A TOLL FOR THE TROLL
(A Parable for the Modern Woman)
Wendy sat at the end of bar, idly twirling a strand of her red hair around her finger while she scanned the crowd. "Eughghgh!" she thought to herself, "nothing but trolls tonight." She turned on the barstool to cross her long legs, and dangled her red spiked heel from her black-stockinged foot. She pulled her sweater lower, and hiked her leather skirt a bit higher, in case someone better came in the door. She propped her right elbow on the bar and leaned on it, her head bobbing in time to her rythymic gum-chewing. "Ick! Trolls and orcs and creepezoids," and she heaved a heavy sigh, setting her cleavage in motion. "Why are all the good ones always taken?"
"Hey, barkeep! Gimme 'nother 7&7, wouldja?" she called. The bartender, Harry, set the drink down and wiped at the bar with a dirty rag, rearranging the dust. "How's it hangin' Wendy?" he asked, as he wiped his hands across his considerable belly. Wendy turned towards him, put her chin in both hands and said, "OK, I guess. Hey, Harry, how come all the good ones are always taken, huh?"
"'Good ones' what, Wendy?" Harry asked.
"Men, Harry, all the good men. You know, you guys -- the opposite sex."
"I'm a good one Wendy; I ain't taken," Harry said, leering and leaning forward over the bar to take Wendy's hands, comically waggling his eyebrows like Groucho Marx.
"Ahh, come on, Harry, be serious," she said, shaking free. "I been comin' to this bar for weeks and I always end up with the trolls, never the handsome prince. When's it gonna be my turn?"
"I dunno, babe, I dunno. Somma these guys look all right to me," Harry said, waving his hand towards the crowd. "What's wrong wid 'em?"
Wendy turned on the stool and looked where Harry had pointed. She ticked off the men in the crowd: "Been there, done that, not on your life, maybe, maybe, no way, Jose, done that, not a drug strong enough in this world, ugh! Alpo at the door in the rain." With a shrug of one shoulder, she dismissed them all. "Eughghgh, Harry -- trolls and creepezoids!"
"Ya know, Harry, I wish I'd been born a coupla hunnerd years ago; you know, in the days of knights and dragons and all that kinda stuff. Man, I'd love to be rescued from some old crumbly tower by a guy on a white horse who'd carry me off to be his princess and throw silks and furs and diamonds and stuff at my feet. You bet I'd reward him. I'd reward him all the way to the castle." Her brown eyes lit up at the thought of being thrown across a horse and ravished knightly (uh, nightly).
"Yeah, babe, I bet you would," Harry laughed nastily, his many chins jiggling in agreement, "I bet you would, too. God help the poor knight who ever got aholt of you, hon. Him and the horse he rode in on, too!"
"Aw, come on, Harry, gimme a break. You know what I mean," and she heaved another sigh. She absent-mindedly rubbed at the side of her mouth with one long, rose-lacquered fingernail, then got out her mirror to inspect the damage to her makeup. She ran a lipstick across her lips (Revlon's "Madly Mauve"), pocked her lips together several times to smooth it out, then snapped the compact shut. She got out a small vial of perfume and spritzed some on her wrists and some down her substantial cleavage for insurance. Harry's piggy little eyes lit up like a pinball machine on tilt and for a second he wished to God he was that perfume.
"Harry, I tell ya, I'm so sick of sitting in front of that computer screen day in and day out, I could just scream," she said, putting her things away. "And comin' home every night to a fridge full of blue, furry food. How come food gets blue and furry when it's old, Harry?" The finger began twirling the strand of hair again, faster. Harry just shrugged.
"And when I do find a guy, he turns out to be a creep or a weirdo or he's married and cheatin' on his old lady." She turned again on the barstool to look out over the crowd, and crossed her legs, dangling the shoe and swinging it in time to the music. "They say you gotta kiss a lot of toads before you find your handsome prince, but Harry, I can't even find a toad. Iffen I could find one, I'd kiss 'im til his toes curled." Wendy's face assumed a dreamy expression as she contemplated this situation.
"And then I'd bathe in milk every day and wear nothin' but silk and I'd have jewels just drippin' everywhere I could hang 'em. And I'd never do no more dishes or laundry or housework or nothin' and we'd call out for pizza or Chinese whenever we wanted, and there'd never be no more blue, furry food in my fridge, no sirree." She paused a moment to contemplate her future life of luxury.
