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Volume 5118

Tarzan® and Santa Claus
By John "Bridge" Martin

ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
Rudolph’s African Adventure

Chapter 1 -- Reining in Rudolph
  Neither Mr. or Mrs. Claus, not any of the elves, would say anything about it, and Santa even went out of his way to speak highly of the lead reindeer's abilities, but the truth was that Rudolph was no longer necessary.

  Yes, he had been greatly needed that foggy Christmas Eve so many years ago when, with his shiny nose -- so bright -- he had guided Santa's sleigh on its rounds so children of the world would not be disappointed.

  And, his glowing nose had led the way on subsequent foggy nights as well.

  But technology had caught up to, and bypassed, the red-nosed reindeer. Santa not only had his sleigh equipped with GPS, but he also carried a laptop that was tied into various websites with maps and directions. Then there was Santa's personal radar set, which was attuned to tracking dishes around the world.

  Nonetheless, Santa being a traditionalist and a very nice man, kept Rudolph in the lead position of the reindeer team each Dec. 24, and always had good things to say about the creature's abilities.

  The other reindeer, though, were not fooled. They knew that Rudolph's skills and, therefore, Rudolph himself, were no longer needed., And they had begun to laugh among themselves and even called Rudolph names, although, knowing that Santa's elves spied on them as well as the children of the world, they tried to walk a line so that their taunts were just barely passable.

  And while Rudolph, technically, was still allowed to play in reindeer games, he sensed the hostility of the others and, after a time, began to absent himself voluntarily, usually pleading a headache.
  Yes, Rudolph was no fool. He knew the score. And it generated within him a deep sadness.

  One day Rudolph could stand it no longer. He said to his friend, Willy the Arctic Fox, "I don't want to stay where I'm no longer appreciated. I'm leaving. I'm going as far away from here as I can. I'm going to Africa."

  And without another word, the little fellow turned and leaped into the sky on a southward heading.

  Willy, a tear in his eye, watched until the glowing snout was out of sight.

Chapter 2 --The Hunger of Histah
  Tarzan of the Apes was sitting in the fork of a large tree, scratching his back on the rough bark, when he caught the unmistakable scent of Bara the Deer, although there was something different, yet familiar, about this smell. For some reason, it reminded him of Christmastime. When the apeman thought of Christmas, he thought of all the delicious foods Jane always prepared for that holiday. Even though Tarzan was still an ape at heart, and he loved nothing better than insects and raw meat, he had developed a taste over the years for the types of special goodies that Jane concocted at Christmastime.

  Now, feeling a bit of an appetite, Tarzan decided he might like to have a little snack of Bara, and the one now coming into range would do just fine.

  But then a new scent tickled the ape-man's nose hairs; it was the revolting smell of Histah the snake -- Histah the python, in this particular case.

  Below, on the forest floor, Bara the deer, in the person of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, stood staring in fright as the huge snake stared at him while slithering closer preparatory to getting itself into position for the strike. Rudolph was unfamiliar with snakes, as there were none at the North Pole, but he sensed that this unusual-looking living creature was no friend. Just what, exactly, it might do to him, he had no clue, and he didn't even have sense enough to run. He just froze, like a deer in the proverbial headlights, quivering in nameless dread.

  Histah's heat sensors had homed in on the extra bright red light of Rudolph's nose. In actuality, Rudolph as a whole was nothing more than a bright red blob to Histah, signaling to his poor snake eyesight that there was something which lived and breathed and was, therefore, food. The little section of extra bright red light meant nothing to the nearly brainless Histah, other than that it had caught his attention and he was now focused on it.
  Histah was now close enough and he began coiling up, then cocked his head section back slightly, like a spring ready to be unleashed.

Chapter 3 -- How Histah Became History

  To Tarzan of the apes, Bara the Deer was prey.

  But also, to Tarzan, Histah the Snake was a despicable enemy, good only for destroying.

