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When bessie got back to the resting place, the moon was dropping just below the rise of the first hill. In herder time, it was probably 4:30 a.m.
Bessie was met by an angry faced, udderly humorless billy goat named Bully. And Bully was in no mood to hear anything about what she had been doing. Bully lowered its head, and butted her back to bed.
Because that’s what bullies do to little goats who break the rules of goats. And in every herd, there are lots of bessies and billies named Bully.
To this day, she cannot remember for sure which bully it was that butted her to bed that night, because in a herd, they are always butting heads, and seeking each others attention to prove which one is more hard headed than the other one. And of course, she wouldn’t tell them what she was doing, because she could lose her place in the herd.
They would lecture her about the troll, or shame her for taking such risks–or worse, talk about her like she had put them all at risk, by being a late night goat. But somehow, that made her feel comfortable, in an odd way. She felt protected by big bullies and by the herd.
Well, anyways, the next day was like any other: the sun was shining, the herd was bleating, and the journey across the bridge was the same as any other day, which always went like this:
After pulling all the milk from the teats of the she-goats, and soundly beating and shaming the he-goats for their horn headed rancid odors, the old drunken farmer opened the gate and pushed the herd towards the bridge; his fat, old wife sat on her bicycle at the edge of the herd saying
“excercise does a body good,” in the general direction of all the goats, with a big smile on her face; but aimed at, and waiting for, just one look in her direction from the farmer.
But every morn’, just as the farmer got past the feeding trough, the old farmers wife turned back, saying “Oh dear! I left the coffee pot boiling! Would you like some?”
The farmer always rolled his eyes, and without looking back, told her ” I will be making cheese the rest of the afternoon, and I had coffee before you were awake,” and pushed the herd over the first hill towards the bridge–where he would then pull a flask out of his overhauls and take a big sip, and recline in the shade underneath a big oak tree, where, most days, he slept till nightfall.
Even the goats knew that the farmers wife was having a second breakfast--that’s what any good goat would do if they could–and although some of them wanted to tell this to the farmer, they had no words–while others would always turn back, and try to run outside the herd to tell the farmers wife that he was drinking!
Such is the nature of farmers; husbands, wives and herds. But they always made it across the bridge, and ate all day long till their bellies were bulging, their horns and hooves were honed, and their teats were nearly sagging and full again.
Well, about our young goat? She noticed something odd. Something was missing this day on her journey across the bridge, and even though she looked left and right and left again? She could not put her goat finger on it.
What could it be? She was a goat, so she could only, really, think about her hunger! No matter, she bleated out loud, as she stomped across the bridge with the herd. No matter at all–if they move forward, I move forward!
Have YOU ever followed a herd? I have, said the narrator to himself. And following a herd leaves a trail of POOP behind it. And that trail is even more poopy when it rains! But that’s another story, for other herds…
The billies would spend their days trying to mount the bessies, the bessies would rub their rumps on the other bessies, and the older bessies would marvel at how they were always able to butt the young bessies out of position in line, and rub their rumps against the younger AND the older billies; and the billies would butt heads all day long and put on a show for the whole herd–as if they were the main attraction!
Then, they would all lie down around noon each day to chew the cud. The old goats would regale the young goats with bleatings about the big bad wolf, and how that wolf killed some piggies several farms down the county–or how that wolf chased a poor little white haired red hatted herder around in the woods, until she outwitted the old wolf–and the wolf had not been seen since then, and so forth.
They would marvel at the little happenings of nature: the singing cats that wandered by; the mother goose and her goslings gandering at the stream beneath the bridge–it was said that “they lived in a shoe!” And that was always controversial, because some would say they got the story wrong, or that there is no way you can raise goslings in a shoe, without a gander at government assistance, and so forth!
Still others would always bleat out “no, geese live in the water! The sky! While others would maintain Nope: “definitely a shoe–here is proof” and then they would whip out some old comic books to prove their point–which, of course, is futile–because the instant you whip out comic books in front of goats? They eat them! Because anyone who has spent any time around goats knows they eat EVERYTHING up!
