3GTE

The first goat crosses the bridge from east to west. It traipses on the wood, tap tap tap.

The troll stands there, looking surly, staring off into the distance.

Mr. Eugene Barrett II stands stiffly on the eastern side. He is dressed in a pinstripe suit. It is neatly pressed. He looks profoundly uncomfortable.

“There will be a second goat, you know,” says the troll.

“Er, yes,” says Eugene. “I suppose there must be.”

“I will roar, and brandish my claws, like so,” says the troll, roaring and brandishing his claws. “And I will say, ‘You must be the second billygoat, larger and tastier than the first. I have prepared a mole sauce for you!'”

Eugene is silent. The troll is silent. Finally, Eugene says, “Those are difficult. I mean, I heard that they were hard to make.”

“Extraordinarily!” roars the troll. He brandishes his claws. “Particularly with these things for hands.”

“I say.”

The troll snorts. He waits. He watches. The second billygoat traipses up. The goat eyes Eugene warily. Then the troll roars and brandishes his claws.

“You must be the second billygoat, larger and tastier than the first! I have prepared a mole sauce for you!”

“I am not a mole,” notes the goat.

The troll blinks three times.

Eugene ventures, “I believe he means the Mexican sauce based on—”

The goat looks dangerously at Eugene, who is suddenly aware that the second goat is much bigger than the first.

“Perhaps you could let me go,” says the goat.

“No!” roars the troll. He brandishes a claw. He counts off on his fingers. “First, I am hungry. Second, I have already prepared the sauce. Third, I am ruthless. Fourth, I am educating this banker! I must set a good example.”

The goat laughs. “Perhaps he should leap on me with his great terrible fingernails and rend me to shreds. It would be active learning!”

“Er,” says Eugene. “I really don’t think—”

The troll makes a gesture to silence him.

“Very well,” says the billygoat. “I suppose I am doomed, then. But … but it occurs to me …”

“Yes?” asks the troll.

“I do have another brother, larger and tastier than myself.”

“You don’t say!”

“I do,” says the goat. “I do indeed. And we might be too much of a meal, you understand, taken together.”

“I might run out of sauce,” ruminates the troll.

“Verily.”

The troll’s nostrils flare. “Then go,” he says. “Go across the bridge.”

“I could go with him,” says Eugene. “To show him the way.”

“No,” says the troll.

“I was really supposed to ride across on the first goat,” says Eugene. “To rescue some sort of princess—”

The troll’s gaze is flat and level. “Is that so?”

The second goat crosses the bridge from east to west. It traipses on the wood, clank clank clank.

Eugene sighs.

They wait.

“Do—” Eugene pauses. He gulps. He speaks again. “Do trolls have treasure hoards? I mean, like dragons?”

“No!” roars the troll. He brandishes his claws. Eugene shrinks in on himself. The troll thinks about it for a moment. “Maybe. Perhaps. I suppose. Some.”

“Some treasure hoards?”

“A few,” says the troll dismissively. “They are small and unworthy of mention.”

Eugene says, “Ah.”

“Why do you ask?” says the troll.

Eugene shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot. “I like money,” he says.

The third goat approaches.

The troll looks thoughtfully at Eugene. He asks, “Why are you even here?”

“The guys,” Eugene says. “You know. The guys. They thought that I should have a marvelous fantasy adventure. You know. To loosen up. To learn—you know. Claw brandishing, goat riding, princess-saving. And such.”

The troll looks Eugene up and down. Then he looks up at the goat.

The goat’s hot breath comes down on the troll’s head.

“I hate trolls,” rumbles the third billygoat.

It looks at Eugene.

“Also,” it adds, “bankers.”

“These people,” the troll says to Eugene. “These ‘guys’.”

“Yes?” Eugene asks.

The troll shakes his head. “They are not your friends.”

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