  As Histah was about a second away from opening his slavering jaws and snapping his head forward to close on his intended prey with hundreds of needle-like teeth, the huge snake suddenly noticed a tightening around his neck area, the disappearance of the red blob, and a sensation new to Histah, that of rising into the air.

  Above, Tarzan hauled on his grass rope, with which he had dropped a lasso about the head of the malevolent constrictor and then, tightening the noose, had began drawing it up toward him.

  With Histah's head finally about 10 feet below him, Tarzan quit pulling the rope, but still holding a section of it, began climbing further up the aboreal giant. At last he reached a height where the branches were having difficulty supporting his weight. Here, he hauled Histah up the rest of the way until he could look directly into the slitted eyes of the monster.

  "Hi, Histah," said Tarzan. 

  "Bye, Histah," said Tarzan, cutting the rope with the hunting knife of his long dead sire.

  The snake began dropping to the ground, 200 feet below, crashing into limbs along the way. So unusual was this treatment it was receiving that the snake did not even think -- if it thought at all -- to attempt to slow its fall by snagging a passing limb with its sinuous body.

  At last the snake, bruised and beaten, crashed through the final set of limbs and landed with an ominous thunk on the hard ground. Though not quite dead, Histah had received enough damage that he was dying. Already, giant jungle ants were coming out of their holes and advancing toward the writhing creature.

  So fast had all of this happened that Rudolph had not had even given a thought to moving. Then, another whump sounded as a tall man, naked but for a loin cloth, landed beside him. Here was something Rudolph understood -- people. And all of the people Rudolph had met, up until this time, were friendly.

  The giant man reached down and scooped him up and carried him through the upper terraces until at last the forest dissolved into a clearing and bright lights beckoned from the windows of a human habitation. For a moment, Rudolph thought he was back at the cozy home of Santa, but he soon realized this place was different.

  "Look what I found," said Tarzan. "A little pet deer for you, Jane."

  "Oh Tarzan," she said. "He's so cute.” She reached out to pet him and then, unable to resist his soft and plush fur, cradled him in her arms and began kissing him.

  "What she we call him, dear?" she asked.

  "I think he already has a name," said Tarzan. "See, it's there on the tattoo he's got on his rear end."

  Jane looked at the words and read: "Rudolph."

  "Why Tarzan," said Jane. "This is the red-nosed reindeer, the one who has gone down in history. What's he doing here?"

  "That I don't know," said Tarzan. He turned to Rudolph and the reindeer told his story, thanks to the magic of Santa, which had enabled him to understand and speak English.

  "Well, I'm sure Santa is missing you," said Tarzan. "You're welcome to stay here as long as you want, but since you have Santa's brand on your thigh, I do need to honor his right of ownership and at least send him an email so he'll know you're here. I'm sure he and Mrs. Claus are very worried about you."

Chapter 4 -- Lion on the Prowl
  Jad-Bal-Ja, The Golden Lion, who was Tarzan's faithful companion, was given a quarter of raw beef every day, so he didn't lack for sustenance. But, like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, Jad Bal Ja didn't want to be fed -- he wanted to hunt.

  Jad-Bal-Ja was no young, inexperienced lion. He well knew his way around the jungle, and knew the ways of the jungle as well. He had been aware from the very first that Bara the Deer was now freely scampering around the Greystoke Estate in British East Africa. But the mighty king of beasts knew better than to attack this Bara and drag him off into the bushes, for he remembered the sharp raps on the nose he had gotten from the haft of Tarzan's spear during his training, and did not wish to relive the experience.

  That the Golden Lion was eyeing him hungrily had not gone unnoticed by Rudolph.

  There were no cats at the North Pole. Mrs. Claus had begged for a kitty but Santa wouldn't stand for one to be in the house. Among other things, he had been worried about it wreaking havoc with the cute Christmas mice, who sometimes assisted the elves.
  But Rudolph had seen cats in the homes that Santa had visited, and was well aware that such prowling creatures existed; he recognized in Jad-Bal-Ja the cat of his nightmares.

