Saturday, December 12, 2020

Trinity See: Peppermint the Christmas Penguin

It's Christmas time again. Several years ago, Craig, Scott, and George decided to try their hands at writing a Christmas story. It did not turn out exactly how Scott had expected when he started the story. In the end, it was each of the writers attempting to out-do the other. It is a fun story, even if it's not exactly very kid friendly. You've been warned. What follows is the full, unedited story by Craig, Scott, and George. It's just supposed to be a little bit of fun. It is dedicated to the memory of our brother, George, who wished he could celebrate Christmas year-round.

Peppermint the penguin was angry. This was supposed to be this time of year. The snow was falling and the shoppers were bustling about the busy streets of Los Angeles. Christmas was upon us. And here he was. Unemployed.

As if being a penguin in L.A. wasn’t hard enough, being unemployed certainly complicated things. Being unemployed at Christmas? The absolute worst. The way all the humans looked at him made him feel worthless. As if because he was a penguin, he had no right to live in L.A.

And his father? Gingerbread Penguin III wanted his son to go into accounting — the family business. The Penguin family was well known to be experts with money in their hometown of Eek, Alaska. As the oldest son it has been assumed for years that Peppermint would carry on Gingerbread’s legacy. Maybe GP3 should have named him Gingerbread Penguin IV like he wanted, but his mother pushed for Peppermint. Of course he was going to end up unemployed … with a name like Peppermint.

Peppermint liked his last job very much. He worked at the tuna canning factory. The pay wasn’t that great but he loved the smell. And he got to eat as much tuna as he wanted. Or at least that was his understanding. His boss thought differently. And so he was let go and arrested for grand theft tuna. Unemployed penguin. Disappointed father. Story of his life.

What Peppermint really wanted was to make movies. Christmas movies. Why else would a penguin move from the comfortable Alaskan weather to an uncomfortably warm place like L.A.? He had tried out for roles in a few Hollywood movies — ones he thought he’d be a good fit for. “March of the Penguins,” “Penguins of Madagascar,” “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” Every penguin movie he heard of. And every Christmas movie he got a whiff of. But a decade later he had yet to land a single role.

What’s an unemployed penguin to do at Christmas? He considered moving home to Eek. But the thought of admitting defeat and being an accountant was worse than death. He’d rather move into the City Mission like his friend Frank, the arctic fox.

Frank was a successful magician, performing at Venice Beach until mid-September  when that Ylvis song came out on YouTube. After that, every time Frank would perform, people would laugh, point and say “Ring ding ding ding ding dingeringeding. What does the fox say?” Magicians don’t like to be laughed at when they’re not trying to be funny. Performance anxiety and a lack of health insurance crippled Frank’s abilities to the point where he couldn’t speak at all. Irony; That song made it so the fox could say nothing.

Peppermint, however, was not prone to performance anxiety. A graduate of Miss Marla’s School for the Arts, he was trained in singing and dancing. He could dance on cue. Tap. Ballet. Modern Jazz. His voice was angelic — for a penguin. And he was a skilled trombonist. A lot of good any of that did him in paying the rent or buying food. It’s not like he could sing for his meals. Could he?

“Cut! Jesse. What the hell are you doing?”

“Oh I don’t know Luther. I thought a little ad lib would make this particular car commercial more interesting.”

“Jesse, I have told you 100 times before, if you don’t stick to the script then you are going to be fired.”

“Aw, c’mon Luther! This is much more interesting than some luxury car careening down the California coast. I mean, how many car commercials have that same, exact look? Thousands!”

“A singing penguin? A fox that does magic tricks? That has nothing to do with selling cars! Jesse. Do me a favor! Go home!”

Jesse turned in his script with the gaffer and slowly walked out the door of the soundstage. He had been fired from another job that could have potentially kept him in his apartment for at least a month, possibly two. But it was gone now, and he made the long walk home. He would take the bus, but bus trips cost money and he didn’t have any.

