[The only known photo of the Barnum Brook Bridge Troll. Photo source: Google search.]
I stood in my kitchen staring at my Costco weather monitor. Mariam was busy looking for a container of low-salt broth. For twenty-two minutes I glared at the humidity reading. It was our eighteenth day of self-isolation. Except for a small incident involving two garbage bins, I hadn’t left the house. I was hoping something would happen with the humidity that would excite me, but it stayed on the Very Dry mode. I turned away in anguish and went downstairs to use our stationary bike. I plugged in my iTunes, put on my earphones and listened to Elvis Costello for ten minutes. The left peddle began to wobble. Not wanting to let it loosen too much I decided that ten minutes was more than enough.
Back upstairs in our living room, I stood at the picture window and waited thirty-three minutes for the Blue Jay to land on my suet basket. Nothing.
Mariam came to the door and said:
You need to get out. Go for a walk.”
As I layered up, my thoughts drifted to Coney Island. The sand, the surf, the hot dogs and the bikinis. One can still dream. I’m not dead yet, I thought.
I drove over to the Paul Smiths College’s Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) and went to the start my favorite short walk, the Barnum Brook Trail. I reminded myself to stay at least six feet away from anyone I met, but the parking lot was empty. I was on my own.
Part of the trail is a boardwalk with several bridges. I crossed the first bridge in fine spirits, my head was clearing. I was almost in a good mood, considering. I slowed as I approached the second bridge. This is not going to be pleasant, I thought. Sure enough, as I stepped onto the wooden crossing I heard the voice. It was louder than usual, rougher and more ugly than usual. There was true anger this time. From beneath my feet I heard:
[The Barnum Brook Bridge. Photo is mine.]
“Who’s crossing my bridge?”
It was the Troll of Barnum Brook Bridge. We’ve met before. He pulled himself out from the underside of the crossing and stood, blocking my path.
“Oh, it’s you. Well then you know what the deal is. You must answer my riddle or face a horrible death.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Okay, Troll, ask away.”
“Right then. First question is:
A boat is filled with people yet there was not a single person aboard. How is this possible?”
I pretended to ponder the posed puzzle.
“Because they were all married,” I finally said.
“Humph. Too easy. You must answer another one.
“I have branches, but no fruit or leaves. What am I?”
“Are you kidding? That’s easy,” I said.
“A bank,” I said. “I need to move on.”
“Okay, those were easy, but you must answer one more question.”
“So ask, already,” I said.
“The more of this there is, the less you see. What is it?”
This was a new one so I had to pause. But I paused too long.
“You’ve lost! Now you must suffer a horrible fate.”
Then the answer came to me. “Darkness,” I said.
“Too late,” the Troll growled. “I will now grind your bones and have you for dinner.”
“You’re not grinding anything, except your green teeth. Order take-out tonight.” I squeezed past him, avoiding his fetid breath. “Besides, you’re not real. You’re just a bit of Norse mythology.”
As I walked off the end of the bridge I suddenly felt sorry for my final comment. We’re supposed to be kind to each other in these unreal crazy days. I turned around and said:
“Stay safe, Troll. See you when times get normal again.” He gave a small wave and climbed under the bridge, presumably to self-isolate.
When I walked into our kitchen, Mariam was busy preparing Tortellini and Zucchini Soup. I poured myself a glass of Chardonnay.
“I have a riddle for you, Mariam.”
“What has to be broken before you can use it?”
“Oh, please. An egg of course. Now hand me the rosemary, please.”
I felt grateful that we were in self-isolation together. So many people are alone. Sad. But I felt so lucky to be in lock-down with such a smart woman.
“Baby, you’re the greatest,” I said as I handed her the jar of the herb. Then I went back to look if the humidity level had changed. It hadn’t changed a bit.