The 2002 Holiday Project

Pogo: A Probably Pogo Christmas

Dark Mark

The voices rang out above the swamp:

"Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., and Kalamazoo!
Noraās freezinā on the trolley,
Swaller dollar califlower alleygaroo!
Donāt we know archaic barrel?
Lullabye lillaboy Louisville Lou,
Trolley Molly donāt love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullaballoo!"

Pogo Possum held one side of a Christmas carol book, Churchy La Femme held the other side, and Albert the alligator fit in the middle between them, not holding anything except his cigar. None of them could read music or bothered much with the words. It was all improvisation, and nobody complained.

Howland Owl was tinkling the ivories on an old upright that had found its way into Pogoās shack. "I has got a complaint," he decided.

Albert looked at him, replaced his cigar in his mouth, and puffed it aggressively. "And what might that be, oā peerless raiser of the piano bar?"

The owl took off his glasses and polished them under a wing. "It be none other than the name of the songs what we are singinā, Albert. Itās plumb discriminatory."

Pogo looked around the edge of the song book. "You mean, what we are singinā, Howland?"

"That is precisely what I has said, Pogo. ĪWhat we are singinā.ā You could make a color Zarex of my words and they would be pre-cisely what came out of your mouth subsequently."

"Owl, you is bats," decided Churchy the turtle. "What is discriminatory about the name of a Christmas song? Elucidate, if you pleases."

"I pleases, Churchy," retorted Howland, drawing up to his full height of two and a half feet. "Have you not ever contemplated why we all calls them ĪChristmas Carolsā? Why does we not, instead, call them ĪChristmas Hortensesā, or ĪChristmas Daisiesā, or ĪChristmas Louisesā? Simply naminā them after one girl ... why, Iāll bet some young rake did it just to impress the gal he was datinā at the time, and Iāll give you three as to what her name had to be."

"Just so long as you donāt call Īem ĪChristmas Evesā," observed Albert. "That would be plain out confusicatinā, especially on the twennyfourth."

"Donāt get me started on another bit of naminā discriminatinā, Albert," said Howland, "Īcause Iām plumb busiest expostulatinā on this one. Anā furthermore, the naminā of Christmas songs after a woman is plumb genderismist. Itās unfair, and unfair is unAmerican."

"You take that back!" roared Albert, coming out from behind the songbook and pointing one green finger at the owl. "I has been to some wonderful fairs in America, not includinā the one I went to in Baton Rouge ... that one was givinā away shirts with a positively ugly symbol on Īem when you busted three oā them itty bitty balloons."

Pogo looked at him curiously. "What was so positively ugly about Īem, Albert?"

"The poor fools thought they knew how to draw an alligator, without usinā me for a model."

"Oh," said Pogo.

"To return to my earlier pointö" began Howland.

"Oh, must you?" asked Churchy. "I was kinda hopinā it had been worn down and not resharpened by now."

"öthe naminā of Christmas Carols discriminates against men. They donāt even discriminates against hurricanes no more. No sir! You see them Hurricane Mikes and Hurricane Sidneys up there with all them Hurricane Ethyls and Hurricane Brunhildas, and do you hear one bit of complaint about it? I should think not! Them hurricanes is genderically integrated now, and them is a happier bunch for it."

"How have you arrived at that information, oā owl?" asked Albert.

Howland fixed him with a steady gaze. "Lissen, son, has you ever heard a hurricane complain since they been doinā that?"

"Well, no, but÷"

"My point is established."

Albert decided he couldnāt argue with that, and shifted his cigar.

"Well, then," said Pogo, "ifān you think that callinā Īem Christmas Carols is discriminatory, what would you be substitutinā in its place, Howland?"

The owl fluffed up his chest feathers and looked proud. "Is you ready?"

"ĪBout as much as Georgia was for Sherman."

"We shall henceforth call them ... Christmas Carolines!"

All three dropped their jaws. When Pogo found his, he said, "Christmas what?"

"Carolines! Itās perfect. Pree-serves the traditional, whilst pointinā in new directions by a simple alteration. Not unlike givinā the Statue of Liberty that new paint job."

"Howland, the Statue of Liberty didnāt get no new paint job!"

