The Norwegian American Troll
fiction by Dennis Maulsby
Father Donahey, in blue-striped pajamas and ancient checked flannel robe, sat in a Bentwood rocker in the rectory’s screened-in back porch. A gentle breeze murmured through the netting, bringing the mixed aroma of lilac, azalea, and peonies. Donahey took a sip of heavily sugared coffee and reflected upon his state of mind and body. A curl of smoke rose from the pipe on the side table. His physician and his psychologist both were trying to break him of smoking.
Of course, they, Dr. Bhramari Gupta, physician, and Dr. Catherine Darcy, psychologist, never personally experienced human weakness, since they weren’t human. The first was an immortal Hindu wasp goddess and the second was the younger sister of Joan of Arc and a witch on the European model. Father Donahey realized they were trying to help him both personally and with his mission. However, it wasn’t like he had volunteered for this work.
The church hierarchy had also played a deceptive role. Supposedly, he was Winterset, Iowa’s retired priest, only helping out when full-time Father Brown was ill or out of town. It wasn’t the life of books and long rural walks he had expected. The community and the surrounding area were awash with supernatural creatures. Some friendly, some not, but all had to be dealt with in order to protect his new parish and the wider world from chaos and destruction. The mantle of guardian had been forced upon him.
The last six months had been short of major paranormal intrusion, except for a brief scare. Sheriff Rick had shared with him suspicious sightings of a homeless person who had established residence under the 106-foot-long Hogback Covered Bridge, spanning the North River on Douglas Township Road. Farmers along the waterway began to report cattle mutilations.
The lawman possessed a sixth sense when it came to awareness of mythological creatures. The man himself, another denizen of the Madison County supernatural scene, lived the secret life of a Pooka, a shape-shifting Irish wraith. The destructive nature of his demon personality was kept in check by his oath of office. He would serve and protect the citizens of this county as long as the vow remained in effect. Donahey shuddered to think of what might happen if Rick was defeated in an election and released from his bond.
Waiting for a dark night, the two of them had set up a stakeout near the bridge. After letting the night settle around them, the sheriff slipped out of his clothes and transformed into his favorite Pooka-shape, a coal-black stallion. He would be the bait, while the Father crept behind with a net and the Sheriff department’s TASER gun.
Lightning bugs flashed from air and grass tips. Crickets played raspy leg violins. In horse-mode, Rick grazed his way up to the riverbank. Head lowered to guzzle water; he became as vulnerable as all herd animals when drinking. A rush of water and a dark amorphous body exploded out of the riverbed. Long arms grasped his neck, moonlight reflected off a pair of long off-white tushes.
With a speed unexpected from a normal equine, the Pooka reared and twisted its neck. The attacking creature’s jaws missed and shut with the sound of a screen door slamming. Muscles convulsed; the horse’s head flew back. The attacker spiraled into a somersault. Its heavy body smacked into the earth, well away from the river.
A startled Father Donahey fired the taser into the right buttock of the black stallion. It grunted, quivered, and fell to its knees. Face in a guilty grimace, the priest spit out his favorite cuss word, “Cornflakes!”
He tossed the net. This time he ensnared the correct victim. The creature squealed and rolled, almost throwing off the web of polyethylene rope. Donahey leaped and hugged the being’s pillow-sized hips, keeping it from escaping.
Water squeezed out of its body hair soaked the priest’s clothes. The smell of rusty river bottom, aged fish slime, and bad carnivore breath washed over him. Arms became numb and aching. A heavy, unclothed human-scale body bumped next to him. The sheriff had recovered in time, grabbing the creature around the chest. He twitched and swore, discovering it had breasts. It let out a recognizable female scream.
Father Donahey chuckled. “I think she has misinterpreted the intent of your naked attack. Now to be sure, I won’t be telling anyone about this, if you won’t be telling anyone about my bad aim.”
The two women doctors had taken the subdued prisoner in hand. After an examination, they reported the creature to be a thousand-year-old six-foot-tall female troll. One of the northern Scandinavian Huldrefolk variety, she possessed a more human-like body and features than the southern Germanic breed. The exceptions being upper and lower three-inch long self-sharpening tushes, the muscular development of a weight lifter, waterproof fur, and a four-foot-long tail. Her face, hands, and feet were free of hair. Her ears were small and her nose large, but within the range of human features. A shave here and there, a dress to hide the tail, better language skills, coaching on manners, and she could pass.