When Jesse got home, he had the usual cast of characters waiting to hear how his day went. No matter how badly his experiences were with the human world, Jesse always knew that he could count on his real friends to make him feel better.

“How did it go today, Jesse?” asked Peppermint the penguin. Peppermint always had a smile for Jesse, mostly because Peppermint had absolutely no idea what Jesse was talking about most of the time.

“Oh, not so good Peppermint. I got fired again.”

“Well that is too bad. You’ll get them next time! Did you at least try to tell them our story?”

“Well, that is what got me fired, again.”

Frank the fox walked slowly from the bedroom into the living room as he had finally risen for the day. As a practicing magician, Frank would normally work late at night clubs. He would work late if he had a job. Since Frank is nocturnal, he spends most of his nights watching bad movies on television. Frank heard the tail end of the conversation and decided to jump in.

“Nobody believed you, again? Why doesn’t anyone want to hear our fantastic and true story? I would think that Hollywood would be all over us with producers and piles of money.”

Jesse just looked at Frank and then walked over to the couch to sit down. Jesse was a striking young man in his late 20’s. He had that George Clooney look that advertising agencies loved for commercials, which is why he kept getting hired. But every time he would get in front of a camera, he would feel the need to tell the story of the two friends he discovered in the alley behind his apartment building six months ago.

A penguin and an Arctic fox in Los Angeles? It was a story that the producers had to want. Jesse just knew it. He had written a dozen scripts and sent them to agents all over Hollywood, but he never got a response. He was just about to give up when there was a knock at his door that would change everything.

Jesse turned at the sound of a second knocking. Who could be at the door at this hour? He peered through the peephole only to find it was blocked by a white fuzz. Jesse shrugged and opened the door.

"Hel-Ho-Ho-Ho! How are you, Jesse?" said the man with a long white beard. Obviously he was trying to be Santa Claus, though Jesse thought that not having the traditional red suit might cause him problems with casting. Behind the jolly old man was a hunched and horned, hairy beast.

"Uh, hello?" Jesse said warily. Who were these people? Sure, perhaps they had heard the stories how he always seemed to take in the hard luck cases, but these two scared him a bit. Who was the freak with the horns?

"Allow me to introduce ourselves. I am Nick and this is Krampus. May we come in?" Nick asked. Jesse, still dumbfounded, moved aside to allow the duo to enter his abode.

"I'm sure we came at a bad time, but for us, it is of the essence. I've followed your career for some time and we believe that you are the perfect person to assist us," NIck continued. The beast beside him nodded.

"Okay. I get it you're Santa Claus, but who is that?" Jesse motioned toward the hairy thing beside Nick. Frank and Peppermint stood at the corner to the hallway ready to make a break for it if the need arose.

"See, that's the problem," Santa slumped. "No one remembers anymore. We are quickly becoming has-beens. Which is why we need you. You see, I make a Naughty and Nice list every year, but of only the believers. And both those lists gets smaller and smaller each year. Someday, those lists will cease to be and so will we. We need you to save Santa Claus and Krampus."

"Uh...Krampus?" Peppermint asked timidly as he moved closer to the action. Frank slithered around the corner and melted deeper into the shadows.

"Yes. Krampus. He's my partner. And he's been mostly forgotten. While I reward the good children with gifts and candy, Krampus delivers the coal for bad children and sometimes throws the really naughty kids into a sack and steals them off to his lair."

"Sounds real Christmasy. I can see why no one knows about him," Peppermint stated, getting even braver. "I mean, shouldn't we not be scaring children so much?" Santa sighed and lowered his shoulders.

"We all play our part in the great pageantry of the Christmas season. Without one, we are unequal and bring about our eventual demise all the sooner. We need your help, Jesse. And yours and yours," NIck pleaded with Frank and Peppermint.

"And you're coming to me? I'm a two-bit actor in town where I can never keep a job. I can't keep a job because I always try to pitch my own Christmas movies featuring my friends, Frank and Peppermint."