"Man, wouldn't that be the life, Harry?" she turned to ask him, but Harry was at the other end of the bar, stirring the dust around down there, as he liked to keep it circulating. "Yeah, that'd be the life," she whispered to herself, and continued to dream about her handsome prince. He'd be tall and strong and dark-skinned, with blonde hair and blue eyes, and just oodles of muscles. Oh, and a hairy chest, he had to have a hairy chest, she just couldn't stand those smooth ones, and maybe a small gold earring, like a pirate. And he'd come home to her every evening after doing his knightly thing and fling his cape at her feet and heap up the jewels he'd won that day. And then he'd carry her up the stairs to the tower, just like Rhett did to Scarlett. She squirmed in her seat at that thought and the smile widened on her vacant face.
"HOOOOO, BABY! Hubba, hubba, hubba! Yowza, man, would I like a piece of that action!" Startled, Wendy broke off her reveries to see who was hooting and hollering. "Hey, hot mamma! Down here!" Looking down, she saw a little man standing in front of her, just knee-high to where she sat on her barstool. Astonished, her eyes took him in, from head to toe, several times.
She just couldn't believe what she was seeing. He was a troll! No, really, a troll, a real troll! Just like she'd read about all her life. He had a long, warty nose with hairs coming out of the wart, and squiggly little eyes and bushy eyebrows. His hands and arms were muscular and gnarled like tree roots. His large, splayed feet were in sandals, the toes curling down and covered in callouses, the toenails long and discolored. He was wearing a sleeveless, dirty burlap bag that came to his ankles.
About the time she noticed his gaping leer and yellowed teeth (what few were left), she also noticed he was staring straight up her short skirt while he scratched his behind. What was worse, the nasty little thing obviously had a hard-on, as evidenced by the tenting of the burlap bag in front. Disgustedly, her mind skittered away from that thought, and she quickly turned away, ignoring him, saying under her breath, "Go away! Go away! You're not really there -- go away!"
"Oh, but I am here, baby. I'm the answer to your prayers. I know what you want, I know what you need, and baby, I'm the one to give it to you, but good." The little man scrambled up on the bar stool next to Wendy -- it took him several tries, but he made it, huffing and puffing. She looked at him and then quickly looked away, shuddering: if anything, he was more real and more ugly up close.
"Oh, man, baby, are you ever a hot little number! Child, would I like to get into your panties!" the troll said, his eyes bulging appreciatively at the Grand Canyon of Wendy's cleavage. "Man, oh, man, baby. If I had a snorkel, I'd go diving and never come up for air!"
Wendy rounded on him, furiously, "You nasty, filthy little beast! How dare you? What kind of a girl do you think I am, anyway? Where do you get off, talking to me like that? Get away from me, or I'll have Harry throw you out on your ugly little face!"
"Aw, come on, baby. I didn't mean nothin' by it," the troll said, wheedlingly. "Besides, I can't help myself. It's part of the curse the wicked witch put on me. Underneath, I'm a nice guy. I got manners. I got couth. I'm really a prince, forced to wear this guise until I find my true love." The troll's misshapen face assumed a pitiful look, and a tear actually trickled out of one eye -- the blue one (the brown one remained steadfastly dry). Despite herself, Wendy couldn't help being just a little bit interested.
"Curse? Prince? Oh, c'mon -- there aren't any such things as curses anymore. And anyway, all the princes are already taken," she said.
"No, baby, it's true," the troll insisted, "I really am a prince in disguise, doomed to wander the earth until I find the woman who will love me for my own sweet self and free me from this curse. And when I find the woman who can do that, I'll reward her with all my riches, and man, oh, man, will I ever be appreciative - in more ways than one, you can bet your sweet ass!" At this, the troll cupped his crotch and jiggled his hard-on at her. Wendy's eyes involuntarily followed the gesture, and it was then that she noticed the several large, jeweled rings sparkling on the troll's hand. Dollar signs lit up in her eyes.
"Oh, come on, I've read the fairy tales, too. You're not supposed to be a troll, you're supposed to be a frog. How come you ain't green and warty if a witch put you under a spell?" she asked icily, arching her eyebrows inquiringly, "Hmmmm?"
The troll hooted in derision. "Toots, are you ever behind the times. C'mon, get with the program. Frogs are passe' now. No self-respecting witch would turn anybody into a frog or a toad -- it's too old fashioned. No, baby, trolls are in this year."
"Yeah, right." Wendy said sarcastically. "OK, if you're really a prince under all that, prove it. Show me your shining armor and white horse and castle and all that stuff. Prove to me that you're who you say you are. Do some magic or something."