After deciding the troll couldn’t be turned loose to prey on the local livestock, and possibly humans, the group placed her as housekeeper to the rectory. In this private household, she would learn English and social skills. Her name, in the garbled ancient Norwegian she spoke, translated to thorn bush, so they named her Rose.
Bright and adaptable, Rose quickly gained proficiency in language and manners. Her female counselors had excitedly arranged visits to the hairstylist, cosmetician, and shopping trips to West Des Moines’ Jordan Creek Mall. The women, as excited as if it was Christmas, hauled in packages containing plus-size fashions from Chicos, Gap, Old Navy, Talbots, and even Victoria’s Secret.
Father Donahey clicked his tongue and shook his head. Rose entered, dressed in a flower-print calf-length day dress. He noticed she had shaved her legs.
“More coffee, Father?”
Donahey was worried. He paced back and forth in front of the parlor’s double-hung windows. Her still-made bed proved that Rose had been out all night. The ancient grandfather clock in the entryway struck ten, and still no sign of her. A car door slammed. He pulled the drapes aside. Walking up the sidewalk came Rose, escorted by Sheriff Rick. He rushed to the door and pulled it open.
The sheriff waved. “Not to worry, she’s all right.”
Rose entered, wearing tight blue jeans, a long-sleeved beige western shirt, and a modern take-off on cowboy boots. Mud coated the boots and stained the trousers up to the knees.
Donahey looked her up and down. She blushed and bowed her head. “My child, where have—?”
Sheriff Rick interrupted, “Rose, you go get cleaned up; I’ll talk with the father.”
Given an out, the troll-woman sped off. The two men walked through the house and into the privacy of the garden.
“Well, the good news is that our girl can party.”
Donahey’s eyebrows went up.
“Here’s the story. I received a call of an altercation at The Cycle Shop, you know, the bikers’ bar out at the old Swensen place. When I arrived, a concerned Knut Helgesen relayed the events. He had met Rose Wednesday in the checkout lane at the Fairway, engaged her in conversation, and asked her out to celebrate hump day with him.”
Donahey nodded; he could see the attraction. Knut was one of Madison County’s 450 Norwegian Americans. A Wegian troll would feel at home in that group.
“At any rate, they rode his custom Harley out to the roadhouse last night to meet with his biker group, the Thor’s Hammers. After several hours of drinking and dancing, a rival gang, Loki’s Daggers showed up. Not long after, the bad blood between the two bands degenerated into violence.”
Donahey grimaced. “She didn’t…?
“Use the tushes? No, just fists, elbows, knees, and feet. With a whoop and a roar, she leapt into the knots of struggling men, and without regard to sides started laying them out.”
Grabbing the sheriff’s arm, Donahey choked out, “Any serious causalities?”
“The worst was a broken jaw, but there were plenty of black eyes, bruises, and cracked ribs.” Rick laughed. “And, a whole lot of admiration. It was the most fun they’d had in ages. So, no charges were pressed, and Rose was made an honorary member of each gang.”
Donahey looked back at the rectory. “What about Rose?”
“She had fled, afraid her true nature would be revealed. I picked her up two hours ago on a gravel farm-to-market road just off County 34. No apparent damage, except for scarred knuckles.”
“And the bottom line is….”
“With a chuckle Rick responded, “Well, there are about fifty guys who desperately want to date her. They’ll be a plague on your house.”
Dennis Maulsby is a retired bank president and Vietnam veteran living in Ames, Iowa. His poems and short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines and on National Public Radio. His book of war poetry, Near Death/Near Life, and a book of short stories, Free Fire Zone, won a gold and silver medal, respectively, from the Military Writers of America. His latest book of short stories, Winterset, stories of pixies, demons, and fiends, was released in March 2019 by NeoLeaf Press. Learn more at www.dennismaulsby.com.
This article originally appeared in the July 12, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.