Troll Cave

The Care and Feeding of Barbarians

Last weekend, I was making pancakes to send to a relative. Multiple barbarians came by and said things like “Yum!”, “Yay!” and the like, and all were met with “These aren’t for you”, which was responded directly with snarls and grumps. Finally I said if someone else made the batter, I’d make pancakes for lunch. That’s no small offer; it means making over 200 pancakes, with enough batter it wouldn’t fit in most peoples’ dishpans.

Usually when I make pancakes, I keep them warm on platters in the oven until I’ve got them all made. Nobody can eat them till I’m done cooking. It takes about an hour of constant, high speed pancake turning to get them all made, and about 15 minutes for them all to disappear.

I began turning out dozen after dozen of pancakes onto a platter on the counter. Everyone hung about like a flock of vultures, but not a one of them was fool enough to touch the pancakes (past experiences indicating it not a wise idea). After I had a small lead, I decided to allow that they could start eating them hot—and so I entered Pancake Purgatory.

The lead that I had established disappeared in the time it would take an average human to sneeze, and people hadn’t even been called from the four corners of the house yet. Ever after that, any time I put down a pancake, it was snatched up off the platter in less time than it takes a germ to move (3-second rule, don’t cha know).

When you are turning pancakes onto a platter, you can see your progress. The platter becomes increasingly more full, and you can see yourself coming closer to achieving your goal. When you allow them to be eaten as soon as they are cooked, you never see anything but an empty platter. It’s like like a scene from a myth, were the guilty party is condemned to preform a meaningless task forever—like carrying water to fill a basin with gaping holes in the bottom. While you stand over the hot stove turning out pancake after pancake, you can feel the the passage of time without seeing any progress. Then you begin to think, “I’m not gaining on them at all. Since they’re eating them as I’m making them, they’re burning off calories as fast as they are eating them. At this rate, they will be hungry enough to keep on eating forever, and I shall never satiate their appetites.”

I finally confessed I felt like I’d been sentenced to purgatory for 500 years to work of my sins with pointless labor.

The consoled me that I only had enough sins to keep me there for 437 years.


Did I triumph? Of course not. I stuffed them fuller than a Christmas goose, but they were hungry again in a few hours. As usual.

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