by Fred Dungan
As every child knows, trolls are hideously ugly, overbearing extortionists who dwell in culverts under bridges. However, just like with people, there are good trolls and bad trolls. This is the story about the meanest troll of all, Tootsie Troll. You might say that Tootsie was the Osama bin Laden of trolls. Not content with extracting tolls from unsuspecting travelers for crossing the bridge, she expanded her efforts to include thieving candy from easily intimidated children and babies. However, since the bridge didn't get much foot traffic, there was very little candy to be had in this manner.
One fateful day, as Tootsie stood by the side of the road guzzling a bottle of rotgut sasparilla, she spied an overloaded schoolbus approaching the bridge. As was her slovenly custom, after draining the dregs, she tossed the empty glass bottle onto the bridge, howling with delight as it exploded with a thudding pop, shattering into a thousand-and-one razor-sharp shards. Imagine her glee when the first pop was succeeded by a second, bringing the lumbering schoolbus to a quick stop in the middle of the bridge with a flat tire. Not one to miss an opportunity, Tootsie hastily ascended the stairwell while gruffly ordering the children in her most authoritative voice to pass their candy to the front of the bus. When the schoolbus driver rose as if to resist, she shoved him back into his seat and pinned him there with a grime-encrusted, outstreched paw. Tossing the ill-gotten loot into a backpack, she was gone almost as fast as she came.
"Two packets of Sweet-tarts and a half-eaten Hershey Bar?," she exclaimed as she gobbled up the booty from the safety of her lair beneath the bridge. "Why, they cheated me!" Flying into a blind rage, she grabbed a pillar, and, leveraging her considerable bulk against it, soon brought the bridge down upon her head.
Bruised and shaken, Tootsie managed to crawl out from beneath the rubble. But rather than blame herself for her misfortune, she indulged her instincts, growing increasingly bitter while nursing a grudge against society. She desperately needed to take out her anger on somebody, but the schoolbus was long gone and, having destroyed the bridge that had provided her with a roof over her bloated head and an unearned income, she was now unemployed and homeless. With a bad attitude, a heavy heart, and nothing left to lose, she set out to get even by inflicting as much pain and suffering as she possibly could on mankind. "I will never be without candy again," Tootsie vowed as she strode along the highway that led to a big city in a region known as the Great Lakes.
By the time she reached her destination, Tootsie's tootsies were aching. "Surely," she thought out loud, "my arches have fallen." But, upon taking a seat on a tree stump and giving them a thorough inspection, she found they were in exactly the same place they had always been.
In fact, the only arch to have fallen that day was the span of the bridge that Tootsie had brought down which the road crew was even now endeavoring to repair at considerable expense to the taxpayers.
Tootsie was nearing the outskirts of the third largest city in the nation which the locals lovingly refer to as Chicago to keep tourists from mistaking it for similar blighted urban sprawls such as Los Angeles and New York City. But such nomenclature was beyond the mindset of Tootsie Troll, who was intrigued by the malodorous scents bestowed upon her by bone-numbing gusts of wind, which informed her that, despite being infested with people, this was a place where a troll could prosper. "Thin out the herds of people," she remarked to no one in particular, "and Chicago would be just like home."
In fact, there were no less than seven factories churning out cheap candies along the shores of filthy Lake Michigan. Belching vapors from assorted artificial flavorings, they enticed poor Tootsie whose rabid sweet tooth clamored to be appeased without further delay. No doubt this goes a long way towards explaining why our heroine was later caught stuffing her pockets with ersatz caramels on the loading dock of a particularly shabby confectionary company. As the security guard grabbed her by the collar, Tootsie, who, when cornered was apt to lie like newly waxed linoleum, blurted out some ridiculous story of how she couldn't be accused of stealing because she owned the place. Taken aback, the security guard, having heard on the evening news of a hostile takeover by an eccentric billionaire, apologized profusely for having mistaken a cunning capitalist for a common thief.
In just such a manner are grandiose undertakings born. The front door of the Chicago bureau of the Small Business Administration had no sooner been flung open the next day than Tootsie Troll was to be seen, leaking pen in hand, at an enormous wooden table in the lobby filling out a 132 page application for a no interest, no collateral loan backed by the full faith and credit of the United States of America. Such largesse is reserved for a select few. Being homeless and unemployed were, however, big points in Tootsie's favor and the fact that she was female and a member of a much maligned ethnic minority left almost no basis for denial. Indeed, she was immediately ushered into the director's plush office who, after thoroughly pumping her paw in the manner of an unctious civil servant, presented her with a government check for the cost of the candy factory plus various and sundry emergencies which could reasonably be expected to arise during the first twelve years of operation. In one fell swoop, the feduciary fell as Tootsie was magically transformed from a thieving social outcast into an upwardly mobile, enterprising entrepreneur. Such is the unabashed audacity of an entrenched bureaucracy, the only force in the universe treacherous enough to rob billions from the hard working taxpayers who put them in office and squander it on the undeserving.
