The Couch Troll

Emos clasped his hands together and said through clenched teeth, “If you don’t give the skull back, I’ll snatch your skull.” Sweat popped out on the old man’s forehead and armpits.  He’d seen many basket cases in Nam, but this guy took the cake and crammed it down his throat.  He shouted the first thing that came to mind. “I’m gonna blow a hole between your friggin’ eyes! You got five seconds to get the hell outta my house, an--.” The old man felt a swarm of fluttering moths in his chest. Blood coursed hotly through his veins, and his heartbeat pounded in his ears. He closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair. The old man had never felt this way before; it terrified him. Was it a heart attack or a stroke? No, it wasn’t, he realized, after a few moments. It was panic. Minutes passed, while he desperately tried to calm himself. After his heartbeat slowed and his eardrums stopped banging, finally, he opened his eyes. He looked towards the couch and switched on the lamp. The stranger was gone.  The old man looked at the front door; it was ajar. He clutched his chest, cautiously got up, and stumbled to the door. He walked out onto his front porch; his eyes scanned his front yard. He saw nothing, except a dense patch of fog draped lazily on the trees. All was quiet and still, except for a band of frogs crooning to the night. He closed and locked the door and looked at the mutt on the floor, who flicked its ear at the occasional flea. “A lot of good you do, ya son of bitch.” He retrieved the ammo box, slowly unlatched the lock and looked inside. The skull stared back at him with hollow eyes.  “Couch troll, my ass,” the old man scoffed. But as much as the he hated to admit it, he was scared. How did that loon know the skull was in the box? He had to have been looking through the window, the old man reasoned with himself.  Adrenaline conquered his panic, and he paced back and forth in the living room, staring at the steel box. He couldn’t keep the skull now, since that fruitcake had been spying on him. He’d take the skull to the police station and tell them he found it on the side of the road, because he still wanted the couch. He just didn’t want the skull in his possession now that he’d met Mr. Mentally Insane. So if he did come back, the old man could tell him the police had it, to go harass them. He lifted the skull from the ammo box, put it in a plastic bag and walked out into the quiet night towards his pick-up truck.

He was relieved to be back home; his eyes burned from exhaustion. After five hours of questioning, answering and lying, the old man wanted nothing more than to fall into a deep sleep. He looked around the living room, but didn’t see his dog. He whistled through his horse-sized false teeth, but the dog didn’t come. “Lazy mutt,” the old man grumbled. He glanced at the clock. 3:48 a.m. What a night. He’d never thought in all his seventy-two years of living that he would’ve experienced madness like this. Crazier than the Vietnam War. The old man thought and yawned. He sat down on the new couch and rubbed his callused hand over its silky upholstery.  He decided to sleep there. But first, he retrieved his 45. from his bedroom, and then he reached behind the couch to close the curtains up tight, if by some chance the couch troll, no, window troll, more like it, decided to come back and peek in at him. Laughing, the old man stripped down to his underwear, lay down on the couch, and placed the gun on his chest. The soft fabric was cool against his weathered skin. It was more than comfortable: it was heaven. He felt like he was lying on a silken cloud. Man, what a find. Damn, if he wasn’t the luckiest son of a bitch, he didn’t know who was. As he rubbed his heavy eyes, a six-fingered claw with sharpened yellowed talons snaked up between the cushions of the couch and snatched the old man, twisting and screaming, down inside the darkness.

The workers loaded the couch onto the flatbed truck and climbed inside the cab. “That’s a nice couch.” “Yeah, it is. Ya want it? It’ll just sit at the dump if you don’t.” “Sure. Me and the ole’ lady’s been wanting a newer couch since the baby came along.” The workers stopped at the man’s house and hauled the couch into the living room. “Oh wow,” a lady, carrying a newborn baby, cried. “It’s the prettiest couch I’ve ever laid my eyes on.” “Glad you like it, sweetie, but I have to get back to work – got to finish cleaning out that ole’ man’s house.” They kissed goodbye, and the lady sat down on the new couch. She rubbed her hand over its soft upholstery. Was it dragon patterns, or just squiggly designs? She wasn’t sure. The microwave beeped from the kitchen, so she got up, and gently laid the baby on the couch. And the old man down inside looked at his lazy mutt, while rubbing his yellowed talon claws together, waiting for the perfect moment…

©2009





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