  So Rudolph tended to do his romping in daylight, when Tarzan, Jane or the Waziri were around to keep Jad-Bal-Ja in check. But he was loath to go out at night or when the estate was otherwise barren of protective humans.

  But it seemed inevitable that there would come a day when Rudolph would not be on his guard as well, and when Jad-Bal-Ja's patience would pay off.

  Tarzan, meanwhile, was out in the jungle as usual, enjoying a midnight swing through the trees. Suddenly his eye was caught by strange activity in the distant sky. It was some kind of flying object, with running lights, and it seemed to be headed toward the Greystoke ranch.

   "It must be Santa," thought Tarzan, "coming to try to talk Rudolph into going back to the North Pole."

  Tarzan turned and headed back home. He wanted to get there in time to welcome the Jolly Old Elf.

Chapter 5 -- Horror from the Hollyhocks
  The great lion had been lying in Jane's bed of hollyhocks, which were at the peak of their growth. He had been there a long time, partly because, like all male lions, Jad-Bal-Ja had a touch of laziness, and partly because the great lion, having been trained by Tarzan, had learned to be patient, very patient.

  And now, he could hear the thumpity-thump of his potential prey coming closer to the flowers, and he could see, through his surroundings of leaves and stalks, the glow of that bright, shiny organ.

  With the natural-born instinct of the great cats, he knew the precise moment when the stars were aligned and it was just the right time for an attack. Giving out a thundering roar to temporarily paralyze his intended victim with fright, he leaped through the bushes and grabbed the hapless creature, gave it a couple of rough shakes, and then greedily consumed it.

  When Tarzan got back to Greystoke Manor, Jane was frantic. "I can't find Rudolph anywhere," she said, "and I know Jad's been watching him like a hawk….I mean, like a ravenous kitty cat."

  Tarzan had a tightness in his own gut as well, but tried to hide it from Jane. "I'm sure they'll both turn up," he said.

  When Jane had gone back into the house, Tarzan did some exploring of his own. His nose told him where fresh blood had been spilt and he saw the matted grass and footprints around the Hollyhocks.

  He called to Jad and, in a few moments, the mighty lion made his way slowly through the bushes. Tarzan was not sure if he actually saw an expression of guilt on Jad's face for just a moment, but he certainly noticed the huge yawn, which male lions traditionally make before settling down to sleep off a huge repast. And deep inside that cavernous throat Tarzan could glimpse a red glow, throbbing off and on like a light at a railroad crossing.

  Tarzan folded his arms and glared down at the lion. "So," he said, "I save you from certain death, I train you, I feed you, I give you the run of the place, and this is how you repay me?"

  Now Jad did look guilty.

  At that moment, Tarzan felt something warm poke him in the back. Like lightning he turned and gave whatever it was a karate chop. Then, he realized it was Rudolph as he saw the unconscious form of the deer lying on the turf. He knelt and picked it up and gave it artificial respiration and soon Rudolph was moving, opening his eyes, and looking happy again.

  "Well, you're alive at least," said Tarzan.

  But then he remembered Jad-Bal-Ja.

  He turned and looked once again at his lion, who appeared to actually be a little bit sick.

  He could still see the pulsating red, now faintly visible through the tawny hide of Jad's tawny side.

  Then something several yards behind Jad caught Tarzan's eye.  He saw the crumpled wreckage of what was obviously a small alien spacecraft.

  "What the heck's going on," thought Tarzan.

  As if in answer, he heard a voice coming from out of the lion's mouth -- not a lion sound at all, but a sound not quite human, and yet with elements of humanity. The words it was saying over and over again were understandable enough, though they were gradually decreasing in volume:

  "Phone home......"

Chapter 6 --  The Fat Man Again
  Tarzan of the Apes was not like other men.

