The plan was hatched and the two boys went on their way. They knew their mother would sleep soundly, though they had no idea what sleeping pills were. Michael and Manfred only had to wait until their father had also passed out from all the drink, as he did without fail every evening, so they could get the keys to his truck and get on their way. Although only twelve years old, Michael’s father had let him drive around the fields with his truck since he was ten, teaching him to drive. The boy was sure that his father just wanted a designated driver as soon as possible. His younger brother sat next to him in the truck and, after a reassuring nod to each other, they drove off towards Ludwig’s farm.
It was much easier to break in to Ludwig’s barn than they had anticipated. The key was under a crockpot next to the door. There were so many people from the village passing by at all hours to drop off presents and decorations that Ludwig decided to leave the key there. The presents weren’t very big, so it only took them an hour in the middle of the night to fill up the truck and get away with all the presents that had been put there so far.
They drove out of the village and took a small path into the forest, where they knew they would find a cave ideal for hiding the presents. Often, the two boys would hide there when their father was drunk and in a mood for shouting at them or their mother. No-one noticed that they had left and nobody noticed when they came back home.
Gary sat outside the farm door, staring at the sky. He was so bored, waiting for the snow to come. There wasn’t really anything he could do to help Ludwig with the party preparations directly so he went inside and tried to convince the young farmer that he could act as his secretary and at least make phone calls and arrange things for him. With the help of a voice-controlled phone he could comfortably call different people for him and help like that. No fingers necessary.
Ludwig was sceptical as to whether he should teach his crazy talking goat how to use his mobile phone. He could imagine Gary having endless conversations with the smug voice in Ludwig’s phone. His data package would probably be rapidly consumed from watching too many videos of fainting goats, goats singing TV show themes, goats in trees, goats in totes and goats in floating tires sporting the title ‘whatever floats your goat’.
Eventually, Ludwig had to admit that he was so overwhelmed with the organisation that he agreed. He was surprised how quickly his goat figured out how to make his phone do things by talking to it. Only a few hours later, Gary — pretending to be Ludwig’s visiting cousin — phoned round the neighbours and friends in the village to make sure everyone was helping out and to answer any questions that they might have. Since he was always at Ludwig’s side, he already knew exactly what was going on and who did what. Ludwig started to wonder if his goat’s secret super power was project managing and party planning.
“I hate Christmas,” Manfred turned to his brother.
“Me too,” the other kid nodded.
“It’s just going to be worse this year, isn’t it?”
“Probably, yes,” Michael looked at his hands.
He had overheard his parents talking about the huge Christmas party in the village, about all the presents that were piled up in farmer Ludwig’s shed. Unfortunately, he had also overheard them arguing about all the drinks and cigarettes his father had spent his Christmas money on and the imploring question of his mother how on earth they would buy Christmas presents for their two boys.
“It’s bad enough that I always have to hear what everyone else got for Christmas when school is back on, I really don’t want to have to watch them getting nice presents, whilst we get socks and jumpers,” Manfred said, trying hard not to cry.
“I know, me neither,” his brother hugged him tight.
“It’s not fair, no one should get presents. Then they would know what it’s like and stop making fun of us…”
Michael looked angry and disappointed at the world.
“Maybe there is something we can do about that.”
“But they’ll stare at me! And they have sticks and I’ll be prodded and poked like a… a…”
“Biology experiment?” asked Ludwig.
Gary nodded vigorously.
“Exactly! They might discover my secret superhero identity and that will be the end of Captain Myotonic.”
“Gary, they’re primary children, not private investigators. I promised Madeleine that I would bring take you to her biology lesson so that the kids could learn how to deal with animals that aren’t pets. They’re making all the decorations for the Christmas party, so it seems like the least we can do.”
Gary paced around in a circle, tutting every few paces and sighing occasionally for added effect.
“WE can do? You’re not the one under the microscope here. I don’t suppose you dared to tell your pretty teacher that I’m far more than any pet that any of those kids has at home, did you?” he asked.
“Look, it’s not hard. All you have to do is stand there for a few minutes, run away from the kids if they come too close, chew on some grass and — most important of all — not speak a single word. The teacher will talk about farm animals in general and goats in particular for a few minutes and that’s it. No experiments. No prodding…”
“And there will be Kaiserschmarrn?”
“Mister, you’ve got a deal.”
The plans spread like wildfire in the village. Between conversations over fences, at the tiny supermarket’s cash register, at knitting clubs and at the bus stop, the adults in the village managed to get the news around without revealing their plans to the children. One after one, they arrived at Ludwig’s farm, bringing presents, carefully labelled, to be stored in the barn until Christmas. Many of the grown-ups were glad that someone else would be taking care of most of the work involved in Christmas. Those who had unwanted plans, now had an excuse to get out, while others had the chance to spend Christmas with their loved ones and the whole village at the same time. And the most unfortunate, those who had nobody to spend Christmas with, wouldn’t be left alone either.
Everyone who came to drop off the presents for the party agreed to contribute something. Some would bring cookies, others drinks, benches and tables, and so on. Ludwig had moved his computer onto the small table in the hallway and started a massive list on it, so he could take notes immediately, as people arrived. He was so exhausted by each evening that he was glad the farm itself needed a bit less work in winter.
The only thing that was missing for the perfect Christmas fete was snow, as Gary pointed out at numerous times during the day. He had tried to come up with a range of plans for how he and his super powers could bring snow to the village. The only problem was, so far his only superpower was to faint slightly less when he was excited. And a cape on a goat might attract many things, but snow was not one of them.