Friday, December 27, 2013

The Hamster Who Saved Christmas, Part 1

Inspired by this artwork by Jeff Shyluk.

It was Christmas Eve. By all rights, Government Vito should have been enjoying his grandmother's pasta followed by some Boggle and Yahtzee in front of the fireplace. It was a beautiful night for it, with snow gently wafting down through the crisp black sky, alighting silently on rooftops, sidewalks and battered old mailboxes across the nation's capital. Government Grant, he knew, was on extended leave in Fiji with his latest girlfriend, while Government Bill was Christmas-miraculously not, for once, stuck in the House.

But Vito wasn't as lucky as his fellow Government agents. He wasn't at his grandmother's house. Instead, Vito was standing at the threshold of the Prime Minister's Office, staring at the ornate golden doorknob that beckoned without words, but with all the considerable weight of the room behind it.

Steeling himself, Government Vito wrapped one hairy-knuckled hand around the smirking doorknob and pushed inside.

"Government Vito," the Prime Minister said, peeling off his thin wire-framed glasses and setting them down upon a desk covered in little mountains of paperwork. "Thank you for coming on Christmas Eve."

"I serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister," Vito responded loyally, even though he really had no use for Prime Minister H--- of the ----- party. As a civil servant, Vito's role was not to concern himself with politics, but to serve the nation and its people no matter who was in charge. He would do so despite the wrongheadedness of the Prime Minister's policies or the loudness of his astoundingly ugly Christmas sweater.

"Watch this," said the Prime Minister. He pointed a remote at a blank wall, which suddenly transformed itself into a holographic monitor. The malevolent countenance of Dr. Burnshock Brand resolved itself from a cloud of whirling photons. Brand, as ever, was wearing a bloodstained white lab coat. His perpetual sneer was hidden behind his surgical mask, and reflected in the round mirror strapped to his forehead was the image of his paramour, Asia Shiftygrippo, holding a bulky video camera on her shoulder.

"Burnshock Brand!" gasped Government Vito.

"And Asia Shiftygrippo," nodded the Prime Minister. "On the loose again despite the best efforts of the Paladins of O.R.D.E.R. Shh, the message is about to start."

"Attention puny Canadians. I, Dr. Burnshock Brand, demand the release of all Agents of C.H.A.O.S. incarcerated by Canadian authorities by midnight of Christmas Eve. Should you fail to meet this simple demand, I will trigger the Christmas Halting Anti-Opening Sealant - a booby trap  installed weeks ago on every single piece of wrapping paper, gift box and gift bag in the country. Millions of people - including children - will find it absolutely impossible to open their presents Christmas morning if I activate the C.H.A.O.S."

"Diabolical!" gasped Government Vito. The Prime Minister grimaced grimly and switched off the recording.

"Naturally we cannot give in to his demands, much as I hate to risk ruining Christmas," the Prime Minister muttered without sincerity. "Fortunately G Division had enough time to devise a primitive but effective solution: a jamming device that will block all radio signals across the continent, preventing Brand from triggering the device and giving all the children time to open their presents."

"Er...mightn't that have far-reaching consequences, sir? I mean, I know midnight on Christmas Eve isn't that busy, but surely there will be airplanes in the sky, emergency calls..."

"I think you're forgetting who's in charge here, Vito, and who was elected to make the tough decisions!" barked the Prime Minister. He handed Vito a small purple sphere - a Christmas ornament, Vito realized. Only it was much heavier than any Christmas ornament had a right to be.

"That's the jammer. To allay suspicion, it's disguised as something no one will think out of the ordinary at this time of year," explained the Prime Minister.

"Okay," Vito said. "But what location is high enough to ensure the jamming signal covers the continent?"

The Prime Minister lifted his remote control and reactivated the viewscreen. An image of Toronto's world-famous CN Tower filled the screen, glowing with Christmas lights."

"Of course," breathed Government Vito. "But won't it look odd - adding a Christmas ornament to the top of the tower?"

The Prime Minister pressed the Zoom button on his remote, and the tower's spire grew in size until Vito could see that a handsomely decorated Christmas tree now topped the landmark.

"We had Paramount Importance fly the tree up this morning, but unfortunately he's now busy diverting a planet-killer asteroid, so he's unavailable to finish the job."

Vito looked at the ornament dubiously. "I'm not exactly a free climber, sir," he said, but the Prime Minister was already shaking his head.

"That's not your mission, Vito. Your job is to take the ornament to our Rideau Canal safehouse and hand it off to a very special agent. You'll meet him when you arrive."

And so, twenty minutes later Vito's battered Volkswagen Beetle passed through the secret entrance of the safehouse, where a bespectacled, balding man greeted him eagerly.

"Government Vito! You have the jammer?"

Vito handed it over. The bald man caressed the ornament and snapped his fingers.

"It's here, Wolfgang! It's here! Come!"

And then, zipping down the hallway came a tiny red and green race car with the number 25 emblazoned on the hood. It looked like an early '60s Lotus 7 to Vito's widening eyes, but that wasn't the remarkable thing - the remarkable thing was the hamster behind the tiny wheel, a red stocking cap perched upon his furry head.

Vito watched numbly as the bald man leaned down and handed the jammer to the hamster, who extended one tiny paw to clutch at the ornament's eyelet.

"Are...you telling me...that hamster...can drive?" sputtered Government Vito.

"Not only that, his car has adhesive tires that will enable him to drive right up the side of the tower," beamed the bald man.

"Absurd!" gasped Vito. Then again, hadn't he himself seen the aftermath of a murderous, sentient toilet that had killed a gaggle of hapless Edmonton youths back in the early 90s? After that, perhaps anything was possible.

"Off you go, Wolfgang! Off you go!" shouted the bald man, waving his hands in a peripatetic "shoo-ing" gesture. The hamster stomped his paw down on the miniature accellerator pedal and zipped off like a rocket. In seconds, he was gone, his tires kicking up snow in his wake.

"That hamster is going to save Christmas," the bald man said.

And so he might. But the little hamster didn't know what horrors lurked at his destination, eager to spoil Christmas and feast on the tiny sweetmeats that pulsed so succulently beneath the tawny fur of the brave little rodent.

TO BE CONCLUDED

1 comment:

susan_rn92 said...

Earl, thank you, I am touched. Your story so far is impressive and it is a wonderful gift. Good thing you didn't wrap it, or else the sinsiter glue would have made it so that I couldn't open the web page. I will have to find out how Wolfgang the hamster saves Christmas or else I will never be able to open the rest of the story.