VLADIMIRS JULKALENDER 23 december: Joel and the Santa Claus Murder Mystery (Not much mystery there, said Joel!) del 5

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“Oh, I just thought that since we’re going on a picnic, and the park is a good place for a picnic, then…”
“Oh yeah, that’s where we’re going later, maybe.”
Even dulled in his thinking from digesting and drowsy for the same reason Joel could tell the mother was lying. He liked that about her too.
They had finally arrived at a sort of counter, and while they waited a bit a familiar face presented itself there too, none other than the manager of their department store.
“Excuse me,” she said to whoever was in charge. “I want to register a complaint against one of your officers or detectives or whatever.”
Right then Joel and his ‘family’ were ushered into an office, but before the door to that office closed the manager was heard going on:
“I want him fired, and then I’m going to sue him for everything he’s got!”
As soon as the door to the office closed another door opposite opened and another familiar face came into Joel’s only somewhat obstructed view through the grating:
His friend the policeman, who also immediately recognized Joel, whereupon he nodded to the woman and took out a piece of paper which he handed her.
“Thank you very much, madam, you’ve been a great help. I’ll take over from here. Happy New Year and thank you again.”
“Thank YOU!” the woman said smiling happily never taking her eyes off the paper in her hand.
The policeman was already ushering her and the kid out of the office when:
“What’s going on, mom?” The kid seemed very worried, which Joel found quite touching. “You can’t leave Joel here,” the kid went on. “What about our family picnic in the park?”
“The picnic’s off due to heavy snowfalls over the metropolitan area. Too bad. Come along, kid, we’re getting out of here.”
“Not without Joel! He’s my buddy! He’s my best friend in the whole world!”
“Joel is hardly what I would call a friend…” the policeman began, but was cut short by the woman:
“Tell you what, kid: With this,” she showed him the piece of paper, “I can buy you three lizards and an iguana. They’re very affectionate and loyal, you know…”
“I don’t want any lizards! I want Joel! The kid was getting really worked up.
Perhaps touching, but also beginning to annoy Joel’s ears and what was worse disturbed his digesting.
“We’ll discuss it when we get home,” the mother said.
“I don’t want to go home! I want Joel!”
“I don’t think you really mean that, young man. This is a very…” the policeman tried again but once more he was interrupted by the woman:
“You stay out of this!”
“I’m sorry, I was just trying to…”
“Just mind your own business, flatfoot!”
The woman roughly shoved her kid out of the room, the kid showing all signs of the deepest despair. Well, so long, kid, it was nice knowing you.
The policeman closed the door behind the mother and son also known as the Pointer family.
“Well, well, well, we meet again,” the policeman said coming back to Joel, who stuck his tongue out through the grating to verify that it was in fact the same old coat that his friend was still wearing.
“Hello, my friend, did you miss me?” he said politely, but for some reason the policeman chose to ignore this. How rude!
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t open the lid of your transporter, won’t you? For obvious reasons.”
Obvious reasons or not, lid open or not, it was all the same to Joel as long as he was digesting. Hmf!
“If I were you I’d be more worried about that manager-woman than I would be about me,” Joel said calmly.
“Why do you say that?” the policeman asked a little confused.
“You tell me,” Joel said mysteriously.
“What do you mean?”
“You figure it out, you’re the detective.”
“And you’re the killer!”
Whatever that had to do with anything. These humans seemed incapable of sticking to one subject at a time.
“You know, Joel, you really can’t go around killing people the way you do!”
“I can’t? But I’ve been doing fine so far.”
“Well, it’s got to stop now, and I’m going to put a stop to it!”
“You are? Well, good for you, my friend.”
“I’m not your friend!”
Joel was disappointed: “Hmf! Not even after I gave you the clue to who killed Santa?”
“No, because you’re the one who killed him!”
“I still say he had it coming. All that clanging and ho-ho-ho-ing.”
“That’s no reason to kill somebody. In fact, there’s never any good reason to kill anybody!”
“I’m glad you didn’t tell me that before I killed this here guinea pig in my belly or I would still be hungry.”
“That’s different.”
“How? Why, there’s a world of difference between a person and a guinea pig?”
Joel would admit to a difference in size and eatability, but apart from that?
“Doesn’t a guinea pig have a right to live same as a person?” he asked.
“Yes, but…”
“But it’s alright for me to kill a guinea pig but not a Santa? From what I can make out there are at least as many Santas as there are guinea pigs in this city, one more or less of each kind can’t make all that much difference, can it?”