  Others might have wasted time in futilely mourning the demise of an innocent creature from outer place. But Tarzan knew that there was not much point in doing that since it was over and done. He was more concerned about Jad contracting some strange virus from having consumed an inhabitant of unknown origin from a planet with strange bacteria.

  He was also concerned about Rudolph. He turned his attention to the red-nosed reindeer. "We need to get you back up to the house, little guy," he said gently. "Jane is worried sick about you. Besides, Santa ought to be here soon."

  Rudolph gulped. He was not all that anxious to return to the North Pole. Well, he remembered the sharp raps on his nose with the haft of Santa's whip during his training time. Rudolph had been born with a nose that was naturally red and shiny, but Santa's disciplinary maneuvers had assured that it would stay that way.

  Jane had a bowl of warm milk waiting for Rudolph and, as he eagerly lapped it up, she sweetened it by dumping some Kellogg's Frosted Flakes into the dish.

  Then, in a twinkling, Rudolph heard on the roof the heavy footsteps of eight aged and somewhat overweight reindeer. He knew it would be only seconds before Santa would be coming down the chimney to get him. What should he say to Santa? What could he possibly say to apologize for running away and for all the trouble he had put Santa to in making this special trip to retrieve him?

  But a little time in the jungle amidst fierce predators had made Rudolph forget a bit about what a kind, gentle soul Santa could also be. A moment later, the big man himself was standing there, running his fingers through his flowing beard in a foredoomed attempt to remove flecks of chimney cinders.

  "Ho ho ho, Rudolph," exclaimed Santa. "I hope you're ready to come back to the North Pole with me and lead the team again this year. You know, that radar and GPS is nice, but a lot of times it helps to have someone along who has eyes...and a nose. Ho Ho Ho."

  Rudolph tried to look as if he were happy to see Santa.

  "At least you're not always saying, 'recalculating,' " said Santa.

  Rudolph smiled.

  "And don't worry about the other reindeer giving you a bad time anymore," said Santa. "A few sharp raps on their noses from the haft of my whip have made them adjust their attitudes."

  Rudolph's face lit up in a broad grin.

  "Well," Santa said, turning to Tarzan and Jane. "I guess Rudolph and I better get back to the North Pole. Thanks for everything!"

  Santa turned to go, but was halted by a firm hand on his shoulder. He stopped and turned around slowly to gaze into the grim expression on the face of the Lord of the Jungle.

  "Aren't you forgetting something Santa?" asked Tarzan.

  "Oh, sorry," said Santa, fumbling for words. He reached into his pocket. "I guess I do owe you something for room and board."

  "No," said Tarzan. "I wouldn't think of charging you for that. You just forgot our Christmas lists." Jane smiled and handed her list to Tarzan, who handed both his and Jane's list to Santa.

  The red-clad gent laughed loudly as he took the lists and stuffed them into his pocket.

  "Ho ho ho, no, I wouldn't want to forget those," he said. "Especially those!"

  Rudolph wagged his tail in farewell as he followed Santa to the chimney.

  Santa was probably, once again, just being a nice guy by saying he really needed him to guide his sleigh, but Rudolph was ready to go back. It would be nice to be, once again, in a place where a bunch of meat-eaters weren't constantly stalking him for their next meal.

  And meanwhile, thousands of miles away, in the bitter cold of the North Pole winter, Willy the Arctic fox contemplated his shrunken belly and wished he could warm it with the blood of the kill.

An Action Figure Christmas

Part 1 of 2: A Visit from Tarzan
  Naked but for a loin cloth, Tarzan of the Apes dropped from the limb that overhung the cottage, his feet sinking to the calves in the snow on the structure's roof.

  He sniffed the air, catching the distinct scent of Bara, the Deer, although this aroma had a slightly different tang than the smell of Bara to which the ape-man was accustomed. Being in another part of the globe, he was not surprised at the difference. But basically, Bara was Bara and the ape-man had gone for awhile without sustenance. 

