With one final dab of sun-block, a straightening of his black clip on tie and Bert was ready. He perched a peeked cap on top of his scaley green head then lumbered out of his cave, humming to himself as he went.
As he neared his bridge, Bert heaved a sign into place. 'Slow, Troll Bridge Ahead' it read. A second said 'Pedestrians 1 groat. Concessions half price' and a third requested. 'Please have the exact payment ready.'
Bert squeezed himself into his booth, opened a newspaper and awaited the first traveller.
“One groat, please” said Bert.
“A whole groat?” said the traveller, “What if told you there is no point in stopping me because the next traveller is much richer than I. You could get twice as much money from them?”
“Do I look stupid?” Bert rumbled.
The traveller considered Bert’s massive brow, protruding ears, huge nose; definitely a troll in an officious uniform; “Well…”
“That’s the oldest trick in the book and I’m not falling for it.” Bert picked up his paper and turned to the sports section. It was not long before he heard the tip, tap, toe of sneaky steps across the steel girders. He heaved a massive sigh and set his paper down.
Bert grabbed the traveller by his ankle and suspended him upside down above the deck and said “I’ll save you for later”. He stuffed the fare dodger in the deep freeze that he kept under the bridge for just such an occasion. He returned to the booth and perused the life style supplement for some fresh recipes.
Presently another wanderer came clanking and clattering towards the crossing. Bert peered over the newspaper and saw a squat figure, clad in the latest armour emblazoned with designer runes and equipped with the state of the art monster slaying gadgets.
“Can I help you?” Bert enquired.
“I hear tell of a loathsome troll eating unfortunate travellers who try to cross yonder bridge.”
“It’s a perk of the job” Bert admitted.
“Thou shalt let me pass or be smote.” The warrior brandished a fancy looking war hammer.
“That’s a Thorensen 2000 isn’t it?” Bert observed, “I haven’t seen one of those in years.”
“Then ye will know it is of Dwarfish make and particular fine for slaying trolls since it doth not have an edge to blunt on their foul hide.”
“It won’t do you any good. One groat, please, or you don’t cross” Bert asserted as he pressed a red emergency button that was secreted on the inside of his booth.
“Prepare to meet thy doom, fiend” the hero screamed and charged.
There was a loud bang and an electric blue flash as soon as the metal suit completed the circuit between the ramp and the deck. The armour fell to the deck with a plink, plunk, plonk.
Bert swept up the remains of his opponent then gathered up the armour, which he placed in the recycling bin that he kept under the bridge for just such an occasion.
He returned to his booth to check the business section for the current market value of scrap metal. Before long the dull clanging of goat bells approached.
“That will be three groats please” Bert said.
“What if I don’t want to pay?” the goatherd retorted.
“I would recommend that you go the long way round.”
“I could always outwit you and sneak over.”
“Would you like to know what happened to the last person who tried that?”
“What if I turn out to be a hero in disguise?” challenged the goatherd.
“It ended in much the same way for the last hero.” Bert warned.
“Three groats?” gasped the goatherd. “The sign says one. That’s day light robbery. I should report you to the authorities.”
“The goats count as concessions.” Bert tapped the badge on his peeked cap; it bore the inscription ‘By Royal Appointment’.
“Perhaps I could offer you a goat in exchange?”
“I thought that a goat would be worth more than 12 pence. Besides I’m not particularly partial to goat and would rather not have to go to market on my day off.”
“Oh very well.” The goatherd reluctantly handed the troll the toll.
“Have a nice day!” said Bert as he raised the barrier. The goats merrily crossed the bridge with a chorus of trip, trap, trots.
The moral of the story is you should pay the authorities their due, even if the official is a brutish troll.
Matthew 12: 13-17
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