This week’s #writephoto is
Gromit Underfoot wasn’t a complaining sort of troll but he knew he’d been stitched up.
Like all young trolls he’d been looking for a position in which to practice the skills he’d learnt at the Troll Academy: randomised scaring of passers-by, eating those who weren’t scared enough, levying impossible tolls and a variety of crushing techniques. When Grunguard Overspan had mentioned to Gromit’s rather desperate teacher that he was looking for an apprentice to guard the steps leading to his bridge, with the hint that one day the bridge itself might be included in the role, it was Gromit, despite being small, beige and inclined to sag who she proposed. ‘It sounds like just the sort of job for a spickety keen newbie like you,’ she’d said, with the lack of conviction Gromit was beginning to recognise. ‘You’ll fit the bill perfectly.’
Gromit knew he should have asked some questions: the rates of pay, the hours, the uniform options – he thought blue complimented his natural blandness – and whether he really had to eat anyone who was rude or dismissive but by this time he was just pleased to have some work; everyone said he was lucky.
Grunguard eyed him warily, his expression suggestive of contempt or wind. ‘I’ll show you the ropes and then, next Monday you’re in charge.’
‘Right. Er, will I… you know… be expected to eat anyone?’
Grunguard checked the letter he was holding. ‘Entirely up to you.’
‘I mean you won’t mind if I let people pass. Occasionally.’
His employer counted some foreign looking money. ‘No skin off my nose,’ he said, before fingering his face where his nose used to be, it having been lost to a determined Doberman. ‘Chin,’ he corrected. ‘Do what you like.’
‘Really?’ Gromit stared, encouraged by his boss’s apparently considerate attitude.
Grunguard stopped counting and looked at the deflating troll. ‘I won’t be here. You’re in charge. I said so.’
‘Of the steps?’ Gromit added carefully.
‘Everything. I’m off on… on…’ he pushed the brochure under his desk, but not before Gromit saw the heading ‘bridges of the Rhine’. ‘A fact finding mission. Scouting out other opportunities.’
Gromit goggled. ‘Me?’ He waved rather desperately. ‘Of all this?’
Grunguard patted his shoulder. ‘Don’t be such a worry wort. No one will be crossing the bridge.’
‘The council are repairing it. You just make sure they leave my office alone and I’ll be back for the grand opening. They’ll be some rich pickings then.’ But Gromit was sure his voice lacked conviction.
That was a week ago. Since then, he’d been woken by the early drilling, then exposed to the light while he was performing his morning ablutions, had concrete poured into his ears, and then ignominy of ignominy been asked to hold a pole while they checked everything was level. He’d tried to appear threatening, made demands and even tried out one of the hard stares he’d been taught but the men just laughed, offered him a bacon roll and ignored him. Ignored! That was the worst. To be ignored.
As the last of the workmen disappeared, Grunguard appeared, sipping on one of those cocktails and brushing off some sand. ‘How’d it go?’
‘Dreadful. There was absolutely no respect. I’ve a mind to complain. The men gave me an email I could contact.’
‘No point, young ‘un. I’ve tried when they introduced non-slip steps a few years ago. Dreadful. Complete absence of accidents.’
‘They threatened to cancel me, told me they’d a policy against trolling.’
‘What did you do?’
‘What can you do? No one appreciates the old ways, the personal touch, that face to face experience. It’s all distance learning, WFH… there’s even talk we might become a tourist attraction.’
‘No one said. At the Academy.’
‘Oh, they want the fees. It’s a matter of time before we become a myth, just talked about to scare the children. It’s time we moved over for the modern trolls. Still there are compensations…’
‘Really? What?’ Gromit tried and failed to grasp onto a sliver of hope.
Grunguard dug into his bag. ‘Cocktail? I’ve one of those little umbrellas. And we can still scare the bejeebers out of the dogs… Especially that damned Doberman…’