"She didnāt? Dad gum! Then make the goverāment give back all that money they raised to do it, then! I swear, the Bobcat Brothers couldāa done the job by this time. And they still aināt finished caulkinā my boat for next summer!"

"Prolly Īcause it aināt next summer yet," said Churchy.

"Details, always details," Howland grumbled. "The devilās in Īem, and the devil with Īem."

"Wrong kinda mood for a Christmas time, Howland," proclaimed Albert. "Before usāns start in on the Christmas feast÷"

"The forthcominā must be important ifān you puts it before food," observed Churchy.

"÷I thinks it would be appropriate if each of us declares what we think of when weāuns hears the word ĪChristmasā. What about you goinā first, Churchy?"

"Gots to admit, the name ĪSanta Clausā strikes a familiar note."

"Well said, son. And÷"

"And this time he better bring me a Teenage Mutant Ninja suit what fits!"

"Youās heard from awready, Churchy. What of you, Pogo, mah frenā?"

Pogo said, humbly, "I thinks of the birth oā the Lord, Albert. Thatās what I thinks about."

"That is a proper and fittinā thing to think about on Christmas, Pogo. Now, myself, I gots to admit I thinks of the turkey, anā the dressinā, and the cranappleberries, anā the chawklit cake, anā..."

"But we only gots fruitcake on Christmas, Albert!" said Pogo.

"Son, has you ever eaten any fruitcake?"

Pogo looked regretful. "I confesses to tryinā to, at one time."

"Then you-all knows why I thinks of chawklit cake, Īstead of that! Now, Howland, that only leaves you. What-all does you think about, on this festive occasion?"

Howland Owl looked up from the piano and said, without smiling, "Simple J. Malarkey."

There was silence longer than the space between bands on an old 33 1/3 rpm record.

"Simple J. Malarkey?" Churchy eyed the owl with suspicion. "Man, I tries not to think of him on any times of the year, much lessān Christmas."

"Amen, Churchy," said Albert, with gravity. "That old blunk-eyed wildcat wif the blunderbuss what appointed hisself political boss of the swamp, as long as he had ammo, and shared the authorities wif Mole Macaroni, as long as the latter had bullets, too ... whuffo you thinks about his terrifyinā self at a time like this?"

"Is it...because yāall thinks he could come back?" said Pogo, quietly.

Howland Owl shifted his gaze to Pogo.

"The story goes that Malarkey and Mole done each other in, down part oā the swamp even Albert wouldnāt be caught in lessān he wants to end up on somebodyās feet or carryinā their laundry. But we aināt never for sure. Nobody has ever seen a body. Or even both bodies. Nobody never seen Malarkey or Mole ever since that day they both ran into the Deep Swamp. Nobody."

Pogo considered Howlandās words. "But whyās you think about Malarkey at a time like Christmas, Howland? It would seem more appropriationate ta think about him at Halloween time, or maybe on a real bad April Foolish, or ..."

"The times we feels most secure, Pogo," confided Howland, "is the times what sometimes makes us feel most insecure. And there aināt nobody makes mahself more insecure, not even that crazy-eyed Jack Acid Society, than Mr. Simple J. Malarkey." Silence for another long beat.

Churchy cleared his throat. "Albert, wasnāt you sayinā somethinā about Christmas dinner?"

"Ifān I wasnāt, Churchy, paint me orange, tie me to a stick, anā use me for a Halloween scarecrow," said Albert. "Leads me to the turkey."

"That wonāt do no good," said Churchy. "The turkey is stationary, till we-unās moves it from the stove to the table. We leads the turkey to you."

"Sounds like a proposition I can vote for. You cominā, Pogo?"

"What? Oh, shoā, Albert. Fer shoā."


Even Christmas parties have to end sometime, and once the turkey had been reduced to bones and everything else had been reduced to plates, save for the untouched fruitcake, Pogo saw his guests to the door. Then he trimmed the lamp, went to his bed, turned down the covers, and got in. He sighed with the satisfaction of good food, good company, and the best holiday on the whole calendar, in his estimation.