  Understandably, he allowed a brief vision of a haunch of Bara, dripping with fresh blood, to momentarily dance in his head.

  But Tarzan was not here to hunt Bara, at least not at this very instant. He had another mission.

  Stepping to the edge of the roof, he made the easy, 12-foot jump to a snowdrift below, just outside the door of the cottage. He noted the bright yellow light streaming from within the diamond-shaped windows on the door and sides of the home, like something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. The warmth within, suggested by the appearance of the lights, prompted Tarzan to give in to a slight but only momentary shiver from the effects of the icy cold. Jane had recommended that he wear a bit more attire for this particular adventure, suggesting his old fleece-lined RAF flight suit, but Tarzan always felt more comfortable in what he regarded as his natural coverings, no matter what the weather. It would not have been the first time that Tarzan had experienced the cold but perhaps, he admitted to himself, not quite this cold.

  Tarzan stepped to the door and knocked. A moment later, it was opened cautiously and a two-foot high creature peered out and looked up at him.

  "You must be Tommy Tinker, Santa's chief elf," smiled Tarzan.

  The door opened wider. "And you can only be Tarzan the ape-man," the elf grinned. "Come in! Santa, look who's here!"

  Tarzan stepped inside, his feet enjoying the feel of the multi-colored braided rug, no doubt pieced together by Mrs. Claus in the off-season. At a table across the room sat a portly, genial-looking man with a flowing white beard. He was dressed partly in fur, from his waist to his boots, but his top half was covered by a white, quilted long underwear shirt. A pair of red suspenders completed his ensemble. Before him on the table were piles of paper and opened envelopes and a large ledger, in which he had been writing with a Parker Jotter.

  "Tarzan!" boomed Santa, his enormous gut quivering like a bowl of fresh gelatin in a Royal Navy galley. "I didn't figure on seeing you again until I got to the Greystoke Estate this year. Have a chair," he said.

  Tarzan accepted as Santa roared out to Mrs. Claus. "Mama, will you get us some hot Tom & Jerrys and some cinnamon rolls. I bet this fellow is hungry."

  "You might say that," said Tarzan.

  "How's Jane?" Santa asked. "And Korak, Meriem, the Waziri."

  "They're all doing great," Tarzan said, "and they send their greetings. Speaking of the Waziri, it's them I wanted to talk to you about."

  "How'd those Waziri kids like those action figures I gave 'em last year," asked Santa. "You know, those ones of the native guys with white, feathered plumes on their heads and a 14-K gold-plated bar for each hand."
  "They loved them," said Tarzan. "The kids are always playing Expedition to Opar with them."

  Mrs. Claus appeared with a silver tray on which sat the two steaming mugs of creamy batter, the fumes from a generous portion of rum complimenting the bouquet of the sprinkled nutmeg.

  Tarzan needed no shot of courage as he prepared to broach the subject of his visit, but nonetheless was grateful for the fortifying effect of the drink. He took a couple of slugs before coughing uneasily. "Uh, Santa," he said, "The Waziri kids would like some action figures again this year. That's why I came to the North Pole early, to let you know in plenty of time."

  "Well, time is always a factor," said Santa. "It's November already and the elves are as busy as a grave-digger in Florida.

  "What kind of action figures do they want," asked Santa. "More natives with gold bars? GI Joes? Marvel Comics characters? Star Wars?"

  "Well," said Tarzan, fidgeting slightly, "they want action figures"

  "Ohhhhhh," said Santa. He looked slightly embarrassed. "You know, of course, that there hasn't been much demand for Tarzan action figures lately, so there aren't any in the regular stores. Most of them are at jacked-up prices on the secondary market, and they usually go begging in the Dum-Dum and ECOF huckster rooms because everyone who ever wanted one has already got one."

