Icy fingers gripped my arm in the darkness. I swiveled around to see a grinch standing before me. Something inhuman. A troll not quite as tall as the fire hydrant looked at me flustered, he craned the pudgy neck of his to gaze up at me. Slimy and yellow pirates’ teeth hid behind his dubiously chapped lips.
The year previous, the entire family faced a tragedy we thought would take at the least another decade to show. Grandpa Maximus had solemnly passed. Grandpa Max was the character to retell his humbug stories mom said “dementia” helped him tell to his little grandkids. I didn’t know who Dementia was, but him and Grandpa Max seemed to always have peculiar memories.
“Once Bethline had passed-” was for some reason how the story started every single time. I knew Bethline as Nana, although I’d only met her once before she passed away by a car crash, or a skiing accident, or on a rocket to the moon. Grandpa Max told us of a story that would come to my memory on the 25th of December in 2008.
The story he told of an ogre so repulsive and foul you could smell them from a mile away. With a crooked nose, a blackened heart, and chapped lips.
“The disgusting little grinch he was. He robbed me of my valuables and ran!” Grandpa Max had told us in his final hours, laying barely awake from sedation in the hospital bed.
The fear must’ve been visible to the troll who had grabbed me seconds before. A hoarse shrill left the grimy mouth of the troll.
“Hello there darling,”
Nothing but black, all around me. My senses failed to tell me where I was or what had gotten me there, was I dead? The gears in my mind were halted, then all around me came to color. I stood from the soft ground of the forest: where I was before I blacked out. The memory of running so fast the trees around me cheered me on had come to my cognition, what had I been running from?
Familiar and rather rotting fingers touched my arm once again. My heart sank to the lush vegetation that made up the forest.
“If you want to take my valuables, then go ahead!” I winced, barely squinting my eyes like I thought I knew that would protect me.
His wide eyes reached mine, the terror I felt a second ago mysteriously washed over me. There was a type of sympathy in his eyes. Why have you been following me? I wanted to ask.
“Merry Christmas Ruby” the troll interrupted my train of thought.
Could this be what our sorry excuse for a town gave us as Santa Claus this year? How do you know my name? Who are you? Is this the same grinch grandpa had told me about? WHO ARE YOU? I had constructed about a billion questions in my mind before I realized I hadn’t responded to the poor thing.
“Merry Christmas sir,” I squawked in a less intimidating voice than I intended. “How do you know my name?”
“Your Grandpa Maximus had told me all about you, so sorry for your loss. I came to find you so I could give you a present. I was wondering what you were doing here in the forest, but insisted to find you, it is Christmas after all.” The troll looked at me with sentiment, he reached for his pocket in the back of his worn down army-green overalls. He pulled out a pocket watch and a crumpled up piece of paper. He unraveled the page and attempted rubbing out the wrinkles.
“Here.” He seemed proud of the watch and stained paper he had literally pulled from his behind, he grew a smile that was less threatening than before.
“It was your grandpa’s, this is a letter he wrote to you.”
“Thank you, so much.” I told the oddly kind grinch.
I gifted the troll the last of my chapstick, and a quick peck on the cheek. I skipped joyfully the entire way home anticipating opening the letter from Grandpa Max.