The Reluctant Krampus (A Nutmeg Junction Special)

The Reluctant Krampus was a short narrative written for the Nutmeg Junction Christmas episode in which I recorded a version of A Visit From St. Nicholas and additional stories.

Here is the written story should you have occasion and time to readit!

The Reluctant Krampus

By J. Timothy Quirk

Contrary to popular belief, there are not as many Krampus-helpers as one might expect to find when considering the fact that every December we are simply overrun with helpers for the other fellow whether they’re ringing a bell with an open pot in front of a grocery store or posing for photos at twenty dollars a pop at the center of a mega-mall or just simply eating a sandwich if it’s his lunch-beak and he jolly well would like to eat it in peace because it’s hard enough to eat pimento loaf as it is without some whippersnapper asking if its venison and where are the reindeer really?

Maybe it’s the horns.

It’s not the best headwear if one really enjoys wearing pullover sweaters which is exactly the time when such fashion conflicts with the needs of a quality Krampus helper but if you had put in an application for a job as a Krampus helper and you didn’t know about the horns, you were probably just panic-posting your resume everywhere anyway regardless of interest and you would have been put off once you found out about the hours and regular duties as assigned and the certainly the non-existent salary would have made the whole business a nonstarter unless you were just looking for an unpaid internship for work experience and the hope of a good referral into a related field like banking or middle management.

At any given moment in time there are generally three Krampus helpers somewhere in the world but they’re usually in Austria and you can’t be guaranteed they aren’t simply parading around lightly tapping the sides of spectators with branches, something that would not go over at all well in other countries and shouldn’t go over well in Austria either and one would think if it weren’t for the horns and sharp teeth and claws on a Krampus, which admittedly provides a certain air of authority in such matters, one would think that municipal or even state officials would be notified of their behavior and, if no charges were filed, then at least a stern talking to would be in order but then again Austria gave the world Mozart and America gave the world reality television so caution should be our watchword in matters of moral judgment.

The duties as assigned of a Krampus helper is nothing compared to the duties of the actual Krampus spirit. Of course this is perfectly reasonable because clearly the helpers for the red suited gentleman aren’t required or expected to jet set around the globe distributing presents down chimneys, in fact the only task they would be reasonably expected to achieve success in at all on the big day is eating the cookies left near the tree and the jolly old elf likes to do that task himself thank you very much. Krampus helpers are not expected to punish misbehaving children and these days most punishments revolve around having the youngster take a break from using electronic devices and having a “time out” but since children at that hour on Christmas eve are already asleep and therefore taking a break from electronic devices and having a time out, a Krampus’s work is more or less resolved already and the spirit can retire for the evening with an improving book.

On one Christmas Eve Krampus was indeed prepared to spend the evening with an improving book and had taken out of the library something by Chaucer which seemed like a perfectly respectable and thoughtful choice if anyone was watching but once the hubbub of the day had died down and Krampus was settled in to his winged back chair and his furry feet were stretched out upon the ottoman, the idea of plowing through Middle English poetry that probably didn’t have any funny illustrations or at least illustrations he found funny became less and less appealing and he wondered if he could just watch the movie version instead. Of course once he had decided upon watching a movie instead of reading a book, after much contemplation as to whether he was really locked in to a Chaucer inspired tale, Krampus realized he wasn’t and found a copy of Space Ninja Princess IV starring the rather fetching Meghan Laughlin who took over the title character when Sarah Parsons, the originator of the role, realized she was not contractually obligated beyond the trilogy and bought a nice cottage in Somerset so she could spend more time directing community theater but will still make the occasional appearance at conventions where she gets fifty dollars a pop for photos which is a rate, I might remind you, is far greater than the helpers get at the mall. So Krampus had settled for the evening when he was notified of Randall Fustworm.

Now the boy’s real name was not, in actual fact, Randall Fustworm, but the actual name of the child is somewhat ancillary to the whole business and if we had said his name was Jake Flattery and there were seven hundred really fine and upstanding Jake Flatterys and then one not so amenable Jake Flattery, well you could imagine what all of those other Jake Flatterys would feel if we called him out so we’ll call him Randall Fustworm and say no more about it. Randall Fustworm was a rather unhappy sort of young fellow and he acted out with vitriol and bitterness, or at least as much as young one of that age could muster and if anyone was well suited for the full Krampus treatment, it was Randall.

