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Volume 7077

PART II: Dec 6-11
Written in the Spirit of OB and St. Nick
by John Martin

Dec. 6: Chapter 1 -- Reining in Rudolph
Dec. 7: Chapter 2 -- The Hunger of Histah
Dec. 8: Chapter 3 -- How Histah Became History
Dec. 9: Chapter 4 -- Jad-bal-ja on the Prowl
Dec. 10: Chapter 5 -- The Horror from the Hollyhocks
Dec. 11: Chapter 6 -- The Fat Man Again

December 6:
Chapter 1 -- Reining in Rudolph
  Neither Mr. or Mrs. Claus, nor 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 many a subsequent foggy night 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. 

Next: The Hunger of Histah

December 7:
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.

Next: How Histah Became History

December 8:
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 arboreal 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 dark 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 doe-like eyes and soft fur, cradled  him in her arms and began kissing him. 
   "What shall 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 some English, and to the ape  man’s uncanny ability to speak the languages of the wild beasts

   "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."

Next: Jad-bal-ja on the Prowl

December 9:
Chapter 4 -- Jad-bal-ja 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 Tyrannosaurus 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 the 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, from children's storybooks dished out by Santa, Rudolph was well aware that such prowling  creatures existed and 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.

It seemed inevitable, though, that there would come a day when Rudolph would not be on his guard, 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.

Next: Horror from the Hollyhocks

December 10:
Chapter 5 -- The 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 Jad-bal-ja, 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 he'll 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, as if he had consumed something which had not quite agreed with him.

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

Next: The Fat Man Again

December 11:
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 space. 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 be  confronted by Santa. 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. Jane knew she would be breaking out the carpet sweeper after he left.

"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 git back to the North Pole. Thanks for everything!"
Santa turned to go, but was halted by a firm had 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.

The End

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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


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