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Volume 5120

Tarzan®s Christmas Carol
By John "Bridge" Martin

ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
1 -- A Visit from Rokoff's Ghost
  Rokoff was dead, to begin with.

  Tarzan didn't like a story which began with a line like that, but a story had to begin somewhere and, after all, it was true. Rokoff was indeed dead, killed by Sheeta the panther while Tarzan stood by, a cold expression upon his face, and watched.

  Since then, a lot had happened. Rid of his nemesis, Tarzan had gone on to build a decent estate in Africa and was considered a highly successful English gentleman farmer and rancher.

  Tarzan and his adopted tribe of Waziri warriors worked hard to maintain their oasis in the midst of Africa. Someone coming on the scene with no background information would probably have assumed that Tarzan was the white overlord of the black natives, and that he ruled them with an iron hand, with cruelty, and paid them little or nothing.

  That, of course, was not true, but not everyone knew it.

  One who did not know it was the ghost of Rokoff himself, who had a lot of other things on his mind other than British colonialism. This spirit was ordered to appear to Tarzan on Christmas Eve and the ghost was hoping that his visit would frighten the wits out of Tarzan.  But as Rokoff should have known, Tarzan doesn't frighten easily, if at all.

  "What the heck do you want?" Tarzan asked Rokoff's ghost.

  "I want to be anyplace but here," the ghost replied. "But I've been assigned to tell you that you need to be a nicer person."

  "I thought I was pretty nice already," said Tarzan.

  "That's debatable," said the ghost. "You're going to have three visitors over the next three nights, who will teach you something about how to treat your fellow jungle denizens."

  "Next three nights?" groaned Tarzan. "I have the patience of a crocodile lying in ambush. But I'd rather get this over with quicker. Can't the visitors all come tonight?"

  "We'll see," said Rokoff. "But it isn't my decision. In fact, there isn't anything that is my decision nowadays."

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, oooooo" sounds.

  "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 Ribbon. 

  "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 wine 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 your behavior."
  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 on yourself?"

  "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 the tree."

  Tarzan started to argue, but the ghost dematerialized into nothingness.

  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.


3 -- The End of It...For Now

  The third ghost had disappeared, but Tarzan could not sleep.

  He was thinking about the possibility that there were children in Opar. And then he thought about Christmas. Did Santa visit those children? What kind of Christmas did they have?

  Christmas morning, Tarzan began making his way toward Opar, followed by 50 Waziri warriors with white-plumed headresses, each bearing loads of fruitcake, stockings full of carved, native toys, and candy canes. Jane had happily taken all of the candy canes off of the Greystoke tree and given them to Tarzan to take to the children of Opar.

  At last, they reached the rocky jungle habitat where dwelled the mysterious, savage, human-sacrificing denizens of Opar.

  Tarzan stood outside the walls and shouted, in the language of the Great Apes, "People of Opar. We mean you no harm. We have come with Christmas gifts for your children."

  There was an eerie silence, punctuated occasionally by a loud, weird mournful cry.

  At last, La the High Priestess herself emerged, surrounded by a retinue of her lesser priestesses.

  "Tarzan," she said, wrinkling her brow. "What in the name of sunshine are you doing here?"

  "We come bearing gifts," said Tarzan, "Christmas gifts for the children of Opar."

  "Children?" exclaimed La. "What children? Have you ever seen children here in Opar, Tarzan?"

  It was Tarzan's turn to wrinkle his brow. "Well no," he said. "But I just thought...."

  "Really, Tarzan..." La, with her left hand, brushed a stray clump of hair back into its place. "Do you really think I'd want to give birth to a little boy that looks like one of the creatures that constitute our male population?"

  Tarzan laughed. "Well do I know what you think of that, La. You've rejected every high priest that comes along. And you're right. I never saw any kids here. But I just figured they were all in a nursery...or something. I thought it was probably the lower priestesses who were having all the kids."

  "Tell the truth, Tarzan!" snapped La. "The truth is, you never thought about it at all. Every time you were here you were either trying to escape or trying to rescue someone. The last thing on your mind was whether we had any kids or not."

  Tarzan smiled slyly. La had probably not realized the significance of her words. But Tarzan had caught the full implication of what she had said or, more precisely, what she had not said.

  "Well, tell you what, La," said the apeman. "We walked all the way here with all these gifts and we don't want them to go to waste. So we're going to leave them here and if you have any kids running around, you can give them to them. If you don't, well, I'm sure you can find some other use for them," he said, glancing at a number of the beastly men who had crept out from the ruins, behind the lesser priestesses, and were lustily eyeing the candy canes and fruit cake.

  "Set 'em down," said Tarzan to his Waziri. In an orderly fashion, without any pushing or shoving, the Waziri formed a line and came up to La, one by one, depositing their burdens in front of her.

  "Merry Christmas, La, and Merry Christmas to all of Opar!" shouted Tarzan. The Waziri shouted Merry Christmas in the Waziri language, the priestesses smiled prettily, the beast-men of Opar grunted, and La blew Tarzan a kiss.

  "We'll be on our way now," he said.

  ... A few miles from Opar, Tarzan raised his hand and the Waziri halted. "This is far enough for tonight," he said. "We'll make camp here."

  "Aren't you worried the men of Opar will try to hunt us down," asked Muviro.

  "Not at all," said Tarzan. "I didn't really think we'd see any children in Opar, so I asked Jane to spike the fruit cake with rum. I think the men of Opar will be a little proccupied for a couple of days. As for us, we're not going back empty-handed."

  "More gold?" smiled Muviro.

  "You're darned right," said Tarzan. "Did you hear the words of La? Every time I've been here it's been to rescue someone or save my own hide. She said nothing about me being here to loot the vaults of Opar, so that means she doesn't know about those visits."

  "And it also means," added Muviro, "that she doesn't even know there's gold in them thar hills, or she'd probably have noticed that the pile was slowly diminishing each time she went to make a withdrawal."

  "You are so right," said Tarzan. "Now let's get some sleep. Tomorrow we'll load up on gold and get back home."

  "And the Waziri tribe will get the usual ten per cent?" asked Muviro.

  "You know," said Tarzan. "It's Christmas. So this time you get 10.5 per cent."

  A grin shot from ear to ear across Muviro's features. "Tarzan," he said. "You are truly our Santa Claus."

By John "Bridge" Martin
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