“This is an absurd discussion…”
“You started it, my friend.”
“I’m not your friend, and I’m not going to discuss existential philosophy with a killer-snake!”
Exi-what? Philo-which?
Perhaps fortunately for the policeman he didn’t have to discuss anything at all with Joel very much longer, because at precisely that moment the door to the office was flung open, and the kid stormed in, grabbed hold of Joel’s transporter and stormed right out again with it under his arm slamming the door in the policeman’s face without as much as an ‘excuse me’.
Joel on the other hand had occasion to utter several ‘hmfs’ of annoyance when he was bounced quite roughly around inside the transporter during the kid’s following wild run down corridors and through doors until they were finally out in the street. Not good for Joel’s digesting at all!
And now that white stuff, that SNOW was coming out of the sky again for some reason accompanied by Joel’s worst enemy, the COLD.
No wonder then that Joel was good and grumpy as the kid continued his running, now crossing this street, now coming down another. Joel had never been a party to anything so inconsiderate in his life! He had a good mind to strike out and bite the first person (or any living thing) that gave him the opportunity.
He probably would have too when he noticed that the sounds of traffic were suddenly much more distant and that the kid was running very quietly as if on something soft.
A look out of his grated window told Joel that they were in a place where there was white stuff, snow, everywhere and only snow as far as the eye could see.
“Hmf!” he said suspiciously.
“Wait, we’re almost there,” the kid panted. Almost where?
“Just hold on a little longer.” Hold on? To what? His dinner? In that case this infernal bouncing around had got to stop. Joel was quite queasy already and no less annoyed than before.
He had almost reached his breaking point when the kid finally did stop and set down the transporter in the snow on the ground. What was this now?
As soon as the lid of the transporter had been unlocked and opened Joel, angrier than he could ever remember being, stuck his head out ready to bite. That was when he noticed something strange.
“Ta-da!” the kid said grinning from ear to ear between his scarf and his cap, visible now partly because of the whiteness of the snow, partly because it was beginning to get lighter. Ta-da nothing!
What Joel had noticed to his amazement was that the transporter was standing right at the foot of his very own tree! Talk about luck!
“Hmf!” he said, trying to get out through the hole. It was a little difficult because of the bump on his stomach.
“Wait, let me help you!” The kid lifted Joel out of the transporter so gently and placed him on his favourite branch so carefully that he completely forgot to bite.
Once on his branch he drew a sigh of relief. Home at last.
The kid was grinning up at him. What was he doing here anyway?
“I thought I’d better take you home since I couldn’t keep you with me anymore after what happened with my mom,” the kid explained.
“Hmf!” Joel said sniffing the familiar bark approvingly.
“I knew just what tree was from your description!” the kid went on. Enough with the explanations already! It was time for sleeping now and most important of all for digesting.
“Well, so long then Buddy, I mean Joel. Maybe I’ll see you next summer.”
Not if I see you first, Joel was tempted to say, but thought better of it at the last minute.
“Hey, kid,” he said instead, “remember what your mom said, NO POINTING!”
“You mean don’t tell anyone where you are?” This kid was pretty clever, you didn’t have to draw him a picture or anything. All in all, Joel liked the whole Pointer family.
“Sure, I’ll just tell them you got away and I couldn’t find you!”
Good kid.
“So long Buddy,” Joel said.
“Sleep tight and Happy New Year! This really has been the best Christmas EVER!”
The kid waved and picked up the empty transporter before he started to walk away only looking back once or twice. Then he was gone.
More of that white stuff, that snow-stuff, was starting to come down. It would soon cover the kid’s tracks to and from the tree making it safe for Joel to crawl into his special place in the deep hollow of his tree, where he would spend the rest of the winter curled up tight, sleeping and digesting.
No more white stuff for him! No more cold either!
It was going to be all right, he knew, as it always was in the end for him: The famous Joel-LUCK!
The last thing Joel saw before he left his branch was the peanut- and roasted chestnut-vendor with his steaming cart making his way (with some difficulty) across the park through the snow. He was already wearing his red cap this time.
Well, ho-ho-ho to you, my friend! Make-a lotsa money! See you in the spring!
Then Joel too was gone.

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© Vladimir Oravsky


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