John Saward – December 30, 2016 at 09:19AM

From Pizza, Episode 3

The story of Grum The Troll

The bridge across the little meandering stream in the churchyard had seen many a sinner crossing on their desperate way to be set free. The troll that lived under the bridge knew it as his duty to protect the way, and to prevent any more sinners going across. He did not know why this was his duty. He never asked. He never thought about much at all. He just waited, glumly, most of the time.

Sometimes no strangers came over the bridge for quite a few days. He just waited. He did not know how long he had lived under the bridge. His memory went back perhaps 3 months, before that his mind was just a black hole. He assumed he had been there forever, and would forever remain.

Sometimes when no-one was passing he rehearsed his challenging line: “Who dares to cross the bridge of the King of Trolls. Desist and lay down and accept your demise!”.

He sometimes smirked at how well he had got it. He hoped some day someone would lay down. He tried his best to remember his own name.

The sinners on the way to the church sometimes would hear a kind of burping sound from below the bridge as they crossed it, and they would wonder if there was a frog stuck in a log down there.

Once as he was sprouting his troll line in his best baritone voice, a little girl’s head suddenly appeared upside down from over the side of the bridge. The troll was startled. This had never happened before. He did not know what to do so he went back to the beginning of his line to start again. “Who dares to cross the bridge of the King of Trolls. Desist.”

He stopped at “Desist”, confused, because this little thing peering at him was not crossing at all. It was just hanging there.

The little girl was saying “Hey there. I know how to lay down but I don’t know desist. What does that mean? And what about that other big word you said that also starts with a d.”

The troll said “I know nothing of dee.”

The little girl said, “You must do, we learn about it just after a and b and c. Didn’t you go to school?”

The troll considered this and not remembering further back than 3 months, and not knowing what a school was he just said, “Well I could have if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to”. The girl was surprised. She said “Oh, you are more clever than me, I just assume I have to go to school whether I want to or not. And I don’t always want to you know”.

The troll thought he was entitled to look pleased with himself about this so he lifted his shoulders and raised his chin to best show off his strong no-nonsense face.

“Don’t you ever think about who you are and how you came to be here?” asked the little girl in her sweetest enquiring voice. The troll sunk his chin again into his chest and just said, “Not a lot.”

They were silent for a bit. An eagle flew overhead.

“You know what?”, said the little girl. “What”, said the Troll. “I think you are just an aspect of a writer.”

“A what of a what?”, asked the troll.

“An aspect. Of a writer.” The girl was learning to be patient with this troll.

“You know, you only exist in the mind of the writer who is writing this story for us to live in”. She paused, and then added, “You have no independent existence, your memories of past and fantasies of future are illusionary, you are spontaneously arising underneath this bridge in interdependent non-causative phenomenallity along with all else, all of which appears to concurrently arise in this story – and even outside of its porous boundaries – for no other reason than to support each seemingly separated phenomenon in its play of appearing to create that moment we call now. In this story, and beyond.” She paused again, “Oh! Did I really say that?”.

The troll was trying to take this in and had got as far as ‘just an aspect’. He questioned the girl, “And what about you, are you just an asp thing?” The girl was silent. “Well King of Trolls, I really don’t know.”

They both stared into the stream that had been flowing by quietly as they were getting to know each other.

“How long do you imagine you have you been living under this bridge?”, she suddenly asked. “and if you did remember, would it be so?”

The troll could only find a thing in his brain that said “How would I know?”. He did not want to reveal to the girl any sense of not knowing so he just said “I have been here forever and forever I remain”. Then he added, “And that is just so.”

The girl exclaimed, “Oh no. That is not so. Very very not so. I read on the plaque that this church and its garden was created one hundred and ten years ago for the benefit of lost souls. Before that it was a sheep paddock. And I don’t think the sheep would have let a troll live in their paddock. See, what a benefit it is to know how to read?”

The troll said dryly, as only a King of the Trolls can do “I could read if I want to, I just don’t want to, you see.”

The little girl began to think this troll was as stubborn as her little brother. She said, “I have to be going, I want to go back to the park for more of a swing before tea. So long”, and she just jumped up and scurried away.

The troll was left alone again. He sank down into the stream. He tried to think about what the girl had said, “an aspect of the writer who writes this story for us to live in”.

He began to wrap his little mind around the possible meaning and suddenly came out with, “Ha! That writer is just an aspect of me!”

He clambered up the bank of the stream and called out to the girl who was now far down the path, “Hey you, whatever you are, can you come again tomorrow to visit me under my bridge?”

The little girl did not stop running but just turned her head back and waved happily and called out “Sure thing Kingy!”

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