"You have it within you to save our lives and the celebrations of Christmas and Krumpusnacht. I believe in you. We believe in you. You can save Christmas!" Nick exclaimed. The beast beside him nodded in agreement.

"I've got a terrific idea!" Peppermint shouted and bounced onto the coffee table.

“Santa … and um … Kramp-guy,” Peppermint started.

“Krampus,” Santa corrected the penguin gently.

“Yeah, okay,” Peppermint said. “Krampus. What if we all make a movie … about all of us. And remind children about the true meaning of Christmas. And Krampsnatch.”

“Krampusnacht,” Santa interrupted.

“Right,” Peppermint continued. “See, I can sing. And Frank does magic tricks. And Jesse is about the best darn actor this side of the canning factory. See, it could be called ‘Peppermint saves Christmas.’ “

“And Krampusnacht,” Santa interjected.

“Sure, whatever, Nick,” Peppermint continued. He had an idea and no Santa Claus lookalike and his ugly girlfriend were going to ruin it.

“How about ‘A Very Frank Holiday Spectacular,’ “ Frank said. “That would include both holidays.”

“And uninclude me,” Peppermint snapped.

Peppermint could get mean sometimes. And Jesse felt that the cute little penguin was about to show his dark side.

“Boys,” Jesse jumped in. “We’re all boys, right? Nick is that Krampus thing a boy?”

Santa nodded.

“Okay,” Jesse continued. “Let’s not get bogged down with what to call the movie when we don’t even know what it is Nick and Krampus want us to do.”

All eyes turned towards the Santa-looking character who called himself Nick.

“Thank you, Jesse,” Santa said, smiling. “It’s actually exactly why we came to you. Of all the people on my nice list, the three of you have the best ability to relate our story to the children. Jesse, you’re the only kid I know with his own pet penguin and fox.”

Peppermint shot out: “I’m not a pet.”

“Me either,” Frank said.

“And I’m not exactly a kid anymore,” Jesse added.

“Oh, but Jesse, you are,” Santa said. “Sure you’re almost 30 now. You’ve got adult responsibilities. But you still have the wonder in you that only kids possess. Being a kid isn’t a matter of age, Jesse. It’s all about perspective. And you still see the world through kid’s eyes. That makes you the perfect person for my plan.”

“So what is your plan, … Santa?” Jesse said, starting to wonder if maybe this really was Saint Nick.

All the while Krampus stood behind Santa, slightly to his left. Silently hunched over as if at any minute he may spring and stuff the animals into a sack. And Peppermint and Frank looked at Krampus as though they feared exactly that.

Santa sensed their fear and reassured them. “Krampus only punishes the bad ones. Peppermint and Frank, you have nothing to fear from him.”

Peppermint shrugged his penguin shoulders and sat on the couch. Frank joined him, as did Jesse. Santa sat in Jesse’s rocking chair and Krampus stayed standing.

“You see, kids, in the Old World, Christmas and Krampusnacht meant something,” Santa said. “They were a tandem. The yin and yang, if you will, of rewards for the good and punishment for the bad. It was like that for centuries. But as more people left the Old World in favor of America, they left Krampusnacht with it. People didn’t want to recognize the bad. Only the good. This created chaos. Unbalance. And has led us to here. Not only do people not remember Krampusnacht, they’ve stopped believing in me. In order to save Christmas, we need to restore balance. We need to restore Krampusnacht.”

“Great,” Jesse replied with a less than enthusiastic tone. “Why us? You still haven’t answered that.”

“Ok Jesse, you want the real truth?” Santa was getting surly now.

“Yes, I do.”

“Fine. Who else but a 29-year-old desperate actor who is just about to lose his apartment for the third time this year and lives with a talking penguin and magical fox would be stupid enough to actually put any effort into a story about Santa and Krampusnacht?”

“Ok. Yup. That works.”

