Thursday, September 6, 2018

                                                           Just for fun... SpiderTrolls

Monday, July 23, 2018


I would like to share with you a modern tribute to some of the myths and legends of Norway’s past. I believe that this tale reflects how these legends might be written if they were done today. I have also included, in this story, some very interesting Troll Lore that may clear up a few things about these wonderful creatures and why we sometimes get confused about the real reputation of Trolls. I think this story might even make a great bedtime story to read to your children. I have also, once again, taken the liberty to have the dialogue ‘interpreted’ so you can understand what was really being said by Nik, Jok and Bolarg. Grandpa Martin
 A Boy and His Troll
(A Tribute to Ancient Myth)
Nobody ever had a ten-foot tall, two-headed Troll for a friend, nobody that is except ten year old Christian Hartvig. Of course this ‘friend’ came as no surprise to those who knew the energetic blond boy with the long irreverent hair and overly active imagination. People of the village knew that ever since he could talk he had rambled on frequently about how he wanted to meet a troll and how wonderful it would be to have one as a friend. His room was littered with uncounted pictures of trolls of every size and description drawn carefully on even the smallest of scraps of paper available. His first real art project was a clay troll made as a Yule present for his father, Edvard. Father Hartvig was very proud of his four-year-old son’s efforts. The lump of rolled clay with two balls perched on top held on by sticks was carefully dried in the sun. The boy had used sticks for arms and feet and rocks for the eyes and mouth. The tail and hair were made of hair tufts gathered from a neighbor’s dogs and stuffed in so that they were held in by the dry clay. Even then there were two heads and both heads had large noses and he had used kernels of corn to make buck teeth on one of the heads.
Christian was nine and a half when Nik and Jok came into his life. It was the boy’s habit to play alone and with friends in the nearby wooded area which bordered on a large forested area about a half hour walk from his home. The kilometer long spur extended from the forest providing a beautiful green and brown peninsula of trees in an otherwise meadowed area that adjoined the great woods. Christian would climb on the rocks and play among the trees until dark and sometimes beyond and would come home with tales of his fantastic adventures that usually involved trolls. His friends sometimes would pretend they were the trolls but Christian’s tales were always broader and grander especially after his friends had left to go home. Sometimes his friends would tire of the game and want to play Vikings or Soldier or something else. Christian would often join in these games as well but sometimes he would go off on his own to explore the three quarter kilometer wide patch of forest.
It was on one such occasion that Christian failed to return home at dark. A quick check with his friends revealed that he had gone off on his own and they had not seen him when they yelled that they were leaving as the sun was setting. Worried about his only child Father Hartvig had taken his walking stick and gone with his fretting wife to the forest where he found the boy sleeping on the ‘far’ side of one of the largest trees in the area. When they woke him, he was very excited.
I met a troll and he ummm they have two heads!” He blurted jumping to his feet as he looked around. “They’re ten feet tall and one head is named Nik and the other is named Jok!”
Christian then proceeded to tell his relieved and amused parents how the Troll had come down from the Trondheim area where they live in a deep cave.
...Nik wanted to go South to Oslo while Jok wanted to stay home. Jok hates to travel.” The boy did not give his parents time to get angry and as he went on they realized he had simply fallen asleep and that was that.
It must be hard when one head wants one thing and the other head wants something different.” Said his mom, Merta, winking at her husband who was standing near by frowning.
It is.” said Christian conspiratorially. “But I think Nik is a little smarter and he won the argument. Jok said that they decided to stay around here for a while because they like me so I guess Jok was glad he came.”
I see.” said his mother softly as she tried not to laugh at her son’s bright eyed enthusiasm. “Now let’s get home. You gave us quite a scare and if it happens again you will be forbidden to come here again for a week!”
Christian looked down. “I’m sorry. I was having so much fun building a fort. I was piling those rocks over there when I looked up and there was this head. I screamed and started to run, then I tripped.”
I looked up and Jok smiled. “Do not be afraid.” he said. “I am Jok and my brother here is Nik, we are here to help.”
They turned away and took three or four steps to the rocks over there. I was amazed when the two easily picked up that biggest rock there and set it beside my fort. They then looked at me and motioned for me to join them. We worked together for a while until I got tired and decided to sit down. Jok and Nik said they would keep watch. I guess I fell asleep and they had to go before they could wake me up.”
Edvard Hartvig looked sternly at his son then at the uneven row of rocks two or three of which were three and four times the size of his son. “You cannot use your fantasies to excuse your behavior. Now get home and get your chores done while Mother tries to save supper.”
Over the next few days Christian would run home after school so he could get his chores and homework done. When he was finished, he would race to the woods sometimes forgetting to do more than yell to his mother that he was leaving. There he would meet his friends, when they could come, and they would play until they could not see. Ofttimes hide and seek games would last until one of the boys realized how late it was and then all of them would run home laughing sometimes as late as seven in the evening.
One night he burst into the door and announced that Jok and Nik wanted to meet his parents. Christian’s dad was gone for the night on a hunting trip with the boy’s uncles so when his mother heard her son she was hesitant to go outside.
On the porch she squinted and pretended to look hard in the direction the boy was pointed as he introduced his friends.
Where?” she asked teasingly turning toward her son. “I don’t see any trolls.”
Christian giggled recognizing the game at once. “Oh mom!” he said in mock seriousness, “He’s um they’re standing right behind you!”
Mother Hartvig turned and looked up. “OH! There you are! I don’t know what I’m going to do with you. You move so fast for such a big, umm boy.” she said as if meeting a two-headed troll was an everyday experience. “Why don’t they talk?”
The almost ten-year-old smiled broadly. He loved it when his mother played the ‘pretend’ game and moved over next to his big friend. “Because I told them they might scare the neighbors if they made any noise.”
His mother eyed him quietly then looked up toward the sky. She enjoyed the game too and wondered what this Troll would think about it. “I thought you said he was ten feet tall he looks like he is almost eleven feet tall to me. Has he grown? If he gets any bigger, he will never be able to get into our house and besides, I do not know what I should feed him. Do they like porridge?”
Christian licked his lips. “With lots of honey and almonds.” he said effervescently.
I will remember that. It is not every day that a person meets at Two-headed Troll. But Mr. Troll, um I mean Mr. Trolls, you will have to excuse us. Christian has to go to bed so he can go to school tomorrow.” She then waved at the Troll and took her son by the hand.
Goodnight. See you again.” they said together.
The Troll, of course, just waved and left vanishing into the dark “almost as a ghost” as Christian later put it.
Two weeks passed and on the days he went out to the woods Christian returned home more subdued and quiet than normal. When his Father asked him, the boy explained that Nik and Jok had not been around and even though he had fun with his other friends he missed ‘his Troll’.
Be careful.” his father had advised, “Trolls are tricky and are known to cause trouble. Some types are very troublesome like the hair tanglers and tooth breakers but the big ones are unpredictable and will sometimes eat bad little boys.”
Ogres and Giants eat little boys not trolls!” insisted Christian. “And I am a good boy so I am safe! We are also friends and no Troll would hurt his friend.”
His father looked skyward. “I do not want you playing alone in the woods now that Winter is approaching. You could slip and hit your head or have some other accident so when the other boys come home you come home too!” He then added with a wry smile. “I am sure your Troll friend will understand.”
The first snow fall was on a Saturday and Christian and his friends went to the woods to play. When they returned home, the boys were all jabbering excitedly about playing hide and seek with the Troll.
I saw his tail as he hid behind the brush!” exclaimed one boy named Peter.
And I saw him hidden among the boulders when Christian pointed to him!” boasted the oldest of the boys named John.
The boys all laughed and scattered to their homes leaving Christian pleased that they had all been together with his Troll.
Christian had a cold for the next two days and even though he went to school his mother would not let him play until he was fully recovered. When Saturday came around Christian finished even his extra chores rapidly so he could play but was disappointed when he had to go with his family to town instead. Monday after school Christian sprinted to the woods and that evening, he came home breathless.
You would not believe what happened!” he blurted the moment the door was shut. Just as Peter was getting ready to leave, I heard a noise behind me. Peter took off and I turned around and there were Nik and Jok and they called me and asked ME for help!”
Father Hartvig looked at the clock and it was not much later than usual. “What did he, um they, want?”
I ran over and Nik was holding what looked like a Snow Globe. Inside was a beautiful white castle and outside looking into the globe was a huge green dragon and he looked like he wanted in.” Christian paused to gulp in a breath. “Nik shook the globe and silver flakes swirled inside and suddenly I was standing by the castle and it was bigger than a thousand churches!”
Mother Hartvig looked down at her son. “So you were in the globe?” she asked handing her son a glass of milk.
Christian drank quickly leaving a white frothy mustache on his upper lip. “Yes! Jok told me that we needed to save the castle from the dragon!”
He paused a moment and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
I looked around and I saw the dragon and he was ten times bigger than the castle. I looked on the other side and there were zillions of cows and pigs and turkeys and I told Nik that I had a plan. ‘We have to feed the dragon’ I said. ‘If we do, he will go away and sleep for a thousand years’!”
So Jok and Nik and I started throwing animals into its mouth as it climbed the rocks toward the castle. Jok threw in a thousand cows and Nik threw in a thousand pigs and I threw in a thousand turkeys. Finally the dragon stopped climbing and turned around. I turned and looked at Jok and Nik who smiled at me. Just then the Dragon turned around and talked to me!”
Thank you!” continued Christian lowering his voice to imitate a Dragon. “I was so very hungry. I am so happy you fed me. I will be forever grateful! If you ever need my help just blow on a whistle. I will wake up from my nap and come to your aide.” Christian drew a breath and grinned. “He then wondered off to the edge of the world and disappeared. I was just about to ask Nik how to get home when I looked up and at the window of the highest part of the castle and I saw a beautiful princess and she is about my age and she waved at me and I waved back but then I was standing outside the globe looking at the castle and the dragon was gone!”
And where’d he go?” Asked his mom softly as she took the glass and turned to the kitchen.
Christian looked skyward. “I told you, he walked off the edge of the world. Mom, where’s my whistle?”
School seemed to drag for Christian over the next few days and afterward he came home most days because the weather was bad and because he was told by Nik that they were going up to the Trollheiman mountains to visit their brother. Jok also told him to look for them after the first of the year around ‘his birthday’.
The Blessed Jule Season came and went and as usual the Julenissen thought Christian was a good boy who always put porridge out for him to eat. The Old Elf knew that Christian was doing well in school and that he took care of his animal friends which made the ancient one’s job easier. Christian had enjoyed the gifts and sweets he received especially the orange. He had followed after the character some called Father Christmas from house to house joining several of his friends. At each home they got a sweet or a small gift from the neighbor and when they all went back to his house there was hot chocolate or coffee and a warm fire. His friends and he had talked and joked for almost an hour before Mr. Hartvig told them it was time to go home to their families and suppers.
