Thursday, December 21, 2006


Timmy Gromp Saves Christmas

I'm about to go into silent running mode until next week, so here's a little holiday snack for you. Back in the Clockwork Storybook days, when we were producing regular material for our webzine, we'd occasionally do round-robin stories with a character called Timmy Gromp. He was a hapless kid, unloved by his parents (or anyone else, for that matter), and we seemed to delight in heaping abuse on him. Sort of like Kevin Shapiro in Daniel Pinkwater's Young Adult Novel, nothing but misery ever came poor Timmy Gromp's way.

In December 2001, I wrote the following bit of nonsense for our "holiday issue," clearly the result of watching far too many stop-motion animated specials as a kid. I was reminded of it the other day while watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with Georgia, and figured I might as well inflict a Timmy Gromp story on the world again, for old time's sake.

Timmy Gromp Saves Christmas:
The Final Installment

What has gone before…

Timmy Gromp, a seemingly normal American boy, has been recruited by the Council of Holidays in the effort to save Christmas. Santa Claus, beloved icon of the season, has been taken prisoner by the Anti-Claus, his nemesis and opposite number from an alternate dimension of pure evil.

Aiding Timmy in this effort is Denny S. Hopper, renegade member of the Easter Bunny Corps, who sees this mission at his one last chance at redemption. He is small, but has a big heart, and a motorcycle, and a gun.

In our last installment, Timmy and Hopper were hot on the trail of a supernatural fish with the powers of locating the Anti-Claus’ secret lair: the magical Rankin’ Bass. Unfortunately, the Fishing Chimps, minions of the dark one, beat them to the prize, hooking the Rankin’ Bass and spiriting it away before Timmy and Hopper could react.

Now, south of the border in Mexico, Hopper’s motorcycle broken down and with only hours left before Christmas, it begins to look like there is no hope.

“I don’t know, Hopper,” Timmy said, “it’s beginning to look like there’s no hope.”

“Pshaw,” Hopper answered, slamming a clip into his semi-automatic pistol with a satisfying click. “There’s always hope.”

“But Christmas starts in just a few hours, and we don’t even know where Santa is being held prisoner!” Timmy was getting agitated, jumping up and down and turning several shades of red.

“There’s always options,” Hopper said, sighting along the pistol’s barrel. He held his short arm out extended, pointed towards the far horizon, and then swung his aim in a slow arc to the west. The bunny paused when his aim tracked across Timmy, and seemed to mull something over before swinging his arm a few degrees further to the west.

The bunny finally stopped when the pistol was pointed at an ancient and weather beaten telegraph pole, on which was stapled a faded sheet of paper.

“POW,” sounded the pistol, and a shot thunked into the pole at the dead center of the paper.

“Perfect example,” Hopper said, and turning started to walk off down the road.

Timmy Gromp was confused. He called after the bunny to wait, but the bunny walked on. Timmy ran over to the telegraph pole, and squinting tried to read what he could of the faded text. It was all in Spanish.

“Dang it,” Timmy said. “Isn’t anything in Mexico written normal?”

Leaning in, ignoring the text, Timmy saw crude drawings of giant men with strange masks covering their faces, with only little holes cut for eyes, nose and mouth. The men wore skin-tight trunks and high-laced boots, and seemed to be trying to hurt each other.

This was all pretty confusing for Timmy. He just wanted to be back home, icing cookies with his parents and looking forward to the presents he’d get the next morning on Christmas day. Of course, since his parents had decided that it was the spirit of giving that really counted, and not the actual act itself, Timmy’s gifts had seen something of a decline in quality. This year, far all he knew, he’d might have gotten just a picture of a toy cut out of a catalog. Last year, after all, they’d only given him a toy’s empty box, which they’d got from the neighbors after they’d given the toy inside to their own little boy.

Still, it had to be better than this.

Sighing, Timmy shoved his hands deep into his pockets, and scuffed his feet down the road after the bunny.


“I don’t think this is going to work, Hopper,” Timmy whispered.

“Trust me, kid,” Hopper answered. “Look, if I’ve learned anything from my years as a symbolic pagan holdover representing a secular holiday with tenuous ties to a religious celebration, it’s that people will believe what you damn well tell them to believe. People are sheep, kid.”

“O-kay,” Timmy said, unconvinced. “But I still think…”

“Dónde está el Polo Norte?” said the giant man in the red suit behind them.

“Uh, we’re here, champ,” Hopper replied, chewing on the end of his cigar. He waved a stubby arm in a wide circle, indicating the show covered hills, the big inviting house and the workshops, from which streamed an army of elves and reindeer, bearing down on them.

“Bueno,” the giant man answered, taking a step forward.

“Hopper,” Timmy protested, “he doesn’t really look very convincing. I mean, he’s still wearing that mask, and I don’t think that Santa Claus normally carries a bottle of tequila.”

The fake white beard had been glued inexpertly to the bottom edge of the giant man’s red and black facemask, which he had refused to remove for any reason. In the chill wind of the North Pole, the strands of artificial hair were starting to freeze up and break off, leaving only a fringe of wisps and glue on the fabric of the mask.

The elves and reindeer had gathered in a circle around the trio, Timmy, Hopper, and the giant man. They waited eagerly, looking at them with breathless anticipation.

The giant man raised his muscled arms over his head.

“Yo soy Santos,” he said in a booming voice.

“Claus,” Hopper whispered furiously behind his hand, nudging the giant man in the leg.

“Si, si,” the giant man added. “Yo soy Santos Claus.”

There followed a protracted silence, as the assembled elves and reindeer looked at the giant man in the mask and the ill-fitting red suit with mouths hanging open.

Timmy began to suspect that this was going to be his last Christmas, even if it wasn’t for everyone else.

Suddenly, and without warning, the elves erupted in a spontaneous cheer, and swarmed around the giant man with hugs and smiles, while the reindeer leapt into the air and danced swirling loops overhead.

“Come on, Santa,” one of the elves said, tugging at the giant man’s huge hand. “We’ve got to get this show on the road, Christmas starts in just a few minutes.”

“Bueno,” the giant man said, and allowed himself to be slowly dragged to the waiting sled by the elves.

“I don’t believe it,” Timmy said.

“It’s like I told you,” Hopper answered, lighting another cigar, “people are damned sheep, and elves and reindeer are no different.”

“So that’s it, then?” Timmy asked. “But what about the real Santa Claus?”

“Shhh,” Hopper hissed violently. “You want to get us lynched?” He paused, and then added, “Don’t worry, kid. I’m sure someone’ll rescue him sooner or later. For now, just be content in the knowledge that the holiday is saved, I get to keep my job, and you get to go home, right?”

Hopper laid a stubby arm across Timmy’s shoulder, and blew out a smoke ring that hung overhead like a wreath.

“God bless us everyone one,” Timmy said sarcastically, without a trace of sentiment.

“Yo tambien,” Hopper answered, smiling.

The sleigh, loaded down with holiday toys, lifted uneasily off the snowy ground.

“Cómo se dice ‘jolly’?” shouted Santos Claus down to Hopper and Timmy.

“Ho ho ho,” Hopper shouted up as the sleigh lifted into the skies.

“Si, si,” Santos Claus shouted back. “El Ho, El Ho, El Ho.”

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