“Besides, kid. You don’t have any other plans at the immediate moment, do you?”

“No. Ah, no I do not. How do we do this?”

“We could bust into a producer’s office and threaten to blow his fucking brains out if he doesn’t make our movie! That would work!”

Up to this point, Krampus had not said a word. Now Jesse knew why Santa had preferred to keep his companion quiet. The outburst by Krampus had spurred a brief second of reflection on possible ways to get a Santa and Krampusnacht movie made, but those reflections quickly dissipated in the face of reason.

“So that’s why he keeps quiet,” Jesse observed.

Santa blushed slightly and then just said, “Yeah.”

Suddenly, Frank jumped out of the shadows and onto the love seat, even though he knew he was not allowed on the love seat. “I got it!”

“Get off the love seat! What have you got?” Jesse was particular about that love seat, even though it came with the furnished apartment. Frank jumped off the love seat, looked at Jesse for a second and then went back onto his train of thought.

“We write an ‘Odd Couple’ kind of thing, film it with Jesse’s high def camera and put it up on Youtube.”

Santa looked confused. “Odd Couple?”

Frank’s paws were really moving now as he was formulating the idea in his mind.

“Yeah! Odd Couple! You know, you can be Felix Ungar and the horny guy can be Oscar Madison. One guy is prim and proper and the other guy is a complete slob! It will be brilliant!”

Santa looked even more confused. “I was hoping for something a bit more original.”

Jesse started to walk towards the kitchen and sit at the kitchen table, which is something he always did when he was frustrated and out of ideas. He sat at the kitchen table a lot.

“Santa, I have no idea how to get a movie made. All I know is that it takes a lot of money and a lot of resources that I don’t have. Besides, how am I supposed to sell the world on the idea of some horny guy stealing their kids on Christmas Eve?”

Frank got that look in his eyes again. “Blair Witch Project.”

Jesse looked over at Frank with a perplexed look on his face. “Blair Witch Project?”

“Yes. We do a found footage thing about Krampus and his importance to the balance of Christmas.”

Peppermint interjected for the first time with some hint of enthusiasm. “Hey Jesse, that isn’t bad. It would be cheap and we could make it really scary.”

Santa put his hands in the air and started laughing nervously. “Whoa fellas! Ha! I mean, we don’t want to turn Christmas into a horror story.”

Frank walked over to Santa with a sense of authority. “No Santa, we don’t want to turn Christmas into a horror story. But if you want to get people’s attention you either have to make them laugh or scare them. Fluffy here isn’t making anyone laugh, but he can sure scare people. After all, isn’t that his job? What if we made a found footage movie that showed just what happens to children who are bad and we make Krampus the star?”

Santa started to slowly nod his head. “That may work!”

"Are you kidding me? I thought you wanted something a little more original? Blair Witch Project? Come on!" Peppermint was exasperated. "We have Jesse, one of the greatest cinematic minds of our time and you want to remake a bad movie into a Christmas horror story?"

"Oh, and I'm sure you have a better idea?" Frank snapped sarcastically.

"Of course." Peppermint turned to Santa and Krampus. "You must have had some kind of yearly tradition you followed in the Old World. Why don't we recreate that in the park across the street? There are always people in the park. Showcase it like some public theater moment."

"The park where that guy went crazy and killed that girl over the summer?" Jesse asked. He fidgeted slightly thinking how he was lucky to even get an apartment as nice as this one. It was because no one else wanted it. It turned out to be a great deal, except for the gawkers.

"Yes. We could do that! It would take a couple of nights. Obviously the 5th of December would be your night," Santa said excitedly to Krampus. "Then the next day would be the feast of Saint Nicholas. A day to honor me!"

"And we can film it!" Jesse shouted.

"And invite the entire city to come see the pageantry!" Frank exclaimed.

"Can I actually throw one of those naughty little fuckers in my bag and take him to Spain?" Krampus interjected. "We should be as realistic as possible, and there are a lot of them out there these days."