When his father took down the decorations later that week, Christian had the honor of removing from the tree a special Silver Pine Cone his great-grandfather had mysteriously received one Jule Eve’s night. Reverently, he set it on the mantle atop a special wooden tripod the family used as a stand. The tripod had been whittled from a single piece of wood and had three linked rings that held it together. The ‘mystical’ pine cone, which was said to bring good luck to the home and family, and the marvelous stand had been promised to Christian when he was of age. As his hands withdrew from the family heirloom, the boy was certain he felt a small flash of an energy pass to him from the cone. Looking curiously at his fingers, he left the room to play.
On New Years Day Christian and his friends played in the woods but it just did not seem the same because his friend was not there. What made it worse was he had to endure the good natured teasing and joking the boys threw at him. The boys, seemingly, had discovered over the holidays that Trolls were not real and that their sightings all had logical explanations. As they played, the boys took great delight in greeting every odd rock outcropping or twisted tree trunk as Mr. Troll this or old Hag Troll that. Christian took the ribbing good naturedly and even took part only being careful to point out the ones he ‘knew’ or believed had once been trolls. Harder to stomach was the teasing about how the entire town thought he was a bit obsessed or even a little crazy when it came to trolls. After all, they reasoned, almost every story, art project and sentence written during the last few weeks had some kind of troll twist to it and that was not normal. The boys told him that if he continued they would lock him up in a nut house or worse some ‘big evil troll’ would come and carry him away in the night. Christian laughed at these statements and even made a few attempts to point out other things he was interested in like skiing and math but no matter what he did he could not help coming back to trolls and how his friends would return by his birthday. He promised them that they would all be amazed when he properly introduced them to Nik and Jok.
After Christian’s promise the kidding continued. Only Peter seemed to hesitate to badger his friend further and as the afternoon wore on he seemed to draw himself away from the others.
Christian awoke early on the twenty-second day of the new year as excited as only a boy could be. Not only was it his birthday but it was the day ‘his troll’ was to return! He made a half-hearted attempt to get his mother to let him stay home from school but she would have none of that nonsense so forlorn yet full of excitement he trudged off to school in one of the many mid-winter storms that blustered and blew this time of year.
The hours in school seemed to drag on eternally as the young boy struggled to focus on the days lessons. Once he was almost caught drawing a picture of Jok and Nik and had it not been for a timely distraction by his friend Peter he would have lost ‘one of his best drawings ever’.
When his classes finally ended Christian sprinted home. That morning he had pleaded with his mother to let him go to the woods first but she had insisted that he come home and help get ready for the family and visitors that were sure to come that evening to celebrate his birthday. “Besides,” she reasoned, “your troll did not say they would be back exactly on your birthday and if they are your friends they will understand if you have other more important things to do.”
The next day Christian went to the woods and the next day after that and every day he could for the next three weeks. Occasionally Peter or some of his other friends would join him but they were more interested in ‘snow forts and sliding’ than in trolls and they were always quick to point out that there weren’t even any footprints to show that any troll, even a small one, had come by. Strangely, Christian took comfort in the lack of foot prints. At least, he reasoned, he had not missed him but after three weeks he began to worry that perhaps his troll friends had forgotten him or got hurt or worse had turned to stone. Each time he plodded home he worried and wondered why the two-headed troll had not come as promised. Again, it was Peter who tried to help by telling him that to a troll a year is a very short time and that sometimes a troll’s sense of time is different from people.
It was the third day of the second month that Christian came home flushed and out of breath. “They’re back!” He announced happily. I followed his tracks to the far end of the woods and there he was sitting on a rock. I was so excited, I ran up and gave him a hug!”
Mother Hartvig stood and listened to her son carry on for over three minutes about how the Troll had looked happy to see him but had grown sad. She winked at her husband who was pretending to be reading when Christian told her that an evil Ogre named Bolarg had kidnaped the Princess in the castle and taken her to his lair in the dark hidden mountains. She listened as her son explained that Jok had asked him to come help rescue the princess and that he needed to come to the woods tomorrow early after his chores were done if he wanted a chance to be a hero.
Well at least he did not tell you to skip your chores.” said his mother smiling. “I suppose you can go if you promise to get home before supper and don’t plan to go anywhere tomorrow, we are going to church and then to visit your Aunt Sigrid.”
Christian jumped up and down in excitement almost knocking over a chair. “I have to go pack. Mom, do you know where my tin whistle is?”
The next morning Christian was up before first light and by the time the winter light from the nearly hidden sun filtered into his yard the chores were done and he had eaten a hearty meal of porridge, bread and goats milk. He had packed a small knapsack full of nuts and dried berries and filled a flask with cold milk to take for lunch and had put on his heaviest of pants and sweaters to wear under his winter coat. He also took his warmest mittens and hat and he promised his mother that if he got to cold he would come home if he could.
Christian was surprised that as he walked out of the gate he found Peter approaching from town. Like himself Peter was dressed warmly for the day’s excursion which promised to be nice because, for now, the clouds were high and the wind was barely a cool breath on the exposed cheeks of both boys.
I thought you might go out today so I convinced my mother to let me go with you. She thinks you are a ‘bit crazy’ but you are still a ‘nice boy’ so she let me come.” Said Peter grinning.
Christian quickly explained the problem and that he did not know if Peter could go into the snow globe too. Peter told him that if he had to he would watch the globe while they were inside just as long as he got to watch what was going on inside. Christian said he would ask but made no promises that Nik and Jok would even let him come close to the magical orb.
Are you scared?” Asked Peter after several minutes of silence.
The boys were sitting on the smoother part of a rock that sat buried deep at the edge of the forest spur. They had arrived just a half hour earlier and both had called out several times for the troll to appear but the only reply was the rustle in the trees from the light wind that blew. Christian pulled his cap down tighter over his ears and blew on his heavily gloved hands. In his mind he imagined the inside of the globe with its green field that surrounded the castle. His mind wondered to his first visit to the castle and he wondered for a moment why he did not see the sheep and other animals when he looked in at the end.
No, I’m not scared but I am afraid that Nik and Jok won’t be here.” said Christian after a pause. “I hope it doesn’t snow again today.”
Peter shivered. “Did you say it was warm inside the castle?”
I didn’t actually get in the castle but it was warm outside.”
Peter smiled mischievously. “When you were feeding the dragon did the animals just line up to get thrown into the dragon or did you have to go catch each one?”
Christian looked at his friend and frowned. “You don’t believe me do you?”
It is a very wild story.” said his friend.
Then why are you here?” demanded Christian standing. “I don’t think my parents even believe me and mom met my troll!”
Did she ever say she really saw him, I mean them?”
She talked to them. She shook his hand!”
Peter repeated the question.
Christian looked at his friend then shook his head. “You think I am crazy too, just like everyone else.” he said softly.
Are the trolls for real?” asked Peter finally. “The idea scares me.”
Christian was a long time answering. Finally he looked at his friend and smiled. “Yes, they are real.”
Peter nodded. “I want to believe. It would be a very boring world without magic and trolls and stuff like that.”
It would at that.” came a low voice from behind.
Both boys jumped and turned around. Peter took a step back and tripped over the rock.
All he saw was the two powerful legs and the full belly until from the ground he looked up at the chins of the two-headed troll.
Christian grinned from ear to ear. “Boy, you sure move quietly for a big guy!” he blurted as he gazed up at his friend.
Jok grinned. “Don’t just stand there staring at us. Help your friend up!”
Peter scrambled to his feet and stood, mouth open, staring up at the troll.
Now you are a true believer.” said Christian softly. “Close your mouth before something jumps in.”
Peter closed his mouth.
We better get going!” said Christian finally. “Do you have the orb?”
You won’t be needing it.” said Nik. “We are going to ride on the North Wind.”
You know the North Wind?” Questioned Peter finally finding his voice.
We know many things and many things know us. Just because nobody believes the myths and stories anymore does not mean that they do not exist anymore. We just do things differently now. Once upon a time Trolls were needed to maintain the balance of nature. We were up front in our efforts but now things have changed and we are happy to be doing our jobs in the background where only a few know the true magic of the world around us.”
Christian nodded. It was the longest thing he had heard either of the heads say. “So does the princess really need help?”
Jok nodded. “Yes. And Bolarg is going to force her to marry him, so we have to hurry!”
Is Bolarg a troll?” asked Peter.
No, but he might be called one by people who can’t tell the difference between a giant, an ogre and a troll. Most of your kind do not care to see the differences. They see something in the woods or something they can’t explain and it’s a troll without a doubt. Even the fair folk can’t always tell us apart from other big and unusual creatures.” said Jok.
Nik bumped his brother’s head slightly with his own. “Now we must hurry. The North Wind is waiting.”
Christian felt a shiver as the snow around him began to whirl and blow as the wind kicked up.
Suddenly in the turmoil of nature a face seemed to take shape in the whiteness followed by a flowing blue white gown. Without a word the troll chose a boy for each hand and after picking them up gently, set them in the center of the flowing garment. To their surprise it felt like they were riding on the broad back of a man or perhaps a horse. Nik and Jok climbed on behind them and took hold of the folds in the robe.
Hang on!” Cried both heads at once.
Christian and his friend barely had time to take a fist full of the feathery, silk like cloth before the rush of cold air nearly knocked them from their perch. In seconds the boys were looking down as the landscape rushed past below them.
WEEEEEEEEE!!!” cried Christian releasing one hand like a bronco rider.
Ahhhhhhh.” screamed Peter as he clutched the cloth tighter and buried his face in its folds.
They traveled for hours or was it just heart beat? Below them passed a large stone hat with a hole followed in seeming short order by a large stone face overlooking a beautiful valley. Three breathtaking castles in the sky whizzed by each grander and more glistening than the next. Christian tugged on Peter’s coat pointing to a large flying goat that looked to be carrying a princess. Peter opened his eyes briefly catching a glimpse of a strange spectral image on the goat’s rump before shutting his eyes tight and burying himself in the folds of the great wind’s garments. He would not look upward where stars seemed to whirl and dance on a velvet cloth. Even with his friend’s urging Peter refused to budge while Christian found himself wanting to reach out and touch the fiery points of light. Only childlike hesitancy to do wrong restrained him from risking the fall.
More heartbeats elapsed and more wonderful sights rushed by. Icy tundra replaced the rocky grays and browns of the world below. Reindeer herds could be seen ranging far and wide in the barren clime. Occasionally they could see bears and other exotic animals braving the cold. Christian’s heart soared with each moment while Peter clutched at the wind and hid in fear.
Suddenly the land before them turned green and bright as a barrier of high peaks gave way revealing the hidden valley as bright and green as any Norwegian Spring. On the far side of this awesome vision Christian saw the castle shimmering in an almost mystical light with a backdrop of snow capped mountains. Closer was a crest that rose almost fin like out of the ground dividing the valley in two. Christian wondered where the ‘end of the world’ was that he had seen from the castle but he did not have time to worry about it as he felt them descending rapidly into the valley.
The great North Wind wound his way down and as they did their side of the valley grew darker and more ominous. As they came around in one of the Circles, Christian saw a shear rock face on the outer ring of mountains. In the center was a carved door lead up to by seven golden steps that glowed with the dark luster of night. Christian tugged at Nik’s sleeve and pointed.
