Beyond the Hall of the Mountain King

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 2:00pm
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Snow was in the forecast. It did not bother the Pesky Pond Troll of Clay Head Swamp (aka PPT) one little bit, not this year. He had a nice heavy winter coat, he had — he always had — plenty of provisions on hand, and he could tell by the direction of the sun and the length of the days that it was time for cold; snow was overdue.

For the uninitiated or the forgetful, the PPT is a creature with Hobbit-like feet and a heavy coat the color of which is unimportant, he is invisible but for his footprints and he always carries a switch to erase all evidence of his passing. The PPT is a scamp, a scavenger and his cave under Clay Head is lined with whatever hikers have “lost” over the years. He fancies himself troll royalty, his cave the hidden Hall of the Mountain King memorialized in “Peer Gynt,” Henrik Ibsen’s poem carried on in Edvard Grieg’s music. Long a determined swamp-dweller, he now conducts forays well beyond its confines; luckily, given his temper, he eschews weapons of all kinds knowing a speedy get-a-way is the best defense of all.

It has been quite the grand winter so far. He had had misgivings going into it. His greatest entertainment, That Dog Autumn, had seemed — in spite of her obvious limitations, she was after all just a dog — to be catching on to him. She barked at his presence, but maybe it was not a real concern, she barked at boats offshore; one day she even barked at a great silver bird of an aircraft high in the sky, headed for Europe for pity’s sake.

There had been construction on the corner, the house where the nice old gentleman had lived, the one who went and died but later, when the For Sale sign came down, a nice lady with a dog — then another! — arrived. She wasn’t always there, but when she was he had a great time. And she rented in the summer — heaven! — the things he stole from those unsuspecting visitors!

During the summer, he had discovered that there were three more dogs in the neighborhood, summer visitors he had presumed, then they didn’t leave! It was glorious, they often came to the beach near his swamp and they were so clueless, so confused and best of all, just when they seemed to be catching on to his presence, they disappeared. The first time they left the PPT was very sad, then they returned and any hint of understanding had been wiped out of their little Etch-a-Sketch memories, their I’ve-got-a-tennis-ball-I’ve-got-a-tennis-ball minds.  

The chase was on again! 

And there was always the Dump, best in winter on Wednesdays and Saturdays and Sundays when there were lots of people visiting. The PPT liked to go over and lurk — totally unnecessary as he was invisible, but it entertained him — when people arrived with their trash. Sometimes he would jump on the scale to see their expressions when they read the weigh of a single bag, but he always got off as soon as he heard “that cannot be right!” so no one was overcharged and he got to hear “there is something wrong with that scale!” over and over again.

The big trucks were his favorite, he could hop on them and travel all over the island, but in December especially to town to bask in Christmas. He loved all the decorations, the garlands on the hotel rails, the candles in windows, the displays the merchants had in their windows, the white lights that cut the darkest and earliest afternoons. He liked to go sit on the west porch of the church above the harbor, enjoy the candles in the windows and count the colored lights on the tree on the lawn. He went and hung out with the felt-faced carolers on the nice lady realtor’s porch – where there was often a cookie which he decided to gobble up and not consider the possibility someone knew he was visiting.

The lobster pot tree that had first seemed too good to be true kept reappearing, it alone merited a trip to town, and the way it was constructed he could play Mountain King! He was very, very careful not to disturb a single buoy or light and he tried always to bring a trinket from his collection, a little token of his appreciation he tucked among the green wires. He just hoped when the “tree” was deconstructed no one would recognize one of their own “lost” items. Or if they did they’d think it a miracle!

He loved Christmas decorations so much he never stole them. He did not even mind that a traveling Grinch, and before that a Santa in Secret Places, got all the attention that rightly should have been afforded him. That darn Groundhog was a different matter, but he was not going to think about that yet, not today!

Christmas was over and the forecast did sort of stink, snow made the PPT’s footprints especially visible, although with all these dogs about making their own imprints he had a fair amount of cover. And he liked carrying his switch — it was rather like Harry Potter’s wand and unlike Harry, he reminded himself with a smug snort, he did not need a cloak to stay hidden!

Christmas was over but there would always be the Dump, or whatever they were calling it these days, and it was fun, although he never understood people scavenging from it, where was the sport in that, they were just grabbing stuff others had left behind, not sneaking up and stealing it!

People, he never would understand people!

It was snowing! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Never one to miss the dark cloud around a silver lining; he is a very conflicted troll, he realized That Dog Autumn would be out playing, and barking and barking, but probably, truthfully, not at him. Where were those ears plugs, anyway?