On a trip to the eastern part of Thailand I wanted to stop off to see the famous bridge constructed during WW2. I had seen the movie years ago and knew many had died on this route the Japanese was set to build to expedite the transport of goods. Because of the historic significance, I decided to make the stop off on my way to the border with Burma.
What a strange day. The moment I walked across the bridge I could see all the children dressed in strange apparel. On their faces I saw odd markings signifying, well I didn't know. But something was amiss here.
The children were seated on the bridge eating their meal. I assumed it was their brunch as it was just 10:00 am, but I was unsure if brunch was even a thing there.
The food looked terrible. Some type of strange dark porridge, something that looked like starfish, and maybe some animal crackers? Who would give their child something like this?
Then I noticed, there were no adults around! No parent to feed these children. They must have been left on this bridge. Abandoned! So obviously they ate whatever they could find.
I moved further down the bridge. Same thing.
They were eating the identical same food as the other girls. Where did they get it? Was it even nutritious? Why weren't they in school?
But then I noticed one lone girl:
She looked so sad. It was obvious she would not eat.
I tried to ask her what was the problem, but she just sat there with her head in her hands. The poor girl broke my heart the way she looked.
I had some M&Ms on me so I offered them to her. No response. Just the same old melancholic expression. I had never seen a child refuse M&Ms before. After all, they are the universal candy for all kids!
Desperate to know the reason I sought out a kind ear who might listen to my entreat. This little cutie walked by on the bridge so I stopped her.
"Hey, what's the deal here? Why are all you kids on this bridge alone? Where are your parents? And why is that girl not eating?" I asked.
She looked at me and smiled and replied, still grinning, "Why don't you mind your own business you old nosy American? What do you think, you can save the world or something?"
Well, I never expected to hear those harsh words from her kind face. But she was right! It was none of my business. But, that never stopped me from seeking answers before!
I pressed her again, "Young lady if you don't tell me, I'm calling the truant officer! You're suppose to be in school."
That did the trick. She quickly apologized then told me the story of how they were all left here as sacrifices to the bridge. She said after the Japanese left, they left behind a bridge troll as a punishment. The troll would go into the villages at night and steal all the children unless they sacrificed one each year. This was the time of year they must put on the troll paint and wait to see who is chosen by the troll to be eaten this year. The girl who would not eat was the one the troll chose this year.
I was dumbfounded! This is the 21st century. Surely they know trolls don't exist, don't they? I asked her what the troll looked like and she informed he was tall, green, and had a painted face, like they had.
At that I departed. I wanted to see if I could find the object of their fear. Then, from nowhere he appeared:
Was this a troll or the jolly green giant?! I didn't know what it was. But I knew he was causing distress to these poor children.
I yelled at him, "Hey, long legs, how about you leaving them kids alone?"
To which he replied, "Why don't you mind your own business you old nosy American? What do you think, you can save the world or something?"
Where did I hear that before? This time I was angered. He and I were going to have a little rumble. Knowing my age and diminutive stature gave me a distinct disadvantage, I went for the element of surprise. I quickly went for the kick to the groin to decapacitate him. But he was too high! My kick only found air!
He retaliated by spitting troll spit on my head. Oh no, thick, icky, stinky troll spit. That was low. I was disoriented and stumbled right into one of his long legs. He rocked back and forth a moment then....bam! Down he went.
All the kids saw it happen. They began to laugh uncontrollably. The green troll got up crying and ran away in shame. He wasn't as tough as they thought he was!
All the children cheered me on. They asked if I could stay and be their bridge king. But I replied "This nosy old American has got to get back to his own business. What do you think, I can save the world or something?"
They all broke out laughing at that, as did I. Then I took them all home to their parents, and guess what? That girl who wouldn't eat, she ate the village out of rice! Turns out she was hungry after all.