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Volume 7076

PART I: Dec 1-5
Written in the Spirit of OB and St. Nick
by John Martin


December 1
“Tarzan, Korak's flying Hazel and me to Nairobi in his new plane. We're going to do some Christmas shopping. Do you think we could get some gold out of the vault?”

It had been a hard day for Tarzan. After breakfast, the usual six fried eggs, 12 slices of bacon, a mound of hash browns and four slices of whole wheat toast (Tarzan believed in eating healthy) that Jane had prepared for him, Tarzan had gone off to the jungle where he had killed a lion which was attacking a white hunter, brought some ivory poachers to justice, quelled a native uprising, rescued a fair maiden from a fate worse than death, discovered a new lost city and stopped some illegal logging of the rain forest.

Tarzan was tuckered.

He was reclining in his Lazy Boy listening to a music CD of John Carter and reading the weekly newspaper, "The Waziri War Whoop." He didn't feel like moving. But when Jane called, Tarzan graciously moved for her sake.

He put down the newspaper, stood up, slid his feet out of his leopard-hide slippers and stuck on his boots.

He walked to the bookshelf by the fireplace and pulled out his limited edition copy of Minidoka, a book which no one else would even think of touching. When he did so, a wall panel to the side slid back noiselessly.

Tarzan sniffed the air and, seemingly satisfied, stepped inside. Once all the way in, the door glided shut, but by that time, Tarzan had lighted a torch.

Tarzan made his way down the passageway, quietly counting the framed J. Allen St. Johns on the wall, the ones that were supposedly lost. He kept them in the dark chamber so the light would not cause the paintings to fade and also so they would not be yellowed by the smoke he blew through his nostrils after deeply inhaling the satisfying fumes from a freshly fired Camel.

At last he came to the crocodile pond and easily crossed by quickly stepping from beast to beast. He had seen James Bond do that in a movie. It was not as if Tarzan needed James Bond to teach him tricks; Tarzan was quite resourceful on his own. But it had never occurred to the ape man to do that particular thing because he had never been in a position where he needed to cross a river that was that chock full of crocodiles. Once he had seen Bond do it, though, Tarzan had captured extra crocodiles for his subterranean pond just so he could keep in practice crossing it that way, in case occasion to do it ever came up in any of his jungle adventures.

What Tarzan really liked was the trip back. Since Tarzan seldom needed to visit his vault, the crocodiles would forget about him in between trips and would be surprised when he suddenly danced on their backs. But when he was going to be coming back down to the pool just a short time later, the crocs were usually ready, anticipating his return, and it was more of a challenge to get across in that situation. Tarzan loved a good challenge and so far he had scars from only a couple of bite marks in all the years he had done it.

Tarzan's next obstacle was the grotesque, hideous disgusting thing that haunted the hall between him and the door to the actual vault. Tarzan smelled the fetid breath long before he saw the actual pug-ugly and frightful freak which constituted the last barrier to the gold ingots. Using the torch, Tarzan poked it toward the misshapen mutant repeatedly, flashed his hunting knife, and growled in a menacing manner. The troll-like troglodyte slowly moved back into the recess it normally inhabited, grunting and moaning in protest.

Opening the vault, Tarzan looked with contentment upon the huge amount of gold that had been stored within. He selected two gold ingots and stuck them in the pockets of his leopard hide smoking jacket. Then, he smiled, and grabbed one more. It was Christmas after all. Why not give Jane a little extra?

December 2
  Jane Clayton was busy hanging the stockings by the chimney with care. There was hers, Flora's, Korak's, Meriem's...and then she reached the bottom of the box. But there was no stocking for Tarzan.

“Tarzan," she said, "you're going to miss out again this year. Why won't you wear stockings?”

  "You know I've never liked stockings," Tarzan said. "My feet need to breathe; my feet need to be able to feel; my feet need to be free. I can't see the point of enslaving my feet inside a confining piece of cloth that will make them sweat, stink and ultimately, reshape my foot into a useless appendage."

“But Tarzan," said Jane, "this means Santa won't be putting anything in your stocking when he comes on Christmas Eve!”

  "Santa Shmanta," said Tarzan. "I already found your hidden sack of candy, ate some, and buried the rest in the backyard for later." 

December 3
  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, 20-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 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 jacket, 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 white, quilted long underwear. 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 Greystoke Manor 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 natives 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 December 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 deciding to go a different direction on its "John Carter" 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.”

  "Oh, and the Thark figures," Santa added, "Trim off the center set of limbs and rework the bodies to look like 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.”

December 4
Tarzan of the Apes readjusted the lemon on the rim of his glass  and took another sip of Jungle Juice, then moved to a slightly more  comfortable position in his hammock. In the distance, he could hear the faint chant of the Waziri as they marched into earshot, returning from  the mission on which he had sent them.

Long ago, he had trained the loyal tribesmen in the ins and outs of Opar, so that they were able to safely access the lost city  without him and retrieve his regular supply of gold, leaving him free to  pursue more pressing matters. He glanced over at Jane as she came with a  tray of fresh fruit and she gave him an impish smile.

As the Waziri chant became clearer, Tarzan frowned. It was the  Waziri all right. He recognized their voices. But their chant was oddly  different. Jane, too, had wrinkled up her pretty face as she looked in  the direction of the sound. Then, recognition dawned.

"Tarzan," she said. "They're singing Christmas carols: Silent  Night, Here Comes Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman. What can it mean?"

Tarzan sat up and swung his feet to the ground. He could actually care less about what songs they were singing, as long as they had the  gold. They marched into view and the ape man breathed easier as he saw the bright glint from each native's shoulders.

"O Tarzan," shouted Muviro. "We come with riches for you. Opar was all out of gold, but we found their treasure trove of silver and, for some crazy reason, it made us all want to sing."

Now Murviro and the other Waziri were standing within a few feet of the ape man.

"Ah, my Waziri," he said. "That's not silver... that's tinsel! You found the hidden vault of Opar's long-lost Christmas decorations."

December 5
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.

“Here Tommy," said Santa. "Take this key and empty out Vault 293-B and load it all in the sleigh.”

“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 Trendmasters Tarzan on 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. "Most of the kids didn't know who  those characters were. But now that Will Murray's new book, "Tarzan,  Conqueror of Mars," is coming out,  everybody's going to want them.  They'll be hot again."

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 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, his fingers threading the hair on his snowy white beard to reach his chin and scratch it. "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."

Santa's Trendmaster Wall

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By John Martin

ERBzine 7076
PART I: Dec 1-5
ERBzine 7077
PART II: Dec 6-11
ERBzine 7078
PART III: Dec 12-16
ERBzine 7079
PART IV: Dec 17-21
ERBzine 7080
PART V: Dec 22-25

Click for full-size collage
ERBzine Annual Xmas Greetings


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