I’ve mentioned the two diminutive people, whose son owned Lorry’s and Pace University bookstore, but never explained their particular presence and role within the workings of the business.
They didn’t have one. Or, let me rephrase that, they didn’t have a role conducive to actual bookstore business. They ‘trolled’ the stores, guarded their son’s investments, enforced the Lorry laws. The booksellers at Lorry’s were unaware most of the time what these laws were, because the owner and his parents would make them up as they went rolling along in life.
How A. (initial of owner) came in possession of the stores to begin with, I never learned. For some reason my instinct says via his wife’s money, because he definitely didn’t come from the monied class, his parents were a bit on the, how shall I put it, uh, crasser side of town. And A. didn’t strike me as an Horatio Alger type–pulling himself up into business via hard work and nose to the grindstone. No, his was an easier lift, an elevator ride as it were, to bookstore fiefdom. When I was initially hired for the Pace store,
A. was having great difficulty walking, the doctor’s were puzzled and apparently unable to diagnose his affliction. The surge of sympathy radiating from myself to him dissipated rapidly as soon as I had any interaction with him. He was by general nature a suspicious, calculating, tyrant. His style of management consisted of his minions cracking whips and threatening dismissal if he thought the employee warrented it–what were the offenses? Sadly, the color of one’s skin came into play most of the time. He and the trolls had a deep seated distrust and overt prejudice towards people of color, even those whom they had employed for years. At the Pace store, his headquarters during the beginning of my tenure there, had accountants, and other mysterious ‘business’ employees.
My first exposure to the motley crew was walking in for the prospective job interview, which was carried out by the Pace store general manager. I saw nothing of A., or his parents, and didn’t realize they had another store. I had just left a chain store selling handbags, a job I was horribly suited for as I rarely carry one, and hated the idea of foisting merchandise onto reluctant individuals by lying through my teeth that they were the latest in latest and they just must must have one. That job required me to take a lie detector test–no lie–and because I had a college degree, they made me manager of the department, instead of the Latino girl who had worked her butt off for that company for a couple of years. To keep time in perspective in hopes that these hiring practices do not exist anymore, the year was 1979. Yes, the year of that classic disco reworking of Bridge Over Troubled Water, the Simon and Garfunkel classic. It played endlessly as new fake leather handbags were unpacked, priced and displayed.
I entered the college text bookstore in my ‘oh so hip’ burnt orange real! leather coat, that couldn’t keep a mink warm, and matching leather boots. I had curled my Joni Mitchell hair for some reason, and was the epitamy of white anglo saxon–fill in the blank here. The general manager read my resume-such as it was, I’d been in NY for about 6 months, and asked me a few questions, and said he’d be in touch. But when he called me to offer the job, I didn’t understand the salary quote, I thought he had named a price that was per hour, when he meant per month, with dots after it, and initially turned him down. He called back–with a higher salary quote! This time reality sunk in and I grabbed the job, after all, NY without a job isn’t a place you want to inhabit. I found later from my new friend from the store, Bob, that they were specifically looking for a white employee, and was willing to pay more for that acquisition.
There were members of his work force of color–one accountant, and the Lorry’s manager was Latino, with a succession of female cashiers, trustworthiness being their supposed flaw that needed rectifying regularly.
The Troll Terminators kept a keen eye on their prey, checking totals on cashed out registers, monitoring break times, keeping track of lateness or elongated lunches. Mother Troll’s dentine smile was a tell–if it’s directed at you, duck! She was at her most dangerous when appearing to be nice and likable. Papa Troll never smiled. I’m not sure if the ends were able to curve upwards, perhaps at a young age they were sewed in such as way as to keep that frown from going upside down. Together, oh brother. The store’s employees suddenly acquired laryngitis, as well as restless leg syndrome, resembling mute mice running helter skelter as if the knife of the farmer’s wife could strike them down any second.
What could make such a tiny aged pair so frightening and powerful? I can only attribute it to attitude. They existed as if 7 feet tall with rapiers for eyes and scissors for hands, their language was biting, stabbing, snippy, sarcastic. The insults were delivered with that infamous canine grin, from Mother Troll, and from Papa Troll, a guttural swell of words that broke over one like hail in a tornado–in the aftermath you’re thrilled to still be standing, but aware that parts of you were whisked up and away in the force of his anger. They were loud.
A. unlike his parents, spoke softly carrying a big stick. He had equal talents in the art of insults, but they were issued under his breathe or to only his closest confidantes, my friend Bob being in that unenviable position because Bob barely spoke, never in malice, and seemed a sympathetic compatriot in the war against all ‘others.” If they only knew! Even long after Bob and I had left, the bookstores, closed, when we got in touch with A. to disclose his long time employee’s death, a friend of ours, he effused to Bob, was happy to hear from him, even asked about me! The reality would have shocked him. Bob and I regularly thought up torturous ways in which to eliminate the Trolls and their offspring. Fabulous foolproof murders bound to do the job without leaving clues. It became a regular pastime, mind games, and served to relive otherwise bubbling true hostility that may have exploded into real violence, as it did once with an employee who had taken just one too many jabs from Papa Troll. It was quite a spectacle, wee Troll vs. large angry black man. Fortunately no one was injured, Bob, the peacemaker, parted the roiling waters and the employee slammed out, leaving Papa Troll disheveled and ready for all comers. None took him on.
I wish I could conjure up exact quotations from the Terrible Trollsome, to bring them completely alive–not to worry–just temporarily–but they had so many varied attacks and awful expressions the trauma must have buried them under years of happy book thoughts and gave their words last rites.
Just like one of our best “Murder of Lorry’s Owners” fantasies. The three are trapped in the attic of an abandoned ramshackle house, tied up and without food, water, or a glass for Mother Troll’s false teeth. Eeky huge starving subway rats are let loose, shredding, tearing, devouring Mama, Papa, and Baby Troll, the way the three’s actions and insults diminished those around them. When nothing left but obese rodents and lovely bones, we bury them in a corner of an historical African-American cemetery, gently sending them on their way with a eulogy consisting of their most notable nasty quotations.
We considered it an apt send off.
No animal or Troll was injured or killed in the above story, nor any time during my tenure as bookshop employee. All murder scenarios are strictly the product of my and Bob’s youthful imaginations, do not go digging up cemeteries in hopes of unearthing trolling remains.