The troll fished around in his pockets (a little too long, Wendy thought, just to be looking for something, her eyes drawn to the vee-shape in his burlap) and he triumphantly pulled out some Polaroids and a handful of jewels and gold coins. He tossed everything on top of the bar, pushing the jewels and coins to one side. Wendy's eyes bugged out at the sight of a diamond the size of the proverbial hen's egg. The troll slid the Polaroids around so Wendy could see them. The one on top was a naked woman. "Oops, sorry about that, hon," the troll said, and he took a moment to admire the picture before stuffing it back in his pocket. "Here, look," he said, pushing the pictures in front of Wendy, "Here's my horse in front of the castle. Here's one of me in front of the castle." Wendy noticed that the prince in the picture was blond. The ermine-trimmed jacket fit smoothly over his well-muscled chest, a small veldt of blond hair curled out of the neck of his shirt. The prince had an earring in his left ear. So did the troll. The earrings matched.
"This is me and my horse in front of the castle," the troll said, turning the pictures over, one by one. "This is the witch and me and the horse in front of the castle, just before she turned me into a troll. This is me as a troll in front of the castle. These are my subjects driving me off as a troll from the castle."
The troll fished around in his pockets again, and tossed a card on the bar in front of her. "Here's my card from the Troll's Union, certifying the date and time I was turned into a troll. See, down here, under "Former Occupation", it lists "Prince." Wendy bent towards the troll, the better to see the little card. The troll sniffed her appreciatively. "God," he said, "I love the smell of fresh shrimp!"
"Hey, Harry, gimme another 7&7, wouldja?" Wendy yelled, "And make it a double, this time." Harry set the drink down in front of her, crooked his thumb at the troll, and asked "Is this guy botherin' ya, Wendy? 'Cause I can take care of 'im if he is." Wendy looked at the troll, looked at the pictures, looked at the jewels sparkling in a heap on the bar, and downed half her drink in one gulp. "Nah, Harry, he ain't botherin' me. It's OK. Bring me 'nother one, wouldja please?" She finished off the second half.
"OK, assuming you really are a prince. If I kiss you and break the spell, will you carry me away to your castle?" Wendy asked the troll. "Will you love me and protect me and grant all my wishes? Will you share half your kingdom with me and support me in the manner in which I intend to become accustomed?"
The troll started laughing. Great hoots and bellows of laughter. He laughed so hard he fell off the stool with a plop, his burlap bag flying up to reveal his enormous organ. Before Wendy could stop it, a little shudder of desire went up her spine; it came back down again as distaste. "Eughghgh!" she thought. "It's been too long since I had a good roll in the hay. I must be getting desperate." The troll lay on the floor, laughing and pounding his fists on the tiles, unable to catch his breath.
When he could breath again, he got back up on the barstool, hiccuping and wiping tears from his eyes - both of them, the brown one and the blue one. "A kiss, she says. A kiss. Jeez, Louise, would you listen to the woman -- a kiss," and he went off again in great rolls of laughter, laying his head on the bar, his shoulders shaking.
"I don't see what's so funny," Wendy said, offended. "I mean, here I am doing you a favor, breaking the spell and all. The way it goes is, I break the spell, you're eternally grateful, we live happily ever after."
"Thas' right hon, thas' right. You just go right on believing that if you want to. Baby, are you ever behind the times. First a frog, now a kiss. C'mon, wake up and smell the coffee, honey. This is the new millenium. It takes more than a kiss, if you know what I mean," the troll leered as he stretched out one leg and jiggled it.
Wendy recoiled in horror, her eyes wide, her mouth distended in a round "O" of distaste. "You mean I have to sleep with you to break the spell?" she asked in words dripping with revulsion.
The troll jumped down and stood in front of her, sniggering, his legs spread apart, hands on hips. "Sleep?" he said, sarcastically. "Sleep? Sugar Pie, there ain't no "sleep" about it. We're gonna do the horizontal bop, the ol' slap and tickle, make the beast with two backs, get down to the nit-tee grit-tee, baby." He started gyrating his pelvis; the tented vee in his burlap bag came frighteningly close to her leg. She swung her legs out of the way quickly. "Hey, watch what you're doing with that. You got a license to operate that thing, bud?" Fascinated, she couldn't take her eyes off it, however revolted she felt. She turned and gulped down her drink. "Harry, 'nother one, quick!"
The drinks started kicking in. "Let me get this straight," Wendy said, her words slightly slurred. "I go to bed with you and break the spell. You turn into the rich, handsome prince."
"You got it, babe," the troll said.