The Lair of Bolarg.” Whispered the ‘left’ head above the diminishing roar of the wind as they touched down gently on the ground.
The what?!” stammered Peter who remained curled up in a tight ball as the North Wind bowed and leapt back into the air.
The home of the Great Ogre Bolarg.” restated Christian in breathless excitement. “Now stand up. We have to go rescue the Princess.”
With those words Christian took several steps toward the castle which now appeared much closer to the horizon then it looked from the air. Jok’s arm immediately reached out and restrained the boy.
We must be careful.” said Nik quietly. “Bolarg may be an Ogre but he is not a stupid Ogre like so many of them are. He is cunning and learns from his mistakes and those made by others.”
Jok nodded. “:You would never get him to cut open his belly to fill it faster and I don’t think he’d fall for squeezing water out of a cheese. And for certain if he gets you in a bag you will be eaten.”
Eaten?” Peter spluttered as he tried to squeeze into a tighter ball. “I don’t want to be eaten.”
Christian looked at his friend and gently reached down and pulled him up. “We won’t be eaten. We’re still smarter and luckier than any old Ogre, but it would be nice to have a sword and a magic potion or two.”
Magic potions aren’t as good as you would think and most Ogres and fewer Trolls are not stupid enough to leave one hanging near a door for just anyone to drink.” Explained Nik
It would be easier if we had a few hundred sheep or a box of gold and jewels or maybe a magic singing harp to trade for the princess. But that would only work if Bolarg was tired of her rubbing his head and feet.” added Jok rubbing his own head lightly.
Well we don’t have a bridge and a billy-goat.” complained Peter. “So what are we going to do. You brought us here. Don’t you have a plan?”
You don’t want billy-goats.” grumbled Jok. “Smelly, sneaky critters.”
Christian grinned knowingly and looked at the bright sun then at his friend.
Sensing his thoughts Nil looked up at the yellow orb and smiled. “It is hard to explain.” he said looking down at the boy, “but let me just say that we are too lighthearted for anything bad to happen in the sun. Someday, maybe, but not now.”
Now we must save the princess.” said Jok. “The Ogre will not expect us to come by day and so maybe he will be out spying on the castle or hunting for food. Or better yet asleep deep in his lair.”
What makes this princess so important?” mumbled Peter. “And why does the light and everything seem to grow scarier closer to that door? Where are we anyway?”
That is the way of Ogres.” said Nik. “We are in the Valley of the Northern Lights. It is the daughter of the King whom Bolarg has taken. Bolarg hates the lights because they keep him awake so he holds the princess so the lights don’t happen. Bolarg also knows, like all other Ogres, that when some Princess rubs your head it is very relaxing and helps you sleep. He will keep her until the king allows her to marry him and then it will be too late.”
Peter continued to look skeptical as Christian listened intently.
And this is important to us because?” asked Peter finally.
Nik raised a hairy eyebrow. “It is the Northern Lights that help us have our Troll magic and it is that magic that we use to help nature. It also protects us.”
Yea, it protects them from us and the sun and who knows what else.” explained Christian pulling on his friend’s arm as he again started toward the door.
Nik again held up his hand. “So we must save her or no troll will be safe anywhere in the world.”
I still wanna go home.” whined Peter as Christian again grabbed his friends arm.
I have an idea!” grinned Christian turning and looking at the door. “Peter, how loud can you cry?”
After several minutes of whispered planning the trio started toward the great door that sealed Bolarg’s home. For the first few steps, Christian had to virtually drag his friend over the irregular ground spotted here and there with thickets and brambles. They had left their heavy winter gear cached in a bunch of rocks so they could move faster and be more comfortable but Peter’s steps still seemed burdened with fear and hesitation. Christian repeated the plan and encouraged his friend but progress was still slow for several minutes.
Perhaps it was the simplicity of Christopher’s plan or perhaps it was the determination that Nik and Jok radiated as they walked beside the boys but gradually Peter began to show greater confidence. With each step his resolve seemed to grow until after several meters Peter was moving as fast as the others and Christian began to wonder if his friend would be able to cry as planned.
There really were not many places to hide between where they ‘landed’ and the massive jewel encrusted doors of the Ogre’s home. Because of this they decided on the direct approach hoping that no self respecting Ogre would expect a Two headed Troll and two boys to approach his castle in broad daylight. Their plan seemed to work because they were able to get to the ornate black door unchallenged.
Up close. The door was a beautiful black onyx stone polished smooth and inlaid with jewels. It was outlined in gold and even in the shadow of the ominous cliffs that loomed over it the jewels seemed to glisten with a light of their own. Christian wanted more than anything to pry a jewel off but he resisted the urge. Peter, with his new found courage, seemed to be unable to resist as he stood awestruck with his mouth hanging open. Before Christian could cry out Peter’s hand and seemed to caress one of the jewels, which magically seemed to leap into his hand.
WHO DARES STEAL MY HOUSE?” came a rumbling voice from within.
Christian watched fearfully as Peter’s new found courage melted as he tried desperately to put back the jewel only to knock several others to the ground.
I SMELL A THIEF!” bellowed the voice and just then the door boomed open catching Nik and Jok hard sending them crashing down the stairs to the ground.
Peter screamed as he began to back slowly away from the ugly being.
Christian’s head darted side to side as he tried to determine how to save his stricken friends. The still form of the troll terrified him and he fought his instincts to race to the side of his big pals. Peter was sure to become an Ogre appetizer as he tried to crawl away. Christian knew that if he did not act fast all would be lost.
THIEF!” grunted the Ogre. “TASTY!” he added as he grabbed Peter by the leg and began to lift him up.
Peter’s high pitched wail roused Christian who darted to the door.
Hey handsome!” he cried out as he swept a dozen jewels off the door into his hand, “Betcha can’t catch me!”
The Ogre roared as if stung as he watched Christian race down the stairs and out onto the menacing countryside. Without a thought he cast Peter aside and stalked down the stairs after the fleeing thief. The monster knew that the boy was fast but lacked the stamina for a long race. It would be only a few hundred meters and he would have the boy down.
Frantically, Christian turned and flung one of the gems at the Ogre. The sharp edged jewel caught him on the forehead and bounced off. The Ogre paused and looked dazed for a moment then bent over and picked up the shiny bobble before striding forward once again. To his dismay another of the gems flew away to the right and another to his left. Roaring with anger, the Ogre rushed first left than right to retrieve his jewels.
Christian raced forward. He now held only five jewels and as he ran he would stop and throw one of the jewels in a random direction as hard as he could. Each time the Ogre would roar and turn aside to gather his treasure but still he was gaining on the boy who was now showing signs of tiring.
Christian raced on clutching the final jewel as he fumbled for the string he wore around his neck. The whistle, attached to it seemed to have a mind of its own and would not move as he tugged and pulled to get it out. Often the string would elude his fingers until finally he tugged with all his might hoping that the string would not break as it tensed. With a soft snap the whistle finally came out and Christian’s hand floundered as he tried to bring the silver noisemaker to his lips only to be forced to dodge as the ground gaining Ogre whipped at him with his long arms.
Suddenly Christian’s foot caught a rock and the boy stumbled forward, striking another rock which tripped him. Christian inhaled and would have cried out except for the whistle now pinched in his lips. For a half a moment the air was filled with a clear sharp almost piercing tone of the metal alarm. Christian hit the ground ripping his heavy pants and the whistle flew from his mouth. Stabs of pain bathed his body as he rolled over onto his bleeding knees. In the distance the open door of the fortress lair of the Ogre seemed to beckon him mockingly, offering safety.
If he could just get inside and seal the door. He thought.
With the courage and foolhardiness of youth Christian rose and began to run back toward the door. He did not see the surprised Ogre stand mutely for several seconds before he began loping after him.
Christian again felt himself falling, this time in slow motion. He imagined he heard his friends calling for him to get up and join them in the castle but he could not move. All he could do was lay there and feel his terrible pursuer draw closer. He wanted to stand and fling the last jewel at the ogre but he could not move his arm that was pinned under him. He wanted to cry but his mouth was full of grime and blood. He heard the Ogre roar in delight as it smelled the blood of his victim. Christian could smell the foul stench of the Creature as it drew close. With a deep sadness and resignation Christian tried to will himself to sink deeper into the grainy dirt in hopes of making a miraculous escape. It did not come and he could almost feel the Ogres shadow as it came over him. He waited for the killing blow to fall.
The Ogre roared defiantly as the land seemed to darken more around them. Christian heard a loud pop and then silence.
The smell of Ogre breath began to fade and the silence deepened for the several seconds the boy lay willing himself to disappear. He could feel his heart beat. He could hear his name being called. Confusion filled his mind as he rolled over and looked around. The Ogre was no where to be seen. Trembling he looked around and saw someone rushing toward him.
Peter?” he thought groggily as he looked around. No Ogre could be seen until he looked up. In the distance he could see a large dragon with a very angry Ogre dangling by one arm from its claw.
Christian!?”
Still shaking, he instinctively turned at the sound of his name. Running toward him was Peter followed by Nik and Jok who appeared to be holding his head.
Christian! Are you okay?” yelled Peter. “Did you see that? The Dragon came! Just like you said! He grabbed that ol’ Ogre and ‘BAM’ they were flying away. That Dragon will have a great supper!”
A chuckle broke the silence that followed as Christian tried gazed at his two friends.
Oh he won’t eat him.” said Nik softly. “Oh he’ll play with him for a while then let him go. Ogres do not taste good to dragons but they don’t like them and seem to enjoy making their lives miserable.”
But then he’ll do it all again!”: complained Peter.
Again the Troll chuckled. “No. Ogres may be mean and sneaky but once they fail completely or incur the wrath of a Dragon they keep to themselves for a few decades. Bolarg will be gone for some time.
Christian’s eyes widened as he looked from Peter to Nik to Jok who was still holding a rag over what appeared to be a gash over his left eye.
Are you okay?” he asked the head.
It was close but I am almost healed. Watch this.” said Jok removing the rag.
The boys gaped in astonishment as the wound closed and healed over the next few minutes. Christian had once heard that Trolls regenerate but to see it was astonishing to say the least.
I wish I could do that.” groaned Christian as the aches of his wounds began to sink in.
We should go home?” Whined Peter as he looked at his friends bleeding knees and head.
The Princess” Blurted Christian suddenly as he lost all sensation of pain. “She needs our help!”
*****
Mother. Hartvig gazed steadily at her son and his two friends as they stood inside the door of the house. She did not know what to think as she finally got Christian to remove his coat revealing the wounds on his head just as her husband had entered the entry area. She had noticed his knees but had been unable to do anything but listen to Peter’s rambling explanation of what had happened.
Slower, Peter, slower.” Said Father Hartvig noticing his wife’s frustration.
We rescued a Princess!” exclaimed Peter before Christian could open his mouth. “A Christian was chased by an Ogre and he tripped and fell and was almost smashed but a dragon grabbed the Ogre and carried him away! We rode the North Wind and saw the white castle and three other castles that were floating in the air and we came home to the woods and the princess and I had to help Christian home because Nik and Jok had to do something in the woods before he came here!”
