December 25, 2000 - A Christmas Story

© 2000 by John Varley; all rights reserved


With Apologies to Grendel Briarton

On a December trip to Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, Ferdinand Feghoot was summoned to the local college, Wossamotta U. by Inspector Fenwick, the Chief of Police. There he was confronted with an appalling scene. Bullwinkle, the townís leading citizen, had been smashed flatter than a kippered herring by a falling safe.

"Itís a common enough means of death for cartoon characters," Fenwick opined. "Every year we lose five or six citizens to falling safes. But this time it was no accident. This time, itís murder!"

He showed Feghoot the ingenious deadfall trap rigged to rain financial ruin on an unsuspecting victim. Bullwinkleís antlers were still entangled in the tripwire. Grasped tightly in one hand was a small statue of a Hindu god.

The dead quadrupedís best friend, Rocky the flying squirrel, had been with Bullwinkle at the time of his death, but when questioned by Feghoot the distraught rodent said all he could remember was seeing a rabbi fleeing the scene upon, of all things, a pogo stick. Fenwick immediately issued an APB for the rabbi.

"Youíre wasting your time, Fenwick," said Feghoot grimly, as he stood from his examination of the body." "The rabbi has been framed. When you find him, he will tell you of some elaborate ruse that induced him to be on a pogo stick at this time and this place."

"How do you know that, Feghoot?" asked the Inspector.

"This is the work of the Christmas Killer," Feghoot declared. "I have been on the trail of this fiend for years, and I fear we might never catch him. Every December he arranges one of these grisly messages. Look! Didnít you notice the smile on the victimís face? The corners of his mouth have been propped up Ö by these!" He displayed two toothpicks he had taken from Bullwinkleís mouth.

"I still donít see how you know the murderer is the Christmas Killer," said Fenwick.

"Isnít it obvious!" Feghoot asked. "Wee Vishnu, a merry crushed moose, and a hoppy Jew near."


The Ferdinand Feghoot character is used with the permission of the Reginald Bretnor Literary Estate, Fred Flaxman, owner. (

"A Christmas Story" appears in the January 2003 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction

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