Sorry this is a little late. Not Saturday, but here’s the Saturday Story…continued from last week.
“Hey, uh…what’s-yer-name,” called Thigspit.
“Matt. My name’s Matt.”
“Sorry, we’ve forgotten to introduce ourselves. I’m Thigspit, and the ugly one here is…”
“Grabloc. Yeah, I’d figured that out.”
“Look! He is a smart one! Told ya! Anyway, I was gonna tell ya to pull out the bread and butter—d’ya mind buttering a few slices for us so they’re ready for the sausages?”
“No worries.” Matt found a partly squashed loaf of white bread and a greasy chunk of butter in the chilly bin. “Tomato sauce, too?” he asked as he noticed the bottle.
“Oh, yeah! Thanks!”
As Matt buttered bread, the orcs argued over how long to cook the sausages. At least, that’s what they appeared to be arguing about—they’d slipped back into Orcish while they bickered. Matt didn’t blame them—it seemed to him that the language was specially designed for arguments.
Matt let his eyes wander over the orcs’ gear as he worked. Axes, bows, knives—their packs bristled with weaponry. One of the bags was a scuffed, dun-colored military pack from the 1960s, but the other…Matt was impressed. The other was a snazzy new Exped Expedition pack—eighty liter capacity, fully waterproof—a great pack if you could afford it. Matt had looked at that pack himself, until he knew the price. He ended up settling on a used MacPac Cascade he bought on Trade Me.
Matt didn’t want to think about where the orcs had gotten that pack. He tried to remember if any trampers had recently gone missing nearby.
“Ya got that bread ready, Matt?” asked Grabloc. “Bring it on over.”
Matt carried a stack of buttered slices to where the orcs crouched over the stove. He handed the bread a slice at a time to Grabloc who laid a sausage in the middle of each. Thigspit squeezed an artistic squiggly line of tomato sauce on each sausage and stacked them on a plate.
“Ah! That looks good enough to eat!” growled Grabloc.
The three sat down on the floor with the plate between them. Grabloc poured a generous measure of scotch into their mugs. Thigspit raised his drink for a toast.
“To the great outdoors!”
“To single malt!” added Grabloc.
Matt smiled and raised his mug, clinking it ceremoniously with Thigspit’s Sierra cup and Grabloc’s insulated travel mug.
They ate in silence for a minute, Matt trying hard not to watch the orcs eat, lest he lose his appetite.
“So,” began Grabloc through a mouthful of sausage. “What brings you to our lovely corner of paradise? And don’t tell me yer one of them DOC rangers. Pesky things! Seem ta think we’re not allowed here!” Grabloc’s voice took on a threatening tone.
Matt’s sausage stuck in his throat, and he was incredibly thankful his DOC-issued polar fleece was currently wadded up in his pack.
“Ah, no…I…um…I’m just tramping, you know…on vacation.” Matt smiled and laughed weakly. “And what about you?”
“You might say we’re on vacation, too,” said Thigspit with a laugh. In answer to Matt’s questioning look, he added, “We just quit our job last week.”
“Another movie?” asked Matt.
Grabloc grunted. “I wish. Nah, we was workin’ for the old man.”
“Saruman—or Sorry-man as we like to call him ’cause he’s such a sorry excuse for a man.”
“Wait. You were working for Saruman? Where?”
“Over in Long Sound. He’s building himself another Orthanc. Thinks he’s gonna breed himself up a new batch of Uruk-hai and take over New Zealand.”
“That’s what I say—who’d want New Zealand? ‘Course, I know for a fact Saruman’s very fond of sheep, if you know what I mean.” At this Grabloc burst out laughing, spraying bits of sausage all over Matt.
“But, isn’t he an actor?”
“Yeah, he was,” said Thigspit. “But he vanished right after the filming of that scene where the ents destroy Isengard. Collected his paycheck and just disappeared.”
“Is that why they never showed the scene where he sweet-talks Theoden and Gandalf and everyone from the tower, and Gandalf breaks his staff? That was such a great scene in the book, I thought it a shame they left it out of the movie.”
“Exactly! So Saruman just up and vanished, and then showed up in the middle of the night at filming sites, promising us orcs jobs, fame, fortune, women…everything, if we’d come with him. We figured, what the hell!”
“But he never paid us shit. And there were no women, and precious little else to eat. So we slaved away in the rain and sandflies for bloody nothing, while old Saruman lived in a sweet flat in Auckland and issued orders by cell phone.”
“But cell phone reception in Fiordland is terrible!”
“Yep. Three times a day we had to run to the top of Cone Peak to report in and get instructions. When we complained, the bastard said that we’d have fine reception in the tower as soon as we finished it. We told him he could build his own fucking tower, then shove it up his ass.”
“So, did all the orcs quit?” asked Matt.
“Nah, couple of dozen quit last week with us. The others? I dunno. Either they’re stupid or they think the old bastard is gonna come through on his promises. Ha! Yeah, right.”
