By Kenneth W. Jenks
The SPEAKER can be of either gender, and is conversing with another person close by.
Korba had a smart frock on, on the very day that her husband caught a troll. That fact would have no relationship to the other until you understand that Korba was wearing a frock that had been given to her, not by her husband as one might have hoped, but by a pharmacist whose motives in the affair were just that, to motivate an affair! Whee-ew! He wanted to lure her into his bed and he might have succeeded were it not for the troll, well, the troll’s capture. Am I getting ahead of the story? No, that’s part of the story. Oh, and by the way, another part, one that might surprise you is that Korba’s mother had just that day moved back into town after spending five years with another of her children in Portugal. The significance of that fact resides in the identity of Korba’s mother’s former lover. Yes, you’ve guessed it. The pharmacist. Doesn’t that amuse you? It amuses me, I can tell you. That man, that pharmacist! Do you remember that I told you, well maybe I didn’t tell you, so I’ll tell you now that the troll’s stepmother Oh My! I bet you didn’t know that trolls had stepmothers, but why not? I ask you, relationships among trolls can be just as complicated and valid as relationships among any of us. Why are we so prejudiced? What makes us think that we hold any degrees in this grade school of life that are to be withheld from, for example, trolls.
So what was Korba’s husband doing going after trolls? Well you might ask. Haven’t we trouble enough without going out and catching it? Trundling it up and bringing it home? Well, as a matter of fact, he didn’t bring it home. He knew better than that. He took it to a cabin that he has in another part of the forest. Sort of a little hunting lodge that he and his friends have, where they go to get drunk during hunting season, and out of season too, I understand. Korba’s mother can tell you tales! Wheee-ew! But before that, I told you about the troll’s stepmother, didn’t I? Yes, I remember.
It’s important that you understand that Korba had no idea that her husband had caught a troll. She didn’t even know that he was hunting them. As far as she knew, he was gathering mushrooms all those times he went alone into the forest, because that’s what he returned with, mushrooms, not trolls. There are people who believe that trolls can turn themselves into mushrooms. But that doesn’t help the story, does it? Oooo, what if you ate one! Ugh! That would be ghastly! One H-ee-double eck of a predicament. No, it’s not that kind of story—maybe that’s what poison mushrooms are. What a thought! I don’t know where people get ideas like that, or any ideas, when you come to think of it. Where indeed? Oh, my! From trolls! Yes, don’t we wish!
Don’t we wish that’s where we got our ideas from! It would be so much easier, let me tell you. Just whoosh, here are these ideas. Not my fault.
Do you believe there’s a guidance for our thoughts and actions? I do. I most fervently do, for if there weren’t, well my goodness, we’re all alone in here and that would be intolerable! I couldn’t stand that for a minute. I’d be nervous wreakage and probably do things that we’d all be sorry for. Why once, when I was younger and believed in all sorts of silly notions like reincarnation, I made a promise to myself to that I would always keep in touch with my former selves because I knew that if it were ever found out that I had lost contact with those people or animals, or whatever I used to be, if I’d broken the Great Chain of Being, so to speak, I’d be cast into the outer darkness, or the inner darkness, come t’ think of it. That would be worse, wouldn’t it?
Yes. Darkness outside is nothing when there’s a light on inside the house. Or if it’s dark inside but light outside, you go out. But if it’s dark in both places, where would you go? You can’t get away from it. Oowhoo! Sometimes I just seem to scare myself. Do you? Does that ever happen to you? It happens to me a lot. It’s like being out in the forest alone when there are trolls about.