But sleep wouldnāt come so easily. The words of Howland Owl conjured up a terrible image in his mind. There had been some fearsome folk in the Okeefenokee Swamp over the years, but none quite so awful as the tyrannic wildcat with the shotgun and the unquenched thirst for power. That face could still give Pogo the shivers on a summer day when he remembered it.

Malarkey had to be dead. A Īcat like that couldnāt be hidden out that long. His lust to control the people of the Swamp would lead him to operate in the open.

Wouldnāt it?

Besides, Mole hadnāt shown either. If one or the other of them had survived, theyād have come back to try their tricks again. Wouldnāt they?

At any rate, even if either or both of them had survived, neither of them would come back on Christmas. They just couldnāt. After all, this was a time of peace. A time when everybodyās guard was down. A time when people were sleeping off the effects of a big dinner, or bleary-eyed from helping Santa Claus with the presents for their kids. Somebodyād have to be a real monster to pull something like that on a night like this.

A real monster ...

Somehow, though he couldnāt tell you how or when, Pogo Possum went to sleep.


And this is what he dreamed:

ĪTwas on a misty Christmas Eve, that night of hope most pious,
(When all are hoping for the gifts most sane folks would deny us),
That Pogo rose from his warm bed, though part still lay there sleeping,
And walked through open door to see what Darkest Swamp was keeping.

He passed by Mrs. Beaverās home, and other habitations,
Although about this journey he had many reservations.
His spirit seemed material, so Pogo kept on walking,
But couldnāt say what sort of goal it was that he was stalking.

Now, just what drew him onward? A force of some attraction,
That kept his feet a-moving on, allowing no distraction.
He covered miles in minutes, which was really quite a showing. But Pogo didnāt notice it; his fear was quickly growing.

"This is no thing to undertake when Christmas Eveās in session!",
Thought Pogo, trying to keep his courage further from recession.
"Why am I out here walking? And whatās my destination?
And if I go much further, will I need a reservation?"

But though he sought for answers, there was not a one forthcoming.
So Pogo did resign himself unto his moonlight bumming.
And thus it was he found himself outside his usual stomp,
To find himself upon the outskirts of the Darkest Swamp.

The possum looked upon the scene with greatest trepidation,
And felt his heart (what passed for it) in massive palpitation.
The Darkest Swamp with trees beset to obscure most of moonlight,
Was not a place to set oneās foot at Christmas Eve on midnight.

It was beset with snakes and spiders, dangerous and deadly,
Whose merest bite could leave the bitee looking awful redly.
To keep his body out of there, poor Pogo was a-wishinā.
Alas, he found his feet no longer obeyed his volition.

He gulped and shivered as he stepped within the dark and muddy,
And tried to keep his feet from all the spots that seemed most cruddy.
He thought, "Whateverās pulling me, I hope that it is knowinā
A lot more than I am about the place where I am goinā!"

There were some eerie noises, and some grasses softly rustling,
A growl, a hiss, a caw or two, and noises of some bustling.
It might have been just Mynah birds or maybe a boll weevil,
But Pogo was suspecting something more a Christmas evil!

Like compass point to North Pole he was drawn in one direction,
Until into a clearing his feet made their predilection.
There was one feature on that site, which made him feel quite creepishö
A pit both dark and foul and dank, and naturally most deepish.

It was at that point Pogo halted all his forward motion,
And fought to keep from giving fear his undenied devotion.
But then he saw a sight which caused him petrified to stand:
Upon the rim of that dark pit there did appearö-a HAND!

And Pogoās knees were knocking as the rest came into view,
Appearing just above the rim, a glowing eye, then two.
A moonlight-sparkled blunderbuss (its deadliness, now mark ye)
Was slung upon the back of smiling SIMPLE J. MALARKEY!

The blank-eyed wildcat hauled himself above the hole vacated,
Then took his gun in hand, whose arguments were not debated.
"Itās Pogo!" he exclaimed, and set his mouth to all a-grinning,
"To think youāre my reward for years of unexceeded sinning!"

"Now, hold on, Mr. Simple," Pogo found himself proclaiming,
"What brought you back tonight? It could be Christmas youāre defaming!"
"Christmas? Bah!" the wildcat said. "In my Infernal City,
The mention of that dayās been banned by my own SUB-Committee!"

