A Troder is the least promising of all things that live in the hills. Even a rock has more pizazz and huzzah.

Troders know nothing of how they came to be. They have no sense of family history. They simply wake up one day — a Troder. The Woman of the forest, ever faithful to her senses, can smell it anytime a Troder is in the neighborhood. And she is seldom long in finding out its business.

This morning Tom the Troder grunted with no small amount of self-satisfaction. He often grunted in this way, shuffling about in his ragged slippers. His disposition was by anyone’s standard crabby. And he considered it the perfect time for attending to his correspondences.

Whenever dealing with his letters, he replied without reading them first (much less ever.) It should be noted all Troders spend their lives as perfect authorities on ‘just being that way.’

He sat down at the table, picked up a letter and scratched the stubble on his chin. It was from old Stanley Troder from back East. They’d not seen each other for time out of mind. Tom lay the letter down again, unopened. He chewed on his pencil’s eraser and scratched out his reply: “Drop dead you moron.”

A Troder’s Cave is littered with the remnants of a thousand misdoings---done. You can find them tossed in the corner or laid upon a shelf. But don’t be mistaken, they are all accounted for. They are in fact old gnawed over bones, too precious to ever be done with. This is a literal fact and no mere analogy toward something like a grudge. A Troder does not hold a grudge, never has. Never even heard of such a thing.

“I found this unsanitary thing on the kitchen counter. I believe it is yours.”

The Woman entered holding a bone splinter Tom often used for a toothpick. He always suspected it would be the death of him some day. Tom sneered as a matter of due course. The moment the Woman stepped in he remembered the driving concept behind mortality. And rightly so. It was their business together. He sneered again.

“You were not invited,” he said. His upper lip got hung up on a snaggle-tooth and stayed that way.

She smiled. Firmly rooted as the tree of life, with just as many birds in her hair, she held the bone splinter up. “This must go.”

It was too late. She was already out the door. Tome got up to follow.

Sitting down on a flat stone border, she lay the bone beside her. Tom the Troder sat on the wall too. She placed her hand over the splinter and lifted it away. Instead of his favorite toothpick now lay a dead bird. He could have sworn it once had been a bit of bone because picking his teeth with a dead bird he found a silly idea.

He grumbled, not liking the way things were shaping up.

Her gaze was distant as the moon in two pools by the sea. The clouds closed her eyes. He knew now, without a doubt, his time had come — and in the end, betrayed by a toothpick. Even so, he was interested in the dead bird. Its claws had curled and its yellow beak was slightly agape.

When she spoke, she spoke not to one Tom Troder, but to all things, so that the hills rippled. “Feathers — smooth and gray, while its breast is like the blush of morning rise. Even in death, something yet unfolds for this beautiful bird.”

The Troder’s face felt terribly strange. This was it for him. She had the way of sunshine on a cliff face — warming. Plink! A pebble slid down his cheek, which she caught, becoming a glittering diamond in her palm.

She balled up her fist and blew a breath over it. Opening her hand once again, she held a tiny white larva. “So, I thought you were in there.” She placed the little thing into the open mouth of the bird, where it disappeared. “Now where shall we bury this?”

The Troder could not say. The mud that ran through his veins had dried up, and he had forever turned to stone. Between them, the robin fluttered awake. It took one look around and flew away, bobbing on the breeze with each stroke, belonging to the day.