Parts 1-5 are here!
Part 6: Last-Minute PurchasesFANTASTIC FOUR #49!
Bully felt light-headed and rocked back and forth unsteadily on his hooves. He examined the other two comics. Each was labeled. “REPRINTS FANTASTIC FOUR #48.” “REPRINTS FANTASTIC FOUR #50.“ His tail swished back and forth in involuntary excitement. Reprints! Reprints of the Galactus Trilogy! Hooray for reprints!
Bully climbed up onto the short box next to the books and stared, entranced, at the worn but glossy comics snugly sealed inside Mylar. The Silver Surfer soared, the Human Torch blazed, and the Thing clobbered their ways across the covers. That wasn’t Kirby art on the covers, for sure, but the labels promised authentic Kirby goodness inside, four-color treasures mixed into every shade of the rainbow, more brilliant and vibrant colors than even Bully could imagine (and he had the Crayola 64-crayon assortment box with sharpener). Glossy silver chrome, brilliant uniform blue, burning-hot red, pretty pretty blonde, hard rocky orange, and some colors Bully couldn't even begin to describe, exotic variations on the spectrum that he could find no words for and which actually hurt his head a little to look at. There were more colors here than the marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms. The bright bold lettering on each comic read MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS, and Bully realized that maybe this were the most aptly titled comic series after all: truly, he coule think of no better phrase to describe these miraculous comics than greatest.
He grabbed at the three bagged comics and held them closely to his chest, staring around nervously. Nobody better try to buy these first! he declared mentally, and his little black buttons eyes darted around suspiciously at the other customers. “Mine!” he squeaked, “Mine!”
THE GALACTUS TRILOGY!
And then Bully did something, a little thing, something he didn't expect to, didn't consciously intend to do, but so overwhelming was the allure of those comicsthe comics he had been dreaming of for months, no, even better than the comics he'd merely dreamt of, because now he actually was this close to owning themthat later on he would admit, with a little bit of shame and holding his horns low, that he really didn't know what he was doing, even though he did.
No! He didn't steal them! Whatever are you thinking?! Bully could no more steal something than he could fly to the moon. (Shame on you!)
What he did was this:
He leapt down from the box, clutching the comics in both arms and, as deliriously happy as a clam who has escaped a fish fry, Bully trotted off to the cashier.
If it had been any other day than Christmas Eve, five minutes before store closing, maybe the girl at the cash register would have noticed that her customer was a little stuffed bull. But by this hour on the busiest shopping day of the year, all she noticed was that he customer was a little short and she had to absently reach down and pluck up the three back issues from his hands (hands? she thought a few minutes later, her forehead scrunching in puzzlement), and ring them up. "Cash or charge?" she recited wearily, and a shower of change tinkled down onto the counter as those hands (hands?) turned over a little red plastic change purse and shook it out empty.
She counted out the crumpled ten dollar bill and a small pile of change, mostly dimes, consulted the register read-out again, and then with swift, practiced gestures, swept most of the change into her drawer, pushed back a few lonely coins into the change purse, and plopped a plastic bag with the comics and the receipt into the customer's hands (ummmm...hands?), and turned to help the next in her growing line of last-minute customers.
Bully stared dumbstruck at the five coins that jingled meagerly in his purse. "Excuse me, miss!" he said, his voice squeaking in nervous excitement. "Excuse me!" But the noise of a shouting customer above drowned out Bully's plaintive cry, and he wandered dizzily over to a display of plush Spider-Man and Hulk dolls and plopped, confused, on a thick cushion of sateen that gave him no comfort at all.
No matter how many times he counted the five coinsand he counted slowly and deliberatelythey always added up to a quarter, a dime, a nickel, and two pennies. He laboriously did the sums in his headdoing sums is much more difficult without fingers to count onand each time he arrived at exactly forty-two cents left in his purse.
He pulled out the receipt for the books and peered at it, scarcely believing what he saw printed at the bottom of the flimsy slip of paper:
BACK ISSUES: 3 @ $5.00
Bully stared at the paper until the store lights flashed on and off rapidly. Even he could understand that forty-two cents would not buy him a single pog, much less a Christmas comic book gift for anyone.
He stared up in despair at a cardboard Batman with a Santa Claus hat decoration hanging over his head suspended from the ceiling, and suddenly little Bully felt enormously ashamed. He had spent his Christmas moneyvery nearly all his Christmas moneyon himself.
An even deeper and darker dread fell over Bully as he sat there, and it licked at the corners of his brain. He’d had $6.73 in his change purse. How had he afforded something that cost $16.31…
Bully let out an audible gulp of shock and fear as he remembered Mister Victor pushing the ratty old ten dollar bill out the crack of the doorway at him. He was so overwhelmed with shock that he couldn’t even remember now what Mister Victor had told him to pick up, but he was fairly certain it maybe wasn’t comic books. Probably not.
He wondered briefly if Mister Victor would enjoy some Fantastic Four comic books. He wasn’t sure. Mister Victor didn’t seem like the sort of guy who liked fun stuff, especially classic comic books, but then again, nobody doesn’t like Reed Richard and company, right? Even that would be a delightful surprise for Mister Victor, wouldn’t it? The neighbor wouldn’t be mad at him if he showed up with some Ben Grimm-filled magazines, right? After all, it was Kirby. Kirby!
But even if he could placate Mister Victor with comics, he still had no gifts for Marshall and Blackie and Snuckles and Ox and John, and, to make it even worse, he'd gotten himself one instead. Bully now felt very small, and Santa-Batman glared down at him as if he were the naughtiest little bull in the world, a cowardly, superstitious thief. Which indeed he felt very much like.
The crowd in the store had thinned out; maybe now he could go up to the cashier, give back the comics, get his money backbut as he moved forward he was once more caught in a last rush of people moving towards the exit, and Bully found himself pushed and shoved and driven down and out until he stood on the sidewalk outside Jim Hanley’s, snow falling heavily on him. He made one last attempt to move back into the store, but the doors swung shut with a loud thunk and inside, Larry the Golden Age Guy locked the doors and hung up a sign: CLOSED: MERRY CHRISTMAS.
It was almost dark out now, but the bright Christmas lights of the Empire State Building did not cheer Bully as he slowly trudged down Thirty-Third Street back to the subway.
Oh no! Who will save Christmas now? Join us tomorrow for Part 7!