Christian’s parents looked at him and then at Peter before turning their attention to the young girl with golden hair and piercing blue eyes.
And you are the Princess?” asked Mr. Hartvig softly.
The young women nodded.
Permit me to introduce to you Princess Natalya of the Northern Kingdom of Myth.”
Said Christian taking hold of her hand. He was certain he felt a spark as they touched.
Natalya?” repeated his mother.
Princess Natalya.” insisted Christian. “She was kidnaped by the Ogre and we found her locked in the cupboard of the Ogre’s home after the dragon carried him away.”
She was crying and that is how we found her. She said the Ogre had told her he was going to eat some thieves and had locked her up. I found the key on the table by a cold piece of mutton.” bragged Peter. “Show him the jewels we took from the door!”
Mr. Hartvig looked at his son, Peter and the strange girl and shook his head. “I think my son’s vivid imagination is rubbing off on you Peter.” he laughed shaking his head. “And as for you young lady, I do not know how these boys convinced you to go along with this story. Who are you here visiting?”
She’s a Princess, dad.” blurted Christian finally realizing that no one believed them.
And if she is a princess then that troll of yours must be outside the door!” announced his dad opening the door quickly.
Good evening, Mr. Hartvig.” Said a low voice just outside the door.
It took several minutes for Christian’s dad to close his mouth while the boy and the others stood silently chuckling behind him. Only the princess noticed as Christian quietly counted a fistful of sparkling jewels into his mother’s open hand.


Final thoughts: The idea came from one of my great aunts on my mother’s side, who was a school teacher. I often wondered why everybody referred to her mother as “princess” and perhaps now we all know why. Grandpa Martin








Thursday, June 28, 2018

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Saturday, March 17, 2018


Introduction: Top-o-the day to you all. It is almost Spring in the Northern half of the world and below the equator the nip of Fall is starting to be felt. The transition between seasons has always been both spectacular and a bit magical. It is very apropos that one of the first days celebrated in many parts of the world is St. Patrick’s Day when for a few moments many of us become a ‘wee bit’ Irish. It will come as no surprise to most of you that Trolls are very much aware of the ‘little people’ we call Leprechauns as they are all magical and magic using creatures everywhere. What is not known is that sometimes these creatures meet and when they do the fun usually begins. Such is the case in our most recent story by Master Trollologist, Martin Calderwood which is set in the early 1970s at a small High School in the U.S.A. known as Tannersville High (the home of the Fighting Trolls). I hope you will enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day Troll Tale and if you happen to know anybody who is even a little Irish send them this story and brighten their day. I am happy to introduce “A ‘Wee’ Bit o Troll Luck.”


A ‘Wee’ Bit o Troll Luck
Even as a High School Junior Benjamin Norse could barely keep his eyes from wondering up to the clock as math and the early Spring afternoon crept slowly toward its end.
Twenty minutes.” He thought morosely as he turned and glanced out the window at the bright blue sky flecked here and there with high fluffy clouds. For several seconds Ben studied these downy white specks which lulled seemingly immune to the gentle breeze that stirred around them. He let his imagination make images out of these clouds most of which gradually shifted to geometric shapes with a variety of x and y variables that needed to be measured.
Below the clouds, triangular shaped Spruce trees waved invitingly just beyond the stream that cut across the school yards edge 200 yards away. The trees, many of which were decades old, formed the edge of a sprawling forest that came down and touched the small town of Tannersville on it’s Eastern edge next to the school. Ben caught his mind drifting into those trees estimating heights and internal angles as another ‘eternal’ five minutes ticked off the classroom clock.
Gradually his eyes begin to close as his boredom grew.
And the answer to number twenty-two, Mr Norse?”
Ben started and several of the class snickered at his being caught daydreaming. He looked down at the paper which stared back at him blank and fresh. Embarrassed, his mind focused briefly on the problem on the blackboard, a quadratic equation solving for ‘x’ when ‘y’ equaled 1/4 x times three.
Ummmm,” he said as his mind raced. “‘x’ equals twenty-four.”
Correct. Keep your eyes on your book. Class will be over soon enough.”
Ben grinned sheepishly and his eyes flashed around the room before glancing once again up at the clock.
Eleven minutes.” He sighed inwardly.
Three more questions were answered and Ben’s mind was beginning to drift back into the woods when the teacher gave the assignment adding, “Did you get that Mr. Norse?”
Ben looked perplexed.
The teacher sighed. “Ask your partner in crime.” she paused nodding at a nearby girl sitting in a wheel chair. “I am sure she will give it to you.”
Ben looked at the slender but attractive face which smiled back at him as she adjusted her glasses. Behind her a freckle faced red head pulled a face and grinned broadly as he held up two fingers which became one then none as the fist made a dropping move.
As if on cue the bell sounded and the students erupted into the hall in hopes the rapid departure would somehow magically extend the weekend before them. Even the teacher was quickly packing her books as if she feared one of the students might come up with a question that would delay her retreat from the hallowed halls of education.
She need not have feared for within seconds the only three remaining people in the room were a very unlikely trio to which she had referred when she had chided Benjamin moments before.
Goodnight you three.” she said as she walked out the door.
The three muttered a farewell but continued their slightly animated discussion uninterrupted.
Of the three only Ben turned toward her as she slipped out the door. He was an honors student to whom math came easily. If he continued on his current path he would easily be in the running for Valedictorian for the Class of 1972. With him was his ever present shadow and best friend, Peter O’Day who’s neat sandy red hair was a sharp contrast to Ben’s long almost flyaway blond locks. The third person was Karen Harrison who was also in the running for Class Valedictorian. Her frail body, which was mostly confined to a wheelchair held a brilliant and somewhat devious mind. The competition between her and Ben had somehow drawn them together rather than the opposite and they would often help each other in their various assignments. Of course the real beneficiary of this friendship was Peter who’s grades had soared immensely when he started hanging around the two competitors during their sophomore year. It was almost as if he’d been drawn to them when he’d moved to the small town from Ireland. Coincidently, they had somehow gravitated to him as well. It was if the pair somehow understood why Peter’s father had decided to flee the violence still prevalent in their native country while Peter struggled with the idea. Benjamin had helped Peter to understand that it was his father’s deepest hope that the small town values of Tannersville, USA would allow the O’Day family to keep the traditions and hopes of his beloved homeland alive.
For his part, Peter, had contributed a mischievous streak that had activated something dormant in the other two and though it was not generally known, anything unusual or somewhat pranksterish could, in all likelihood, be traced back to this ensemble. Naturally, no one had ever proven a thing and if they were ever confronted the trio modestly blamed the school Troll.
Gerta, the Sack Troll was reputed to be a squat, ugly two foot tall troll who haunted the school doing all kinds of mischief. Over the past twenty-seven years since the school had been built she had been blamed for every clanking pipe, unexpected malfunction and spilled container in a locked room. Legend had it that Gerta once lived under a bridge that crossed a stream which had meandered through the land now occupied by the school. When the workers re-channeled the stream’s course and demolished the old bridge the very upset Troll was said to have moved into the school as soon as the cellar and basement were finished. Cost overruns and damaged equipment were all eventually blamed on the Troll by the contractor who was said to have invented her to cover his own carelessness. It was also said that he got the idea from Ben’s father Olaf, a sixteen year old ditch digger at the time an idea Mr. Norse now tried to keep suppressed as much as possible.
After the school was dedicated, Gerta was quiet for several years until one afternoon in the teachers lounge a toilet exploded saturating the clothing and personage of a very unpopular vice principal. Since no culprit was ever found, Gerta got the blame. Ben recalled hearing the story from his Uncle John, the youngest in his father’s family, who had been a senior at the time. Uncle John’s visual retelling of the story had made Ben laugh so hard his sides ached much to the disapproval of Ben’s more practical father.
No one could remember where the Troll got her name or a gender but it was suggested that someone heard her whispering her name in the dark and empty halls after one particularly smelly prank had cleared the school for the afternoon.
When Ben was old enough to write, he started to collect the stories and legends of incidents attributed to the feisty troll. This natural curiosity was fueled, in part, by his uncle and aunt, who thought it fun to help him understand the old county and it’s myths through the efforts of ‘their Troll’. Neither one could explain how a Norwegian Troll had found its way to America but they were sure that it had. At age eleven Ben could not get enough of the idea and he wrote stories and reports over the next few years for his classes. Some of these efforts he sent to relatives still living in Norway.
Ben’s second favorite story was of the one and only time Gerta had been spotted by an adult. It happened just six years after the school had been open. One of the science teachers had gone down to the cellar store room under the gym to retrieve some of the grain stored there for the various critters who often occupied the labs or animal husbandry class. Just as he entered, he saw Gerta’s head coming out of the largest grain sack. The man was so startled that he fell backwards and dropped his kerosene lamp. The resultant fire destroyed the gym and part of the cafeteria. When the new gym was completed, it included a weight room and other things never dreamed of by the original contractor. It even had showers and flushing toilets! After that time most people referred to Gerta as the ‘Sack Troll’. A picture of her, done by a student in 1960, was hung in the library above the check-out desk until 1970 when it was replaced by a poster of Neil Armstrong on the moon. As for the science teacher, he retired the next year and denied to his dying day that he had really gone down to the cellar to retrieve a bottle of fine whiskey he had stashed for ‘medicinal purposes’ as many people speculated. He never did deny seeing the ‘Sack Troll’ whom he blamed for the fire.
Over the years Ben’s interest waned but he still held a love for most things involving Trolls and Trolldom. Now and then he would write a Troll story but most of these he kept to himself and his family. Once in a while he would turn one in for credit. One short story even won a prize his Sophomore year for “Outstanding Mythological Story of the Year”.
It was only natural that, at his suggestion, Benjamin and his friends chose to stick steadfastly to the ‘troll defense’ anytime they caused anything unusual to happen. To their good luck or good planning none of them ever received a minutes worth of detention for any of their activities though Mr. Middleton, the vice principal, always suspected Ben and Peter of everything. A new act of what he termed vandalism, however, seemed to have made it his new life’s work to prove the three were responsible.
The repainting of the spiked club carried by the school mascot, a fierce looking, red bearded Troll in Viking armor named ‘Rocky the Red’, to look like a bouquet of flowers, bedecked with peace signs was the ‘final straw’. The fact that each ‘sign’ bore the inscription “Make trolls, not war!” added to the flame. Mr. Middleton was determined to demonstrate that Ben and his friends were somehow responsible for it even if they did not do it themselves. Anything else the vice-principal accomplished in the process would be icing on the cake.
His simple declarative during morning announcements that he would not let the Mascot of the “Fighting Trolls of Tannersville High’ be besmirched by a bunch of “unpatriotic, do nothing, disloyal, oddball, long haired students” had raised virtually everyone’s hackles and sent a chill of dread through the school’s 465 students. When he added that he would give homework passes to the student or students who turned in the perpetrator(s) most every mouth in the school clamped shut.
It was this announcement that the three were discussing as the class vanished to the weekend.
Peter, who was a fine artist, grinned broadly after doing his impersonation of the vice principal giving the announcement. “It tis really good artwork don’t ya think?”