Wendy turned to the counter, tapped the pictures of the prince. "That prince there -- you turn into that prince there, right?"
"Right," he said, winking his blue eye at her.
Wendy grabbed the drink as soon as Harry brought it and slammed it down. Wham! it went right to her head. She looked at the jewels, she looked at the pictures, she looked at the troll. She looked at the jewels, she looked at the pictures, she looked at the troll. If she turned her head, just so, and kind of closed her eyes, just so, she could almost see the prince superimposed on the troll. She imagined that enormous organ on that princely body, and that princely body on her. Simultaneous shudders of desire and revulsion ran through her.
The troll, sensing her indecision and weakness, began whining. "C'mon, baby, you know you want it. You know you got to have it. And just think how grateful I'll be in the morning when I'm a prince again. You're gonna love my castle. And wait'll you meet my mother. Mom's been after me to bring a good woman home."
Wendy looked at the troll, looked at the picture, looked at the jewels. The light caught the earring in the troll's ear: the golden bauble winked at her. "Go on," it seemed to say, "Go on, what d'ya got to lose?" She began to chew her forgotten gum. The harder she thought, the faster she chewed.
"OK, OK, let's do it. Let's get out of here and do it before I change my mind." She slid down off the barstool, straightened her skirt, and finished the last of her drink. A look of joy spread across the troll's wrinkled face. "Oh, baby, you won't be sorry, I promise you! I'm gonna make you speak in tongues." She wobbled unsteadily out of the bar, the troll's arm around her waist, his hand firmly grasping her right butt-cheek.
When she came out of the bathroom of her apartment in her robe, the troll was already in bed, naked. The tent-shaped vee of his burlap bag had now been transferred to a tent-shaped vee in the sheets. Wendy gulped, drew a deep breath, and got in next to him. She remembered something she'd heard once on PBS -- Queen Victoria's mother's advice on her wedding night: "Close your eyes and think of England, dear." She closed her eyes and thought of the handsome prince, the castle, the white horse, the jewels.
When she awoke the next morning, the place beside her was empty. The memories of last night came to her and she blushed. "You know, it really wasn't all that bad, once I kept my eyes closed and pretended he was Mel Gibson. He must have changed into a prince while I slept," she thought, and got up to look for him.
From the TV in the living room the theme song from "Barney" blared: "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family. With a great big hug and kiss from me to you...." She went into the living room and stopped in the doorway, frozen with amazement. Her mouth dropped in disbelief, her eyes flew open wide, her heart stammered. Sitting on the couch, his feet propped up on the table, watching "Barney", eating cookies and drinking a Bud, was the troll. The troll, goddamnit, the troll.
"Hey, what is this crap?" she demanded, furious. "Why didn't you turn back into a prince? How come the spell ain't broken?" The troll scratched his bulbous belly, and flicked a few crumbs off his wrinkled, graying chest. He giggled. "This is it, baby," he said, spreading his arms out. "This is the best it gets. C'mere and give your love daddy a kiss."
"B-B-But you swore to me you were under a curse and you'd turn back into a prince if I slept with you. A handsome prince, with blond hair and blue eyes and an earring and a castle and lots of money," she said, beginning to blubber. "You promised," she wailed, sinking down into a chair and sobbing.
"Aw, baby, you shouldn't believe everything anybody tells you. Why, I'm so full of shit, one eye's brown. I'm just a troll who likes the ladies -- human ladies, that is. This prince stuff is my best line. You girls just eat it up." The troll stood up and pulled his burlap bag over his head, thrust his gnarled arms through the armholes. He went over to the sobbing girl and patted her feebly on the back.
"But what about the pictures?" she moaned.
"Oh, that's just some pictures I won offen some guy in a card game. I used Photoshop to put me in some of 'em for realism. Works like a charm. C'mon, cheer up! You had a good time last night, didn't you?"
"No! It was horrible. I only did it out of the kindness of my heart, to save a poor man from a terrible fate. Get out! Get out of here, now!" She looked up and gave the troll a shove, pushing him back onto the couch.
"OK, baby, if that's the way you feel. We coulda made some beautiful music together, but you blew it. I'm outta here." He flipped her a jewel, albeit a small one, with a flaw. "Here, babe. Don't spend it all in one place." He blew her a kiss, and with a puff of smoke, he disappeared.
That night, in the bar, Wendy sat at the end, dangling her shoe and chewing her gum. She looked around at the assembled crowd. "Jeez," she said, "trolls and orcs and creepezoids. Why are all the good one always taken? Hey, Harry, gimme 'nother 7&7."