“Merv Griffin, A Christmas Tale”
This is Auntie Carol, Darlings, and as the French say, “Je suis tres jolie”! Have I got a Christmas Tale for you! OY vey! Oops, I am not Jewish nor am I French but just wish that I were! My Tale starts in the traditional way. It was late Christmas Eve and I was alone. How cliché, my goodness. Ten lashes with a wet noodle! Oh, me! I was watching the snow come down softly as a feather outside my window, and I saw a redbird puff out his feathers and give a little shiver as he was perched on the branches of my beautiful blue spruce, and I took it as an omen that this was going to be one spectacular Christmas, indeed.
It was about 11:00 O’clock at night, and I decided to walk down the Avenue of the Arts to the Art Museum, a stately palatial structure with Greek columns. I had on my green velvet sheath trimmed in white rabbit fur and my red coat and stocking hat with my shiny patent leather boots and green and white striped hose. I wore little black fur lined mittens for what did I need my fingers for. To Play the Moonlight Sonata? I think not, Dears. The snow was about ten inches deep and still coming down like the inside of a paperweight when you shake it. So gently did the snow caress my cheeks and I felt its cold wetness on my eyelashes. I was so thrilled. Nothing but me and the elements. Alors! And heavens, yes.
When I got to the bottom of the steps at the art museum, I took a huge swig of my Salignac brandy and it burned all the way down to my tippy toes, and I thought, “Life is Grand”. Inside my head I heard the Trans Siberian Orchestra playing “Christmas Sarajevo,” or “Carol of the Bells,” as it is sometimes called. This was followed by the Jackson Five’s, “I Saw Mommie Kissing Santa Claus” and countless other tunes. I have a constant symphony playing in my head at all times, and then a random thought will come in like, “I think I’ll eat another sugar cookie” or “Do I smell like roses”. The mind is a strange thing or at least, mine is. Oh, me! I crack myself up! Here’s a little bon mot for you. Why is Frostie so popular? Because he’s a cool guy!
Well, back to my story. I ascended all the stairs and stood in front of the Museum, and took out my new binoculars to view the gargoyles and griffins perched on the roof of the edifice. Such mad eyes and fierce grimaces. How these ancient mythological creatures thrilled and excited me. I like scary things, and scary people. I was put I n mind of the droll and comic drawings of Edward Gorey in The Alphagory which goes, “A is for Amy who fell down the stairs: B is for Basil devoured by bears.” I took another giant swig of brandy. Oh, please I am not an alcoholic: It was cold! Then the strangest thing happened, One of the griffins went missing from the roof. There was an empty space where he had been! You might know that a Griffin is a lion with an eagle’s head atop his neck. Or if you didn’t, you know now. Well, I puzzled a bit about this a while then I started thinking of kittens playing with balls of colored yarn. You know how it is.
Then after amusing myself with a jumble of silly and inappropriate thoughts, I descended the stairs to make my way back home, and what in the world. I heard the sound of wings and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Alors, and there stood the missing griffin, and he seemed as surprised to see me as I was to see him. His head bobbed up and down. You know how birds do! He had come to life and was no longer stone. He had beautiful, platinum coat of hair and little red beady eyes like an albino rabbit.
When in doubt make conversation. Words lull the savage beast… or person. I told him my name and asked him what his name was and he made a sound like, “Murf”. And I asked if that was his name again and he repeated the sound even more emphatically. “So you’re Merv Griffin is that it?” and he blinked his eyes twice, which I took for a yes. It seemed polite to ask him if he was hungry and he bobbed his head twice and I tried to think what a griffin would eat and hopefully, not my pale human flesh. As if he read my thoughts he went over to the trash can and came beck with a Big Mac wrapper and I inquired if he wanted to go to Macdonalds and he said, “Grok” which I took as a yes.
Having read a number of fairy tales, I realized I should get on his back, or possibly I did it because I was thinking of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol where magic spirits took Ebenezer on a spiritual journey. This was just what the doctor ordered, as it turned out. When we Got to the only Macdonalds open, a young clerk with green hair and multiple face piercings looked up in surprise, and said, “Wow, a griffin. Way Cool. What can I get ya? Big Mac and cheese fries right.?” I ordered ten of them with Mayo and unions and tomatoes and the fries.
The night manager, an elder black woman came out and said, “What in the world is that thing? Help me, Jesus! Lord! Lord!” And she fanned herself with her hand. “Lawrence did you slip me a tab?”
“No, Tamika. It’s a griffin. You know make-believe only real. Ya know, ”replied the youth.