Karen looked at him dubiously. “Are your surrrrre neither of you were involved even on the suggestion level? Half the student body thinks you did.”
Both boys shook their heads. “Not me.” they said as one.
Ben looked at his watch. “We had better hurry, your mother will be here any minute.”
Karen raised her eyebrows but instead of commenting further she gladly accepted Ben’s help in hanging her backpack from the handles of her chair. She then waited patiently and silently for her friends to finish packing their briefcases before starting to talk as Ben pushed the chair with Peter carrying both cases down the hall beside them.
In her conversation she named the only other pair of possible suspects, Tom Jarmain and Dana Maystrem, both of whom were known to be part of a small group of students who put out a small underground newspaper called “The Orc’s Voice” which openly protested the Vietnam War and urged everyone to resist the draft. She concluded that they could not discount Gerta either.
Both boys agreed with a wink and a smile.
Finally changing the subject she continued to talk nonstop. “You know, you guys should get back packs instead of those heavy briefcases. They’d be a whole lot easier to carry and your hands would be free to do other things.”
Like talk?” joked Ben watching Karen’s hands gesture on their own accord as she spoke.
No, like eating.” she replied as Ben stuffed a cookie into his mouth. “But I think someday every student will carry a back pack and only suits and a few hold out geeks like you two will have briefcases.”
Yea, but then every kid’ll have a bad back and teachers will think it’s so easy they will assign more homework to fill ‘em up.” suggested Peter. “No thank ye, I’ll stick with letting me arms stretch so my knuckles can drag the floor.” He concluded by imitating an ape.
You won’t have far to go on the evolutionary scale.” said Karen with a grin.
Ouch!” yelled Ben clutching his heart as he let go of the chair which rolled forward several feet.
I’ve been shishkabobbed!” exclaimed Peter in feigned agony.
Karen laughed as the two boys stood up still ‘staggering’. “Push on slaves!” she said pointing forward. “I’d walk but my legs are only good for about 10 or so minutes.” She paused and looked at her unusually weak legs. For a moment she seemed to struggle with her frustration and emotions the with a brief sigh brightened. “Push on!”
They traveled easily laughing and enjoying each other’s company. They only paused in their chatter to catch their breath keeping the conversation steady until they turned the corner toward the office where Karen’s mom would be waiting, as usual, to pick her up.
Mrs. Harrison was standing, as always, next to the eight-foot tall ‘life size’ portrait of Rocky, which hung opposite the main office doors. Rocky’s right hand was extended in a welcoming gesture while pointing to a sign that read “Welcome to Tannersville High, Home of the Fighting Trolls!” Today, his left hand clutched a beautiful bouquet of Spring flowers. Interestingly the spike in the top of the club had been over painted to resemble a thorny stem of a rose. On the end of this stem was a single beautiful red rose. Ben noted that each thorn resembled the original spike. Someone had taken a great bit of planning to prepare this prank.
The conversation faded until Karen greeted her mother who hugged her gently as if her fragile daughter would break while the boys admired the new addition to the painting.
Karen’s mother, Judy, turned to the boys and for the first time noticed the bouquet. “When did that happen?” she exclaimed looking dubiously at her daughter’s friends.
Yesterday or last night.” replied Karen then she quickly added “we had nothing to do with it.”
Her mother sighed in relief but still looked doubtfully at the two boys. “Okay, I guess we’d better get going.”
See you later.” said Karen accepting her mother’s purse.
Ben nodded. “I’ll call later.”
Karen turned and smiled then glanced up at the portrait of Rocky. Suddenly she gasped letting out a short squeak.
Ben and Thomas turned “What?” the asked before her mother could speak.
Karen glanced at the picture wondering if it really had winked at her. “Nothing,” she said finally. “I... I thought I saw a spider crawling on the picture.”
Ben winked at Thomas. “Okay, Miss Muffet, get off your tuffet and go home. And don’t forget we still have a lot of planning to do so as soon as I have finished my curds and whey I’ll give you a call. Good night Mrs. Harrison.”
Peter snickered as Karen shot a scowl at him.
The two boys watched as Karen’s mom pushed their friend out of sight.
Do you think Gerta did this?” asked Ben half seriously.
Either her or a Leprechaun.” joked Peter. “My money is on the Leprechaun. I don’t think trolls can paint.”
Yea, like one of your little people would travel all the way to Tannersville to make a war protest?” grinned Ben. “Pages 321 and 322 1 through 26 except 20 for Math, right?”
Peter nodded, unsurprised, then took on a mock solemnity to his face. “Never underestimate the little people for it twould be to your utter peril.” He laughed then added in is his best Irish brogue; “Top o da evenin’ to ye, laddie.”
Ben bowed sweepingly. “And to ye. Keep the wee people ‘appy and vee Norvegeons vill keep da Trolls happy too. And vee shall all be bless-ed.”
*****
Am I glad you called!” said Karen without so much as a ‘hello, how are you.’ “I must be losing my mind!”
And I am fine, how are you doing. Oh just ducky, Yea, couldn’t be better. Thanks for asking.” joked Ben.
Well I am not. I did not freak because of a stupid spider earlier. Promise you won’t laugh? I thought I saw Rocky wink at me! I was so freaked I couldn’t eat. Mom had to give me one of those yucky shots and I lay in my bed and wondered what I had seen and I went over and over and over it in my mind and I know what I think I saw and if the picture winked then I am going nuts and who would believe me if I told anyone and...”
Slow down.” exclaimed Ben interrupting her in a loud voice. “Take a breath. If you keep talking that fast your tongue will fall out. Now there is an easy explanation. It was probably just a watch flash from the sun or a shadow. Your angle was not all that good and who knows it could have even been a spider that crawled past the eye at that moment.”
Karen took a slow breath. “I thought of all that and even a few others based on what kinds of medication I am taking. I still think Rocky winked at me!”
There were several seconds of silence on the other end of the phone but Karen could tell that Ben was trying hard to compose himself so he did not laugh. Finally after what seemed like an eternity Ben could not hold back a fleeting snicker.
You don’t believe me!” she said trying to keep herself from snickering too.
No, you may have thought you did. I guess if any person took what you do they’d see a lot more than pictures winking.” he said trying to sound as concerned as he felt.
I thought of that. I really did and I even thought I was going nuts but I saw him wink! I haven’t told anyone until now and I only told you because I thought you would not laugh.” she finally said feeling a more frustrated than angry.
Ben laughed, this time a little uncomfortably. “Okay, okay. Suppose it is true. Why would a recently vandalized picture of a school mascot choose to wink at you.”
It does sound kind of silly. Perhaps you are right and I did just misinterpret what my eyes saw. After all, if I were a troll with so many pretty girls to choose from I would not wink at a crip in wheelchair.”
That is not what I meant!” Ben protested.
I know but it is a logical conclusion. Maybe I should have just chalked it up to an unexplained illusion and said nothing. Still you are sweet to listen. How are the dance plans going?”
Great.” exclaimed Ben grateful for the change of topic
They talked for several minutes about an upcoming Stomp (dance) they were helping to plan. Ben mentioned that some of the special-ed kids wanted to go, especially Allen Salvatore and he was wondering if any of Karen’s friends would be willing to dance with him. Karen was doubtful but said she would ask without making it too obvious or hard to say no. She also wondered if anyone would even ask her to dance being a ‘crip and all’ who just happened to help plan the stomp. Ben did not know how to answer because even to him the idea of dancing with her had never occurred to him. Peter was taking a girl named Madeline Nottnilf but Ben had yet to ask anybody thinking he would just go stag and see what happened. He tried to say something but before he could Karen returned to her primary concern.
I just hope Middleton doesn’t catch whoever repainted Rocky. I think it’s kind of cute. I hate this stupid war anyway. I’d be crushed if you or Peter were drafted and had to go to Nam.”
On the other end of the line Ben smiled a bit uncomfortably. “If it happens it happens. As for Middleton, he will find nothing, not if Peter and I have anything to say about it. Besides this time we are innocent.” There was a brief pause. “Hey I gotta go. Don’t go winking at any strange pictures!”
Karen smiled in spite of herself. “Grrrrrrrrrrrr.” she growled and gently hung up the phone.
*****
Monday morning Allen Salvatore came running up to Peter and Ben as they entered the school. Allen was a big hulking boy who played lineman for the school football team. His simple, nine year old mind, could follow the most basic of plays and he enjoyed some notoriety because he could break through most lines and make tackles more often than others. Still he was also the brunt of several jokes and pretty much ignored after the football season ended. Allen’s only help in school was a few younger students assigned to help him maintain his grades so he could play football. To him the upcoming dance meant a chance to dance with a real girl, a dream he had even though most girls were embarrassed to even be near him. Even his sister, whom he loved dearly and who helped out a lot, avoided him in public particularly since he started claiming that he had seen Gerta last year and actually talked with her! Despite her public cold shoulder Allen often boasted of her talents and skills telling everyone how she had an ‘A’ average in school and how she was one of only two sophomores to have ever made the Varsity Tennis Team.
Allen had gravitated toward Ben after ‘forcing’ his mother to read Ben’s troll story over and over shortly after it was published in the school ‘English Lit’ magazine. Neither Ben nor Peter were bothered by the attention and if fact they found it kind of fun to share ‘their troll secrets’ with the overgrown child. Allen’s mother was actually relieved that her son had at least two ‘normal’ friends and she went out of her way to have cookies or other treats available anytime the boys had to bring Allen home after some incident or the other occurred at school.
Knowing he was probably being ignored by those around him Allen got behind the duo and spoke somewhat quietly for him. “Hey guys, I gots to show ya somethin’.” He said his big hands pushing each boy forward. “Gerta showed me the other night. I forgot my gym bag an’ came back an’ Gerta was standin’ right thar just around the corner from the mural. She wiggled her finger at me and I followed an’ she showed me this.”
With a childlike fanfare Allen opened the door of the broom closet and reached through and pushed on the back wall which swung open. Inside was a narrow hall about 15 feet long and six or seven feet wide that could have been used to store partitions and perhaps the wheeled blackboards once used in the school.
Meet me here after school an’ bring Karen.” he said without further explanation before turning around blocking any further study of the room by his friends.
Allen quickly closed the door and headed for class. Peter and Ben watched him until he rounded the corner, shrugged and walked to class.
During the last half of the day when some of the ‘jocks’ heard of the plans being made by Allen to go to the dance several had teased and all but mocked him about his dream. To their frustration he seemed somehow oblivious to their intentions until they started asking him if he’d asked Gerta to be his date yet. When one of them called him a Troll lover Allen had gotten flustered and in his efforts to escape his tormentors accidently hit the popular basketball player blackening his eye. Everyone present had sided with the injured player saying Allen had started it.
As punishment Allen received two weeks of detention and had to talk to the counselor for the rest of the semester. When he was asked why by Mr. Middleton, Allen asked for Ben and Peter before shutting his mouth like a pouting child. The vice principal had reluctantly called them to the office.
