Every year I write a Christmas story to share with the family. This year I decided to “go Dickens” and publish it in installments. So here is part four of four parts for the fourth Sunday of Advent. I hope you enjoy it.
Part One – Joseph wanted to sit in his big new room and toss shoes, but mom and dad were dragging him into Christmas because the grandparents were coming – and expecting a story.
Part Two – The Bible and his Canterbury story open him up to respond positively to Gabe’s invitation. Then the dog eats his story and his sister completes hers.
Part Three — Joseph has a terrible day but goes to the party anyway where he meets a nice girl. Then mom and dad show up.
Joseph had a long ride home and an even longer night. His mother was beside herself when he could not be found. And when she got into the safety of her own home, Dad could no longer restrain her out-of-body experience. Joseph had very little to say. He was caught red-handed and was fully humiliated. His parents picked him up at the party, which someone was sure to have seen. So much for Mary Jo and so much for ever being invited somewhere again. At the moment, his mother’s distress meant very little, since nothing bad had really happened. He was fine, sober, and back in custody.
He slept like a rock. But he woke up with a start before anyone screamed or nudged him. He looked around his room by the light of the neighbor’s floodlight and could not immediately remember where he was. It all seemed a bit new. He got up and took a shower, which he never did in the morning because he never had time. He got dressed and penitentially opened up another box to unload.
Soon Dad came in and Joseph looked at him with a with an almost-smile, like a tentative dog. His story-eating dog had followed him up the stairs and was much less tentative. He scratched her ears while Dad said, “I’m taking the day off and so are you. You are in English class all day. Finish your story and bring it to me before dinner.”
He could not remember much about his previous, dog-eaten story. At this point it seemed pretty dumb anyway. But anything he came up with today was bound to be dumb because he was dumb and everyone was stupid and his whole life was stupid. Nevertheless, he knew his father was going to make this work for his mother, who was apparently forbidden to talk to him just now, which was good. So he decided since nothing was going to work out anyway, he might as well just do whatever. By 3:30 he had two pages to give to Dad. He fell asleep. It was already dark when Dad came in. “JoJo wake up,” he gently whispered and nudged him.
He rolled over and told him, “It’s on the desk.”
So Dad went to the desk, sat down and started to read. “I am not sure I can see the pencil that clearly” — which meant he couldn’t read his handwriting or figure out what was written over the eraser smudges. “So I am going to read it out loud so you can correct me.” It was awkward not to get yelled at.
Joseph said, “OK,” took a breath, and sat on the edge of his bed. Dad read with as much expression as he could.
A Bus Full of Dogs
It was the second-to-last day before Christmas break and the bus was loading up for the rowdy ride to school. When the driver opened the door, dogs burst through in their school uniforms. The uniform fit German Shepherds well. Bull Dogs looked like bulldogs in it. And nothing fit Chihuahuas. Pomeranians refused to wear it at all and just came in naked fur, thinking they looked marvelous, which always got them in trouble, but you try to tell them what to do.
One dog got on the bus last, as usual. Nobody knew what kind of dog he was and neither did he. He was one of those dogs. He had giant paws from some ancestor and a skinny hindquarter from another. His uniform fit him OK, but nobody cared because they never really looked at him anyway.
Jesus shut the door behind him. Jesus was driving the bus because it was Christmas and he wanted the ride to be special.
The last dog had to sit by the drooling St. Bernard no one else would sit by because she was too big and could not resist licking. She did not resist this day either.
The dogs were very excited for the second-to-last day. Several had bits of Christmas paper stuck on their mouths where they had already been gnawing on presents. Others had cinnamon on their breath from stealing cookies off cooling racks.
Who knows how these things happen? But at one point a Pit Bull leaped from his seat in the back of the bus and latched on to a Poodle’s ear. She shrieked with such terror that everyone started barking and other dogs started biting. A Rottweiler pulled out a sword and stabbed a Russian Wolfhound. A Bloodhound and a Huskie began to howl together.
The bus began to swerve as Jesus tried to see what was going on in his big rearview mirror. He slammed on the brakes and all the dogs tumbled somewhere and looked up at him, dazed. He stood at the front of the bus facing them with his arms raised. “Peace. Be still.”
Every dog who saw him had eyes that swirled around like the teacups in Fantasyland. There was no more barking. It was like they got a shot of something before an operation.
The only dog that didn’t see him was the last dog. He was laying under a seat, half-conscious. The giant St. Bernard had immediately pounced on him when the fight started. He thought she might have broken his ribs. He tried to get somewhere, but someone grabbed on to his tail. Just as he jerked it out of their jaws, he head-butted a Pug who was flying overhead. He fell to the floor, dazed, and crawled under a seat.
That’s where he was when the bus stopped and Jesus said, “You can get off. Merry Christmas.” As the dogs filed off obediently, tails between their legs, Jesus kept saying, “Father forgive them because they don’t know they’re barking up the wrong tree,” which their own fathers had already warned them not to do.
The last dog was too afraid and too dizzy to get off the bus. He was afraid of Jesus too. So he just stayed under the seat. When Jesus took the bus back to the bus lot, he was still there when he locked the door. He got up and peaked around the little barrier by the steps to look at him walking away like Gandalf, talking to the sky and going wherever Jesus goes. He went back under his seat because he didn’t know what else to do. He went to sleep.
The next day it was still dark when he heard the bus door open. He got startled and hit his head on the bottom of the seat. Jesus heard it ding and said, “Who’s there?” The last dog said nothing. “I can hear you breathing,” Jesus said. “I basically know everything, you know.” The last dog stayed hidden. “I can smell you. I know exactly how you smell.” The last dog looked at his paws and shivered. Jesus got down on all fours and went sniffing along the bus floor until he got to his row. He slowly turned his head and looked him right in the eyes. “At last, I have found you, Wonderdog,” he said.
For some reason, the Last Dog stopped shivering and his head stopped hurting.
“You must be hungry,” Jesus said. “I made cinnamon rolls for 5000 dogs one time. You probably heard about that.”
Dad sat for a minute and breathed kind of funny. It felt like a long time. He rubbed his eye. Joseph thought he might have to write the story over.
He finally looked up and said, “I hope this is the first of many stories you tell, JoJo. You are quite a wonder dog, son.”
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