“For heavens sake Klaus, stop coddling the little egg. He needs to learn to look after himself”, Mama Juovla was chastising her eldest son as he tied his little brothers shoe laces for him for the thousandth time, not even bothering to try explaining the bunny ears method any more. The ‘little egg’ had been Krampus’ nickname since he came creeping out of the womb six years ago, as round and white as a freshly peeled egg. Klaus had a nickname too, ‘the beanpole’, he stood a full five feet and seven inches at ten years old, and was as thin as a shadow. He had peaked at ten though, and would never grow even a whisker taller than this.
The boys parents had them when they were already well into their seventies. Mama Juovla didn’t start going through the menopause until she was one hundred and two years old. They’d had children as a vaguely bored afterthought, after over half a century of adventuring the globe together. They did have a feeling of some small sense of duty to pass on the magic and longevity they had both been genetically gifted with. Mama and Papa Juovla were warm and kind people who spent their retirement years smoking grass, laughing til their big bellies hurt, and starting various little projects that inevitably got abandoned a day or two later. It was one of these projects that would change all of their lives.
Papa Juovla used to say that he had sawdust in his blood, that he was the descendant of generations of holy carpenters. Krampus’ seventh birthday fell on the twenty fourth of December (previous and subsequent birthdays fell on the same day, birthdays being somewhat of an annual event), which was two days before Klaus’ eleventh. Papa Juovla spent every day in November working in his shed on a pair of little wooden sleighs for his boys. Those sleighs were the first and last project that he ever truly finished.
The first Sunday of December Mama Juovla went down to the local market and haggled the price of two flying reindeer calves down to a penny and a pomander. She had the face of a fat old farmhand but the confidence of a coked up beauty queen, and there wasn’t a thing in the world she couldn’t haggle down to as good as free. Mama Juovla named the calves Willie and Waylon and gave them to the boys as early birthday presents. Krampus took Willie, Klaus took Waylon. Each boy was responsible for getting up in the morning to feed their own reindeer. Klaus knew to feed Waylon lichen, birch and brown mushrooms, and Krampus would follow suit and do the same. Late at night when everyone else was asleep though Krampus would sneak out to feed Willie treats; the herbs his parents kept hidden in a tin, red and white toadstools, and nutmeg.
Papa Juovla was as proud as punch when he presented the brothers with their sleighs at six o clock on the morning of the twenty fourth of December, and the boys were over the moon . The three of them ate their salted porridge while Mama Juovla slumbered in bed. Wrapped up warm after breakfast they clambered onto the roof of their house with the sleights, some thick blankets and the calves.
There was a tense three days after the accident where it was hit or miss whether he would pull through, on day four Krampus finally woke up. Mama and Papa X pleaded with a terrified Klaus to go into the back bedroom, where he was bed bound, and visit his injured brother. If they were scared of how he might react then they were right to be. He didn’t gasp or scream when he saw his little brother’s red and bloodied face, or the gnarled bumps that had developed at the top of his skull, instead he said and did nothing. Krampus’ eyes were still bruised, shiny and swollen shut but there was a frigid silence that hung heavily in the stale air of his new room, and le him know that his older brother was seeing his new face for the first time.
Klaus walked out of the room, mouth still agape, without a word having been said between the two of them. It was, instead, his parents who gasped when they saw him, for every strand of coal black hair on his head had turned as white as the Arctic snow with the shock of seeing his sweet Krampus look like the kind of monster that haunts naughty children’s nightmares.
The next nine months Mama and Papa X became the kind of doting parents that only exist in straight to TV movies and Enid Blyton books, there wasn’t a thing they wouldn’t do for crippled Krampus. It was reasonably easy to cater to the every need of a boy who asked for nothing but charcoal crackers and cold water. Every bit of buttery fat fell of the boys body during this time, leaving his skin clinging tightly to bumpy misshapen bones. Klaus was forgotten about. He tended to himself, devoting his empty time to learning how to bake the biggest most beautiful cakes that eyes never set sight on. Every time he got that kicked-in-the-guts guilt sensation and the internal voice telling him to go talk to his brother, he buried his face in cake and ate til there was a new sensation in his stomach. It worked, to an extent, and this is how Klaus got fat.
Nine months of eating his feelings and Klaus looked pregnant, full term. “I’m leaving” he told the oven, “I’m gone” he told his old wooden bed, “I’m outta here kid” he told the cold bathroom sink. The aurora were out the morning he left, if his Mama had been awake she would have forbidden him to leave the house while the northern lights were doing their blue and green swirling light show in the sky. “Bad luck, beanpole”, she used to tell him when he would press his nose against the window and beg to go outside to stand underneath them. Klaus stuffed his entire toy collection and a couple of dense fruit cakes into a Hessian sack, threw on his Mama’s red maternity pyjamas and his Papas big black biking boots, then walked out of the front door. He set off into the snow, without one glance backwards, to find a new life for himself.