The moment Peter entered the office Allen blurted out that he had seen a little bearded man dancing at the edge of the nearby forest with a rainbow shining around him. Allen glanced over at Peter certain that at least this one of his two ‘best friends’ would believe him. His pleading tear filled eyes suggested he wanted to talk to Peter alone but he knew that this would be impossible. After some hesitation Allen glanced nervously at the adult V.P. and pinched his lips shut.
Mr. Middleton looked skyward and turned to Peter who shrugged and looked at the door. “Wait till Ben gets here.” he finally said softly more to Allen than to the V.P.
When Ben arrived moments later the lineman- sized child ran up and gave him a hug and in a deep, slow bass voice told him the story of his encounter with the little man with the bright red hair and fuzzy red beard before he sat down on the desk.
When Allen finally finished Peter looked at Ben and raised an eyebrow. “So you saw a Leprechaun, did ye?”
Allen nodded then looked at the counselor and boldly proclaimed “I saw a Leprechaun.” It was apparent that all thoughts of the fight were gone to Mr. Middleton’s exasperation. Finally he simply reiterated the punishment and told Ben that he and Peter would have to stay and see that Allen got home okay. He then left the room chuckling as Allen began to talk excitedly to his friends.
The story Allen spun was disjointed and fanciful but it came down to the fact that when the jocks had started teasing him he had been thinking about the rainbow and was trying to think of a way to tell them so they would be his friends too. He had not wanted to get mad but when they told him that he and Gerta should have babies and the ugly ones would look like Allen he had gotten mad and hit their leader a brash bully named Bart Carpenter.
To counter Allen’s enthusiasm Peter suggested to him that if he wanted Ben would write down the story so Allen could give it to his English teacher. She could then share it with the class if she wanted. Allen was sure that she would and he readily agreed to this thought. He also agreed not to say anything else until the story was done so that everyone would be surprised at the ending. When they left the office at the end of sixth period Allen whispered a reminder to them about their planned ‘meetin’. Both boys half-heartedly agreed to come and to try to get Karen there too.
Neither Peter nor Ben knew what to think of Allen, his story and his recent behavior. On their way back to their class after dropping off their charge they discussed the coincidence of just having discussed ‘the wee little people’ last week. They agreed that the story was very imaginative and neither thought Allen had overheard their conversation though the big boy could appear almost magically when least expected in spite of his size. They finally concluded that there was nothing they could do until after school and returned to class.
*****
As it turned out Karen could not make it that evening as she had a doctor’s appointment. Peter and Ben met Allen by the detention room door and watched him look around to make sure that no one else was watching. After several minutes they opened the closet door and walked in looking around.
Enthusiastically Allen shouldered his way past the boys and pushed through the concealed door moving awkwardly until he stood in the middle of the hidden room. With a flourish he moved a small stool that sat in one corner over to the middle of the outer wall and climbed up. They watched in amazement as he reached up and seemed to move something aside. “It’s Rocky’s eye. I can look through and see the hall!”
Both boys crowded in and examined the evidence. The peephole was covered by a small patch that when moved aside allowed them to peer into the main hall. After several minutes of exploration they replaced the cover.
I wonder if they have one of these near the girls locker room?” questioned Peter softly.
This explains a lot.” muttered Ben as Peter looked at him curiously.
Gerta says she watches us sometimes when we are in school.”
Ben looked at Peter and shook his head glancing at Allen who was moving the stool back into position.
You been spying on us?” asked Peter.
Allen looked abashed. “No. It was Gerta.” he insisted after a moment’s pause.
For a moment both Ben and Peter tried to press Allen for details about the Troll and the Leprechaun but all Allen did was smile and giggle like a child with a secret. Finally he simply restated that he HAD seen a Leprechaun and that Gerta REALLY wanted to meet them.
Finally Ben sighed in exasperation and clapped the big lad on his shoulder. “Yea okay, Allen, it sounds kind of wild but we believe you. We would love to meet the old Sack Troll so you tell Gerta to meet us here tomorrow evening after Chess Club and we’ll know you’re not joshing us. We’ll even try to get Karen to join us. Right now we have to hurry, we have lab notes to go over.”
Peter looked at his friend dubiously and mouthed the words “You’re crazy.” as Ben exited the former storage area.
Allen smiled and turned to follow. “Knew I could tell ya. Told her I did. I tell her.”
And tell her to bring her Leprechaun friend.” added Peter non-mockingly as he moved through the hidden door and hurried after his friend. “See you later Big Guy.” he added over his shoulder. Both boys knew that for all his problems Allen would have no problem getting home on his own but they decided to give his mother a call just in case.
Behind them Allen beamed, waved and headed for the gym to lift weights.
Several minutes later when the two boys were walking toward the main exit Ben felt as if they were being watched. As they passed the mural of Rocky Ben looked up at the eye which immediately winked at him. With a gasp Ben raced back to the closet door and pushed through only to find the hidden room empty. The stool, however, was positioned right below the peephole.
*****
The next day a local artist came and cleaned up Rocky’s picture and restored it to all its ‘Traditional Glory”. No-one had come forward with any new information and for a moment it looked as though things would return to normal as the day passed without incident. That evening when they met as planned Allen told Ben and Peter that Gerta mysteriously let him know that she had plans and that they needed to wait until next week to meet her.
Wednesday morning before any other announcements were made Ben, Peter, Allen and a handful of others who had been in detention of had remained after school for a variety of reasons were called to the office by a very angry sounding Vice Principal. When they arrived at the office Ben immediately noticed that overnight someone had repainted the repainted mural of Rocky. This time not only the club had been altered. Rocky’s toenails were now painted bright green and he wore a green ‘Peace Sign Flag’ on the pocket of his American Flag stripped shirt. In addition the rocky ground around him had been strewn with clovers many of which had four leafs.
As expected nobody knew anything about the changes and those who had seen it earlier had not reported it because they did not want to get into trouble. One by one the students were let go until only Peter and Ben remained. Middleton told them that he was absolutely convinced that they were behind this and that if they did not confess or find the real culprit the Stomp at the end of the week would be canceled as would all outside activities until the perpetrator or perpetrators were caught.
Ben was incredulous as he stalked, muttering angrily about how unfair the vice principal was to threaten the entire school for something one or two people did. Peter, on the other hand, was silent as he walked with his fists clinched tight by his side. Neither boy spoke as they took their books from their locker and stalked toward their first class which was just about over. When they had to pass the office again they paused briefly to admire the artwork that had gotten them into so much trouble. Without comment they started down the hall. Rocky promptly winked as they turned to leave. They were fifty feet away when what they had just seen sunk in. Both boys froze in stride and looked at each other.
You didn’t..?.”
See the picture wink?”
No. Did you?”
Not this time I didn’t.”
Neither did I.. What do you mean, ‘this time’?”
Ben shook his head. “Nothing. I’ll tell you later.”
*****
By morning everyone knew that the Stomp scheduled for the next day would be canceled if someone did not rat out the vandal who had defaced Rocky or someone did not confess. Half the class was still certain that Ben and/or Peter had been involved. A few suspected Karen as being the brains behind the incident but no one had any proof about anything or anyone so it was a big surprise when Allen came forward and confessed to the entire incident telling everyone that while he was supposed to be in detention the second time he had slipped out and repainted the picture. He said he had stayed after school the first time hiding in his hidden room until the school was empty. When he showed Mr. Middleton the ‘secret door’ the proof was enough to have the boy arrested for vandalism and taken to DT until his mother came for him later that night. He was also given a months worth of detention and forbidden from being on any other sports team this year or next.
That afternoon Mr. Middleton announced that the dance would go ahead as scheduled and that the culprit and those who were supposed to watch him would be properly punished. Everyone was relieved that the episode was over and that the dance was back on except Ben and Peter who were given a weeks worth of detention for not staying and watching him as they had been assigned. They were also forbidden to go to the dance they had helped plan and their parents had been called and informed of the action.
That afternoon the painting was once again restored and someone was assigned to watch it for the next two days until after the stomp was over. No one wanted to take the chance that someone might try to protest what had happened. Mr. Middleton seemed to be in a very jolly mood the rest of the day.
*****
It took Ben most of the evening to convince his parents that neither he nor Peter had anything to do with what they were accused. He was forced to go over each and every detail several times and each time he was careful to admit that perhaps he should have been watching Allen closer. He was also careful to explain that he did not think that Allen had the ability to plan out the prank much less be stealthy enough to accomplish such a covert act. Ben told his parents he could not understand why Allen would confess to something he didn’t do. In turn they told him that he was grounded for the weekend and that he was to stay away from people like Allen and others that were ‘different’. Not wanting to argue Ben had stomped up to his room where he dragged the phone inside and called Karen. Her line was busy and so was Peter’s so he sat on his bed and fumed for several minutes about his parent’s attitude and lack of trust. He then decided on a course that if he were caught he would loose that trust forever. With only a moments hesitation he stuffed a pillow and some clothes under had blanket, turned out the light and slipped out his window into the night.
*****
Peter was surprised when Ben showed up at his door at 10 PM. He had fared much better and had only received a brief reprimand from his dad. His father had listened patiently to all the details including the inclusion of the fact that Allen had claimed to have seen a Leprechaun. It was his father that had suggested that perhaps someone in the school had picked on Allen and leaned on him to confess to the ‘crime’. Perhaps, the individual involved had even threatened someone or something Allen cared for. Peter had not wanted to believe that American High School Students were capable of the same things that the Irish Republican Army was but was forced to admit that there were certain members of the football team that could have done just what his father had suggested. He had been trying to figure out something to do with Karen when Ben had knocked on the door.
As they walked toward Karen’s place Peter wished fervently that they really had a Leprechaun they could ask for help. The ‘wee people’ were tricky and often could be mean spirited but Peter knew that they had a strong sense of justice and that if they took your side for whatever reason strange things could happen. Like most fairy folk Leprechauns had a fondness for those unable to fend for themselves and Peter had concluded that if they had Gerta and the Leprechaun they would be unstoppable. Together they dreamed up all kinds of things they would want done to those responsible but in the end the idea of having them painted the school colors before making them streak around the school was the most humerus and least lethal combination they could come up with. Both boys were laughing when they arrived at Karen’s door.
To their surprise Allen came running up just as Karen’s mother answered the door. It was obvious that he had been crying so Mrs. Harrison let him in and sent the trio up to Karen’s room where they found her still doing her homework. Before they could say anything Allen blurted out that he had run away and that he had gone to Ben’s house first and found him gone. He then had gone to Peter’s house and then hurried to Karen’s after he had been told that the boys had just left. When Ben explained that he was out without permission Karen realized at once that if Allen could find them his parents could locate him as well. Without hesitation she called her mother in to her room and asked if they could borrow her Father’s field walkie talkies he had left behind for emergencies when he had left for his second tour of Vietnam. Without a question her mother retrieved the bulky units and escorted the boys to the back door where they vanished into the night just as the phone rang.
*****
The three boys headed to the park where Ben had once stood on the peak of the climbing tower and recited Shakespeare at the top of his lungs to a very amused Karen just as the clock tower nearby struck midnight. The boys figured that Ben’s parents would think that this was the first place they would go and so it would be the last place they would search.