On very rare occasions, some dumb billy would mention the old witch who eats children–and all the bessie goats would grow silent, and look at each other with ‘the knowing, silently bleating eye’ of goats. Then they would change the topic–and if that wasn’t possible? They would bleat quite loudly in fact:
“There is no such thing as witches!”
And then of course, inevitably, one she-goat or another would mention the troll!! The troll lives under the bridge!! Stay away from the troll!! The troll is dangerous!!!
This effectively, ALWAYS took the little herds mind off of witches, which were waaaaay too scary to think about–especially when it was close to Halloween and the fallen red leaves were so tasty!
And, predictably, of course, the tone and pitch of their bleating made it quite possible that every goat was suitably nervous, and they would all begin bleating loudly, but together. Which had the net effect of causing them all to get restless,hungry, and then, to stand up and begin grazing again ’till night fall–with the thought of the evil troll lurking in the back of their minds!
What is important in a herd–and most of the old goats–was that they agreed that the troll was dangerous–and that he would eat them. Occasional hushed bleating could be heard breaking out, with the youngest goats wondering if such a thing exists, because no one had actually seen one; no one would admit to having known It, even if they did, and so forth.
But the old goats would lower their horns, and the bleating would stop–there is comfort for some, in being bullied by those they know. Well, where do you think this left our hungry little night wandering bessie?? Of course, in the midst of such a view of trolls–from ALL of the ‘older, wiser, and experienced’ goats in the herd, she could not even imagine bleating out “His name is Boogie!”
Because, if only because that would get her soundly head butted, and silenced; but also because it would infer that she had done something that not a single one of them had EVER done!
What did she do? Says the narrator in clipped tones, rapidly recounting the wrongs of the right little bessie:
She had asked the name of the troll, instead of giving the troll a name, or the name that others had given it–and in that sense, learned things that went beyond the narrative…which, in any herd, threatens every other member of a herd! It would mean that she had violated herd behavior, and
a)not trampled the troll
b) not hated the troll
c) actually talked to the troll, and said her own words to it’s face!
d) taken a risk that was hers alone!
e) challenged the voyeuristic impulses of an entire generation of voyeurs who demand that trolls be exposed and defamed–( far from the herder paradigm of trolls as flashers, perverts and rapists….but I digress! said the narrator)
She humanized the troll in her own mind!…..which is always waaaaaay worse than re-imagining a narrative, a witch, or warlocks—but we digress….*
*she had actually broken the narrative of fear that is always directed primarily at young female goats!
And of course, in a herd full of ungodfully painful head butts, who could possibly imagine that type of “heresy” ? Sure–after the wolf was chased away, and everyone was happy, what then!? What could possibly guide a narrative….er…a herd, without an evil wolf, troll or…anything at all to be fearful of?
Such was the life, and intellect of the herd! What is important to a herd is that they all agree that the troll belongs under the bridge; that if the troll were ever to come out from under the bridge, they would all butt their horns at it; maul it with their cloven hooves, and soundly send it back where it belongs, humiliated, and soundly disenfranchised!
Narrator, with cheezburger in hand: No, we do not mean Ben and Jerry’s, Taco Bell, and certainly not McDonalds Corporation franchises!
Well, either way, when nightfall came, the herd was largely, always, too tired by then to even worry about the troll, and they clattered, and splattered their way across the bridge, which usually woke the farmer, who began to hurry about in an authoritative manner, and walk the herd back to the first field, over the big hill.
But every night they made it across. And every night they crossed the bridge, was like any other to the goats.
Clatter, plitter, plit plit, clank; a splash here, a splash there. More clattering; splattering ( depending on diet) and lot’s more plittering.
Just another end of the day in the life of goats! There is indeed, great comfort in the baaahHHaaaing, the plitter and the plop–the warmth of a herd. And you know what? Not one single goat ever gave any thought to who might have built that bridge?
Or who really lived under it?
