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Volume 7080

PART V: Dec 22-25
Written in the Spirit of OB and St. Nick
by John Martin


December 22: 

Tarzan of the Apes heard the low growl and, because it was  accompanied by a ticklish vibration in his abdominal cavity, he 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,peppermint 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 it wasn't just one animal, but a  small herd, 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, all of the deer magically leaped into the air, and, amazingly, appeared to be towing a huge contraption. 

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

December 23
Jane had arranged some chestnuts, roasting on an open fire.

“That's a nice blaze," said Tarzan. "The fire is so delightful. You would even say it glows.”

Jane herself glowed at the compliment, then looked toward the open window and asked Tarzan: "Do you hear what I hear?"

Tarzan had a keen sense of hearing but he kidded Jane: "Hear what?" he said.

“Oh surely Tarzan you can hear the sleighbells ring, are you listening?”

“Yes, I hear that," said the ape man. "It sounds like a song, a song high above the trees. Do you want me to investigate?”

"Please," said Jane.

"You can count on me," replied Tarzan.

Brightly shone the moon that night. It shone through a light  rain, but heedless of the wind and weather, the ape-man placed his ear  to the ground. There was a distinct "thumpety thump thump" sound which  Tarzan identified as a small herd of Bara the deer and some other large  object.

Then, from up on the housetop, Tarzan heard a whistle, the  snapping of tanned leather and the sound of sleigh bells jingling as  something soared over his head.

However, misfortune seemed his lot because, at that moment, the  ape man was peppered from above with a deluge of spilled candy canes  which, in the misty rain, had become moist and were sticking to his  body, naked but for a loin cloth. "Ugh," he snarled, ripping the  offending sugar-laden cylinders from his skin, "These have all the  tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile."

Annoyed, he began stomping the confectionaries into the ground so  they were indistinguishable from the rest of the jungle floor.

Jane hurried from the bungalow. "We've had a visitor. Come  look under the tree." She saw the ape-man's face and stopped short: "Is  something the matter?"

“Not any more Jane," said Tarzan, swallowing a stray chunk of candy  which had become lodged in his gums. "From now on, our troubles will be  out of sight.”

December 24
  Jane carried the glass of milk into the living room of Greystoke Manor and set it on the end table. John Clayton 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-trained 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 placed 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 thousand 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 utter delight 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, as he beheld the Lord of the Jungle standing in the room's doorway, his arms folded, a slight smile on his aristocratic features.

“Thanks, ape man," 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.

  "I think your reindeer can stand to wait a little longer," he said.

  Santa stopped, puzzled at first. Then, he seemed to catch the ape man'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 various members of the Greystoke household.

  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." 

December 25
Having not grown up with the thrill of visits from St. Nicholas,  Tarzan was rather indifferent about Christmas per se, but he did, over  the years, gain a fondness for the holiday as a time of seeing friends  and relatives and enjoying the convivial gatherings and fine food. He  also entered into the spirit of gift giving and receiving.

This year, there was a special package for him from Jane, and he  had no doubt about what it contained. It was in a box about eight feet  long and 4" by 4" in height and width. Of course, it could have been  something like a fishing pole but Tarzan was convinced it was something  which he could use to catch, not only fish, but other game as well.

When Christmas morning arrived, Tarzan at last was handed the  rather heavy package and he attempted to feign surprise when he opened  it and found it was exactly what he suspected -- a new spear. But he      was surprised at the craftsmanship. It was one of the heavy  war spears handmade by Muviro, with an extra long and extra sharp  blade. It had perfect balance and an intricate design of hunting scenes  along its length. On the end it was labeled "Special Edition, 1 of 1,"  and was signed by Muviro.

"Thank you, Jane," Tarzan said, giving her a hug and a kiss as  Muviro beamed proudly. "I can't wait to test it out," said the ape man.  And, so saying, he whirled and flung the spear across the room toward  Korak. It stuck fast in the wooden back of the chair, about one-half  inch from Korak's left ear, the end making a humming sound as it  vibrated from the force of his throw.

“Good one, Father," laughed Korak. "But is that all the closer you can come?”

With that, the son of Tarzan yanked the spear from its position,  spun it around, and sent it whining across the room toward Tarzan, to  brush the hair on the back of the ape man's head as it zoomed past and  lodged itself in the wall.

"Not bad, son," grinned Tarzan, "but wait'll you see this..."  Tarzan turned to reach for the spear but Jane, sitting closer to the  wall, beat him to it. She wrenched the spear from the wall and grinned  broadly, looking from Tarzan to Korak.

“My turn," she said. "After all, I've been called Diana of the Jungle. Let's see what I can do with this thing.”

She cocked her arm to throw the spear, then stopped short. The seats of both Tarzan and Korak were empty!

Outside, Korak tore the ribbon off a fresh pack of Pall Malls and  offered one to Tarzan. "Thanks, son," said the ape man. "There's  nothing quite like a good smoke to settle our nerves."

December 26

Dejah Thoris gasped as John Carter shot through the window and stood before her.

"John, you startled me," she said, placing a hand to calm her throbbing heart. "...but welcome back from earth. Did you bring a new Mars book for me?"

“The Deluxe Manuscript Edition of Princess won't be available until January," said the Warlord. "But this toy pistol might tide you over -- it's a prototype of one Disney had planned to market as a tie-in with the John Carter movie, but for some silly reason they changed their mind."

"Sounds like a rare item," said Dejah. "Where'd you get it?"

"From an insider at ERB Inc., " said Carter. "They had a couple and gave me one as a Christmas present when I dropped in there a few days ago."

Just then, a Warhoon burst in, leveling a pistol of his own. "Die, John Carter," he snarled.

Carter turned quickly and pressed the trigger of the toy gun and a green ray shot out and evaporated the Warhoon.

“John," gasped Dejah, "do they make deadly toys for kids on earth?”

“No Dejah," explained the Warlord, "The Consumer Products Safety Commission would never let them get away with that. On Earth, this is just a glorified, battery-powered flashlight that has a green lens in the barrel, but Barsoom's lesser gravity makes it into another deadly weapon for our home arsenal."

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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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