by: Kewl Dad
The following is a work of
fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely
coincidental. As far as I can determine it contains nothing illegal or
offensive and should be read by all who believe in and celebrate not
only Christmas but the magic of love and caring that often presents
itself at this wonderful time of the year. Be warned in advance: this
contains no sex, so if you are looking for a sexual story move on.
This story is the property
of Kewl Dad and should not be reproduced or reposted for monetary gain
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Rabbit: A Christmas Story
By: Kewl Dad
I was 21 in 1975 and I'd just moved to New York City to go to school. I had a full scholarship, but I worked part-time at a little cafe downtown just to have some spending money.
I lived on campus for a while, but a couple of us guys finally got together and moved to a crummy little walk-up on the fifth floor of a rent controlled apartment building. We'd drawn straws for the bigger of the three bedrooms and and I'd won which meant I had my own bath and enough room for a desk and chair.
It was about a week before Christmas when I first saw him. I was busing tables at the cafe and I saw this little nose pressed against the window. The nose belonged to a small boy who was watching a couple eat hamburgers and I swear he was drooling. I felt sorry for the kid of course. It was cold outside and he was obviously hungry. I wondered if he was one of the street kids you hear about all the time.
I finished the table and walked behind the counter to give George, the owner another order and when I turned around the kid was gone. I put him out of my mind hoping he'd be alright and went back to work, but when I got off at nine I looked around outside half expecting to see him.
I walked the six blocks to our apartment, did a little studying, and fell asleep still dressed. That was my life, school all day and working 5 nights a week at the cafe. It was no wonder I had no social life, but I loved New York, the energy, the people, and I was actually pretty happy.
I had the next two nights off but on Monday when I returned to work I kept looking for the little face at the window. I'd only glimpsed it for a moment, but I could remember every line, every feature of the little boy's face. He was cute like most kids that age (I guessed he was 10 or so) but he had a sad and lost look about him that made him appear older. His hair was long and unkempt, his clothes dirty and worn, in short he appeared to be your typical street kid.
It was getting close to closing time when I looked up and there he was staring in the window again. This time I was determined to do something to help him. I went to the front door and stepped out and called to him.
"Hey kid, come in. I'll spot you a burger."
But instead of accepting my offer he took off as fast as a jack rabbit and disappeared down an alley. I shrugged and went back inside. I guessed some people just couldn't accept help. Oh well, I had tried.
I finished up a short time later and headed home, a bag of burgers for my roomies in my hand and when I reached the end of the block there was the kid standing under an awning.
"Hey," I said with surprise, "Where'd you run off to earlier? I was gonna buy you dinner."
The kid reacted much as before but this time he only ran a short distance before taking up a spot under a different awning.
"Okay....well, how about if I just leave this bag right here and after I'm gone you come and get it. There's six burgers in there. They were for my roommates but they're fat enough." I said more to myself than to him, though he was watching me carefully and I hoped listening.
He stared at me with scared but hungry eyes and I gave him a big smile and set down the bag. My roomies could eat Ramen noodles. I backed away slowly and crossed the street all the time watching my little scared rabbit. Finally he ran up and pounced on the bag and disappeared down a side street. I was whistling as I bounded up the five flights of stairs to our apartment and found my roomies were out anyway. That was one bag of burgers they'd never miss.
The next night I looked for my little rabbit but he never appeared, but just to be safe I bagged up a couple of burgers and piece of apple pie and threw in a carton of milk. When I explained to George what I was doing he wouldn't let me pay for the stuff. I thanked him and walked out and there was my little rabbit waiting under the same awning as the night before.
I pretended I didn't see him at first, but I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he paced nervously ready to bolt at the slightest danger. As I neared I could almost smell his fear (among other odors) but so far he was standing his ground. I was almost there when he bolted, running a short distance ahead and then stopping and looking back at me as if it were some kind of game.
This went on for several blocks and I finally decided he was leading me somewhere. At the next street he turned right and after a moment's hesitation I followed. As I neared the middle of the block he veered to the right and went down an alley. At first I was reluctant to follow. I mean this was NYC and muggers were very common, not that they'd get much from me, but I liked my skin and wanted to keep it intact.
Cautiously I stepped into the alley and there he was a distance ahead near a dumpster.
"Hey kid, it's kinda dark back here....uh, why don't you come back out into the light?"
The kid didn't answer, instead he moved farther into the alley and disappeared. I didn't know what to do. I had no flashlight and no clue where the alley led so I placed the bag on the dumpster and shouted to him.
"Here, kid! Take the bag. I gotta go. Good luck buddy!"
Quickly I walked out onto the street and continued on toward my apartment. After a few blocks I realized I was being followed. It was the kid and I smiled as I noticed he was munching on one of the burgers as he walked behind just close enough to keep me in sight.
Well, I mused, if you feed a pup it will almost always follow you home and it seemed like this one was no exception. Problem was, I wasn't sure if I wanted this particular pup to follow me home. You never knew, maybe the kid was a decoy to attract some good Samaritan who'd later get his head bashed in and his pockets cleaned out.
It's sad that as a people we've become so cynical and I hated thinking that way, but this was NYC and anything could happen. There was an all night diner just ahead and I went in just to see what the kid would do. I ordered a cup of coffee and sat in a booth near the window, but the kid was nowhere to be seen. When I'd finished the coffee I paid the tab and walked out onto the sidewalk and there he was two doors behind me shivering in the cold.
"Okay, this is ridiculous," I muttered as I headed toward him, but before I could reach him he high tailed it back down the street and disappeared down an alley.
Exasperated I hurried on home but as far as I could tell he wasn't following me this time.
