by Charles C. Cole
Burt Hillyard’s place sat at the far corner of a secluded, gated community, tucked at the end of a small cul-de-sac. While few windows faced the street, the place had a wide redwood deck out back with a breathtaking wall of glass that looked upon nature in all its glory.
The home stood on industrial stilts high above the steep banks of the protected Yellow River, a domestic echo of the monumental Ransom Valley Bridge, just a half-mile through the woods.
Hillyard, a retired bank executive, lived alone with no routine visitors except for the neighborhood birds he cared for. To discourage squirrels, for which he had no love, he had suction cup-style feeders attached to all his upstairs bedroom windows, six in all. Of course, that much treat was met with equal attention.
After mass on Sunday, he visited his wife’s grave, then returned home to clean up.
This was the summer after the road and bridge improvement bond passed. The bridge was nearly 90 years old and was getting overdue renovation. Weekdays were filled with the sounds of loud cement trucks, sandblasting, and backup horns. Hillyard had written a passionate, but ineffective, complaint to the paper. Thankfully, weekends were quieter, typically.
He leaned the ladder against the house while he collected his tools, returning armed with a high pressure hose, a bucket of soapy water and a telescoping squeegee. As he turned on the spicket, almost immediately, sunflower seeds rained down on his head and into his loose collar.
Up above, an exotic monkey-thing sat on the top rung of the aluminum ladder, chowing down on a fistful of black shells. The creature had filthy pink hands and feet, vivid yellow teeth, and large eyes, while covered in long soot-colored hair like a gray orangutan.
“Off my property!” Hillyard yelled. The beast responded by shaking a fist, spitting seeds at him and making a threatening hiss. “Get down now!” Hillyard shook the ladder. The thing grabbed tighter and made a chattering sound with its teeth. Hillyard’s escape back inside was immediately beneath it. The retired executive felt cornered, with nightmarish visions of the creature jumping on his shoulders, pulling his ears and pounding his back.
Hillyard aimed the hose and sprayed. The startled invader wrapped one arm around the ladder and hurled the nearest bird feeder with its free hand. Hillyard ducked and fought back by kicking the base of the ladder hard enough that it fell against the deck.
The little guest grabbed the windowsill with both hands, then launched off the cedar shake siding, spinning head over heels, and alighting on the deck. Hillyard kept at it with the hose, knocking the critter over. Then he, too, slipped on the wet surface, falling flat on his drenched back. Still holding tightly to the hose, Hillyard crawled backward into the furthest corner.
Instead of advancing on Hillyard, the unfamiliar creature seemed to take everything in. Figuring out the mechanics of the makeshift weapon, the invader grabbed the hose and folded it, effectively eliminating any threat; the water quickly ebbed to a gasping trickle.
With few options, Hillyard screamed at it and swung the end of the hose like a whip. The animal beat its chest and barked, showing large baboon-like fangs, which hadn’t been noticeable before. Then, when it had the upper hand, the frustrated creature used its large canines to bite into the hose, which only resulted in getting itself wet. Flashing enraged, white-rimmed eyes, it suddenly yanked the hose out of Hillyard’s hands and swung by it, off the deck into the dense foliage below.
Hillyard scrambled, turning off the water and shutting himself inside, dripping on the hardwood floor. He quickly threw on dry clothes and stood watch, shaking from the experience. About an hour later, somewhat calmer, Hillyard called his longtime lawyer, Red Tuggle.
“Burt?” No other client would call on a Sunday.
“Remember when I asked you to get special permission for me to build right next to the river?”
“We had a war on our hands, didn’t we? But we won. You won.”
“That old prospector said nature would fight back one day, for putting a house where you’re not supposed to. Damn if he wasn’t right.”
“Has he bothered you?”
“Sorry to make you go through all that effort. I’m ready to move now.”
“Burt, talk sense. What happened?”
“Nature happened, Red! Scared the living hell out of me, too. Something climbed up on my deck, the likes of which I’ve never seen, probably trying to get away from all that noise by the bridge. I think it was a troll. You think I can shoot it? Those things aren’t protected, right?”
“A troll? You haven’t been drinking, have you?”
“I need legal advice. That’s what I pay you for.”
“Are you sure it’s not some rare North American monkey?”
“It had canine teeth like a rabid baboon. It could have killed me.”
“Why a troll? Why your house?”
“Because that’s what lives under a bridge. Don’t you remember those stories from childhood? Probably been there, undisturbed, all its life. Well, it’s out now. And I’m the closest house.”
“What do you want to do? Nobody’s going to buy the place if you’re dealing with an endangered animal. My advice, if this is what you say it is, is to stay and fight.”
“How do you fight Mother Nature?”
“It’s a long shot, but I suggest buying goats. Big no-nonsense, aggressive ones. Billy goats, like in the story.”
“That might do. That’s why you get the big bucks. Will I need a special permit?”
“Let me worry about that.”
“I think it’ll head home once the bridge is fixed. I just need to discourage it for the time being.”
“I’ll make some calls. Sorry for your inconvenience, Burt. Troll or no troll, I’ve got your back.”
“Thought I was losing it.”
“How do you fight Mother Nature? I’ve told you before: by knowing the right people at city hall.”
Copyright © 2017 by Charles C. Cole