Finding the darkest shade they sat down at one of the picnic tables and took turns telling Karen their ideas and concerns. They concluded that they had to set things right by the start of school the next day even if it meant a life long grounding for Ben.
Their first order of business was to confront Allen and find out why he had confessed. The big lineman fought back tears of frustration and anger telling them over and over again that he promised them that he would not tell on them and that if he did they would hurt his sister. With those suspicions confirmed tried to learn who it was but Allen kept very quiet. Both boys tried every trick and even Karen tried to persuade him but nothing could get him to name his tormentors. Peter was beginning to get angry while Ben walked off with the walkie talkie to talk to Karen.
Ye shant get far with the man child by gettin’ yer dander up laddie.” came a soft voice from the dark.
Who’s there?” demanded Peter loud enough so that Ben turned around nervously.
Now that be a fine howdy do. Here I be a breakin’ me own rules fer talkin’ to a big folk and yer gets all uppity. Maybe I’ll jus’ go fine another place ta sleep, one that yer big voices won’t be able ta find and disturb.”
Peter was dumbstruck but Allen spoke up excitedly.
No, please don’ go Mr. Leprechaun. Come out of the shadows so they can see ya!”
Never could resist the eyes of a child.” said the Leprechaun softly.
Into the light stepped a red bearded man less than half a meter tall. He was dressed in a green set of tights with a brown shawl wrapped around his shoulder. His boots were garish with pointed toes and lots of silver adornments and he was capped with a bright green bowler type hat with a shamrock tucked neatly in the soft brown band. He wore a black belt with what appeared to be a solid gold buckle.
Peter began to rise knowing the good fortune that would befall them if he caught the little man. Allen immediately shoved him back down.
Off to the left Ben blurted out to Karen that he wished she was here to see this. Almost instantly Karen was beside them in sitting position , wearing her pajamas and holding her communication link. For a moment she seemed to teeter precariously as her eyes flew wide in dismay. Ben dropped the walkie talkie and dove to catch her but instead only hit the ground as she floated gently down.
Good on ye lad.” said the Leprechaun. “I thinks I judged rightly. Now come along with me.”
With a snap of his fingers the four young people blinked as one and when their eyes opened they were in a dark area on what felt like a cement floor.
Little light in here.” said the wee man.
No magic happened, the dim light bulb above them simply went on followed by a soft scuttling sound that retreated into a dark corner.
Come on out lassie. We kanna have ye keepin’ our guests awaitin’”
For a moment the shadows seemed to spin as a creature emerged from them. As she shuffled awkwardly into the light everyone inhaled at once. Her clothes were covered with what looked like a mossy greenish soot and it appeared her deep brown hair had not been washed or combed in ages. Her black beady eyes shown bright and Ben recognized the slightly almond like shape to be like the one he had seen peeping out from Rocky’s eye. She was carrying a heavy burlap bag that was clutched in a large four fingered hand that reached almost to the ground. Her other hand was being used to shade her eyes from the light above.
Gerta?!” Peter, Ben and Karen gasped as one.
I tried to get them to meet you but.....” said Allen somewhat sadly as his voice trailed off into happy silence.
The Troll shook her heavy roundish head and looked at each of the others in turn.
Trust?” she inquired glancing at the other myth in the room.
The little man nodded and smiled. Gerta relaxed visibly.
As if a spell had been broken all three new comers began to talk at once.
Did you paint the Troll?“How did you get here?”“Can you help us?”“What’s your name?”“Why did you do it?”“Where did you come from.”“Faith, ‘tis all true.”
The words tumbled in a mass of confusion as they overlapped and overran each other as the spilled from the mouths of the popeyed and dumbfounded young people. Only Allen seemed to be taking all this in stride his childlike faith never having been put to doubt by growing older.
Finally Allen spoke. “I want to go to the dance!”
Then that, laddie, will take a li’l work.”
Work.” agreed Gerta. “Now!”
Ben finally found his voice. “And first we have to find out which of the football players bullied you.”
Allen looked surprised. “Not football. They friends. Tennis players, Jill and Blain. Say they keep sis off team. Say they hit her, mash her through racket like jello.”
Karen giggled a little uncomfortably. “I should have known. Those two can’t keep their hands and lips off each other. Any chance to be out late together is a good excuse to go out and make out later. If the dance had been canceled they loose their chance. Anymore surprises?”
For a moment all was silent.
Then let’s get to work.” said Peter. “ The first thing we have to do is keep Ben from being grounded for life.......”
*****
As it turned out the Leprechaun had been responsible for the alterations to Rocky. He had left Ireland because he was afraid and ashamed of the black cloud that was covering the land as two ‘worlds’ clashed in the name of god and country. He conceded that he’d stowed away with the O’Days and had been enjoying his new found freedom since he arrived. He had even managed to start adding to his pot of gold that he assured them he kept well hidden.
After a few months he began to grow bored and thus started to look for ways to ‘stir up a bit o mischief’. One night a couple of months ago he had been out watching a group of students whom he followed to the school. Once inside he decided that this was the perfect place to have some fun so he had moved in about two weeks ago.
He reported he’d spent the first week just exploring and planning his first big prank. He did not explain why he had not encountered Gerta or any evidence of her presence. Perhaps, he suggested, it was because he had a tendency to stay in the attic and rafters and she hid in the basement and sub-structure of the school.
When he had used magic to change the picture he had attracted Gerta’s attention. The old Troll had done little the last few years because she was bored and in these modern times nobody really believed in her anyway so why bother. When she had seen the ‘art’ she had at first been mad and had threatened the little man with everything she could think of. The two had argued that first night only to end up agreeing the next dawn that it would be a ‘wee bit o’ fun’ for her to watch the humans react to the change. She had spent the entire day trading places with the Leprechaun so they could watch the reactions.
When the pair had seen Ben and Peter walking with Karen, Gerta recalled how her new friend, Allen, had talked about how nice they were to him. Gerta explained that she had always made certain that someone at the school knew that she was real and she remembered Ben’s father as the one who had suggested to a friend that he wished Gerta could make the toilet explode or something to punish a troublesome vice principal. Gerta explained in broken English that she had helped her human friend at the time, a girl named Nancy, to accomplish the deed by showing her where to unscrew a hidden cap in order to drop a cherry bomb into an overflow pipe just as their victim sat down. Only one person ever suspected the small shy young women of such an ‘nefarious’ act and that was John Norse, Ben’s Uncle. It was he who suggested the ‘Gerta defense’ to his fellow student taking up where his brother had left off years ago.. For her part Gerta was happy to take the blame particularly as she watched the chaos she had created from her hidden vantage point behind the newly created mural. Eventually John and Nancy had married and they now live in Denver from which John continues to reports regular sitings of Trolls deep inside the Rocky Mountains. Ben was surprised that ‘the sack troll’ remembered the couple so many years later.
*****
By 1 AM the four youth and two myths had a plan but the first step was perhaps the trickiest. When Ben arrived home after two his parents were livid and he had to endure the lecture of a lifetime. He tried to explain his actions and why he had met Peter and Karen in the park. He even argued that neither of his friends parents were having the same kind of problem they were having but that did not go over well. He finally yelled that if he had explained things by telling them Peter had a problem or Karen was sick they would have believed him. But, he continued, because he had included the truth that a Leprechaun and a Troll had been involved they had not believed him and thus had all but destroyed the trust he had worked so hard to build.
It was at that moment that there was a knock on the door. To everyone’s shock and surprise the moment the door opened a little man dressed in green walked in with a tip of his hat and sat on the couch. The next morning as Ben left for school his parents were still staring at the spot where the Leprechaun had sat smiling at them.
*****
Karen looked up from the library book she was reading as Peter and Ben walked in. She glanced at her watch are realized they only had twenty-five minutes to get the task done or all their plans would be for nothing. She had not seen the two tennis players but she knew that they always came in together about this time. She worried that this time they might choose a different route or that one would be sick. Her mind raced through a million chances of failure as her two friends moved up beside her.
So far, so good.” muttered Peter by way of greeting.
Karen nodded and strained to see their quarry from her lower vantage point.
There they are.” whispered Ben. “And there’s Allen, right on cue.”
Do you think he will remember his lines? He can barely say the alphabet without getting confused.” said Peter showing his nerves.
That’s why you are here.” reminded Ben. “After all our little green friend did say that even though the one most hurt can use this curse best someone else who is directly affected can say it.”
Yea, with a mixed bag of results.” concluded Peter. “I hope Allen can do it.”
He will. Now get as close as you can just in case.” reassured Karen unconvincingly as Peter moved off toward his pre-planned ‘post’. “You have got it memorized?” she questioned nervously.
Peter waved back at her as he moved through the mingling and moving students.
On the other side of the hall Allen moved up slowly. Ben could tell by his wide eyed appearance that he was as scared as any child would be approaching two adults who could get him grounded or worse.
Jjjill, Bbblain.” he blurted out uncomfortably loud.
The two tennis players turned an faced the hulking form approaching them. If either felt any concern they did not show it.
Well if it isn’t the sneak artist. Come to repaint old Rocky again?” smirked Blain with a wink.
Yea Allen. You can use my lipstick since your mommy took your finger paints away.” added Jill as those around her laughed.
Allen seemed to not hear them as he pressed forward. “The..the truth twill serve as that is one way. Ttto the world ttellll all fer yer price ta pay.” He then awkwardly handed each of them a shamrock and stepped back.
Nearby Peter looked skyward and said a silent prayer to Saint Patrick.
A few yards away Ben and Karen looked at each other. Neither was certain but for a moment it felt as if the air around them froze filling the school with a foreboding silence.
Peter spoke. “Hey, Blain, why’d ya set up Allen?”
Because he’s a big stupid oaf and the laughing stock of the school sports programs. You should hear what the other schools say about him. Getting him off the team was the best thing we ever did.” The handsome athlete’s eyes seemed to bulge out of his head as he clapped his hand over his mouth.
By now most of the students around them had fallen silent except for a wave of hushed whispers that rolled down the hall as Karen rolled up to the scene.
And I suppose Jill, that you approved of all this so you and your boyfriend could go to the dance?”
A smug look crept across Jill’s face. “Well of course and all we had to do was threaten to keep his precious little sister of the team this Spring and he melted like the baby he is.”
Did you repaint Rocky then?” asked someone nearby.
No.” the both chorused.
We had nothing to do with that.” continued Jill her eyes looking about wildly as Blain covered his eyes in embarrassment. “We just wanted the dance to go forward. We are planning to tell our parents that we are going to the dance and then instead we’re going to sneak off to ‘the flats’ to make out.”
By now everyone was looking at the two students. Someone laughed while another snorted her disapproval.
As if he were in a stage production Mr. Middleton burst out of the office area his face red with anger. Word had filtered to him that Blain and Jill were confessing to forcing Allen to do something and he was not at all happy with the prospect of having to change his mind. Without preamble he escorted the two offenders into his office.
With the show over and only five minutes until class the students dispersed rapidly including Ben, Peter and Karen who hoped they had heard the last of the problem. Ben was not sure but when he glimpsed upward he thought he saw Rocky wink.