In the candy business, as in most others, nothing matters more than the bottom line. Whip the workers, skimp on ingredients, sabotage the competition—do whatever it takes to come out on top. What Tootsie may have lacked in morals and ethics, she more than made up for with her predatory instincts. According to the company chemist, what went into jawbreakers and other cheap hard candies was gallon after gallon of corn syrup enhanced by artificial flavor hardened by congealed filler. There wasn't too much Tootsie figured she could do about the sweeteners and flavoring, but she definitely could—and would—cut corners on the filler.
"Just what the heck is filler?," Tootsie demanded.
"Filler can be any digestible organic compound," said the learned chemist with an oft-practiced grin, desperately attempting to ingratiate himself with the new owner.
"So what are we using now?"
"Why, only the choicest and best!," the chemist proudly asserted. "Surely, you wouldn't have it any other way?"
"Hm-m-ph!," snorted Tootsie, turning her ample backside to the sycophantic academician and quickly putting as much distance as possible between her thinking and that of the chemist.
Intentionally brushing against the chemist's desk on her way out, Tootsie swiped his dictionary and, after slamming the door with a vengeance, hurriedly thumbed through its dog-eared pages until she came upon an entry that was exactly what she had been looking for: "organic—of, or related to living organisms; composed of dead matter."
Why buy the very best when she could make do with less? With a little luck, Tootsie thought, she could charge for hauling away worthless animal byproducts and wastes. Due to a concern for the environment, wouldn't a responsible businesswoman find a way to recycle waste rather than taking it to a landfill?
And that is exactly what she did. To Tootsie Troll we owe the honor of putting the "edible" in edible garbage. Waste not, want not. Cut enough corners and a clever troll would never want for anything again.
One day, however, Tootsie had the misfortune to sideswipe a bespectacled wisp of a man in a long white lab coat while wheeling a barrow of bogus filler to the candy vats. Falling face first into the load of organic garbage, the myopic Food and Drug Administration inspector came up spitting out a mouthful of fetid waste.
"I'm going to have to take this to the lab for analysis," sputtered the inspector as he flashed his badge and wrested control of the barrow from Tootsie Troll.
Knowing full well that the inspector would discover that she had been adulterating her candies with the sweepings from kennels, bio labs, stables, and zoos—and being thoroughly depressed—Tootsie drove a company 18-wheeler to a notorious meat market/watering hole on the mean side of town to drown her sorrows in rotgut sasparilla. But instead of acquiescing and floating face down, her sorrows took up the breast stroke. By the time Tootsie managed to surface, it was tomorrow and she was lying naked beside a plug-ugly outlaw biker with "TEMPTED BY TROLLS" scrawled across his forehead. The previous night had most likely been the best of her life, but, try as she might, she could not remember anything about it, and when she shook the biker to ask him about it, he shrieked, ran to the balcony, and jumped from the third floor of the No Tell Motel onto his hog and put forty miles between himself and his latest conquest before stopping at a gas station to use the men's room and check his dipstick.
Poor Tootsie! She need not have been upset because the Food and Drug Administration had long ago come to appreciate the value of good business relations and, like most governmental regulatory agencies, was determined to protect the interests of the industry it was supposed to be regulating and could not care less if the consumer was being poisoned by tainted foodstuffs unless, of course, the reason for his death happened to make the evening news. Tootsie Troll wasn't the first confectioner to figure out that sweepings were less expensive than wholesome fillers. FDA regulations encouraged the use of ingredients contaminated with insect larvae, rat droppings, and hairs, along with unmentionable, hideous bio-wastes. What consumers didn't know couldn't hurt them, and even if it did, they could rarely trace it back to the source of the contamination.
In a more perfect world, meanies wouldn't prosper. But in this cruel world where the Law of the Jungle is the only regulation that really matters, Tootsie Troll had what it takes to succeed in business. The more she cheated, the better she did. So what if her employees' kids had to dress in rags and the stockholders were not awarded dividends? Tootsie was ridiculously rich, rolling in money, living like royalty, and never regretted a moment of it. Nor did the mischief end when Tootsie suffered an unfortunate demise while choking on one of her own caramels at the age of 107. Doubtless her heirs and assignees will continue to live large from her ill-gotten gains for who-knows-how-long without ever lifting a finger? You can help by busting your sweet tooth on a Tootsie Troll, since Tootsie Troll, Incorporated, will get a 15 percent kickback from your dentist. When you consider that one-half of one percent of the proceeds go to children's charities, isn't this the very least that you can do to aid those poor, deserving unfortunates who are unable, unwilling, or simply too lazy to help themselves?
Tootsie Troll was published in the Spring 2005 edition of Veterans' Voices magazine where it was awarded the Pallas Athene Best Story Award by the Women's Army Corps Veterans Association.
This page last modified on April 29, 2007.