteries and “clean” or “sweet” romance than you can with porn and “edgy” movies or TV shows. Why G-rated movies gross better on average than any other ratings — more people can see them and enjoy them.

That’s why humanity has constantly made progress. Humans want to improve their lot. And those who are destructive are also self-destructive. Even Whitey Bulger eventually got caught, found guilty, and imprisoned.

The means never justify the ends. They always end up shooting the messenger.

Getting vicious in these global media days just means that more people have a record of what you said.

And hold you to it.

So I take Bonzo up to see places like the Grand Canyon (both in Arizona and Illinois) where the erosion of ages past create such an immense place of beauty. Took centuries to get that way.

Take the long view. Treat people like you want to be treated. Get better results.

VII

And Layla let me have the last word. Again. (Sigh.)

Sorry, but she has a point about a lot of things.

I might have to take a millennium off just to think a few of these things through.

Not like I’m going to get anywhere by listening to this historical “blip” called social media.

For now, though, I’ll keep up my act, perching on the shoulders of the addle-brained politicians in D. C.

Sure, it may be a zero-sum game, but it’s the only game in town.

Well, maybe not…


(This is available almost everywhere as an ebook — with Bonus short story “The Lonely Witness”. Visit for details and immediate access.)


Originally published at .