It was rumored that after Blain and Jill were escorted into the office they spilled their guts about setting up Allen and forcing him to confess to a crime he had not committed. By second period Allen was off detention as were Ben and Peter. During third period they were called to the office again where both were given a harsh warning about responsibility and follow through but since Allen had not done the deed Middleton had no choice but to reverse his decision. He had, however, had time to think about something else and he told the boys that he believed that they were somehow responsible for the entire disruptive series of events. He added that if they were not directly involved they certainly knew who was and he vowed that he would get to the bottom of it all even if for now they were off the hook.
Still,” he had cackled gleefully, “we should cancel the dance until we find the culprit who did do the vandalism.”
As he hoped he noted both boys fidget uncomfortably. Pressing his advantage he told the pair that he would give them a moment to think about it and talk it over in private. If they ‘told the truth’ he added, he would let the dance go forward and only the guilty would be punished. He then left the room pulling the door closed behind him.
What do we do now?” asked Peter after several long moments of silence.. “They will never believe us if we tell the truth.”
Ben shook his head. He was about to speak when there was a loud ‘Whomp” that exploded out of the teacher’s lounge.
Forgetting everything else the boys rushed out just as Mr. Middleton emerged from the men’s room. He was soaked from head to toe with the smelly back up from the toilet.
Gerta.” whispered one of the secretaries who had been there for years.
Middleton glared at the boys knowing they had been in his office. “I don’t know how you two...”
It was then the Principal, Mr. Howard Johnson spoke. “Give it a rest Harry. These two could no more have done that then me. Now go home, get changed and take the rest of the day off. Heaven knows you have earned it.
Scowling the vice Principal nodded and walked dripping down the hall toward the exit.
Miss. Whitcom?.” Said Principal Johnson scratching his sandy red hair. “Would you call the custodian to come and clean up this mess, starting with the hall. You boys had better get back to class. And will someone open a window until they are finished?”
Ben and Peter looked at each other in stunned silence then watched as Mr. Johnson opened his door slightly and slipped into his room. Neither boy was certain but both thought they saw a glimpse of green and gold sitting on the edge of the Principal’s desk. Smiling they rushed out of the office and headed to class. This time both of them winked at Rocky who promptly winked back as they passed.
*****
Ben arrived early at the school to inspect the final details for the stomp. The theme the students had decided upon was “A Visit to the Planet of Teenage Dreams”. The somewhat vague alien theme gave the decoration committee the go ahead to hang large painted cardboard stars and brightly decorated Styrofoam planets from the gym rafters. In the midst of these orbs hung a Disco Ball that spun lazily throwing small circles of light around the room like a stream of swarming bees. One group among the planners had taken great pains to cover the entire East wall with a paper-mache bedecked moonscape full of all kinds of alien pictures each seemingly focused on the central picture of an astronaut planting the school colors on the surface. To no-one’s surprise the face of the hero was none other than Rocky himself. The only unforeseen part of the mural was on the far end of the mural a large rock rose high toward the ceiling. Hidden in the rocks were a variety of ‘critters’ as planned but sitting atop the great outcropping was the figure of a ‘little green man’ only the clothing was green and not the skin. The red hair and beard seemed to glow in the black lights that hung over the picture. The Leprechaun sat serenely, his legs crossed at mid leg. He was holding the bowl of a long stemmed wooden pipe which disappeared into his beard hiding his mouth from view. Cotton candy like smoke seemed to curl out of it’s end giving the portrait a surreal appearance in the alien landscape.
Ben followed the being’s gaze and it seemed to fall directly on a figure a bit more hidden than the others. Gerta’s visage was peeking out of a crater with only her hair, eyes and nose visible. Ben was certain she was smiling below the surface as she gazed out over the dance floor which was, at that moment, being sprinkled with sawdust to protect the surface.
Stifling a yawn he shuffled over and checked out the punch making certain that nothing illegal had been slipped in. He nodded to the chaperon who was going to stand guard over the table and shook his head knowing that there were likely two or three students who would still be foolish enough to try to ruin the dance for everybody only to ruin things for themselves for weeks to come. He hoped that this would not be the case but he was not going to hold his breath.
Ben watched as the students began to arrive at 7 pm. The slow trickle grew steadily for several minutes until by 7:11 pm there were dozens of couples milling around as the band began its final tune up. Peter and his date, Madeline Notnilf arrived holding hands and moved directly to where Ben was standing then after a brief greeting he moved to the dance floor just as the first cord was struck on their version of The Monkey’s “I’m a Believer”.
Ben had chosen to come to the dance stag. He’d decided earlier that day he really did not have time for a ‘steady’ girlfriend. Besides, he thought, this might be a good opportunity to add to his ‘dating pool’. He had always made it a habit to avoid commitment to a specific girl because he was scared of being hurt and he really was busy. Still he did enjoy the occasional date and he was rarely turned down so he figured this dance would be no different. He began to survey the floor for a prospect or two.
Hello slave.” came a familiar voice behind him.
Ben started a little. “Hello my lady.” he said recovering quickly. “I didn’t hear you come up.”
This chair rolls nice and quite. Has Allen showed up yet?”
Haven’t seen him.” replied Ben. “Peter and Mad are over there.” He added pointing.
Karen nodded as the band moved into an arrangement of a popular tune played originally by the group America.
There’s Allen and look who is with him.”
And look what he is wearing.” said Karen with a whistle.
Allen wore a baby blue tuxedo with a maroon cummerbund. His long hair was tied back with a matching maroon ribbon. Beside him stood a girl named Penny Preston a sophomore girl who Karen knew had a slight lisp. Penny, who was taking some remedial classes, was beaming proudly as she held Allen’s hand. For his part Allen could not have looked happier. He saw Ben and Karen and waved wildly before leading his date onto the dance floor just as a slow Chicago melody began to play.
Girl’s choice.” Announced the lead singer over the PA.
A few couples drifted off the floor as others took their place.
Care to dance?” asked Karen quietly.
Ben looked down at his friend and smiled. “Love to.” he said sincerely.
With a gallant gesture Ben wheeled the chair over to the corner below the picture of the Leprechaun. Gently he moved the foot supports and locked the wheels before taking her hand. With some effort she stood up and gratefully draped her arms around Ben while he put his arms around her waist to help provide support and to draw her close. He wanted to provide her with as much support as possible hoping that it would help prevent her legs from tiring so fast and cramping as they would when she tried to move around too much at home. As he took his first hesitant steps he recalled how he had seen her legs go into spasms after she pushed herself too hard one evening a couple of weeks ago.
The simple bear hug dance step allowed the two to talk and laugh. The particularly focused on the events of the last few days especially what had happened to Mr. Middleton. Ben reported he’d learned earlier that there was nothing to indicate why the toilet had exploded soaking the vice-principal with waste. There was no way anyone could have placed a black cat or cherry bomb in the pipes because the new system did not have such access. Besides no one could have known he was going in the stall at that particular moment. During the investigation one of the students suggested Gerta was responsible and everyone had laughed. No one was sure if he would be back or not. Karen laughed musically as Ben mentioned that he would not be disappointed at all if the ‘old man’ never darkened their path again.
They continued to dance to a gentle rock number done originally by the Carpenters as they discussed an upcoming science project. When the band started a number by Bread, Ben started to walk Karen back toward her chair.
They were a few feet away when she stopped. ”Let’s dance this one too.” she insisted moving in front of him again.
They danced that one and the next one and the next one. Slow and fast they danced. Karen seemed to gain strength as the evening past. Each time Ben suggested she take it easy Karen would simply state that she was doing fine. Finally he just drew her close and let her set the pace while around them the magic of the evening filled the room.
Finally Peter noticed the couple dancing near the wheel chair and with a few simple moves he and Madeline were dancing beside them.
What’s up?” he asked as the music faded between songs.
We’re just dancing.” replied Ben gently giving Karen a squeeze.
Peter looked at them curiously but before he could speak the bands guitar player hit a sour cord and suddenly the gym fell silent as a ripple of whispers that crossed the room and vanished into the walls. Astonished and disbelieving eyes turned toward the platform like stage where a lone figure could be seen moving up the two steps from the equipment storage room. The image they saw did not correlate with any common form impressed on any of their minds. Gasps and mutters of disbelief began to erupt as a squat, large nose figure with short legs and long arms shuffled across to center stage. Her hair resembled an Afro haircut gone very wrong and her eyes seemed to sparkle even in the dim light catching the flickers of the disco ball that spun slowly from the center of the rafters.
Dance!” she said loudly in a raspy high voice. “Dance now!”
She turned and faced the band with a broad grin revealing a mouth full of oddly spaced teeth. With a flourish she raised her arms and began to wave them as if she were a mad conductor or trying to fly.
Ben immediately looked at Karen who smiled and nodded. Taking her hand the two walked deliberately to the middle of the gym where they took up a fancy dancing pose. Peter was only a few steps behind them as a new wave of astonished whispers rippled across the floor.
At that moment the band leader seemed to wake from a trance and as Gerta’s arms came down for a third time he struck up the opening guitar rift from a song by the Rolling Stones. Gerta jumped with pleasure and began to shake and stomp as on the floor the two couples began their dance.
Slowly other couples began to dance and soon the gym was filled with music and noise as the spell of surprise was broken. Around the sides of the room adults stood mouths agape as the troll jerked, did handstands and clapped wildly at the musical scene. The students were soon back into the dance as if having a Troll alternately conducting the band and dancing wildly on stage was a normal everyday occurrence.
Three or four songs passed. Peter and Ben were each holding their partners close during a slow song when Karen froze in mid step.
Did you hear that?” she asked tugging at Peter to get his attention too.
Hear what?” asked Ben loud enough for all four to pick up.
A brief lilting and merry chortle seemed to fill the air around them.
That?” She said softly.
The four looked as one at the paper rock that seemed to overlook the gym. The high point was empty.
Outside in the hallway the portrait of Rocky the Troll sparkled briefly. When the flash was gone Rocky stood steadfastly as usual only he was wearing an Irish Green sports suit including a wide brimmed black banded green hat with a bright green shamrock tucked inside. Emblazoned on the band in silver toned letters were the words “I Love Leprechauns!”
His spiked club was once again changed only this time it was a bouquet of a dozen green roses. Draped down the stems and onto the arm was a soft green banner upon which was printed in bright almost glowing letters the simple message, “Believe!”
At that moment had anybody been in the hall they would have heard the bubbling chortle of self-appreciation that only a happy mythical creature can make. Laughter, that if you truly listen even today, you can still hear echoing in the quiet corners of Tannersville High.
Final thoughts: Trolls in America? Now there is a little food for thought. My Great, great, great, great, great Grandfather Bernt spoke of a tunnel from Norway to America that was started back in his day. I wonder if it is still being used. I will have to ask Old Maas. In the meantime all the best and I will leave you with this Irish Blessing:
May the road rise to meet you
may the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
the wind fall soft upon your fields.
And if on life’s path a Troll you meet,
Then God hath made your life more sweat!
Grandpa O’Carl”