And Pogo thought to turn and run would be a better reasoning,
If heād not be converted by gun to spaghetti seasoning,
So he did turn and start to make a mad dash for the border,
But blunderbuss did blast, while Simple shouted, "Point of order!"

So Pogo Possum in his tracks did freeze, and that seemed wise,
And "Turn around!" came from the wildcat with the blanked-out eyes.
Obeying, Pogo hoped heād find that this was truly dream,
But Simple stood there solidly, and Pogo choked a scream.

"Thatās good, māboy," said Simple. "Let me speak of my return,
"Of politics and power tricks within the realms that burn.
"I made a deal to come back here, to this dear swampy place,
"And to establish therefore the Hadean Forward Base!"

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Simple," Pogo did declare.
"This piece of soggy real estateās no place for you to chair!
"The peaceful folk about here have no need for you to rule,
"Especially since you came back here within the time of Yule!"

The wicked wildcat looked as though he was prepared to cuss,
But did instead take hold of threatening blunderbuss.
He levelled it and said, "Now, Pogo, try this on for size,
"The man who would reject my rule÷well, heās the man who dies!"

And Pogo looked into the maw of Simpleās deadly gun,
Admitting to himself he might not greet the morning sun.
A choice he faced, he had to stand, itād do no good to run.
And yetö-of all the swampish folk, why was he made the one?

The one to stand before this fiend and his big blunderbuss,
The one who faced this ugly, mangy, grinning cuss,
The one who had to face a choice of death or tyranny,
The one who had to stand or fall for all the swamp to see?

A quiet choice did Pogo make, as he faced Simple J.,
For courage is but fear when it has gotten time to pray.
His tiny shoulders he did square, he set his hand on hip,
He said to Simple J. Malarkey, "Simple÷LET HER RIP!"

The wildcat growled and aimed his gun at Pogoās face,
Intending soon thereād be less possum in that place.
But as he squeezed his trigger, causing Pogoās face to pale,
The shot went wild as one behind did tug on his coattail!

The blankened eyes of Simple J. looked madder than a hatter,
As he did turn his head to find precisely what the matter.
But quickly he did wish he hadnāt looked into that hole,
For holding coattail in his hand was one familiar mole!

"Remember me?" said Macaroni, smiling in his way.
"Remember all the fun we had below, dear Simple J.?
"If I forget the gaiety, Iād just as soon be hung,
"You breaking all my fingers and me treading on your tongue!

"I couldnāt let you get away!", Mole Macaroni said, and hauled him down,
"It wouldnāt be the same without you in Infernal Town!"
"Now, Mole, release me!" Simple begged, "to stop me would be snarky!"
Mole dragged him down. "We simply couldnāt do without Malarkey!"

And Pogo watched a sight that chilled him to the very soul,
As Simple J. Malarkey was dragged down within that hole.
The flame-light died, the dark returned, and calm returned at last.
And if thereād been a testing there ... well, Pogo guessed heād passed.

He looked into the sky, from which the mist had seemed to fade,
Gave mental thanks to that which helped him to survive that promenade,
And said, "I didnāt think to spend my Christmas night as such,
But if this is a Christmas gift, well, thank you very much!"

A star did seem to shine right then, much brighter than the rest,
And Pogo sat upon the ground, reflecting on the test.
He wondered if heād be in Darkest Swamp till morning broke.
That was the moment Pogo Possum finally ...



Pogoās eyes opened, and he wondered if itād do to scream. But no, he might have woken somebody up if he did that, and that would be impolite. So he looked around, saw light poking in the curtains, felt the weight of his bedcovers, smelled the familiar wood-smells of his house and that of the leftover food in his larder, and decided screaming would be a waste of good energy. He padded out of bed in his nightshirt, poked his face through the doorway, saw nothing more threatening than his living room and kitchen, and decided that, if he was still in a dream, it would be a good thing not to face it on an empty stomach. So he fixed up a breakfast of ham, eggs, toast, and grits, and ate it all handily.