Strange; but then again, scientists building bridges is even more strange to think about for goats–after all, bridges are marvels of science. Big beams, tall timbers, creatively resilient cross members, alchemy and algebra, luscious loads, spiffy spans,and so forth.
But who did the heavy lifting? Who put beam for beam, and timber end to timber end? And who guided the goats to it in the first place?
Why, such questions seldom even cross the mind of goats, or scientists…and even then, to goats, mythical creatures still live in the woods and the sky, and probably made it all happen. Either that, or their nursing mothers, and their milk filled aunts, sisters, cousins…well, you get the idea–such is the mind of a goat to whom all things are relative!
Who can remember anything bigger, or more important than the generation we live in? Goats memories are not equipped for remembering anything but nibbling time and again at the flowers you told them not to eat!
But that very night, the troll was hard at work, with curled, aching fingers.Now one thing you must understand about trolls: there IS A REASON they are trolls–and I am not saying all trolls are created equal–certainly not. In fact, I would wager one breakfast, and a flask of vodka that not all trolls are alike.
That’s a standing bet.
But one thing IS for certain about trolls: they are deformed in some way; they are not average, or ordinary, or even superficially like any of the goats in the herd; or like the drunken farmer and his fat wife, or the great engineers who built the bridge.
And each troll is something OTHER than a troll as well. Each troll is, for whatever reason, living under a bridge somewhere; a bridge that spans a stream, a river, or even an ocean!
And all water is connected, and supervised by the air, the wind, and the clouds, the sun, the…well you get the picture. It might be convenient; expedient; and even possibly well intentioned–but it really is not a good idea to preach that all trolls are alike, because in doing so, you deny yourself the opportunity to understand why water is important to trolls, and why they are never far from it.
In fact, if any of the goats had ever even actually known one troll? they might have noticed the broken fingers; the hunched backs; and certainly, the odd manners and looks of those who build real, actual, and often times, sustainable bridges without timber, tangible math, or even tall tales of power relationships.
But not all goats are created equal either, and that’s a fact! Anyone who has ever spent time herding goats knows that.
So, in-as-much as our young goat had that feeling that something was missing? She was not able to identify it, nor voice it to herself, much less voice it to the larger herd, which is always so extremely hungry, competitive, hierarchical, and bullying.
But Boogie was getting busy on that , that very night, filling in the blank spots that were left after one goat in the last several thousand years actually had asked his name–which of of course even he didn’t know fully well, because he was learning new parts of it every day!
Now, though she sensed it; and though she wished to voice it, our poor young goat was not able to put her goat-finger on what caused her to wake up at night–at least not THAT night. And she was usually good at putting her goat finger on what bothered her, despite admonishments from the kin in her clan.
And also, despite her hunger in her belly–there was indeed something else that was hungry as well. But she slept on this, after remembering the head butts she had received from a bully in her herd.
Yet Boogie clutched his pencil. He carved out words. He hammered at his brain like a mad man, with tortured knuckles to find what it is he needed to write.
And his mind was an empty page–thousands of years under bridges had taught him only one thing: no one really reads between the lines. Ever–even if they say they do. Readers are just not equipped for blank spaces. They can cross over a bridge a million times, and still not know what is missing.
And he hammered at the sign in his hands, which he had removed from the bridge just the night before, and it read
” Cross at your own peril.”
Which wasn’t actually an empty sign at all. In fact, it was ominously full. Too full, of something he knew quite well. But full of what? He had slept the night as best he could, and revised the sign two or three times already!
At one point, he wrote: “The kingdom is not your personal cash cow!”
And then quickly realized he was talking to goats, and how eerily unaware the herd is of what kingdoms are or, were. So he scribbled that over, and wrote: “This bridge does not go to Russia”--and then quickly rethinking it, realizes that it well might go there, or to its next door neighbor, and relatively soon.
He was truly stumped. He wrote “It takes a bridge to raise nations of goats” and then decided that was decidedly Hitlerish. Frustrated, he scribbled over all of it, and wrote
” I came across a child by a raging river, that was balling its eyes out. I soon realized that his parents had likely drowned in the torrents. I looked up at the coming frost, the blowing leaves, and looked back down at the child. I gave him what food I had, and left him as I had found him.”