   "I know," admitted Tarzan. "I was just hoping that if I told you early enough, your elves might be able to adapt some other figures to pass for Tarzan characters."

  "Say," Santa stroked his beard. "You might have something there." Santa brightened. "I know just what I'll do! Don't worry about a thing. Go on back to Africa and tell the Waziri kids to expect Santa with his usual bag of goodies on Christmas Eve."

  "Will do, Santa," said Tarzan. He drained the last of his Tom & Jerry and stuffed the half-eaten cinnamon roll into the leather pouch he always carried, right next to the hunting knife of his long-dead sire. "I'll be going now. Take care."

  The chief elf rose but Tarzan waved him off. "Oh don't bother Tommy. I'll let myself out."

  There was a momentary chilly blast when the ape-man opened the front door, but then he stepped out, closed it, and it started to warm up inside again.

  "How we gonna fill that order," said Tommy, looking with some frustration at Santa.

  "That's why I'm Santa and you're an elf," the fat man said. "Here's what I want you to do. Go to Room 324-A, where we keep those action figures that Disney surplused to us after it decided to go a different direction on its big budget bust of 2012. Get some black fabric spray and make the white apes into black ones, and rip out the black hair on the Princess figures and get some decent dresses and blonde wigs for them from the Barbie accessories closet. Lose the chest harness on the guy and cut his sword down to knife size. His hair is okay but trim his leather loin cloth to show more leg."

  "What a great idea, Santa," said Tommy. "I didn't think we'd ever be able to get rid of those."

  "We'll have to think of something else to do with those green monstrosities, though," said Santa. "Too many limbs to pass for crocodiles."

  Tommy was rubbing his hands with glee, but noticed that Santa was now frowning, a worried expression crossing his normally happy-go-lucky features.

  "One more thing, Tommy," Santa finally said.

  "Yes, Sir?"

  "Before you start in on those action figures, do me a favor and go out to the stable and do a head count on the reindeer."

Part 2 of 2: Tinkering with the Trend
  Santa Claus pressed the intercom buzzer and barked: "Send Tommy Tinker in here."

  The door opened and the head elf skipped in and then snapped to attention. 

  "Tommy," said Santa. "I want you to empty out Vault 293-B and get it into the toy-loading area.”

  "But Santa," said Tommy. "You already have enough Barbie dolls packed and ready to go."

  "BARBIE DOLLS!" roared Santa. "There's no Barbie dolls in 293-B. That's where we keep all of the old Trendmaster Mars toys."

  "Uh....we do?" was all that Tommy could manage.

  "You're darned right we do," said Santa. "All the John Carters and Dejah Thoris's, the O Mad Zads, the Tars Tarkases, and lots of Ghek the Kaldane, the Plant-Men, and even the Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars figure and playset.”

  Tommy Tinker was getting nervous. "But Santa," he stammered. "What would we want with those? The kids didn't want them when they were first issued."

  "Of course not, you idiot," said Santa. "Nobody knew who those characters were. But now that the John Carter of Mars movie has had time to seep into the public imagination, there might be kids out there who want them.

    "I let Tarzan talk me into changing all the unreleased Disney John Carter toys into figures of him and Jane, but I’ve been thinking more about the fact that the movie has been growing on some people and I think we can leave some of those Trendmasters under some trees without kids throwing a fit that they didn’t get what they wanted!”

  The sweat was rolling off Tommy's head, despite the freezing wind blowing in from the door he had failed to close. "Well, Santa...uh...I'm sorry...but...we got rid of all those awhile back. We're using that vault to store the extra Mattel Barbies now."

  "YOU WHAT?" yelled Santa. 

  "We...we threw them out," moaned Tommy. "Ran them through the chipper and used them in the stables as reindeer litter. We needed the space for Barbie and her friends."

  Santa's finger was pointed at Tommy Tinker like a gun. The elf quivered in fright.