The Christmas tree still stood in his living room, and the presents his friends had given him were still wrapped. Thereād be time to unwrap them later. Right now, he felt like going out calling. So he washed up, put on his best striped shirt, and strode out into the Christmas day.

He said hello to Beauregard the dog, to P. T. Bridgeport, to Miz Beaver and her clan, and to all the talking insects he passed. To each of them he wished a merry Christmas, and they wished it back to him. He didnāt stop until he reached the homes of his three best friends, Albert, Churchy, and Howland Owl, and told them all the same thing: "Iāll treat yāall to breakfast ifān you take a trip with me on the swamp boat!"

With that kind of a choice, all three of them saw their way out of bed early.

And so it was that, before long, all four of them were in the flatboat, the one with the big "W. K." on the end of it, with Pogo poling them all down the bayou. It was a crisp morning, not exactly cold, but brisk, and the sun was shining mightily for a Christmas morning.

"Anā how much did Santa Claus manage to export down your chimbley, Albert?" inquired Churchy laconically.

"Consideramble," answered Albert, puffing on his stogie. "I done been gifted with a supply of some of the finest 5-cent seegars Iāve seen in much a time. Anā you, Churchy?"

"My wishes done finally went through customs," said the turtle, both hands behind his head as he lay against the side of the boat. "I done found me a mask, a plastic sword, and a big hat with one oā them feathers stuck in it. Gonna be a true-blue Mutant Ninja for Halloween!"

"Churchy, I donāt recollect any of them Ninja Whatsises havinā a hat with feathers," allowed Albert. "That sounds more like that character, whatās his name, Touchy Turtle or somethinā?"

Churchy sat up and pointed a finger at Albert. "Now, you hesh! Ifān none of them four Ninjas is bright enough to wear a hat as a fashion statement, that there is their loss! Me, Iām more in touch with current couture. Bare heads are as outta fashion as they were pre-JFK. After me, allāa them is gonna be puttinā hats in their kits, alongside their bang-sticks and barbecue forks."

"WHATever," sighed Albert, and Churchy subsided.

Howland peered at Pogo. "Are you sure completely oā where youāre navigatinā us?"

"Pretty much so, Howland. Why?"

"ĪCause it kinda seems like youāre driftinā a mite close to the Darkest Swamp."

"It do, donāt it? Well, I Īmagine I can avoid that entiresomely, Howland. Never fear."

"Fear," said Howland, and crossed his wings. "Hmph. I kin see Darkest Swamp from here, but yāknow somethinā, Pogo? Today, I donāt seem the least afeard of it."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing, Howland?"

"Iām not certainsome, Pogo. But it is a thing. I can tell you that much. It is a thing."

Pogo smiled and put the pole against the river bottom again. "Tell me somepinā, Howland."

"Tell you what?"

"Dāya think evilās even present on Christmas Eve?"

"Whyād ya ask, Pogo?"

"Just Īcause."

Howland scratched his head. "Well, son, I guesstimates Evilās present everāwhere. As much in our section of the swamp as in the Darkest. Anā I imagines that if itās present everāwhere, then itās also present everāwhen. That seem reasonamble?"

"Reasonamble to me," said Pogo.

"However," Howland said, "if an evil showed its ugly head on Christmas Eve, itād have to be some whopper of an evil. Thatās what I think."

"Yāall might be thinkinā good, Howland."

"Yessir. And if there was some whopper of an evil, itād seem to me that thereād be an even bigger whopper of a good to put it down. Because I canāt imagine the Powers That Be would allow anything like that to get the upper hand on Christmas Day." Pogo smiled.

"At least thatās my feelinās on the subject. What does you think, Pogo?"

"I think you be firinā on all V-8 cylinders, Howland," said Pogo. "Your thinkinās all right, to my thinkinā. And Howland?"


"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

"What brought that on?"

"Maybe just a dream."

"Well, then," said Howland, "Merry Christmas to yāall, too. And pleasant dreams."

Pogo poled the boat past Darkest Swamp, and kept on, in the direction of the sun.

The End


Pogo and other characters are copyright of the estate of Walt Kelly, their creator. No money is being made from this story, no infringement is intended.

Merry Christmas to all, especially those in Walla Walla, Wash., and Kalamazoo.

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