Snarling Charles and the Case of the Christmas Gas Bag

“Look at the fog!”

Chuck peered out his front window at his first Christmas season in his new neighborhood. After decades of Christmases living under the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, clearing the bougainvillea droppings from his hot tub, and watching reruns of Bing, Rosie, Vera, and Danny thrilling to the snows of White Christmas, coming home to a Bluegrass blurry Christmas was nettlesome.

Bouncing around his ankles, also aspiring to be nettlesome but too wee to succeed was Nigel.

Nigel, Chuck’s fierce and tiny Yorkie was on a biological schedule. “Itstimeitstimeitstime – DadDadDad – letsgoletsgoletsgo – Igottahikemyleg-g-g-g.”

Chuck continued to survey the smudge of a yuletide evening that was far from being “…just like the one I used to know.”

“I haven’t seen fog like this since my first trip to London.”

Early in Chuck’s successful screenwriting career he wrote two most excellent Sherlock Holmes screenplays that also provided an extended stay in London as the “screenwriter-in-residence” on the set of the filming. He had spent much of the residency turning his well-nurtured Anglophilia into full-blown Angl-Oh-h-h-sweet-mystery-of-life.

He savoured (note the spelling) Scotch eggs, marmite, warm beer, and old champagne. He favoured (sic…and sick) cricket over baseball and snooker over pool, though he still couldn’t play any of them.

He adopted a sort of uniform for his post-prandial wanderings through the misty streets of night-time London. He had an ulster-ish coat. He eschewed the arms of the coat and draped it over his shoulders like a cape. He had acquired a billed cloth cap with a hounds-tooth pattern. It wasn’t exactly a deerstalker but in the fog…

He also had a cane.

Not a mere cane for walking assistance, but a cane of hidden menace.

A twist of the handle and voila – a twelve-inch blade!

But wait…there’s more, and I’m not talking Ginsu knives.

With a commanding arch of one eyebrow, a radical lift of lip, and a sideways glance worthy of Sam Elliott, Snarling Charles was born and the city on the Thames trembled.

Tonight, now that he thought of it, all those ingredients were still in his possession…and the fog…and the dog…

“Alright Nigel, you silly bugger, let’s venture forth.”

“Charlie! Wait. I have something for Nigel if you’re going out.”

Chuck’s Lovely Wife Julieanne (she was contemplating a legal change of name to “Lovely Wife” but had not yet committed) ran up waving a plastic straw. It was one of those light sticks that, when violently bent and twisted, emitted a sickly green chemical glow. She wrapped it around Nigel’s neck (twice – tiny bugger that he was). Nigel bounced; “nownownownownow!”

Cap, cape, cane, canine, and sneer all in place, Snarling Charles and his noble beast were on the street and on the prowl. Thomas Burke would have approved.

Alas, there were no ill-lit shops inhabited by Quong Lee, no lamplights, no hansoms, no foghorns or chimes, no newsstands, no blind match-sellers; just prim, new residences hunkering down in the murk. Even the murk was marred by blobs of harsh light bobbing on the lawns.

There were blob reindeer, and blob Santas, and blob angels, and blob snowmen. They were inflatable plastic yard decorations, garishly lit from the inside, and staked to the earth to limit their contagion. At least that’s how Snarling Charles thought of them.

“Nailing‘em to one place is good for a start, but I can think of a more permanent cure for this infestation. I’ll nail them gas bags fer good!”

He approached a six foot high snowman doing a handstand. The sheer fantasy physics of a glowing snowman cavorting on his hands was maddening.

“How would his hat stay on?”

Charles gave his cane a twist and voila!

“I should name this little sword ‘Voila!’” He thought.

He hovered in front of the offending balloon. Nigel bounced about in triumph; “LooklooklookDad! It’s a quality poop, just like they promise on TV! Pickitup-pickitup-pickitup! We’ll add it to the collection!” Nigel had long been convinced that somewhere there was a gallery of The Poops of Nigel, the Silly Bugger.

Just then, the front door of the house to whom the prancing abomination belonged, opened and a man’s voice bellowed; “Ay! What’re you doin’ out there?”

Snarling Charles bristled at the tone, but maintained a civil front.

“I’m simply admiring your yard…art.”

“Well, you just admire it from the sidewalk and get offa my lawn!”

There was a final duet of a door slam and a vocalized “Pervert!”

Charles was left in a silent fog, the darkness broken by a radiant upside down snowman and a bouncing Chernobyl green glow stick.

No…it wasn’t London.

No…it wasn’t the snowman’s fault.

But someone must be made to pay.

He sheathed his sword and left the poop.

And by the light of his good dog Nigel, he wended his way home.

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