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Monday, September 28, 2015

Interview with a Geotroll--Research for Escape from Draconia (and thus, tax-deductible)

Writing a book, even a kids' book, takes research, and sometimes it's not easy or pleasant. Arranging an interview with a Geotroll was tricky because most of them don't have cell phones or even wifi. It's hard to get postal delivery when an address is a bridge, and because geotrolls are so nasty, Fedex, DHL and UPS drivers tend not to stop to deliver a message. They just throw the envelope out the window, put the van in reverse and tear outta there.

So I was understandably pleased when my query to a local troll was answered in the affirmative. Yes, I could speak to him. Come early. That's all the reply said. There was a smelly blot of something on the envelope, which I tried to ignore. Donning Wellies, jeans and a thick sweater (the day was cool), I took the train, then a bus to a pub in Hampshire, and then walked the rest of the way to a place where the path crossed a murky little brook...



Troll (from under the bridge): Whaddya want?

Me: Err, it's me, Mr. Troll, Lori Covington. I emailed you about an interview for my blog? And you said to come first thing in the morning...?


Me: Mr. Troll?

Troll: yeah, yeah--I'm coming.

(He opens a trapdoor and I fall through--directly into the stream.)

Troll: Har-har-harrrr!!

(I can't tell whether he's laughing or something much worse. Finally, he coughs up a hairball with two tiny skulls in it. I am totally grossed out.)

Troll (wiping his slimy mouth): Sorry 'bout that. Rough morning.

Me: That's all right. If you're not feeling well, I can come back later. (Edging to the side of the stream, up to my ankles in icy water).

Troll: Nah, that's all right. Take a seat (indicating a nearby rock. I sit on the velvety-looking moss, but it's very slippery, so I slide right back down into the water again.)

Troll: Har-har-haaarrr! (It seems this is a joke he never tires of).

Me: So, how long have you lived under this bridge?

Troll (roaring): I'll ask the questions here! (He shows his gruesome fangs and I drop my pen).

Troll: How many addresses did you have before you turned 18?

Me: Well, we moved alot...

Troll: I don't want to hear your life story!! How MANY??

Me (calculating fast): Well, I think,...23.

Troll: 24. You forgot the one you lived in with your buddies in your last year of high school.

Me (heart pounding): Oh, that's right.

Troll: Now, normally, for an error like that one, I'd nip off a pointer finger. But being a writer, I guess you need that one.

Me: True.

Troll: So this time, you're off the hook. (Grandly) Now you may interview me.

Me: Thank you!
Me: So, how long have you lived under this bridge, Mr. Troll?

Troll (proudly): One hundred and twenty-seven years. No--I lie--128 years.

Me: And why this bridge in particular?

(The smell, a rank combination of trash and mildew, is starting to get to me. The bridge itself and the water seem very clean. The smell is emanating from the geotroll.)

Troll: Location. Any geotroll will tell you that it's all about location. Gotta have water to dump people in and a bridge to charge a toll, and it helps if the bridge is between two places people need to go.

Me: And about how many visitors do you get in a week, say?

(I dab my nose with my sodden hankie. The sides of the embankment are littered with the bones of smallish animals.)

Troll: Six or seven. Not many people go back and forth to the Whispering Woods. In fact, a lot of them are one-way trips.

Me: And how many fail to answer your questions?

Troll: At least half. Fairy education is excellent--they almost never choke. It's the little critters that don't study up--field mice, voles, an occasional muskrat...

Me: And when they fail?

Troll: I eat 'em.

Me: Just like that, huh?

Troll: Pretty much. That's what I do, you know. It's dying out, of course...But the young generation of geotrolls, the ones coming up now, they're not interested in the old ways. They want to play video games and they prefer the taste of potato chips to rodents and wayfarers. You can't get wifi under a bridge, you know.

Me: That's a shame.

(My feet have turned to ice and my teeth are chattering. My nose has gone into some kind of shock where all I can smell is the inside of my own nose.)

Troll: And everybody's got GPS.

Me: So are you thinking of retiring?

Troll: Maybe in a couple of decades. Get meself a little nook under a really big bridge, hang out with some other oldsters and talk about the old days. Eat the trash people fling outta their cars. Easy living (he cackles alarmingly).

Me: Well, thank you for allowing me to come talk with you today. I must be going.

Troll (sharply): What is the capital of California?

Me: Sacramento.

Troll: Well, hell. All right, off you go. Let me give you a hand up.

He helps me get halfway up the embankment, then lets go and I slip down the bank and into the water for the third time. The geotroll howls with delight as I stand, dripping from head to toe, shivering uncontrollably and scrabble my own way up the bank of the little stream. When I drag myself away, he is lying in the cold water, sniggering helplessly. I stand above him.

Me: You jerk.

He waves a hairy paw in my direction, still laughing. I limp to me car, turn the heat on high and drive away.

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