Which seemed entirely appropriate, considering the life expectancy, and sometimes, the abiogenesis of trolls, and the fact that many trolls are river rats anyways with nowhere else to go–that the river is often the birthplace of civilizations.
Which led the troll to a remarkable realization– that most goats don’t read Zen poetry! So, he furtively erased and then wrote over that sign,:
It was then that the troll had an awakening–a catharsis, if you can imagine such. But Boogie realized something important.
Most goats only read at a fifth grade reading level; and that disappointed him greatly.
He wrote: “Goats beware! this bridge is built to last; you are not!”
He threw down his sign, and felt very old, and very tired. His sign sounded so preachy, or pedantic.
But he could not sleep–in fact, the next day came and went, and Boogie heard the clatter and splatter of the goats across the bridge; the bumping and humping of it all; to him, was what he suffered from the most–it was all so redundant, so repetitive, and made him feel like he was thousands of years old–which, in fact, he was.
The sun came, the sun went, the moon waxed over the fields like rice paper filtering a shadow show, the moon waned like a dog past heat, and tired.
And finally sleep set in like a floating rock. Boogie was exhausted. His last waking memory was what felt like a goats nuzzle on his cheek, and a vague remembrance of hammering poetry to the town pillory in an odd, Puritan place of bad waking dreams.
It could have been a thousand years; or maybe the next day when he awoke, to the sound of something other than plitters, plotters, and splatters. But the sounds in Boogies ears were like magical things–ear pancakes with eyeball sauce! Glitter and sparkles, broken by sunlight, rippling downstream, and not at all like ringtones, circumscribed on his inner thoughts .
It was the sound of an Ooooh and then an aaAAah, broken by a whoo–ooo, and a wheee, oh! every now and again.
In fact, he could not at that moment remember his days covered in the rain soaked shit of goats; the torrential rains that made him despise the task of being a living sponge, cleansing scientifically structured structures; but in fact, he awoke refreshed, regardless.
He rolled over, and ‘splash!” discovered he was next to a river. Yes, it was still his river. He looked out from underneath the bridge. Yes, it was still his bridge–or at least, it was his bridge, much older, and slightly less structured. His bridge in so much as he remembered the shit that fell off of it onto his head, when others just used it, or thoughtlessly clattered along it.
And climbing the embankment, he looked upon something he had never seen before: the farmer was holding his wife, from behind, like a goat, mounting a goat or baby ridng piggy back on the warm shoulders of it’s mother; the wife was smiling at the farmer, and he, at her.
Either way, her dress was up past her thighs, and she was nowhere near as fat as she once was–the farmer, far from drunken, far from rolling his eyes, was kissing at her from around her pink cheek, and meeewling like a singing cat, and she, playful at his lips, and giggling like a clucking spring chicken.
And the sunlight was brutal–magnificent, AND chandelier sparkling, but brutal none the less. After his eyes adjusted, he found himself face to face with a sign, well hung, but crooked, and written upon that sign? Were the words:
“She who asks receives; He who looks AND listens, gets’” and one particularly bright red rose was hung at the bridgepost, and it said “Hey drunken farmer, Pick me and give me to the hungry lady with the big eyes.”
“Goats who ask my name, may well be surprised to learn that I not what your mother told you.”
And “I am not your mothers troll–but I AM often in need of sleep, and a good bath.”
And every where else you looked? There were more signs! Lots of them, nailed to trees, and posts, and flowers; missives smeared with strange slogans, and bad poetry.
Like: “To the man who will choose strong drink, choose also strong companions.”
And “To the Girl who cried wolf–knock it off. You scare me into action too often so that I don’t believe you when it’s real.”
And “There are armies of war dogs with all of our names on their collars, and you can practice your voice in other ways.”
“To everyone and everyone–being kind first is the kindest of all kindnesses.”