But, then there’s Korba’s husband—I can’t think of his name, can you? It doesn’t matter. Here he is, whoever he is, out in the woods with trolls. Now how did he capture one? Hmmm? He surprised him. It’s that simple. But that was not the hard part. What was not so simple was when the troll’s stepmother popped up. She was not surprised. I’ll bet she was ahead of the game all along, and she, now she was a different kettle of fish. That’s when things got difficult. It was all right with her that Korba’s husband had caught her step-son. He could keep him as far as she cared. But she expected payment. Aye there’s the rub! And she didn’t just want a dollar or two. She wanted his left eye. I don’t know what she was going to do with it, I mean, what would you do with a left eye? And why the left one? I don’t know. Can you see things with the left eye that you can’t with the right? I’ll bet that’s the way it connects with the pharmacist. Maybe Korba’s husband could see, through his left eye, all the lies that that pharmacist was telling him, which is not that remarkable because, well, we all knew that he lied a lot. Korba’s husband knew that her mother had been involved with the pharmacist in a more than pharmaceutical way, but did he know about his wife’s doings with him, her druggist habits you might say, hmmm? and was it only a coincidence that on the very day that the pharmacist gave his wife a frock, he went out into the woods and caught a troll?
So then here’s Korba’s husband’s troll’s stepmother. Try saying that three times, drunk or sober. Korba’s husband’s troll’s stepmother. Korba’s husband’s troll’s stepmother. Korba’s husband’s troll’s stepmother. I can do it! Sober, anyway. So when the stepmother tried to extract payment for the captured troll, my, wasn’t there H-ee-double eck to pay then? Such a fuss! The husband was not about to give her his left eye. Well, I mean, would you? You don’t have to answer that, and for that same reason, I don’t have to tell any more of that paret of the story because, well because, I understand that some people don’t want to believe in trolls. Maybe there aren’t real trolls. This is an allegory, anyway. Didn’t I say that? Of course I did. An allegory! The frock and the pharmacist are real of course. Sort of a mixed allegory, isn’t it? That’s the best kind. I swear I don’t understand people who must have their reality served to them on a plate. That’s just not the way it’s done. You have to be able to crawl in and out of the interstices, get in between the stones, to climb on the Great Wall of Life. A friend of mine used to say that I sometimes get caught in the interstices and miss the wall, but I don’t care. I like the interstices. It’s a nice word, isn’t it? Interstices.
So, when I say Korba’s husband caught a troll, I mean that he caught his own wild side and—in an allegoric sense—took it to a cabin in the woods. Well, of course I like telling it better with the troll and his stepmother. The imagery is more Scandinavian, and when you come t’ think about it, the morality becomes more—etched, doesn’t it? Positively Strindbergian. Even Ibsonian. No, Ibsenesque! Now how did Ibsen get into it? Well, he knew about trolls all right, and you know, maybe the troll’s stepmother was in cahoots with that pharmacist. Now, Ibsen would love that. Yes, that’s why I was thinking of him. And Strindberg. Oh, come t’ think of it, now it’s more Strindbergian than Ibsonian, Ibsenesque. Oh my, what a web we weave!
But that’s not what I was thinking about—what was I—oh well, that’s the way the story goes, ain’t it? I try to tell it straight and it keeps getting bent. The part I wanted to stick with was how that pharmacist lied to all of us, and here I can’t even tell the truth. I wonder what’s wrong with us, why we all lie—well, maybe not lie, but have one hell of a time with the truth. Why do you suppose that is? The way things really happened—you’d think we’d be able to tell a person that without getting into such a pickle. Maybe it’s because we want our story to be better than the way it was, like we’re in competition with the way it happened and want to do it one better. I’ll bet that’s it and I don’t see anything wrong with that. A little competition is good for all of us. It keeps us on our toes, doesn’t it? If it weren’t good for us, we wouldn’t do it, now would we?—and really, you’d think with all this modern gadgetry, you wouldn’t have to tell anybody anything.
Why don’t we just record everything and then we could just play it all back and there’d be no question about how it happened? Nothing to say about anything at all. But y’know, that would be terrible, wouldn’t it? And who would record the recorders, eh? Why, that’s all we’d be doing and there’d be nothing to record but recorders. If we couldn’t walk up to someone, or sit here like this the way we are here and now and say “Why you’ll never guess what really happened to old so-and-so.” I’ve often thought how lonesome we’d all be. What I mean is, it’s enough to make a person want to believe in trolls. Maybe a big ugly scary one got insida me, and is making me say these things. Now wouldn’t that be something?
©2001 Kenneth W. Jenks