Jingle Bell Rick
A warm sensation washed over the homeless man huddled in the doorway of an abandoned building and drew him to consciousness. Other homeless people knew him simply as Rick. At this time of year, however, they’d call him Jingle Bell Rick. Years before, he learned that wearing a Santa hat during the holidays made him seem less scary when he approached people for money.
This particular morning it wasn’t the sun that brought heat to his semi-frozen form. It was a stray dog relieving himself. And relieving himself. And relieving himself.
“Awwww.” he said.
This startled the dog and stopped the urine flow. As he sat in his urine-soaked clothes, he grumbled about how he awoke, but quickly realized he was happy for the warmth. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out what little remained from his last meal and offered it to the emaciated dog with the wiry, black, white, and gray coat. The dog’s ears, standing like twin Eiffel Towers, flattened and he devoured the tiny morsels. Jingle Bell Rick had a new friend. Memories of his best friend during childhood came flooding back and he smiled.
“You gotta name little man?” he said, petting the dog. He couldn’t find a collar beneath all the fur, but he did feel a small bump on the back of the dog’s neck. He knew Little Man was chipped.
“OK, I guess I’ll just call you Little Man. Let’s see if someone’s missing you.” he said. The dog wagged his stubbed tail so hard his entire backside shook.
The closest animal shelter was ten miles away and Jingle Bell Rick knew he needed to clean the urine from his clothes if he was going to be allowed on the bus again. He contemplated his prior fiasco with mass transit and the reek of bodily fluids and shook his head. Fortunately, there was a convenience store nearby with public bathrooms. He reached into his pocket for any lingering crumbs to entice the dog.
“Come on, Little Man, let’s go.” he said. Little Man followed. His gaze shifted between the pocket where food came from and Jingle Bell Rick’s eyes. As they walked to the convenience store, Jingle Bell Rick heard an audible pop in his right calf. The searing pain doubled the time it took to reach the convenience store.
After reaching the convenience store and cleaning up, Jingle Bell Rick realized he didn’t have enough bus fare to reach the animal shelter. With Little Man at his side and his Santa hat at a jaunty angle, it didn’t take long to beg for enough to cover bus fare. Scooping up Little Man and placing him inside his coat, Jingle Bell Rick boarded the bus to some raised eyebrows, but no one cared enough to raise a fuss over the undulations beneath his coat. Little Man settled down against the warmth of Jingle Bell Rick’s chest and slept.
Reaching their destination, Jingle Bell Rick stepped off the bus to the sound of an audible pop in his left calf. His body was definitely rebelling against him today. Something somewhere was broken or snapped or something, but Jingle Bell Rick focused on the slumbering form in his coat and walked the final block to the animal shelter.
Outside the shelter he recognized a lumbering, wheezing mass. He knew her as Annie, but the locals called her Trash Can Annie. People can be such dicks.
“Annie? Hey, it’s Rick.” he said. She coughed and wheezed then spat.
“Got any food?” she said. She opened her eyes halfway. She looked like she hadn’t eaten in a week or more.
“I got nothin’. I spent all my money on some water and a bus ticket for this little guy.” he said. He opened his coat to show the still slumbering dog.
“S’no big deal.” she said. Her head drooped.
“Hang in there, Annie. I’ll be back in a minute.” he said.
Stepping into the animal shelter raised every canine and feline alarm. His legs joined the alarm. The young, skeptical girl at the counter eyed him suspiciously.
“Uh, can I help you?” she said.
“Yeah, my name’s Jingle Bell Rick,” he said, realizing he had fallen into the stereotype everyone used for him, “and I need your help.”
He unzipped his coat and deposited Little Man on the counter. He saw her name tag said Jeri.
“Jeri, I found this little guy this morning. He doesn’t have a collar or tag, but I’m sure he’s chipped. Could you please see who he belongs to? Oh, and do you have any water or something to eat?” he said.
Jeri misunderstood and handed him a bottle of water and a few dog biscuits. It didn’t matter. He rushed outside and handed everything to Annie. She consumed everything without question.
“What the hell kind of crackers did you give me?” she said. Annie coughed a few bits of dog biscuit up with a large amount of blood.
A few minutes later, Jeri walked outside with an update.
“Um, Jingle Bell Rick, the dog’s name is Gunther and his owners have been notified where they can come get him. They should be here soon. There’s a reward for his return.” she said.
“A reward?” he said.
“Yes, $500.” she said.
He smiled thinking that should cover a visit to the clinic to see what happened with his legs. Annie coughed and spat up more blood. A short while later, a couple entered the animal shelter and walked out carrying Gunther with Jeri following behind. They stopped.
“This is the man who brought our baby in?” said the blonde woman.
Jeri nodded. The couple fished through their wallet and pocket book to find a fistful of money.
“Thank you, sir. We’ve been looking for this little man for a month. I know we said we’d pay $500 for his return, but in the spirit of the season, would you please accept $1000?” said the blonde woman.
“No,” said Jingle Bell Rick, “please call an ambulance and give the money to my friend, Annie. She needs it more than I do.”
Inspired by Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock (and my phone’s auto-correct)