“To the boy in blue? Try red today, or something else. To the boy in pink–you go girl [snap]” Oddly, someone had already written over that one and said ” That’s so passe'”
And, most absurdly, there was this:
“The man in the Bound Worm suit probably has hands. They’re just tied up at the moment.”
Juxtaposed next to this was written:
“B.S.is an actual college degree”.
Then there were really perplexing messages–stunning, complex, inhumane, and odd ones like:
“Eye contact can lead to interesting encounters.”
“Love one another, but without the Holy Joe.”
“Laugh, it won’t kill you.”
“Die for something? Let it be speech. But then shut up.”
“Learn to listen between the lines.”
“Listen and Learn. But, also, Laugh, often, at the humorless.”
Then–out of nowhere– a breeze rustled forth a leaflet past his feet that said
“Butterfly wings have a larger purpose to serve than being venerated as glorified pincushions.”
And worst of all? Most profanely? A sign that said
“There comes a time when you drop duty, and grab sleep.That time hasn’t come yet.”
And then, there was more perversity! Despicable, strange and alienating prose! Most oddly performed and deranged–revealing of the deviance of whatever troll had written such hateful missives.
Even for fifth graders, such things are thought wrong, and immature in the least–deviance, untamed, corrupts the minds of children! But I will tell you one of the worst:
There was an arrow painted on the side of the bridge, and next to it the words:
“Shit rolls downhill. Period.”
Well! How smug.
No matter where he looked, there were signs, which he interpreted as symbols of some kind, but he didn’t know what those symbols were.
Several of the tree leaves had bright yellow smiley faces painted on them, with big hands attached to the sides of the head instead of ears–so that every time the breeze blew, they all waved at you!
And nearly every single, silly flower had a little fuzzy necklace, made of yarn, tied to little notes that hung gently on their stems, and over their leaves like ribbons, which read things like:
” Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder,” and “Not every flower knows how to beheld…”
A daisy said: “Some are more tragically beholden than others”
and a lily spoke “Often, the tragically beholden do not hold you back. But it’s the herd mentality you need to be careful of”
And hung at the foot of the bridge was a sign that said “Please don’t pick the flowers–pick your nose instead!”
Other flowers said ” I may be beautiful, but I really actually don’t smell that good, and make you burp if you eat me.”
“I attract bees.”
There was a huge, almost obnoxiously large sunflower that had managed to escape the cud swaddled nips of the herd too–and around it’s neck was a larger sign, that said “I may be huge and obnoxious, but I promise you something good to eat if you don’t nibble at me quite yet.”
He was pretty obvious.
And then, in the place of the sign that used to say “Proceed at your own peril” was one crafted from a found object–an old faded flag! It said:
“Not everyone is equipped, knows how to be picked, or be held, while some are tragically beholden, yet others smell more fragile than flowers; and still others have way too many noses in their butts. Most of all, some are scared, and scarred, but still deserve our patience, not our judgement–because judgement should begin in yourself.”
Which was the strangest sign of all, considering that the troll was several thousand years old, bent over, yolk-backed, and saddled next to a herd of constantly bleating creatures that were always somewhere off in the distance, bleating and pooping, sleeping and wandering; muttering under their breath about witches, wolves, and scary, oddly formed creatures under bridges.
And this other little yarn yolked sign was draped everywhere there was a bent up flower! He should have known better than to have noticed. Still, he looked towards the farmer and his wife, the milling, pooping herd; he looked at his crumpled hands, and he read the sign which asked
“Who could possibly sleep next to that?”
But it was spring yet again, and one little goat pranced just above the hill, paused, and made a motion for the bridge. There was the slightest hesitation, as if the little goat had encountered one of the many signs left for it, draped around the neck of a flower–goats only eat the flowers that you like–but the hesitation was at the sign, at the flower, rather than a hesitant fear of trolls.
No doubt, Boogie thought, the whole herd will follow this time, if only to the bridge to see what their shepherds are up to. And that, all in all, isn’t a bad thing.
Anyone who has ever been around goats knows that…