"Uh...maybe. I'll get back to you," Jesse said timidly. The quintet spoke in excited tones as they planned a grand theatrical event in the park a few days from then. There was a lot of planning to do and little time. Peppermint broke out the eggnog and they soon were reveling in the ideas that seemed to burst forth with the consumption of the Yule drink.

Early the next morning, Jesse awoke on the love seat. Frank was half under the coffee table, snoring with his legs straight up in the air. A fat old man slumped lifelessly over the arm of the rocker, a partial glass of eggnog still in his hand. Peppermint was head first in the open freezer door. Rivulets of ice cream ran down the white front of the refrigerator as it melted. Only Krampus seemed unaffected by the long night of planning and drinking. He sat in the window overlooking the park below. He watched intently as one teenage boy mugged another and left the boy a crying. A deep rumble shook the beast as he laughed.

Jesse stretched and rose to his feet. He slumped back to the love seat as his head finally awoke with a rush of blood and sharp pains bouncing off the insides of his skull. He glanced at the coffee table in front of him with one eye squeezed tightly shut. It was full of paper with his scribbling all over it. A loud snore from Nick confirmed to Jesse that last night had not been just a dream. They were really going to do this! He and Frank and Peppermint were going to save Santa Claus!

"And Krampus," the beast muttered as if finishing Jesse's thought for him.

Jesse left the room to take care of his morning bathroom rituals. With Peppermint and Frank still passed out, Krampus woke Santa Claus with a sharp rap to the face.

“Wha Wha What,” Santa said, abruptly making himself upright and spilling his half-drank eggnog all over himself. Realizing it was Krampus that smacked him, he said, “Oh. You.”

“Now listen up fatty,” Krampus said in a low murmur. “You’re doing a good job so far. Just remember. We bag me some kids and you get Mrs. Claus back.”

“Okay,” Santa said, his voice trailing off in an obvious sign of depression.

“You really had ‘em going with that whole yin and yang balance shit,” Krampus said. “Even I started to like me for a minute there.”

“If they knew the real you …” Santa said.

“Yeah, well they don’t,” Krampus butted in. “And they ain’t gonna. Stupid fuckin’ penguin. Stupid fuckin’ fox. And that Jesse guy! Jesus, Nicky, where’d you find him?”

“Hey, they’re going to help, aren’t they?” Santa said. “Be glad they’re not smart. If they knew that the real plan was for me to help you steal away with 100 children from Los Angeles for Krampusnacht this year, they’d never help.”

Unbeknownst to the Claus and Krampus, Peppermint had awakened and was standing just the other side of the kitchen door listening.

Peppermint was furious to hear the news — that Santa Claus was helping this evil Krampus guy steal children. And now that the penguin knew the real deal he was going to concoct a secret plan of his own.

Eventually Jesse and Frank woke up and they all had breakfast together. Peppermint wanted to talk to Frank and Jesse but knew he had to bide his time so as not to create any suspicion with Santa and Krampus.

After breakfast they went over to check out the park. Santa, dressed in his traditional Christmas garb now, suggested that they make the gazebo their base of operations, turning it into somewhat of a Santa’s village. There were good camera angles from all sides and it would allow kids easy access.

“And what would Krampus be doing,” Peppermint asked, smugly.

Everyone was sort of taken aback by the penguins rude tone.

“Well,” Jesse said, “Krampus can wander around the park drumming up business for Santa and warning kids that if they’re not good, they’ll get nothing but coal for Christmas.”

“Right!” Santa exclaimed. “He can try to remind kids that they should be good.”

“Okay,” Peppermint said to Santa, “You two figure that out. I need an ice cube. Frank, Jesse, you guys need anything from the apartment?”

“No,” Frank said. “I’m just going to stay here and practice pulling squirrels out of my hat.”

Peppermint shot the fox a look that said, “come with me” and Frank caught it.

“Actually,” Frank said, “I am kind of thirsty.” He grabbed Jesse’s hand and pulled him along.