“So, what are you going to do now?”
“Dunno,” said Thigspit. “Grabloc here wants to go home.” He rolled his eyes.
“Bloody wasteland here. Not a bar within miles, and no one to fight, except this sorry bastard, who’s only interested in nature,” complained Grabloc.
“So, where exactly is home?”
“Philadelphia? You mean Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?”
“That’s the place. You been there?”
“No, but I’ve heard stories…Isn’t it, like, murder capital of America?”
Grabloc laughed. “Yeah, that’s home!”
Thigspit rolled his eyes again. “He just doesn’t see the possibilities here. We’re free of all that city shit! We got a whole country to explore! Awesome mountains, fabulous beaches…I want to learn to surf…and the gear! I mean, look at this!” He tugged at his shirt. “Wool! Merino! I’ve never worn wool this light or soft! It doesn’t itch, it’s warm when wet, dries almost instantly…sure as hell beats that armor shit they made us wear in Lord of the Rings!” Grabloc grunted his agreement, and Thigspit continued. “And these boots!” Matt noted he sported a pair of Merrells. “Completely waterproof! Light and cool—feet don’t sweat in them.” He frowned. “Course, I never know whether it’s better to go with the synthetic or leather, you know, environmentally speaking.”
Now it was Grabloc’s turn to roll his eyes. “Don’t let him get started on all that environmental shit! You’ll never hear the end of it!”
“Just because you have the environmental sensitivity of George Bush doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t care how our actions affect the planet,” retorted Thigspit. “Look at you, in your cotton t-shirt. Do you know how many chemicals go into growing cotton? And it’s not even warm when wet!”
“I’m an orc, not a fucking pansy,” growled Grabloc. “I don’t give a shit what I wear! I don’t get cold.”
It was clear he spoke the truth. Grabloc was wearing a black singlet, shorts, and gumboots. If you could overlook the warty skin and distinctly non-human body shape, he looked just like a Kiwi farmer.
“Well, I enjoy being comfortable, and this modern gear is brilliant!” Thigspit pulled out his cell phone. “Look at this!” he said eagerly, pulling up a web page on the screen. “This is what I want—tramping tent, weighs less than a kilo. Shelter anywhere I want it! I could hike anywhere with this!” Then his face fell. “But the price…I’ll probably never be able to afford it.”
“Maybe you could do product testing for MacPac or someone. They supply the gear, you use it, then write a review of it. It’d be great advertising—tested by orcs in tough New Zealand conditions!” suggested Matt.
“Do they do that?” Thigspit’s eyes lit up.
“Well, they used to. It’d be worth ringing them to ask. Especially with you being so well-known from the movies.” Matt wasn’t sure this was entirely accurate, but Thigspit was identifiable, and it couldn’t hurt.
Grabloc spit on the floor. “Don’t encourage him. He’s insufferable as it is. Anybody gonna eat that?” He pointed to the last sausage. Thigspit and Matt didn’t want it. They passed the bottle around again.
Matt felt mildly guilty, sitting around eating the orcs’ food and drinking their scotch. He was near the end of a two-week cycle though, and his food stores were low.
“I’ll get dessert,” he said, rising a little unsteadily. How much scotch had he had? He staggered to his pack and opened it.
There was his last package of poisoned Tim-Tams.
It would be so easy–they might not even notice if he didn’t eat any.
His hand rested for a moment on the package.
Then he shoved it aside and reached further in to grab his emergency chocolate bar.
“Ooo! Cadbury Fruit and Nut! That’s good stuff! You know, they use Fair Trade chocolate?”
Matt didn’t know. He hadn’t actually ever paid any attention to that. He sat back down and opened the bar, offering a piece to each of the orcs and taking one for himself. It didn’t really go well with the scotch, but the orcs didn’t seem to care.
Thigspit sighed as he bit into the chocolate. “Now, aren’t you glad we came to the bivvy instead of squatting under a bush in the rain, Grabloc?”
Grabloc grunted. “Woulda been fine in the rain. We don’t melt.”
“Oh, stop being such a grump! Here, have some more scotch.” Thigspit refilled everyone’s cup, then looked sadly at the bottle. “Almost empty.”
“That’s okay. I brought backup,” said Grabloc, reaching over to his pack and pulling out another bottle. “Might be a bit rougher than the last.” He chuckled and set the bottle down heavily beside the rest of the chocolate bar. “That’s proper orc-whisky. It’ll curl your toes!”
“So, what was it like filming Lord of the Rings.” The filming had caused such a buzz in New Zealand, especially once the first film made millions. And the movie industry was big—everyone wanted to use New Zealand’s beautiful landscape as their backdrop. Matt was curious.
Thigspit and Grabloc were eager to tell their story. And there was plenty to tell. Matt was beginning to think that orcs weren’t far removed from university freshmen—heavy drinking, lots of selfies.
To be continued…