Trolls and Tribulations
George Foros’ shopping cart had a rickety wheel. It stuck, and jiggled, and bounced. His shopping cart was the repository for all his earthly possessions. He needed a new shopping cart.
He wandered down the cracked, and crazed asphalt road that led to the Goodman’s Extract Plant, a now defunct manufacturer of flavored syrups.
George enjoyed being alone. He lived for a few weeks in the homeless camp that spread from the underpass of Route 32 up the hill to the edge of Martingale Road. It was too crowded for him. He was always afraid someone was going to steal his treasures. Then what would he do? Who would he blame, how would he get his prized possessions back?
George had a two-person tent, a zero-degree sleeping bag, and a collection of oddities and curiosities that defied easy description. To George, the broken clarinet in his cart was as valuable as the orange highway cone, and the fully functional antique music box.
George came to a bridge that spanned cliffs on either side of a trickling riverbed. It seemed odd to him there would be a bridge here, but so what. He was going to follow the road as far as it went, and set up camp. He’d redeemed sixty dollars-worth of bottles and cans, and bought himself eight cheeseburgers from Wendys, and a quart of Bushmills whiskey from Acme Liquors.
He was going to settle in. Set up camp, and read the Brothers Karamazov for the second time. It would probably take awhile. A few of days of blissful solitude.
Nothing pleased George more than being alone in nature. To George’s way of thinking, mankind was a blight on the world, a rapidly growing cancer that would wipe itself out. He only hoped that the forests, rivers, oceans, and the wildlife would survive. He was confident that at least the roaches, and the jelly fish would be a.o.k.
As George manhandled his defective cart onto the bridge, he heard a booming callous laughter echoing from under the bridge. What was that? Who was fucking with him?
George shouted, “Piss off fucker. I’m just going my own way. I’m just crossing this bridge.”
The voice made the birds go quite, as it pounded, “I am the troll of the bridge, you must pay a toll, or I WILL EAT YOU!”
George wasn’t scared of much, especially what he perceived to be kids with a bullhorn, “Go fuck yourself. Toll, troll, whatever. Get fucked, I got enough problems. My cart has a faulty wheel.”
He got a third of the way across the bridge, when he saw a pair of enormous gnarled, green, warty hands clinging to the railing on the left-hand side of the center of the bridge.
George pulled his machete from his shopping cart. He was a little put-off by the color, and size of the fingers, but whatever was coming to menace him, was going to have to deal with his trusty lopper, ‘Maybeline’.
The troll swung over, in a backflip, and landed hard on the surface of the asphalt bridge. The troll was eight feet tall, and naked. His willy was two feet long, and hung limp between his hairy legs.
The troll was eight feet tall, with massive shovel hands, and cauliflower ears. He had a gruesome, silly-putty face to sink a thousand ships
George was more than a little frightened, but he was also curious. He drew his machete, not that he thought it would be much use against the monster. He ventured, “I’ll be damned. You’re really a troll.”
The troll grinned, a mouth of razor blades, and awls, “Gergensheim the Troll. One of the last of my kind.”
George snorted, “I’m George Foros. It’s the humans isn’t it? They’ve driven you out of your natural habitat.”
Gergensheim shrugged, “Don’t matter to me one way or another if humans wipe themselves out. I just like to eat them. People aren’t afraid of trolls anymore. I blame video games, and horror movies. Most people can’t even see me anymore. I’m just like a blank spot to them.
“Listen. I was serious. You have to pay a toll or I’m going to eat you. I’m not kidding.”
George studied Gergensheim’s fearsome rows of shark-like teeth. George was feeling a little fatalistic. A fitting end to his life to be devoured by a bridge troll.
George didn’t have any gold or silver. He suspected that was the kind of currency the troll was looking for. He had twenty-two dollars in mushy fives, and ones tucked into his front pocket.
Gergensheim said, “I’m flexible. Have you got anything to eat? I haven’t had a real meal in six weeks. Just squirrels, racoons, and dumb, fat little groundhogs.”
George pitied the poor troll, “For fuck’s sake. Of course. I’ve got cheeseburgers from Wendy’s. They were supposed to last me for a few days but fuck all, you can have them.”
George’s curiosity was piqued, “So, six weeks ago…what did you eat?” Morbid curiosity filled his head with longing to hear of the troll feasting on a human sacrifice.
Gergensheim said, “Stray dog. Big fat German Shepherd. I ate him meat, fat, organs, bones, and all. I really would’ve preferred a human, but things are different now.
“Everybody’s got gps in their phones. The authorities would be down on me in a second…” The troll licked his lips absently, “You don’t have a cell phone do you?…You’re just a bum.”
