THE VAULT OF TARZAN
“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?
TARZAN THE PRE-EMPTIVE
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
IT HAPPENED ONE CHRISTMAS
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,"
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,"
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
“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?
“Well," said Tarzan, fidgeting slightly, "they want action
"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
"One more thing, Tommy," Santa finally said.
“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.”
THE TREASURE OF OPAR
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:
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."
THE SHRIMP AND THE BARBIES
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
“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
"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."