Winter Solstice

Thu, 12/29/2011 - 6:19pm

he Pesky Pond Troll of Clayhead Swamp knew the solstice was nigh. The change in the air was slower than other years, and he really didn’t mind that one way or t’other. His cave deep under the cliff had its own climate control, as do all true caves, and he had a fine fur coat that protected him when he ventured out, but he also liked the lingering mild that kept people walking nearby. They were careless, he had found, when December was balmy, and often left behind some trinket for his cache.

He knew it was nearing that point when the axis of the earth would be as far from the sun as it had been — or would be — for a year. The sun was different; the days had reached that nadir that the PPT found both very, very depressing and quite exhilarating. He hated the dark but loved knowing it was over for another year. He knew winter was coming because the red berries — winterberry of all the dumb names, not that the PPT had an opinion about it — were screaming across the swamp, all of the leaves that had covered them when they first emerged fallen.

Then there were the deer. He just didn’t know what to make of the deer. They seemed to get dumber and dumber every year, if that were possible, and they would not stay put in the fall. They had no idea that “deer in the headlights” meant they were supposed to freeze; they waited — he’d watched them — until a car came along, and then they would cross the road. They were not very good wild things, afraid as they were of the dark.

And then, then there was the dog — no the dogs, plural. Maybe, someday, when a nice golden puppy — so dumb but so . . . he furiously shook his furry head until the word “cute” had flown from his mind. That had been a close call, he was afraid someday he wouldn’t be vigilant and that word would lodge itself and he would start thinking the way the people he followed on the trails too often spoke. Gave him the heebie-jeebies!

When a nice golden puppy came to live at the edge of the pond he might go back to his old fun and games, but until then he was quite happy being lord of all he surveyed. He had had quite a scare when the dog, the dogs, the black dogs, first showed up. That would be a nightmare — black dogs would be no more that glowing eyes in the dark.

Then they left, and he calmed down.

He had come to like the sweet, older, smaller, black dog, as utterly unaware of his presence as humans. He had considered leaping out and making faces at her, but she probably would not realize he was there and besides, she was too sweet to torment.

Sweet?! Yikes, what was wrong with him? The other dog, big and young and boisterous, oh, the PPT loved to see the deer scatter when he arrived. Not that he ever got loose to chase them, but they weren’t taking any chances.

The dogs never stayed long and once they were gone he missed them only briefly. So he told himself.

The PPT liked the fall, in spite of the dwindling light; he liked the freedom it afforded him. Of course he was invisible, it wasn’t as though anyone would know he was around, but it was much easier not having to worry about being run over by a moped every time he ventured onto the main road.

He liked to walk out among the houses, most of them empty in December. He had special places he visited. A garden in the Minister’s Lot had wonderful sculpture, not garden gnomes — although he thought quite highly of gnomes — but sort of people who had different personalities depending upon the day. He often stopped and had conversations with them about the dog that looked like a wolf — in their collective imagination — who lived in the pretty house overlooking the ocean.

Truth be told, he didn’t do all that much walking. Once on the main road, he’d climb a wall and jump onto a moving truck — just like in the movies — and catch rides.

It wasn’t that he often left the Neck, but he so loved Christmas, all the lights and wreaths and decorations. He would go all the way to town some evenings, especially when dark came so early, to gaze at the houses with candles in the windows. He loved to sit under the tree on the lawn of the church and feel like he was a part of it, but this year, glory of glories, there was a lobster pot tree in the little park that a year ago — when he was last in town, he never went in the summer — was all nothingness.

He’d read an article online about such trees in New England and had been quite indignant that what he had quickly come to consider “his” tree had not been included. He thought of posting a reply, but his little troll hands weren’t very good at typing and by the time he had composed an appropriately indignant post the comments were closed.

(He wondered when someone would figure out he had stolen all that bandwidth, that was the reason so many people had slow computers. It was quite disappointing, sometimes, being invisible. It made it impossible for him to get the credit and recognition he deserved for his antics. Of course, that might mean jail time as well so he’d have to be satisfied basking in his own self-adoration.)

The PPT liked to climb up the lobster pot tree, very carefully, of course, not disturbing the string of lights. It really needed to be topped with a statue of a Pond Troll! A fine furry troll with one paw raised in greeting.

But would a statue of a Pond Troll, by its very nature, be invisible?

Merry Christmas to all!