The full Krampus treatment was not, as you might imagine, some of the more unsettling activities that you might find online attributed to the spirit, for those were merely stories designed to stoke fear into the hearts of the young for the purposes of behavior management before the holidays, and one would think a horned, big clawed spirit showing up at your door would be enough to stoke fear into the hearts of young and old alike anyway. Krampus was more often than not responsible for distributing the coal to the truly naughty children and it would be understandable if one might wonder whether that this was the big red suited gent’s job for he certainly gets the credit for the activity nowadays but it was a task that had been allotted to Krampus and he handled it with all the joy and enthusiasm of a co-worker who chipped in a few dollars for the communal gift and has to sign the card.

Krampus reviewed the information on Randall and was satisfied that the situation warranted getting his rump off the wingback chair and furry feet off the ottoman for so he put Space Ninja Princess IV on pause because it wasn’t really to the “good part” anyway and in an instant was outside Fustworm residence.

The one aspect of holiday spiriting that children rarely appreciate is all of the paperwork that has to be signed before the spiriting activity can commence. On a stool in the living room where cookies and milk would normally have been placed, Krampus found the release forms that the Fustworm family’s legal representative laid out and Krampus found them to be properly signed and notarized.

Krampus entered Randall’s room to find Randall playing video games on some sort of electronic device and the first thing Krampus did was to confiscate the device.

Randall was not amused and shouted some not at all nice things which would not have been appropriate if they were spoken in a movie that wanted to keep its PG-13 rating like the original Space Ninja Princess film because Sarah Parsons was rather particular about that sort of thing.

Krampus surveyed the room, what he could see of it anyway for the clutter made the enterprise nearly untenable, and he asked the young man whether the benefits of seeing the floor had occurred to him. Randall offered suggestions of his own on the subject which were not at all suitable for description but suffice it to say that his suggestions, although possible for any holiday spirit, was not practical or safe. Krampus silently nodded as if to give the child some positive reinforcement for coming up with original and creative ideas at this late an hour.

But what Krampus found in sitting in the room was a feeling of absence. There were no trophies to signify either individual or team accomplishments; there were no sports uniforms, scout uniforms or really any clothing to signify a sense of belonging to any group at all. There was no evidence of any after school related activities either; it was as if the boy lived a solitary life mainly through the screens of electronic devices the likes of which Krampus had now confiscated.

Krampus pulled out a piece of coal and showed it to Randall.

Initially Randall did not know what it was and had a rather rude observation as to where the dark oblong object came from but Krampus did not take the bait. Instead, after a long pause, Krampus asked Randall whether he would enjoy distributing these objects to those who truly deserved them.

It was the first time Randall had been invited to participate in an activity that respected his intelligence and sounded like fun.

He asked whether he’d have to wear horns or furry feet but Krampus said he did not and the two spirited away for the night on a marvelous adventure.

They distributed coal mainly to adults who really ought to have known better than to act the way they did throughout the year and an inordinate amount of distribution went to executives at American health insurance companies who, in their heart of hearts, recognized that society would be much improved if they did something else for a living.

When the night was over Randall had a genuine smile on his face.

Krampus placed the electronic device on a stack of books on a shelf that seemed to be able to have some space to accommodate it and then advised Randall that next year he wasn’t going to step through this minefield of a floor again so he’d better get it straightened out if he wanted to help him again. Randall accepted the challenge for it was his choice with a proper incentive. On that year’s Christmas eve coal distribution, Krampus awarded Randall a blue ribbon that had formerly said “Best Ugly Sweater” which he had scratched off and written “Best Krampus helper” for Randall had earned the distinction and the ribbon found a place on the wall which, over time, became covered with achievements he earned while living in the household.

In the years that followed, Randall matured and as a teenager he wanted sleep more than he wanted to distribute coal and for a long time Krampus returned to his wing back chair and ottoman and eventually he returned the unread Chaucer book to the library during a “fine-forgiveness week”.

Approximately three decades later, when Randall had a family of his own, he traveled with them to Austria and he donned a ceremonial Krampus costume and tapped the sides of spectators with some branches during Christmas parades so long as they consented verbally to the practice and became one of the three or so Krampus helpers that year that the real Krampus considered “official” an Krampus decided it was not the quantity of helpers that was most important but the quality of the helping that truly mattered, and he shared those thoughts in a text message to his fellow holiday spirit and the jolly bearded gent texted him back some punctuation marks that looked like a smiling face when you turned the electronic device sideways and wished him a Merry Christmas.


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