  "Tinker," he barked (it was always a bad sign when Santa called him by his last name). "Give me one reason why I shouldn't have you shot right now."

  Tommy thought quickly. "Well," he tried, "It means all the Trendmasters that survived in ERB fans' collections are rarer now and will be worth more money."

  Santa sat motionless for a moment. In his mind's eye, he could see his own ERB book room, the shelves lined with first edition McClurgs, Metropolitan, ERB Inc., and other editions in jacket, and the Trendmaster wall, with row upon row of Tarzan, Pellucidar and Mars toys, including those in error packaging.

  "Y-e-s," he said thoughtfully. "They WILL be worth a bit more now, won't they?"

  Suddenly he looked back at Tommy who was still trying to maintain a position of attention despite his shivering body and chattering teeth.  "What're you standing around here for?" Santa demanded. "Get back out there and haul out those extra Barbie dolls."

One Evening at the North Pole
  Santa Claus rubbed his temple with the eraser end of his pencil and mumbled outloud, "Oh my, oh my, oh my."

  "What's the matter, Santa?" asked chief elf Tommy Tinker.

  Santa looked again at the ledger before him. "It's Tarzan," he revealed. "I just can't figure out whether to classify him as naughty or nice."

  "I thought Tarzan was nice," said Tommy. "I mean...hero of the jungle, helper of the helpless, vindicator of the victims."

  "Oh, he does all that," admitted Santa. "But two wrongs don't make a right, you know, and he does have some black marks against him."

  "Like what?" the nosey elf asked.

  "Like theft," said Santa, "stealing Opar's gold and then not even sharing it with the Waziri and, after all, they helped him carry it out. Then he goes off on jungle jaunts without telling his wife where he's going or how long he'll be gone. And he kills people. Oh, I suppose in most cases they deserve it, but he doesn't actually follow due process."

  "Sounds bad to me," Tommy agreed. "Why don't you just give him coal in his stocking?"

  Santa tossed his pen on the desk and sighed:  "That's another problem. He doesn't own any socks."

From a Nock to a Nick
  Tarzan of the Apes heard the low growl and, because it was accompanied by a ticklish vibration in his abdominal cavity, knew it was the rumble of his stomach and not that of one of the many jungle denizens.

  It was time to eat and, as if commanded by some beneficent deity, the scent of Bara the Deer was almost immediately wafted to his finely tuned nostrils.

  But was it Bara after all? The scent was familiar yet, at the same time, somewhat different. It seemed to include the smell of tanned leather, metal, and perhaps even the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, like those Jane had made for the Waziri kids the other day.

  His nostrils also told him there were several of them, so his chances of success in bringing one down were increased.

  He at last sighted his quarry and, swift as Ara the Lightning, loosed a bolt from his bow, sending it unerringly toward its target. 

  But before the arrow could strike, Bara and all of the other deer magically leaped into the air, towing a huge contraption.

  "Curses," muttered Tarzan, in mild jungle Billingsgate, "they were just a little too lively and quick."

A Snack for Santa
  Jane carried the glass of milk into the living room of Greystoke Manor and set it on the end table. Tarzan looked at it and grimaced, then took another sip of his martini. "What's that for?" he asked. "We expecting a visit from Hopalong Cassidy?"

  "It's for Santa," said Jane. "It's a tradition to leave a snack out for him. Especially when he has to come such a long way to get to our home in the middle of nowhere."

  Jane returned a few minutes later with a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies and set them beside the milk.

  "There," she said. "Now it's time for bed. Coming, John?"

  Long after Jane had fallen asleep, her husband lay on his back, staring at the ceiling, his jungle-bred eyes picking out every minute detail, even at night.

  At last he arose. He wrapped his weapons-laden loin cloth around his waist and fastened it with the Velcro strips Jane had sewn on. Then, he leaped lithely out the window, crossed the lawn, and disappeared into the forest.