George felt a chill run up his back. He lied, “I’ve got a cell phone. To keep in touch with my girlfriend Viola. Skinniest woman in Cleveland.”
Gergensheim appeared taken in by the ruse, “Too bad.”
George liked this troll. He handed him the big sack of Wendy’s hamburgers and said, “Have at it.”
Gergensheim made no effort to unwrap the burgers. He ate them, in their wrappers, with vigor and enthusiasm, swallowing each one in two bites. When he finished, he burped, a sound so loud, it made the birds, and squirrels stop in their tracks.
Gergensheim asked casually, “You’re a hobo, right?”
George took no offense to the term, “I guess so.”
“I know it’s a stereotype but…Got any liquor?”
George cracked a wide grin, “Oh yeah. Let’s get hammered.” George pulled the quart of Bushmills from his cart, and two matching tea cups, one with the handle broken off. He poured them each a measure.
Gergensheim the troll rubbed his immense leather hands together, “George my man. You know the way to a troll’s heart.”
They tossed back their shots of whiskey, and George refilled the tea cups with intoxicant. They tossed back again, and George refilled.
The troll sighed, “It’s been so long since I’ve had a proper drink. Thank you so much George.”
George overflowed with curiosity about the troll, his life, and his relatives. He had more questions than sense. He probably could have gone on his way, the burgers, and booze paying his toll, but instead asked Gergensheim,
“I heard the fairy tale about the bridge Trolls on my mother’s knee when I was a wee thing. I didn’t believe you were real.”
The troll sighed, expelling a heavy, weighty gust of air, “Most of us are gone. Suicides, troll wasting disease, some joined carnivals, and freak shows, some just faded away.
“I keep in touch with a few of the others. We send messages to each other via pigeon post. There’s one under the Brooklyn bridge, Clarastasia, she’s called.
“She’s optimistic. Keeps my spirits up. Of course, she’s in a high traffic area. Lots of people like you. Vagrants, and whatnot. for her to eat.”
George wistfully mused, “I’d do anything to have your life. To be in total seclusion. Away from the monstrous human throngs. I fucking hate people. Clawing, fighting, climbing over each other to get to the top of the heap. If I never saw another human, I couldn’t be happier.”
The troll tossed back his third tea cup of Bushmills whiskey, George refilled his cup, and Gergensheim said, “You really mean that?”
George replied, “I couldn’t be happier with anything less than a desert island.”
Gergensheim ventured, “We could switch places.”
George was a little drunk, but still saw the problems inherent in that suggestion, “How would that work?”
Gergensheim grinned, a grin that would make a dentist faint, “Trade souls.”
George was stumped, “I’m not even sure I believe in souls.”
The monstrous troll hunched over George, and burbled, “I assure you there are souls, and we both have one. The soul is located in the base of the brain, and contains all your intentions, and basically, it’s a storage center for all your experiences. It’s how you will be measured when you die.”
Gergensheim lit up with glee, that looked to George, like murderous intent, “Once we make the switch, you’ll be a real live bridge troll. Out here, you’ll hardly see anybody, and anybody you see you can devour. Get your revenge on mankind for leaving you with nothing but a shopping cart.”
George’s eyes glassed over, “With a wonky wheel.”
The troll cajoled, “With a bad wheel, a shopping cart with a bad wheel…Whadda’ ya’ say?”
George said, “Why not?”
The troll did a little jig, and giggled. To George it sounded like metal scraping metal.
Gergensheim gushed, “This is fantastic, I can travel the world, and see all my relatives. You are a great man George Foros.”
George’s second thoughts, turned into third thoughts, and he was about to change his mind, when the troll gave him a big kiss.
George felt his mind reel, his thoughts jumbled, and whirling. His eyesight faded out, and returned. He stepped back, to see he was kissing himself.
The body of George Foros said, “It’s all set now.”
George looked down at his hands, to find, to his horror a pair of enormous green paws tipped with fearsome talons. Holy rolling shit piles. He was a troll, now. Fuck. He didn’t really believe this was possible.
The body of George Foros calmly stated, “From now on your name is Gergensheim, or pretty much whatever you want. You’re a bridge troll. Have fun with it.
“You can turn to shadow, and mix among the humans, if, god forbid, you have to deal with them.
“You can jump thirty feet, straight up into the air. You can run sixty miles per hour for five miles, and sprint a mile in under a minute.
“You can hunt wild things, and devour them. Rip them apart with your claws, and teeth. Feel the razor-sharp bloodlust fill your veins. If you’re very lucky, some foul human being will try to cross the bridge, and you’ll have your first taste of human flesh. It is the sweetest meat there is.”
