They call it the Bus Stop View. Framed by two trees, that bus stop opposes the row of houses with a smug air: it knows its customers will never stop coming, never stop planting their backsides on its bench, never stop reading its sign, never stop smashing its windows. Yes, the bus stop probably adores that sort of attention. It has that snarky superiority about it.
The bus stop has a neighbour though. About ten, fifteen feet to the left, should you be staring at the stop from the opposite side of the road, there is a cylindrical structure with a domed roof and an entrance way. A black gate separates it from the rest of the world, imprisoning with it gasping trees and entangled weeds. The trees suffer near the structure, but the ground foliage thrives. Their greens are deep, nurtured, well-fed. A green of floral gluttony.
We tend to call this the Troll House.
I wonder a lot why the ground is so healthy, where the shadows lead to, and what the lichen on the Troll House sees. Could some man live there? Sleep there, brood there, bury there?
Let’s suppose he could. Let’s suppose a man lives there. He’s a strange one, if he can get over the fence. He’ll have a secret entrance, or he’ll climb over despite his size. He’ll tread the same path to the Troll House, and enter at 4 am, when the eek of the hinges won’t wake a soul, and when there’s no one in the streets to disturb.
I’ve seen a rat run across the road a few minutes’ walk away from here, so we’ll say the Troll House has a nest. They’ll be friendly to him, he’ll name them all and perhaps kill a few on occasion.
Trick-A-Me, Capo, Clyde, Dolly, A-Bounds, Parakeet, Withburg, Tress, Jericho, A-Maze, Trigger, Tripper, the other Tripper, Rain, Lock-Up, Chewer, Birch, Sill, Polo, Severin, Sing-A-Long, Dust-Mite, Jess, Henri, Autumn, Origami, Petrol, Who-Goes, Mastiff, Capricorn, Barley, Enzo, Squat and others. He’ll have recently killed, cooked and eaten A-Bounds and Autumn, two of the fattest rats. The others will swarm to him and chew the bones in the morning. Trick-A-Me will bound across the road and scavenge for her army, while their patriarch sleeps.
He’ll sleep amongst the rotten ceilings and bricks, in the tatters of a sleeping bag. It was whole when he entered for the first time, but he couldn’t stop the rodent erosion. But he gave up in time and learned to settle beneath the tatters, and one day he’ll steal something else to sleep under. He won’t snore, for fear of attention, so he’ll sleep face down.
His sinuses will be clogged forever by the conditions, and he’ll live with a constant headache. He’ll throb with the pain of it, and boil water to breathe in the heat through his tattooed nose. And his nose is large, it must be. A nose must be large to compete with the matriarchy of rats.
Eating will used to have been a constant pain for him, but now it will be easy. He will know where to look and when, and what wild plants to consume and when. He will gather money and buy the occasional commodity but will have three more concealed on his person.
Propane for the tranger. Pair of gloves. Day-old bread. Pack of sponges. Rat poison. Old shoes. Bowl and cup. Threads of a blanket. Toilet paper. Something to break.
He will not have a toilet in the Troll House. Why would he? Nature will sustain him, and nature will relieve him. But he’ll have a human shred of cleanliness somewhere. So he’ll buy paper and use it, and he’ll wash the dirt from his fingernails another paper, and he’ll rub the back of his neck with the next paper, and he’ll bury it all when it’s done.
The rats will eat the paper, or breed with it. He won’t be delighted with more mouths to gnaw at his belongings, but he will name the children. The children of Clyde, the children of Birch, the children of Origami, the children of Dolly. Dolly’s will all be albino like her. At least he will have an idea of who sired them, and he will say to himself, It must have been Rain, and he will be correct but won’t know so. The rest are brown and indistinguishable. Yet he’ll name them all, and never forget, and name them after verbs, after people he knew, after things he did, after his surroundings. One will be called Head-Room, and another will be called Mildew, and another will be called Blue-Skies.
Dolly will die shortly after, and her children will suffer quietly while he takes Dolly outside to bury her shallowly below the foliage. The children will all die too, but he won’t notice and nor will the rats. They will end up being eaten in their white fur by their cousins and 2nd cousins, their step- and half-brothers and sisters. One day he’ll find a tiny bone and he’ll not remember who it came from, but it would have come from Blue-Skies who died last in her white fur, two days after her eyes opened.
He’ll see the bone has a sharp edge and pick his teeth with it then discard it elsewhere while supping his tongue and being blind to tragedy. He’ll do that after eating bread, and before he sleeps, as he goes outside with some paper and sees the breath of the sun rising in the east and the stars disappearing with the light, and he’ll squat in shadows after preparing a hole and he’ll sigh once because he’ll remember what it’s like to be sat down while doing this.
Sleep will come shortly after. He will breathe in dust and spores, slumbering as a rat bites at his tatters while seeking material to make her children comfortable. On second thought, there are two tugging at the tatters. Lock-Up and A-Maze, arguing over the same threads and they eek and he stirs in horror because he thinks someone’s found him, someone’s found him and they’ve opened the door to the Troll House but no one has found him, the sound was the rats and he is still alone, so he breathes in solitude and puts his head down and closes his eyes again as the sun ignores him in favour of shining dazzling light off the puddle of broken glass I can see though my Bus Stop View.