By Ed Staskus
Oliver the Unofficial Monster Hunter of Lake County was an all-American boy, half German and half Lithuanian. So was his sister Emma. Their black and white cat Sylvester was a stray they rescued, and nobody knew her genealogy. When they asked her, she said, even though she couldn’t talk, that she didn’t have a clue.
When Christmas came Sylvester lay low, so that Oliver and Emma couldn’t put bows ribbons and bells on her. They tried squeezing her into a sweater one holiday season, but when the cat scratch fever growling hissing scratching was over, the sweater was a mess.
“I was born to be deadly stealthy, not a gay girl on parade,” Sylvester grumbled.
St. Nicholas Day is a favorite holiday with Germans. Every night on December 5th Oliver and Emma cleaned their shoes and left them outside the front door before going to sleep. Next morning, they always found them filled with candy, cookies, and small gifts from St Nicholas, or whoever the delivery service was.
What they didn’t know was that Krampus, who is a devilish self-styled sidekick of St Nicholas, was on the loose. He tags along with St. Nick to teach bad children a hard-earned lesson. Even though Oliver and Emma had been generally good all year, Krampus got his signals crossed and messed with their footwear that year.
Their boots lay scattered in the snow in the front yard, thrown here and there. There were no candy bars nuts or gifts. What happened, they asked themselves, scratching their heads.
Their father found them disappointed slumped on the sofa in the living room. They told him about their barren St. Nicholas Day. They had put boots instead of shoes out expecting a big payday, even a bonus, since they both agreed they had batted a thousand that year, which was none too shabby for them.
After their father cleared his throat, he told them about Krampus.
“He’s the Christmas Devil,” he said. “He’s dark and hairy, other times he’s damp white and hairy, has got the horns of a billy goat, cloven hooves, and a long tongue with a pointy tip that hangs out of his mouth. He has fangs like a vampire. He carries chains and rattles them, and birch branches that he swats the bottoms of children with. There is a basket strapped to his back where he puts beyond the shadow of a doubt bad children so he can eat them later that night. After he’s done, he goes home to Hell.”
It was a lot of holiday cheerlessness.
When their father was done filling them in about Krampus Emma was sweating up a storm and even Oliver was taken aback. He soon recovered his poise, however, and asked where he could find the ogre.
“We were good most of the year, weren’t we dad?”
“Both of you were good, better than ever. I’m proud of both of you.”
“So why did he pick on us?
“Maybe he made a mistake.”
“Monsters don’t make mistakes,” Oliver said, a determined look on his face.
That night Emma and Oliver bundled up and went looking for Krampus. They didn’t have to go far. When they looked through one of the windows of the Church of Jesus Christ right around the corner, he was sleeping on a pew curled up like a lamb.
“You go in and rile him up,” Oliver said to Emma. “When he starts chasing you, take off through the front door and I’ll take it from there.”
“OK bud,” Emma said hitching up her pants.
“Hey, you termite infested lousy lice pole skunk, I don’t like that you stole stuff from our boots,” she shouted into his sleeping face. He smelled like sulfur and old socks. “They were filled up with rocks instead of chocolate yesterday morning. We’re going to get you for that.”
When Krampus shook the sandman out of his eyes what he saw was a nine-year-old girl bundled up like a blimp shaking her little fist at him. She was way less than half his size. She didn’t have horns or razor-sharp three-inch teeth. He could eat her in two seconds. He grabbed for Emma, but she was quicker than him and dashed out the door. He ran after her right into Oliver’s trap.
Oliver was outside with his Wonder Boomerang in his hand.
“Hey cream cheese face, over here,” he shouted.
Krampus whirled, snarled, and made a beeline for Oliver. The monster hunter sidestepped the cloven hooves and threw his boomerang straight up. It came down in tight circles releasing a line of silky spider thread behind it. It whirled around and around Krampus until it bound his arms and legs so tight that when he tried to take another step he toppled over, landing face first in the snow.
He roared and belched and complained until Oliver told him to quiet down, or else. The heat of his breath melted the snow around him until it was a puddle. Oliver stepped up to the monster. Emma stayed back. Krampus was seething with frustration.
“Why did you mess with our boots when we’ve been good all year?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“I ask the questions here, Krampy,” Oliver said firmly. “Spit it out.”
“When I was at Jimmy the Jet’s house, he said he knew kids down the street who had been worse than him and if I let him off the hook, I could get two for one, so that’s why I went looking for your house. On the way I found out you weren’t as bad as he said you were, and all I got for my trouble was some crappy candy and cookies.”
“Watch your mouth,” Emma seethed. “I baked those cookies.”
Jimmy the Jet lived up the road on Ridge Rd. He was the fastest boy in Lake County. He ate fast walked fast talked fast. Sometimes he talked too fast. When Krampus showed up at his door he talked even faster.
“He scared me out of my shorts,” Jimmy said when Oliver and Emma showed up. “When he started talking about eating me, I got really worried. Mom and dad were gone, and my sisters were upstairs fighting so I had to think fast. All I could think of was to put it on somebody else. You were the closest kids I could think of, so I gave him your address and he went away.”
“Sheesh!” Emma said making a stink.
“I’m sorry,” Jimmy said.
“That’s OK,” Oliver said.
“What did you do with Krampus after you got him all tied up with your Spiderman boomerang?” Jimmy asked.
“We paid a visit to our friend the honey badger in the forest. He said he knew what to do with the mean old fiend. He came with us and dragged him away by one of his horns. When he started belly aching the honey badger bit him on the butt and that was the end of that.”
“Where did he take him?”
“He took him to the new Vrooman Rd. bridge, the one over the Grand River, tied the end of the spider thread to the top of one of the piers, and threw him over the side. He’s dangling a hundred feet above the river.”
“What about all the bad kids he’s supposed to punish?” Jimmy asked.
“They will have the rest of the year to straighten themselves out, just like you,” Emma said.
“It would be best to not give him a reason to ever come back to our neighborhood,” Oliver said, throwing Jimmy a slow look. “But if push comes to shove, and we have good reason, Emma might go to the bridge one night with her jackknife, cut him loose, and tell him our neighbor Jimmy is why he’s been spinning and spitting in the wind all this time. Do you know what I mean?”
“That’s a thumb’s up loud and clear, bossman,” Jimmy the Jet said, saluting the Monster Hunter with his thumb.
Ed Staskus posts feature stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”