George felt some hardcore remorse for switching bodies with Gergensheim. He hadn’t realized just what it would mean to turn his back on his humanity. He started to say, “I’m not so…”
The troll occupying George’s body had his mind on other things, “With this body…Oh, I’ll travel the world, and meet all my distant relatives in style.”
The troll Gergensheim in George’s body, turned on his heel, leaving George, now a hideous troll, with his shopping cart.
George called after him, “I’m not so…I’m not so sure about this…
Gergensheim didn’t waste time beating feet to get away from the poor, newly-minted troll. George watched him disappear into the descending fog of evening. George, the troll stood on the bridge, beside the heavily laden shopping cart, with the wonky wheel.
George looked at his enormous hands. Looked at his shopping cart of possessions, and felt a warm relaxation sink into him. This really was what he wanted. To be alone. To be unbothered by man or beast. To be solitary.
Gergensheim was delighted to find, counter to stereotype, George Foros the hobo had an up to date driver’s license and passport on his person. Gergensheim used cantrips, and crafty pickpocket sleight of hand, to get credit cards, and passwords, in crowds.
The former troll fitted himself with fine new clothes, and a suite in a nice hotel downtown. He got a carnally satisfying massage, and had a hot bath. Gergensheim took on the identity of George Foros, and settled into his new human life.
Meanwhile, George, who thought of himself now, simply, as the Bridge Troll left his cart of human belongings, the last remnants of his human life, and leapt off the bridge to land heavily, but unhurt sixty feet below on a slope of the riverbank.
The troll found his sense of smell was keener than he could imagine. He sniffed out a bunny, and running hunched over, his hands pulling him forward, the bridge troll chased down the rabbit, and cornered him in a rocky knoll.
George, the troll, grabbed the squealing rabbit with one paw, and with the other drove a sharp claw into the back of the bunny’s neck, dispatching the rabbit painlessly, and quickly. George the troll tore at the rabbit, peeling off its fur, and skin, for he had discovered his claws were made for this.
George ate the meat, and fat, and crunched up the bone. He was still hungry. He used his nose to find more game, rabbits, racoons, even a couple of deer. He was so alive. And slowly, over years his humanity departed him. He became a feral troll.
Gergensheim took advantage of his new humanity to mingle with the humans, and travel around the world. He wore fine clothes, drank expensive liquor, played at games of chance, and bedded fine women.
The troll in George clothing made his way to China to visit the troll of Tsoangdu bridge, a part of the great wall of China. The ancient troll laughed at Gergensheim, and said, “Pay the toll, troll or no.”
Of course, Gergensheim knew better than to cross Tsoangdu’s bridge, but he gave the ancient creature a carton of cigarettes anyway, and Jiangdu bowed to him.
Gergensheim asked, “What is the secret to happiness?”
Tsoangdu smiled, a smile that would make a dentist commit suicide, “Stay under the bridge.”
Gergensheim realized there was a great deal of truth to this nugget of wisdom. He’d traveled all the world as George Foros. He eaten the finest foods, drank the most exquisite spirits, and engaged in ravenous sexual orgies, but none of these things made him as happy as he had been under his bridge. Gergensheim was just a bridge troll at heart.
So, Gergensheim returned to Cleveland, and tromped back to his bridge. Gergensheim found the cart with the wonky wheel still sitting in the middle of the bridge, weathered and worn from years of disuse. Mold, and ferns grew on the old cart.
How long had he been gone, steeped in the diversions of human life? Soaking in the degradation of society. He was more than ready to return to a life of humble, honorable solitude.
A rumbling voice echoed in the canyon, and off the hills, “I AM THE BRIDGE TROLL. PAY THE TOLL OR I WILL EAT YOU!”
Gergensheim called out, “George, George Foros, it’s me, Gergensheim. I’ve brought your body back. I’m ready to switch souls. Go back to trolling, and you can have your body back.”
The bridge troll leapt straight from the dry riverbed, sixty feet to the surface of the bridge, and landed six feet from Gergensheim.
Gergensheim grinned, “I see you’ve been keeping my body in shape for me. I’ll have you know, I treated yours quite well. Indulged in every pleasure. Now, we swap souls.
The Bridge Troll didn’t recognize the human. It began to salivate mightily. Drool dripped from its deadly maw. The Bridge Troll said, “I don’t care if you do have a toll. I want to taste human meat,”
Gergensheim backed away from the bridge troll, “Wait, wait…You’re George Foros. I’m the troll.”
The Bridge Toll roared with laughter that sounded like an avalanche, “You should have stayed a troll,” and took a big bite out of Gergensheim’s neck. Gergensheim roared with agony, and the Bridge Troll howled with joy. Human flesh was the finest meat. Gergensheim didn’t lie.