A RANGER’S FAIRY TALE • by Chris Olson

Wisconsin State Park Ranger Smith rolled up on a group of campers standing outside a women’s outhouse. The building trembled despite its sturdy cinderblock construction and steel door. As he stepped out of the truck, a vile combination of rotten fish and skunk stench overpowered him.

A boy ran up and said, “My dad says there’s a bear in the toilet. Can I see it?” Then, the others descended upon him.

“The noise and odor have been going on since dawn,” said a woman.

Growling and clawing interrupted her.

A man said, “Let’s have this conversation upwind from this stink.”

They moved, and the lady said, “We figured someone had stomach flu, so we left her alone. Around noon, all the other women’s toilets had waiting lines. My friend Mary was desperate, so she knocked on the door and asked, ‘Are you okay?’ and the building exploded with growling and clawing at the door.”

“Relieving Mary’s bladder pressure,” said a man, causing other men to chuckle and the women to glare.

“Last night, several cars were broken into, and food was taken,” said another woman.

“It sounds like a bear, but I’ve not smelled one this foul,” said Ranger Smith. “Maybe it got into some garbage.”

“My dad says it could be a wolverene. They smell bad,” said a little girl.

“It’s a crazy person,” said a man in the back of the group.

Smith walked through the rankness to the door and jiggled it. He jumped back when he heard growling and pounding on the door.

Walking back to the campers, he said, “The door opens in. Whatever it is, pushed the door in but couldn’t figure out how to pull the door open.”

“Can we push the door open and let it out?” said a man.

“Not yet. It could attack. I will get the bear live trap and back it up to the door. I can push the door open and let it go into the trap,” said Ranger Smith. “Then I can haul it out of here.”

Smith drove to Park HQ and hooked the bear live trap to the hitch on his truck. The trap was a steel culvert on wheels with a door that slid down like a guillotine when the animal was inside and tripped the trigger.

It was dark when he returned to the outhouse, and the building bellowed and shook as Smith backed the trap up against the door. A crowd had gathered to witness the event.

The culvert part of the trap covered the lower half, and the raised trap door covered most of the top half of the door. Smith stood on the culvert, pushing the outhouse door open with a pole.

The animal shot into the culvert and the trapdoor slammed shut. Smith fell to the ground when the culvert bucked up and down. Then the screeching began. None of the campers were eager to run up and see it. Some covered their ears, and others held their noses. It was not like any bear Smith had captured.
Smith got a flashlight and looked through the expanded metal grate on the end of the trap opposite the door. He heaved back when he saw a big gray face with a long nose, saucer-sized bloodshot eyes, pointed teeth, and scraggly gray hair.

“Shit. It’s a troll,” said Smith.

A man looked into the trap and asked, “What’s a troll doing in an outhouse?”

“Hiding from the sun. Normally, trolls spend the daylight hours in caves, but no caves are nearby. Radiation from the sun reacts with their biology and will turn them into stone,” said Smith.

Smith called Park HQ with the radio in his truck. “Dispatch, this is Smith. We had a troll in the toilet. Now it is in the live trap. Over.”

“Jeez, I mean copy that. Please confirm it is a troll, T-R-O-L-L.”

“I confirm it is a troll. I think a young male dispersed from the troll sanctuary in Michigan. It was hiding from the sun in the outhouse so it wouldn’t turn to stone. I will haul it back to the sanctuary in the trap.”

“Smith, stand by. I will call US Fish and Wildlife for instructions,” radioed Dispatch.

The people were shining their flashlights into the trap to see the troll, which was riled up. Smith monitored the trap to notice signs it might not hold.

“Mr. Ranger, won’t the light from the flashlights turn the troll to stone?” asked a boy. “And why does it smell?”

“The UV light from the sun turns them to stone. Flashlights don’t have UV and trolls smell bad like skunks, but much worse.” Smith answered.

“Smith, this is Dispatch. US Fish and Wildlife advises trolls are Federally endangered species. The State doesn’t have jurisdiction. Let it go. It is a Federal offense to capture, expose to the sun, or transport trolls across state lines.”

Turning to the crowd, Smith said, “I need to let it go. I recommend you break camp and leave.”

After much grumbling from the campers, Smith heard the last car door slam and drive off. He had pulled the trap away from the outhouse and rigged a cord to the trap’s door so he could pull it open.

Safe in the cab, he pulled the cord, raised the door, and the troll burst out. It was the size of a bear and covered in wrinkled gray skin with sparse gray hair. It bolted into the woods, alternating between running on all fours and two hind limbs, trailing toilet paper from its left rear claws.

Chris Olson worked in the US and abroad, manufacturing paper and diapers. After his manufacturing assignments, he worked in research and development. He had over 60 patents when he retired and returned to his first loves, forestry and ecology. In his second act, he fought wildland fires, worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and served as an EMT. He hopes to draw on his diverse experiences to write entertaining stories.

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