Minta

As a rule, people do not believe that trolls exist.

Well, I do, I know they exist; for I have two mothers, Lisbet, my flesh and blood mom and Minta, my troll ditto. They were both there at my birth, my mom Lisbet in pain, my troll mom Minta not in the least.

When Lisbet clung the newly minted me to her breast and cried a little, partly from relief that the ordeal was over but mostly from happiness that I had arrived unscathed, Minta stood to the side smiling from troll-ear to troll-ear. At one point, Lisbet thought she glimpsed something shifting by her bed, as if the light reflected on the air itself, something rather large but friendly (is how she put it to me later on, when, as old then as I am now, she told me this and that and the other from her child- and young-woman-hood).

It is a matter of wavelength. Trolls have, by necessity, become very, very good at hiding; in fact, they have learned how to vanish at will. By vanish, I don’t mean cease to be in any one location but cease to be observable to any one set of creatures. Think dog whistles. Blow all you want and your kids won’t hear it. Your dog(s) will though, every time.

All remaining trolls (at least those I know of—those in Northern Sweden) can shift out of the human visual spectrum, so to speak. A sparrow could still see it, and definitely an owl, and most definitely a wolf (who can see a troll among trees in a pitch-black forest—they are mortal enemies and as a rule, and history tends to bear this out, mortal enemies have a knack of spotting each other), but a young mother clutching me to her breast could not. Nor could the nurses—ask the old matron who bumped into Minta who was not there, she swears in one breath and still swears by her god in the next that there was something large and furry right there, by the bedside, she could feel it, even though neither she nor anyone else could see anything. Well, Minta—who usually can dance away from any physical encounter but now distracted by my arrival—did not step away fast enough and the old nurse did walk right into her, and then sprung back as if pushed: a living question mark with each heart beat turning a deeper shade of afraid.

Actually, this is not entirely true, or all of the truth: a troll, at a certain age—I was told nine hundred seasons (that would be 225 years) by Minta’s brother, Minta, for some reason would not answer my question—and if wise enough, can indeed vanish from one place; though not physically, the body remains where it is whether in an observable spectrum or not, but the actual troll, as bodyless as any angel, is free to move out and about as it were.

Minta, definitely wise enough and well over sixteen hundred seasons was free to pretty much come and go as she pleased.

“How did you know I was coming?” I asked her once.

She studied her feet for a while (a while for a troll can be an eternity for a human, especially for a young, curious, impatient one), then she looked up at me and smiled one of her foot-wide, still perfectly toothed grins that to this day make me smile almost as widely to recall.

“I received a message from Bardo,” she said. “An unusual boy was on his way.”

When I said nothing, she added, “Would I want the job?”

“Bardo?” I said.

“It’s a kingdom between the last death and the new birth,” she said. “We all spend some time there—some more time than others.”

“I don’t remember,” I said.

“Very few do,” she said.

“But they offered you a job?”

“Yes.”

“What job?”

“To keep an eye on you.”

“Like a guardian angel?”

“More like a guardian troll,” she said. “But, yes, that’s the concept.”

Minta has turned out to be an excellent guardian troll and has out-and-out saved my life twice, if not three times: once from drowning by lifting me out of the icy water and onto the ice, allowing me to roll to safety; once from a for-sure fatal car crash by not only keeping on-coming traffic at bay (don’t ask how she did that) but by then also guiding my skidding car off the road and into a long parking pocket to eventually come to a stop, facing the wrong way but with me unharmed and still very much alive; and once by pushing me away from a very sharp desk corner that the back of my head was heading (pun intended) for—had I hit would not be typing this today.

She is still alive, too, of course, somewhere up there in her new, hidden from human view Lapland mountain home; and she will out-live me by many years for even at four hundred she is not yet thought of as old by her own.

The mountains to the east of Kurravaara (a small town about ten miles north of Kiruna, Sweden, a slightly larger—but not by much—town) are not particularly impressive as mountains go, but they are certainly mountains and they certainly have cleverly disguised points of entry and they are certainly warm enough, even mid-winter, to serve as a homestead to Minta’s kind—her clan numbers twenty-eight.

I was in my mid-thirties, and living in Los Angeles when I got word from her: next time I visit Sweden, I could include her mountain in my itinerary—she had convinced her clan (the vote has to be unanimous, and that includes the children: any troll under two hundred seasons is considered a child) that I would be not only perfectly harmless but also quite capable of keeping a secret.

Ah, but… I hear you think. You’ve just told us where she lives. Not very good at keeping a secret then, are you.

Well, I hear myself retort, lived. Minta et al. no longer live there; a few years ago, they moved from their Kurravaara home to parts more remote and even less accessible, what with snowmobiles all winter these days and German hikers all summer: it was just a matter of time before someone would stumble on the hidden mouth of their cave-condo; better play it safe, and play it safe they did. And no, I’m not going to tell you where they moved to: that’s the secret still to be kept.

I don’t remember Minta by Lisbet’s hospital bedside, I don’t remember anything from that event. I’ve been told, by both mothers, that it was an unusually cold October that year (1948; I was born on the 28th, at about eight-fifteen in the evening) and that my birth took place during a blizzard. Minta told me later that she was very glad to have made to and into the hospital before the snow started falling, or she could have spectrum shifted all she wanted, she would still have left a puddle by the side of the bed.

Minta, who like all of her kind have no problem telling it like it is (i.e., how they see things), told me I was uglier than sin as a baby, but then again, every human, seen by troll-eyes are about as ugly as they come: nary a hair. Pink and screaming. Glossy with slime. Ugly.

“And what makes troll-babies any less despicable,” I asked her once.

“Fur,” she said, killing the discussion in its crib.

 

I had rented a car this trip, and after visiting my aging f & b (flesh and blood) mom (Lisbet) and my sisters for a while I drove north, and north, and north, and then some north again until I arrived at Kurravaara shortly after midnight—with the sun still, if low, in the sky.

Minta traveled with me from Kiruna, a shapeless presence to my right who guided my guiding of the car to Kurravaara and then beyond on an old timber road made for horses not for cars.

Trolls can communicate with each other telepathically, but humans, me included, don’t have the right antennae (is how Minta put it) to pick up the signal—but trolls can literally take over a human’s movement, which is how Minta actually (for all intents and purposes) drove the car along this narrow forest road, all the way till the end.

And there she stood, the physical Minta, my corporeal eight-foot tall troll-mom, all smile.

I killed the engine and stepped out.

“Welcome,” she said in perfect Swedish. Then she lifted me up in a bear hug to end all bear hugs—trolls are incredibly strong, Minta no exception.

“So glad to see you,” she added.

“And me you,” I managed on what little air I had left in my lungs by this time.

She put me down and said, “This way.”

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