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A paper I put together for a college Creative Writing class, probably in 1985.

A Christmas Barbarian:

A Tale I Read Long Ago

This time of year always reminds me of old stories I read as a child. One of my favourites was one written by Charles Dickens, about Christmas in England in the Ninteenth Century. It was called "A Christmas Barbarian", I think.

The story began in the dark, musty agency of a CPA in Victorian London. A young man sat on a tall stool behind a tall desk, doing whatever it is that CPA's do.

"Clampett!" came a thundering roar from the office.

"Yes, sir?" replied the young man meekly.

"Conan want last fiscal year's retained earnings report! Conan not pleased with low income margin."

Jed Clampett slid off his stool, which was probably uncomfortable, and hurried over to a filing cabinet to pull out some documents. Suppressing a shudder, he entered his employer's office. Inside, behind a small pine desk, sat an enormous man dressed in a black suit, with a string of sharks' teeth around his neck. Conan was a very unpopular man, because he was mean and miserly and often ran through crowds of people, lopping their heads off with a big sword.

"Excuse me, sir," said Clampett in an unsteady tone, "will you be wanting me to work tomorrow, on Christmas Day?"

"Why not, peasant dog? You expect to loaf about like rest of locals?" The man was cleaning his fingernails with a battleaxe.

"Well, yes, actually," said Clampett.

"So be it, take tomorrow off to spend with family and friends, but you not get paid," conceded the warrior-accountant.

"No holiday pay? But it's Christmas, sir!"

"Bah, humbug. You not in trade union." With that, Conan began counting the gold pieces in his desk drawers.

"Domo, Toranaga-san," said the young man, bowing low.

That evening, when the huge barbarian was preparing to turn in for the night, he heard the frightening sound of ethereal marimbas and steel drums. He looked up in alarm to see several spectres passing through the solid plywood door. Conan immediately recognized them as the ghosts of his deceased business partners, Bob Marley and the Whalers.

"Whoooa, mon," said the foremost spirit. "It was terrible. When we died, we were punished for our sins by being sent to Jamaica to become a reggae band. We are wretched. You better mend your ways, Conan! Change your life while you still can, or you too will be like us! Whoooa, mon!" The apparitions faded and vanished, lamenting to a reggae beat.

Conan looked puzzled for a moment, dismissed the entire incident as a product of a large amount of mead, and retired to his bed.

Just as he was falling asleep, a blinding flash of light brought him to his feet. He grabbed a javelin from the umbrella stand and pointed it at an eerie figure at the foot of the bed. A new spectre had materialized, a tall lanky figure with its head under its arm.

"Hello there," it said, "I'm the Ghost of Christmas Past. I've got a few things to show you."

"Conan very confused," said Conan.

"Not to worry." The ghost waved his arm in rather a strange way and the room melted. The warrior-chieftain looked about to find himself standing in a lava pit with a large dinosaur eyeing him hungrily.

"It appears we've gone back too far," said the phantasmal figure apologetically. The scene was replaced with a warm room, filled with happy people. A hearth glowed softly in a corner, there was food everywhere. The people in the room, many of them children, seemed to be playing a game. Conan reached out for a piece of mutton and was surprised to find that he couldn't pick it up. Indeed, the occupants of the room didn't seem to notice the barbarian or his disembodied guide.

"It's only a video," explained the ghost. "Do you recognize where we are?"

"This is Conan's house when young boy. Big holiday party. Lots of chicks."

"Yes, you had quite a time, I see."

"That before Conan become mighty accountant. That all humbug."

"Don't you enjoy spending time with your friends?" asked the spectre incredulously.

"Conan not have any friends. Kill them all over poker."

The Ghost of Christmas Past sighed heavily, and disappeared. It took the video of the party with it, for Conan found himself sitting upright in his own bed.

"Conan very confused," he said and tried to sleep.

Moments later he stirred at the sound of rustling paper near his bedroom door. He lit one of the pine torches on his bedstand and was astonished to find himself facing a huge box, six feet tall and six across, covered in bright red wrapping and topped with a large ribbon.

"I, as you should have guessed by now, am the Ghost of Christmas Presents," intoned the package. "Come, we have things to do."

Again the room melted, and again was replaced by a warm room full of happy people, but this time it was Jed Clampett's home. The barbarian recognized the scene immediately.

"They having Christmas dinner! There is Clampett, and Mrs. Clampett serving the turkey, and all the Clampettlings gathered around table, and there's Tiny Jethro, on Jed's shoulder. Not much food, though."

"Well, he doesn't get paid much, you know," replied the ghost coldly.

"Him not worth much. Not want to work long hours doing whatever it is he does."

"Perhaps he'd rather spend time with his family," suggested the ethereal package.

"Bah. Conan not have family. Not need family, have lots of gold and choice real estate."

The Ghost of Christmas Presents sighed heavily much like his predecessor, and vanished along with Clampett's dining room.

Conan again found himself in bed. A clock somewhere far away chimed midnight, and a final, hideous apparition appeared in the room. It was tall and dark, cloaked in black, its face a mere skull half-hidden by the shadows of its hood. Written on its chest was the word "Grim".

"Who are you?" asked the warrior, now very much afraid. The thin figure said nothing, motioning slowly with its skeletal arm. The gloomy bedroom gave way to a brightly lit building. It as a shopping mall, although Conan did not recognize it.

Last-minute shoppers ran about as if possessed, rudely bumping each other. Merchants announced huge savings with gaudy signs and blaring amplifiers. Hidden speakers spewed forth insidious easy-listening carols.

"Stop!" screamed the barbarian. "It's horrible! Make it stop!"

Conan opened his eyes and found himself in a book store. The bookracks were filled with Conan adventures: "Conan the Barbarian", "Conan the Destroyer", "Conan the Weightlifter".

"You mean all this will come to be if I change my ways?" he begged of his escort. The ghost said nothing, made no gesture.

"Or will this happen if I stay the same?" said Conan. No response came from the apparition.

"Fifty-fifty, Conan change ways to be safe. Conan not want to become reggae singer."

The store dissolved and once again the warrior was alone in his room. The sun was beginning to rise, voices could be heard from the street below. Conan stuck his head out the window.

"You, boy," he called out to a lad playing in the snow.

"Who you callin' 'boy'?!" came the reply.

The barbarian threw down a handful of gold coins and said, "Go find the biggest turkey you can and take it to the Clampett's house! Run along now, and have a merry Christmas!"

"You're the biggest turkey I can find," the boy muttered under his breath. "Thanks mister," he yelled to the barbarian.

"Well, bless my soul," said Conan, quite pleased with himself.

"His grammar sure improved overnight," the boy said to himself as he ran off to spend all the money on toys and comic books.


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