The cuckoo clock in Molly Tucker’s living room chimed the midnight hour just as her cell phone went off. Mom! Pick up! Mom! Pick up! the cell shrilled.
Who died, Molly wanted to know. Didn’t people realize she had to work in the morning?
The caller ID showed it was Andy. She unlocked the phone and pressed the green “Answer” button.
“Mom!” Andy blurted. “I got a troll in my closet!”
“A troll!” he said, “in my closet! Hit him on the head and pushed him in and now he’s trying to get out! Help!”
Andy was a sweet kid. He was developmentally challenged, though everyone had always treated him just like any other member of the family. But after her husband passed away two years ago, Molly had helped Andy get settled into a nice place with a new job and some professional supervision. He was twenty-six and finally on his own.
“Mom!” came Andy’s voice again.
“A troll?” Molly said.
“Yes!” Andy yelled. “Can’t hold this door much longer.” Molly considered her options. Was this like the time Andy saw a ghost in the basement? Turned out to be the neighbor’s cat, complete with fluffy white ghost fur. But sometimes Andy did imagine things, like monsters in the breadbox. Molly had to pull out every slice to show him there was nothing there.
“MOM!” Andy bellowed.
“Okay, honey,” Molly said. “Put something in front of the door, something heavy.”
“Something heavy?” Andy said.
“Yes, honey,” Molly answered. “In front of the door. I’ll come by on my way to work and check on you in the morning”
“Morning?” Andy said.
“Yes, dear. First thing. Now do what I said and get some sleep.”
“Love you Andy.”
“Love you too, Mom.” Molly smooched Andy through the phone and clicked off the call. Another crisis averted, she told herself. She went out to the living room and flipped the lever on the cuckoo, turning off the chime. She went back to bed, but not before admitting to herself that she couldn’t wait to see what silliness awaited her in Andy’s closet.
Her dreams were odd. In one she opened Andy’s closet and found a blue baby strangled by its umbilical cord. In another she discovered her husband, alive and well. But when she poked him he evaporated into cloud. In the last she pulled opened the closet door only to find her very self, a wizened hag, cradling her head in the crook of her arm.
Molly woke yawning, and showered and dressed. She pulled herself together and locked up the house and hopped into the Mercedes. It wasn’t her style, but she couldn’t see keeping two cars. She sold her Honda and kept Bill’s roadster. She turned the key and it purred to life. She had to admit she was getting used to it. She was getting used to a lot of things since Bill had passed.
Before she knew it, she was roaring up the drive to Westwinds. She pulled into a parking space by building B and got out and went to Andy’s door.
She knocked. “Andy?” He didn’t answer. “Andy! You there?” The door was open and she stepped in. It was a curious lapse. He was usually so good about locking the door.
She crept through the empty living room, past the sparse-looking kitchen. She stopped outside his bedroom door. “Andy?’ she said, gently rapping. She went in.
Andy sat on the floor, his bloody feet planted against the bed frame and his back up against the dresser he’d dragged in front of the closet. His face was a mask of pain and concentration, sweat pouring in rivulets off his body as his thighs and arms and back strained to hold the door shut. Something was in the closet, pounding on the door, howling.
Oh my God, Molly thought. He’s trapped one of the attendants. She swooped in and knelt down and took Andy in her arms. He stared at her with crazy, reddened eyes.
“It’s all right,” she told him. “You can let go now.” Andy collapsed into her arms, sobbing, and the door slammed against the dresser, pushing forward an inch. “Go into the bathroom, honey,” she said, “and clean yourself up. I’ll take care of this.” Andy struggled to his feet and covered his face with his hands and wobbled toward the bathroom.
“You must forgive my son,” Molly said, standing and pulling on the dresser. “He was just doing what I told him.” The howling on the other side of the door ceased. “I’ll have you out in just a second,” she added. Molly couldn’t imagine what further apology she could make to a man held captive overnight in a closet. She hoped this would not jeopardize Andy’s placement at Westwinds.
With a final tug she freed the door. Inside the closet stood a blue troll in a loin cloth with warts on his skin and a leer on his face. He looked remarkably like her husband.
Before Molly could utter a word he swung a gnarled fist against her skull and dropped her to the ground. The punch should have killed her, but she was a tough old crone, well-disciplined in the art of smothering husbands. She wasn’t going down so easily.
The troll picked her up and slammed her against the wall. She slid to the floor. He knelt down, grabbed her around the throat, and squeezed. She punched him in the face, over and over, but her blows only spurred him on. Darkness crowded around the edge of her vision until finally all she could see was a bumpy blue tongue slithering closer.
Molly felt his hands moving over her. As she blacked out, she had two demented thoughts. Andy had been right after all. Also, it was nice of Bill to pay his son a visit.
"Troll in the Closet"
Copyright: © 2010 Robert Meade
Copyright: © 2010 Robert Meade
Robert Meade is a transplanted Bostonian now firmly rooted in Mohegan Lake, in Westchester County, NY, with his wife and three children. He teaches at Loyola School in Manhattan. He won the Wordweaving Award for Excellence for his book, Daily Bread: Seven Days to a Healthier Soul. A published author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, his recent work has appeared in Angels on Earth magazine and online at Guideposts and Apollo’s Lyre.