A thorn imbedded in a wool sock has rubbed a raw spot on the bunion on my right foot. The fiery scrape and stab of a thistle’s needle-tip spine is another of the small miseries I blame upon the Enochli̱tikos, minor gods of annoyance whose raison d’être is to inflict irritation and vexation.
Tonight one of them has deftly woven a tiny needle into a fuzzy pill of wool inside the sock, protruding just far enough to prick and rip my tender skin. The intent of the little demons, apparently, is to worsening the agonies imposed by the grander goddess Nemesis: leg muscle cramps to punish my hubris of snowshoeing two miles before I have properly conditioned my body for winter hiking.
Enochli̱tikos, these smalltime pranksters of the supernatural realm, are nasty creatures. Vile and mean-spirited.
Paper cuts, motes in eyes, heel blisters, split fingernails, canker sores, busted knuckles, skinned knees, stubbed toes, sprained ankles, boils, punctures, abrasions, toothache, twisted knees, indigestion, hyperextended joints, low-grade fevers, back pain, scalds and burns, headaches, cramps, anxiety, doubt, fear, insomnia, worry — all these afflictions are the work of the Enochli̱tikos, petty deities whose dynamis is so feeble they are able to inflict only nickel-and-dime tribulations. No malady they induce is grievous enough to incapacitate but all are noisome enough to debilitate.
They are the guerilla terrorists in our war for survival, infiltrating through every weak point, causing negligible but bothersome damage, constantly wearing us down. Their insignificance is their greatest strength because we are always taken by surprise.
We gird ourselves to confront and drive away the wolf whose savage, slashing bite can destroy us, but in time we discover most of our defensive battles are little more than shooing away these mice that try to nibble us to death. I have heroic visions of standing up to the wrath and fury of Zeus, Hera, Ares, and even the deathly cold visage of Hades, but it seems evermore likely that I will be taken down by some assortment of Enochli̱tikos, demigods so trivial they appear in no Classical Greek legends. I have assigned their mythical genus a name taken from the Greek word “ενοχλητικό” (English variation “enochli̱tikó”) meaning pesky, troublesome, bothersome, annoying.
Tonight’s thorn-in-the-sock nastiness, for example, is a typical Enochli̱tikos prank, sufficiently exasperating to ruin the warmth and quietude of a couple hours of reading in my easy chair. I have grudging admiration for the detailed execution of this piece of mischief. Trying to remove the entangled thistle spine, I tore a hole in the nearly new sock and angrily tossed it in the textile recycling bin. Another defeat and another casualty in the war with the Enochli̱tikos.
Damn them. Cast them into the Underworld of Hades where all is dark and cold. Make them wear wool socks studded with thorns. Torment them with leg cramps and really painful bunions. And remind the Enochli̱tikos daily who named them and ratted them out. Let them never bother me and my tribe again.
There, that’s resolved. So why is my shoulder making strange creaking and popping sounds?
More essays and stories about life in the North Country are published in my six collections of essays, available through Amazon.com at Jerry Johnson Author Page