2 -- The Spiels of the Spirits
Early Christmas morning, about 1 a.m., a spectral
figure entered Tarzan's room in Greystoke manor, awakening him while Jane
continued to sleep soundly. The ghost was clanking chains and making "Oooooo,
"Who are you?" asked Tarzan.
"I am Kulonga, the Ghost of Christmas Pabst."
"Pabst?" said Tarzan.
"Blue Ribbon," said the Ghost. "You know, Pabst
Blue Ribbon Beer."
"Ah yes," said Tarzan, "I remember watching the
commercials on TV years ago when we were visiting Jane's father in Baltimore.
That tune will be stuck in my head forever: What'll ya have? Pabst Blue
Ribbon...and so forth...."
"Yes, that commercial was in the past," said the
Ghost. "But the beer is still around, so Pabst isn't quite yet a thing
of the past. Now come with me and I'll show you something of your own past."
"Wait a minute," said Tarzan. "You were a cannibal.
You were never in the U.S. How would you even know about Pabst Blue Ribbon?"
"We're given information on a need-to-know basis,"
replied Kulonga. "As the Ghost of Christmas Pabst, I needed to know that."
"I see," said the ape-man thoughtfully. Tarzan
followed the ghost through the jungle. They seemed to be floating and it
was extremely foggy. At last the mist cleared and Tarzan looked into a
native village where people were dancing in joyous celebration and consuming
gallons of intoxicating native beer, the African equivalent of Pabst Blue
"I remember that," said Tarzan. "It was my first
party with the Waziri."
"Yes," said the ghost, "but as the evening went
on you got a little carried away and consumed too much. Disgusting. Dancing
about, naked but for a loin cloth, and even that was hardly sufficient
covering with all of the wild gyrations you were doing."
Tarzan smiled. "I guess I did lose a little bit
of self-control that night. But, you know. After all I'd been through...unlucky
in love...more than once, getting the heave-ho off of a ship, and then
the exhilaration of returning at last to my jungle, and finally finding
a bunch of decent people I could hang with, rather than a bunch of hairy,
smelly apes or (he looked meaningfully at Kulonga) a bunch of revolting
cannibals.... I guess I did a few things I shouldn't have. I even hunted
my beloved elephants. It could happen to anyone. Besides, except for some
in the evenings with Jane, I pretty much stay away from the stuff now."
"Yes, yes," said the ghost. "We all have our rationalizations.
And speaking of that, you'll have to excuse me now. But remember, you may
be the perfect specimen of a man, but you haven't always been perfect in
Tarzan found himself back in bed, and quickly
drifted off. He awoke with a start at 2 a.m.
"Let's see," said the apeman to the transparent
great ape which stood before him, "The last one was the ghost of Christmas
Pabst, so you must be the ghost of Christmas Presents."
"Correct," said the ghost in the language of the
Mangani. "I am Kerchak and I am here to remind you that Christmas is a
time when people give each other presents. Even I occasionally offered
a she-ape a delectable beetle or grub. But you, Tarzan, you have never
quite gotten into the spirit of the season. You don't go to malls, Wal-Mart,
or even look on ebay for stuff. When was the last time you took pity on
a starving group of unsuccessful white hunters and dropped a dead deer
into the middle of their campsite? When was the last time you left a little
of your latest kill for jungle scavengers, rather than selfishly burying
it so you could greedily dig into it later? When was the last time you
used some of the gold from Opar to set up some social programs for the
Oparian children rather than just depositing it in your vault to splurge
"Children?" asked Tarzan. "What Oparian children?:
"Well, you know La was scared to death she was
going to have to mate with Cadj or one of the other high priests. So, that
must be the way they repopulate themselves. By having children."
"Maybe," said Tarzan, "but in all my adventures
there, I never actually saw any children."
"Well, that doesn't mean there aren't any," said
Kerchak, "and like children everywhere, they yearn for something under
Tarzan started to argue, but the ghost dematerialized
Tarzan was getting a little annoyed with the whole
ghost thing, but he muttered aloud: "Oh well, only one more to go.
I'll wait and see what he wants."
"He?" asked a soprano voice behind him. Tarzan
looked at the readout on the digital alarm clock. It was 3 a.m. A
female figure in a white shroud had entered his bedchamber. There was something
about that whole scenario that seemed vaguely familiar to Tarzan, maybe
something he'd read in a book. He glanced quickly at Jane but she was still
asleep. It might be hard to explain to her what a scantily clad woman was
doing in their bedroom at that hour.
"Let's see," said Tarzan. "I've been visited by
the ghost of Christmas Pabst, the Ghost of Christmas Presents, so you must
be the Ghost of Christmas Turkey."
"Actually," said the apparition. "I'm the Ghost
of Christmas Looter. You've been looting Opar for years."
"Look," said Tarzan. "You say it was looting. I
would call it making proper use of available resources. Just because that
gold was in a vault near the place where the Oparians actually dwelled,
doesn't mean it belonged to them. And besides, I checked, and the land
which Opar occupies is listed by the British East African government as
public domain territory, and people are free to pick up anything left lying
around by others and carry it off. In fact, according to anti-litterbugging
laws, they are actually encouraged to do so."
"But gold is a natural resource," said the Ghost.
"In its original state, yes," said Tarzan. "And
I am aware of laws governing mineral rights. But this gold has been processed
by man and put into ingots. That makes it available to anyone. If I were
to find a gold wedding ring lying in the jungle, would I be entitled to
pick it up and put it in my quiver?"
"Well, I suppose so," said the Ghost.
"Then tell me," said Tarzan, "other than the value,
what's the difference?"
The ghost thought for a minute. "I guess there
isn't much difference," she said.