by Lyle Lofgren
December 11, 2001
[Note: This was written on the 3-month anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, when we were already trying to find Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Most of the information about warriors hiding in caves was from the New York Times, hence the "Mr." sobriquet. I was wrong about Mr. Cheney. Evidently he did come out of his cave. Either that, or he has a body double.]

I had a revelation in 1984, in Flåm, Norway, at the head of the Aurland fjord. The proprietor of the Heimley Pensionat warned us, "If you go hiking in the mountains, be sure to stay on the paths. There are deep cracks in the rocks, and they become covered with moss. If you step through, you will never be found."

Suddenly, I understood that trolls were not those cute little ugly dolls sold in American nonsense stores. Trolls were the logical explanation as to why some people went off into the mountains and never returned. They had entered the Hall of the Mountain King. Trolls are nothing to joke about.

We are now in the middle of a war directed by two trolls, identified by the New York Times as Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Cheney.

Mr. bin Laden lives in a cave in Afghanistan called by the poetic name Tora Bora. He once spent his idle time reading the Koran, but now reads the Qur'an. If he has any artwork, they are arabesques, because living forms cannot be shown in Islamic art. The hideout cave has an area for tanks and supplies, and another area for prayers. Mr. bin Laden has only a few soldiers, but they will fight an invader to the death. In case the soldiers all die, there is an escape tunnel like the kind used by the Minnesota 13-striped ground squirrel. Mr. bin Laden is thin, because he eats only sensible foods, so his heart is strong. Mr. bin Laden has friends in Arabia. They are in the oil business, and cheat in the name of Allah. Mr. bin Laden likes a good practical joke, and he gets others to play them for him. He laughed in his cave when he watched CNN and saw the World Trade Center towers collapse.

Mr. Cheney lives in a cave in Maryland that is so secret its name cannot be spoken. It is built so deep and has such thick doors that it can withstand a direct hit from an atomic bomb. Because of its impregnability, there is no escape tunnel. There is no chapel, but the hideout cave has all the modern conveniences and communication devices, even Microsoft Flight Simulator. Mr. Cheney would practice flying if he could only figure out how to load the software. The hideout is so well protected that Mr. Cheney has no need for soldiers or bodyguards, who, being professional, would not fight an invader to the death. Nevertheless, the cave is spacious enough to support 3000 people indefinitely. His boss, El Supremo, never comes to visit him in his shelter, because it is not allowed for the two of them to ever be together, in case a terrorist should strike them both down. Therefore, Mr. Cheney does what he pleases. He is fat. He eats only cheeseburgers, so his heart is weak. Mr. Cheney has friends in Texas. They are in the oil business, and cheat in the name of Moloch (pronounced "Moolah"). Mr. Cheney does not appreciate practical jokes. He is commanding a fight for our freedom, and will let nothing, certainly not our constitution or legal system, stand in his way. Mr. Cheney gives directions to the Field General, Tommy Franks, who lives in Tampa, Florida. Modern communication systems allow him to direct the war from Tampa and send off bombers from Topeka. There are, after all, good cigars in Ybor City, but none in Uzbekistan. No one has explained why the bombers have to be in Topeka.

Most likely, neither Mr. bin Laden nor Mr. Cheney will ever emerge from their underground hideouts. Trolls thrive where there is damp moss, and lose their power over mere humans when they must emerge into sunlight, where people can laugh at their pallid skin and goofy ideas. For Mr. Cheney, sealed in the impregnable cavern, hunched over the video monitor, personally directing smart bombs 8,000 miles away into an enemy cave that might contain a Muslim -- now, that's a thrill. As good as Flight Simulator, and much more costly. Conversely, Mr. bin Laden, surrounded by old fashioned extremists, gets his pleasures even without learning how to load Flight Simulator.