Klaus spent a couple of years very slowly heading north and when he got far enough he built himself a modest cabin and made a good living selling fancily iced cakes to the local people. It was a couple of days before his twenty second birthday (incidentally his little brothers eighteenth birthday) that he remembered he still had that Hessian sack filled with toys. When he thought there could be nobody awake in the sleepy little village that he called home, Klaus creept around with his big old sack, slowly emptying it into the discarded socks and stockings of local little children. There hadn’t been any crime to report of in at least seven centuries but when Margu was babysitting her nephews she locked the front door, and she was the only person to ever do so. In fact she had to make her own lock and key, melting her mothers jewellery down to do so. Klaus was on a gift giving high by the time he got to Margu’s house and wasn’t going to be deterred by something as inconsequential as a locked door so attempted to squeeze his big booty through the chimney. It was while helping him lube his way out and into the fireplace that Margu first realised she might be in love with Klaus “the cake man”. He spent the rest of the night rubbing her extra wide and doubly soft feet as a thank you for getting him unstuck, two days later they were married .
Margu and Klaus had been living together for twenty nine joy filled years, making a tradition of giving away toys on the same day every year without a hitch. Klaus had ended up needing a bigger sleigh and two strong reindeer to carry around the toys (which he bough wholesale from the East) so that he could gift to as many kids as possible. He called the reindeer Rudolph and Randolph, they were brothers sired by a stag that Margu had raised from birth. The annual gift giving on his brothers birthday helped with that kicked-in-the-guts feeling that was still with him, it could make it disappear for months at a time. He would stop needing so much cake, in fact some years come March he would be two xl’s instead of four.
Klaus woke up on the morning of his fifty first birthday as happy as a hippo in mud, went outside to feed Randolph and Rudolph lichen and birch while singing a ditty he made up about sleigh bells ringing. Rudolph was whining, weeping, snorting and kicking the red snow around him. Red snow? Klaus followed it, making deep pink footprints as he went. There lay Randolph, hooves chained to a tree with his throat slit open and bled out around him. Next to Randolph’s body, still visible despite freshly fallen flakes, there was a crudely drawn large K and R written in blood, maybe with a twig or long spindly fingers.
Margu was always late to rise. Early into bed and late out of it. Klaus would climb back into bed every morning after feeding the reindeer , he’d put a cup of hot cocoa with a dash of good whiskey on the bedside table for his beloved wife and then rub her feet til she was ready to get up again. It was one in the afternoon and already dark outside when Margu woke up, she began to worry when there were no warm hands rubbing her chubby little toes, no mug on the bedside table, no sugary morning kisses.
Curled up in a ball, wailing like a Greek widow and rocking back and forth was her husband. Still in the snow, next to Randolph. Klaus had never told her about his brother, she asked about his family once and he told her he had been hatched from a fat little egg. She wasn’t one to push something when someone clearly didn’t want to talk about it. The candle Margu was holding lit up Randolph’s sorry frozen body, she let out a long and heavy sigh. “My brother”, Klaus spat out through his thick beard and loud snotty sobs. “Go, find him”, she urged.
Rudolph led the way, he had a big strong nose and it sniffed out the man that snuffed out the life of his beloved younger brother. Deep in the dark forests of Bavaria the sleigh landed with an angry skid. From behind a wilting evergreen tree out jumped Klaus; skinny as a rake, naked as the day he was born, hairy as an old goat and holding large rusting chains in both hands. Klaus, being a man of honour, had bought nothing but his frostbitten knuckles with him to fight with.
“You’re a fat motherfucker now aren’t you?”.
He knew he was big;he saw the labels in his clothes and his reflection in the mirror, he felt his belly pushing against Margu when they made love. It hurt though. In that moment it didn’t matter that at least a hundred of his extra pounds were from cake he’d enjoyed with the love of his life, sat in front of a log fire, laughing just as hard as his parents used to. It didn’t matter because it wasn’t really about his weight, it was about everything. It was about guilt and grief, self hatred, and fear and loathing that could travel from Lapland to Lubeck. Klaus’ threw his body down with force onto his brother, belly flopping down like an angry old wrestler. Krampus fought back, wrapping chains around his brothers neck, pushing a preposterously long tongue from between his tombstone teeth and cackling as he did it. Klaus sunk his own (miraculously not rotting, despite the sugar intake) teeth into Klaus’ neck and wrangled the chains from him while he reeled. By the time that Klaus had got back up to his feet his spindly brother was up again as well and dancing circles around him. Klaus started whipping the chains, thrashing Krampus’ shadow, and trees and snow and falling stars. He whipped away into the night. He was drunk with rage, blind with it, completely and utterly empty headed with it. this was better than fucking or taking drugs or meditation, there was not one thought or movement in his head.
It was morning when the red haze finally cleared. At the snow, by his shiny black boots, lay his brother. Beaten to death, one lonely tear frozen halfway down his cheek and Rudolph eating his entrails. That fat velvety nose covered in guts, dripping blood, and permanently stained bright red.
And that, kids, is the story of how Rudolph got his red red nose.