Right then “Merv” passed a very large cloud of gas. And I apologized and said he was just hungry.
“Oh, no, he didn’t, ill. Not in my store, you don’t. Git your stuff and go. I aint up for no hallucinations on Christmas eve.!” Intoned Tamika.
“Where’s your Christmas, spirit, Tammy?’ asked the boy who flipped back his green hair.
“In the shit can with the old bread and pickles. Don’t give me no shit, Lawrence. I am not the one!” she said. “Comin’ in here with a monster and scarin’ the crap outa’ me. You ought to be ashamed of yerself!”
We got our stuff and left immediately and I surmised the griffin was feeling somewhat chastised as he did not meet her gaze and stood patiently by the door while we got the burgers and fries. Then the most miraculous thing happened. We flew with Philadelphia glistening below us like crushed diamonds in and the stars in the night sky were so bright, so intense, it brought tears to my eyes and I smelled all the Christmas dinners cooking.
I closed my eyes for a minute. Before I knew it we were inside a stately mainline mansion in Bryn Mawr. Being invisible has it’s advantages: you can hear all the gossip and never be accused of passing rumors and you can drink all your want and nobody will say, “Don’t you think you’ve had about enough.” So I sipped the expensive amber champagne to my heart’s content and ate a piece of deep dish pumpkin pie with mounds of whipped cream while “Merv” ate one whole roast beef and he threw back a number of Stolichnayas. Of course you know I had to pour it into his beak as well as cut the big roast into chunks for him. I just knew it was only a matter of time before he let loose with a huge fart. Griffins though fascinating, are not always couth. I was not disappointed, nor surprised when he did.
The Christmas tree, a thirty foot blue spruce, was decorated with tiny white Italian lights, and festooned with red and green balls, candy canes and little Raggedy Anne dolls. There were chandeliers in all the main rooms, and red Persian rugs on the wood floors. The tables trembled with the sheer weight of the sumptuous meal. I will not recount everything for I feel you know what they had. I took note of the Ice swan and cracked lobster claws, and I especially liked the radish roses on top of the oysters on the half shell, and they had numerous colorful, edible flowers in the salad. The woman glowed like beautiful white roses in the arms of their Alpha male husbands, women any man would be proud to hang on his forearm. The colors were a shimmering pastiche of reds, greens, gold, bronzes and silvers. Oh, shimmering, shimmering, like an artist’s palette. And the music was transcendent, Lou Rawls singing, “Merry Christmas Baby, You Sure Look Good To Me.” and Louis Armstrong reciting “The Night Before Christmas.” Nobody noticed our thievery as rich people are not known for eating a multiplicity of things. Thin as vampires, they pirouetted on the ballroom floor, almost oblivious to the food. Gauntness is a virtue among the super rich who cannot pinch more than an inch. The children like little, merry pixies sat in the stairwell watching the adults with sweet, cinnamon smiles on their lips, and bright wondrous eyes. We left the party around 4:00 am. just as Santa landed on the roof, and all the revelers had gone home.
We went to one more house, a poor people’s house in North Philadelphia on Ogontz Avenue. A half eaten box of KFC chicken sat on the table with cold grits in congealed butter and also, greens and ham hocks wilting in a cracked blue bowl. No presents were under the tree which was made of stark silver. I cleared the table and wiped it down and in the space of a split second there was a full turkey dinner and all the trimmings on the table with three or four desert pies including sweet potato pie covered with whipped cream. There was also an old fashioned cloved ham with pineapple slices on the plain rustic table. The griffin went over to the poor, pathetic tree that was rotating on its stand with a multicolored light shining on it, and bobbed his head up and down as birds are so wont to do. In its place appeared a giant fir tree with angels and pixies and redbirds peeking from its massive branches and he created old fashioned bubble ornaments that glowed in the still, cold air. With a sudden crack of thunder from out of the blue, huge, brightly colored packages appeared under the tree. And ‘Merv” the Griffin, winked his beady eye at me, said “Grok” again, and lowered his large frame so I could mount him as we flew through the dark purple sky toward my home.
That’s all I remembered when I awoke in my massive canopied bed Christmas day. There was one large pearl on my bedside table and an ornate card emblazoned with a rapido-graph drawing of a Griffin. It said “Yours Truly, Merv,” on the inside. Feliz Navidad, amiga!
CAROL ANN- Writer of Poems of Thunder (Noir&Whimsy). Gitana, & Catfish Joe & Double, Double, Toil & Trouble @Amazon.com & BN.com
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