Once the “kids” were out of earshot, Krampus and Santa had room to talk.

“Look,” Santa said, “I am not the type of person who hates. I love all of God’s children. But you are not one of God’s children and I despise you.”

“Whatever, fatty,” Krampus said. “Love me, hate me, I don’t care. Just round up some kids and I’ll get you your fat ugly wife back as a Krampusnacht present.

“I feel horrible doing this,” Santa said.

“Don’t care. You have no other choice,” Krampus snapped back.

Meanwhile Santa was trying to think of a plan to foil Krampus’ evil scheme and thought he came up with the perfect solution. Now he just needed to tell the boys.

Back in the apartment, Peppermint let Jesse and Frank in on the holiday fathers’ plans of kidnapping kids.

“But why would Santa do that?” Frank asked.

“Yeah, Peppermint, that doesn’t make any sense at all,” Jesse said.

“Look, I don’t know the reasoning behind it but I clearly heard Santa say he was going to help Krampus steal away with 100 kids from the park,” Peppermint explained. “All this time I thought Santa was a good guy. But apparently his real M.O. is to help that beast kidnap kids.”

“What an asshole,” Frank said.

“Seriously,” Jesse added. “So … how do we stop them?”

“We’re just going to have to kill them,” Peppermint said.

“Kill them?!?” Jesse shouted.

“Shut up, dimwit,” Peppermint said. “What was the point of coming back here to talk if you’re just going to yell so that the whole neighborhood can hear?”

“Sorry,” Jesse whispered. “Can’t we just turn them in to the police?”

“Yeah. Let’s try that,” Peppermint said, dripping of sarcasm. “ ‘Hey Officer Donut, Santa and some beast guy are going to kidnap kids and take them back to evilland.’ I’m sure they’ll lock us up.”

“Um, you’re a penguin. I have a feeling that if you talk, the police might listen,” Jesse said.

“No. The penguin’s right,” Frank said. “We gotta kill ‘em. Or else a hundred kids are going to end up as forced labor, making iPods or something.”

“Okay,” gulped Jesse. “But how?”

After the trio discussed their plans, they headed back to the park, each with a butcher’s knife hidden in their clothes.

Seeing the “kids” coming back, Santa tried to break free from Krampus so he could get their help in thwarting Krampus’ scheme.

Krampus was ready, though, worried that Santa might try to turn on him. He stuck by Nick’s side, not giving him any room to talk to the kids.

“Team meeting,” Peppermint yelled. “Let’s go into the gazebo and talk.”

They stepped into the gazebo. First Santa - with Krampus nearly glued to his side, then Frank, Peppermint and Jesse.

“Now!” the penguin yelled, just as Santa sat down. The penguin stabbed Krampus in the neck and again in the chest. Frank, meanwhile, bit at his legs.

“Noooooooo!!!!!,” Santa cried as Jesse slit his throat from ear to ear.

Lying in a newly created pool of blood, Santa whispered his last words: “I was trying to stop him.”

“Sure you were,” Peppermint said, plunging his already bloodied butcher knife into the oldest elf’s dimly beating heart.

Relieved at their success, the three breathed a heavy sigh and turned around to exit, noticing only then that young children had surrounded the odd cast of characters. Who wouldn’t? Santa, a beast, a penguin, a fox and some random guy. Obviously something was going to happen that would be worth watching. But the gruesome display the children got was not what they were expecting. And nearly all of them were now screaming and crying.

Two officers from the Los Angeles Police Department made their way through the crowd of crying children to confront the man, the penguin, and the fox, whom they hauled away to jail.

Interrogated by LA’s finest, Peppermint and Jesse both gave their account of the story. But Frank just sat there listening.

The tall police officer got in Frank’s face and yelled: “What do you have to say for yourself, fox?”

Frank sat there stoically, and calmly said, “The fox don’t say shit. The fox pleads the 5th.”