  Before long, the ape-man returned, the corpse of Bara the Deer slung over one shoulder. He skinned the animal outside the manor, then slipped inside and lay the carcass on the drain board. With the hunting knife of his long dead sire, he separated several choice cuts and tossed them into a frying pan, which had been warming on the stove while he was accomplishing the other preparations.

  About 15 minutes later, the steaks were done to his satisfaction. He did not like to ruin his own meat with heat, but he understood that others actually preferred it this way. He placed the steaks in a warming dish and covered it with a lid to keep the heat in. Then, he set it next to the cookies and slipped off to bed, where he slept soundly as visions of the blood of the kill danced in his head.

  At about 3 a.m., a weary Santa stepped from the Greystoke fireplace and immediately noticed the inviting aroma of the deer steaks. "Ah, fresh meat!" he exulted. Brushing cookie crumbs from his beard, acquired in several hundred other stops, Santa lifted the lid and licked his lips. He doffed his mittens and, without bothering with the niceties of the Greystoke-crested silverware which its owner had laid out, grabbed a chunk of venison and sank his teeth into it. An expression of deep satisfaction passed over his features.

  Chomping and slurping, Santa spent about 10 minutes ravenously consuming the rest of the steaks. But now something strange seemed to be happening. The Greystokes had left the lights on in the sitting room which held the fireplace and Christmas tree, but now it seemed to be slowly getting dimmer.

  Santa glanced up and saw several moving bodies which were now between him and some of the lighting fixtures. 

  They were his reindeer.

  "At it again, eh Santa?" said Donner, menacingly.

  "You promised you would eat no more of our relatives," said Blitzen, in a threatening whisper.

  "C'mon guys," said Santa. "It was already dead. And cooked. What was I supposed to do? It would have gone to waste."

  But the reindeer moved closer. Some were pawing with their forelegs. A couple of others were rubbing antlers with their teammates' to sharpen them.

  "No," trembled Santa. "No...I didn't mean anything...I was hungry...I...."

  A blood-curdling yell split the air. The reindeer froze. Then, as one, they turned and romped from the room and dashed away to the housetop, where the elves began hitching them to the sleigh again.

  Santa looked up, relieved, at the Lord of the Jungle standing in the room's doorway, his arms folded, a slight smile on his aristocratic features.

  "Thanks, apeman," said Santa. "I thought I was a goner. The reindeer; they go crazy sometimes. But they'll be all right now." 

  Clayton nodded.

  Santa reached his finger up to his nose and headed toward the fireplace, but the jungle man suddenly stood in his way.

  “Not so fast,” Tarzan said.

  Santa stopped, puzzled at first. Then, he seemed to catch the apeman's meaning.

  "Sorry," he said. "In the excitement, I forgot."

  He immediately started pulling things out his pack and laid them beside the tree, and then filled the stockings belonging to the Greystoke clan. 

  He turned with a jerk and gave his host a wave. This time the Jungle Lord did not stop him as he moved to and then rose up the chimney.

  A moment later, Clayton could hear a faint whistle and then the sound of harnesses and hooves as Santa achieved liftoff.

  He turned to go back to bed, but stopped when he saw the noise had awakened Jane. She stood at the doorway in her night dress, her slightly mussy blonde hair cascading over her shoulders.

  "John, what was all the -- " Then, she saw the presents and the bulging stockings. "Oh, it's Santa. He's been here!" she giggled like a school girl. Then, her eyes fell on the untouched cookies and milk. "Oh...he didn't eat his snacks."
  "I think he had other things on his mind," her husband said. "Don't worry about the snacks. I'm sure Korak and Meriem will make short work of them at breakfast."

By John "Bridge" Martin
ERBzine 5117
Xmas with Tarzan® & Jane
ERBzine 5118
Tarzan® & Santa Claus
ERBzine 5119
Tarzan® Poems and Songs
ERBzine 5120
Tarzan's Christmas Carol


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