Parts 1-11 are here.
Part 12: I heard the bulls on Christmas DayBully's eyes opened.
The brilliant sunlight streamed through the gauze curtains of the living room onto Bully's face. He blinked at it and turned over, stretching and yawning, closing his eyes...
...then snapping them open again in shock and surprise. It was Christmas morning! He leaped up, panicked. Where were his drawings? He had to wrap up his comic book presents for everyone! He had to get them under the tree or he would have no Christmas gifts for his friends...but no matter how fast Bully turned and twirled, looking wildly about him, his stack of homemade comic books were nowhere to be found.
Suddenly Blackie was there, rushing into the room in excitement, and Snuckles, and Marshall, and Ox, all yelling and cheering and jumping up and down, and pointing behind Bully wildly...
Bully turned, and stopped, and gaped.
Beneath the tree, so empty last night, now were presents. Dozens of presents, maybe hundreds of presents, ball-shaped and square, big and small, some in fancy rainbow foil wrapping, and some in plain red paper. Together he and his sister and friends ran up to the tree and rushed from package to package, and as John came in, slowly and sleepily, good naturedly complaining about the early hour and noise, Bully and his friends were dragging out boxes into the middle of the floor, reading name tags loudly: "For Snuckles!" "Merry Christmas to Gus!" "For Bully!" "For Marshall! XOXOXO Love, Bully!"
Bully stopped and stared. There, beneath the tree, were his comics...not in the haphazard stack he'd left them in as he fell into sleep on Christmas Eve, but wrappedeach one curled into a tight tube, each one tied with a bright colorful ribbon, each one labeled with a tag.
Bully stood back and chewed on his hoof in complete bafflement for almost a whole minute. Surely he hadn't done all that without remembering...?
If he hadn't, who had?
And his eyes fell on the cookie-crumb strewn Spider-Man plate, and the empty glass, sitting on the coffee table.
Bully lay, comfortably relaxing, in a pile of crumpled wrapping paper beneath the Christmas tree. It was only a few hours later, but the gifts were all long opened and admired; thanks had been given and hugs exchanged. Everyone cooed and awed at his bright colorful crayon drawings, declaring them the very best Christmas gifts of all, and Marshall had given him such a hug. Now Marshall lay curled up on the couch, carefully petting her new My Little Pony; Ox was hunkered down behind the couch reading his Western comic aloud in his slow gravelly voice to Pickles the Tribble; Snuckles and Blackie were busy playing a noisy and complicated game of catch with the new Nerf ball Blackie had gotten, and Bullywell, Bully was just plain exhausted.
He sat up with a start. "Oh oh oh!" he exclaimed in sudden shock. "Oh geez. I gotta go talk to Mister Vincent!"
"Chee, Bully!" scoffed Blackie. "What you wanna go do dat fer?"
Bully hung his head in sudden shame. "He gave me some money to buy something for him and I forgot to run the errand and accidentally spent the money."
"I shouldn't worry about Mister Victor anymore," said Marshall brightly from the couch.
They all turned to look at the tiny stuffed cow carefully. "Why do you say that, Marshall?" asked Snuckles.
"'Coz he's not next door anymore," Marshall explained with exaggerated patience. "He's gone away."
"Oh! Oh!" Bully's heart soared with sudden relief. "I bet I know what happened! I bet last night three mysterious ghostly strangers came by and took him around the city and showed him the true meaning of Christmas!"
"There were more than three," Marshall said, combing her purple pony mane carefully. "There were four. I counted them twice to make sure." She beamed proudly at her ability to count. "They came around last evening and took Mister Victor away."
"Four ghosts?" Bully said. He didn't remember the Christmas story happening that way.
"They weren't ghosts, silly." Marshall giggled. "They had blue uniforms. There was a big orange rocky one. And the one that was on fire was so cuuuuute! Anyway, Mister Victor's gone away." She went back to her mane-braiding with great serious intent, barely registering the immense relief Bully radiated at the news.
Bully, Snuckles, and Blackie looked at one another in surprise.
"Golly," said Snuckles. "That's kind of a deus ex..."
"Quiet, pinky," Blackie said good-naturedly, wrapping his arm around his pig friend's thick neck. "Never mind. It's Christmas. Dat kinda thing's allowed on Christmas."
Bully sighed in happy liberation at the news of Mister Victor's departure. He lay back in his nest of papers and a thought came suddenly to him, a memory of Effie saying, as clear as if she were standing underneath the tree alongside him: "This is the best Christmas ever."
"Yeah," Bully said to himself, grinning. "It is." He shifted in his pile of papers, suddenly uncomfortable for no reason he could tell. He reached down underneath his fuzzy tail to pat down the papers, and to his extreme amazement and surprise, poked something hard.
Much to his surprise, when he fished it out of the pile: it was a package.
Even more to his surprise, it was a package for him.
TO BULLY! the tag read. MERRY CHRISTMAS, TRUE BULLIEVER! FROM STANTA! 'NUFF SAID!
Bully tore open the paper with trembling hooves.
From out of the ripped paper fell a large paperback book, thick and heavy, landing on the floor with a satisfyingly heavy plop. Bully stared at the cover for a moment, his mouth open but not making a sound, stunned into speechlessness.
It was Essential Fantastic Four Volume 3.
He flipped through the pages swiftly, scarcely daring to hope. Are they in here? Are they in here? Fantastic Four issue #45, issue #46, 47...
He picked up the book and spun around in excitement and joy, laughing and giggling gleefully and singing loudly "La la la!", hugging the big heavy book full of action and adventure in his arms as he ran off to read the Galactus Trilogy, on a beautiful warm clear sunny Christmas morning.