My roomies were already asleep so I skipped the studying and went straight to bed. There were no more classes until after the Holidays so I'd agree to work a couple of double shifts at the cafe and I needed the rest.
I went in at ten the next morning and worked during the lunch rush then took off a few hours to do some shopping. I was coming out of Macy's when I saw a flash of blue run past me, a Policeman chasing someone, and that someone was my little rabbit. He was certainly giving the cop a run for his money and I silently cheered him on hoping the fat old cop wouldn't catch up to him. The thought of that poor little kid in jail or worse at Christmas time mad me sad.
I went back to the cafe and got to work and tried to forget about the kid but I kept seeing his dirty hungry face and hoped he'd show up later when the heat was off. We were pretty busy that day as harried shoppers sought a place to relax and enjoy some home cooked food so I sort of forgot about the little guy until it started to get dark outside. I kept looking at the window hoping he'd appear and finally George asked me if I'd managed to get him to take the food the night before.
"Yeah, but he sort of led me on a wild goose chase," I said then explained what had happened.
"Poor kid. Well if he shows up you get him in here and old George'll fatten him up."
I smiled. George was a good guy and a great boss, but I doubted it'd be that easy.
At closing time I bagged up some burgers and pie at George's insistence and I headed out the door, but there was no sign of my little rabbit. I was worried he might have gotten nabbed by that cop, but a couple of blocks from the apartment I noticed a small figure huddled in a store front. I smiled and plodded on sure it was my little rabbit.
When I was almost to him the kid stepped out and blocked my path. I stopped quickly and held out the bag.
"You hungry Rabbit? I asked with a big smile.
"Rabbit?" the kid said scowling at me.
"Yeah, you run like a rabbit every time I get near you, so since I don't know your name I call you Rabbit."
"It's Joe...my name's Joe," he said taking the bag cautiously and stepping back.
"I'm Mike. Glad to meet you....at last....Joe."
The kid grinned, but only for an instant, "Where'd you go the other night? How come you didn't follow me?"
"Well, it was kind of dark down there and I lost you. Where were you taking me anyway?"
"To where I stay."
"I don't know...I thought you wanted to help me...that's all," he said clouding up.
"I do Joe, but I don't know what to do. I'm just a college kid working to keep my head above water. I don't know anything about kids or where to get help."
"I could live with you," Joe said simply, "I could pull my weight."
"I'm sure you could...all 70 pounds of it. How old are you anyway Joe?"
"10 but I'll be 11 in January. I'm strong for my age and real smart," he said proudly trying to sell himself.
I smiled, "I'm sure you are. Have you considered going back to school?"
"School's for rich kids, not street kids."
"What happened to your folks?"
"They croaked when I was 8 and I been on my own ever since. I used to live down by the docks in an old warehouse with a lot of street kids, but it got too dangerous. A couple of kids got hurt and one got raped and stabbed. I got scared so I moved out on my own."
"You live on the street and sleep in a box or something?" I asked incredulously.
"Not a box. I gotta warm place in an old building at the end of that alley. That's where I was takin you that time."
"Why don't you eat those before they get any colder," I said pointing at the bag of food, "We can talk while you eat."
"Come on, I know a place where we can sit down," Joe said leading me to a bench in front of a store further down the block. He dug into the sack and pulled out the milk first and took a big swig before unwrapping a burger and wolfing it down.
"There are places for street kids...places where you can stay and get good food and go to school, "I offered.
"Those places are awful. I know this one kid who tried it and they pimped him out. Sold his ass for 5 bucks a pop."
I frowned, "Joe I don't believe that. Most are run by churches."
"I don't care. I won't go to one of those places. I'd die first," he said growing more agitated.
"Say, why was that cop chasing you today anyway?"
"Oh that, you saw huh?" Well, I stole something from a store. That's all."
I laughed, "A toothbrush...well at least you're concerned about your oral hygiene."
He swiped a greasy hand across his mouth and laughed, "Didn't get any toothpaste though, so it's not much use."
"What am I gonna do with you Rabbit?" I sighed out loud.
"Take me to your place...please," he begged.
"I don't live alone Joe. I have 2 roommates."
"Do you all share a room?"
"No, but it's a small apartment. We each have our own bedroom, but there's no place for you to sleep."
"I could sleep with you. I don't take up much space, I don't snore, and I won't hog the covers. Come on....what do you say?" he begged.
He turned on the puppy dog eyes and my heart melted, "Just for tonight. Tomorrow we gotta find a permanent solution."
The kid was so excited that he practically danced along as I led him to my place. My roomies were out for the night so I was spared the ordeal of explaining why I was bringing home a dirty street kid, who once I got inside smelled really bad.
"No offense Joey, but you gotta take a bath. You smell like a trash dumpster," I said holding my nose.
"Okay," he said taking no offense, "got any bubbles?"
"Uh, no but I got lots of soap and shampoo."
I showed him my bedroom and led him into my tiny bath and started filling the tub. Joe stood quietly watching me looking as if he didn't know quite what to do. When the tub was full I laid out two huge fluffy towels and and handed him a washcloth.
"There is soap and shampoo in the caddy, don't be afraid to use all you need," I chuckled. Throw you clothes out when you get naked and I'll take em down and wash em. I'll see if I can find something for you to wear in the meantime."
I dug around in my underwear drawer and found a pair of briefs that had shrunk unmercifully and a tee shirt that was two sizes too small for me and hung them on the door knob, "There are some clean clothes for you on the door knob. I'm going down to wash your clothes now. Be back in a about ten minutes."
When I returned I found him sitting on the bed still toweling his long hair. The tee fit him pretty well and covered most of his body and digging in my drawer I handed him a pair of white tube socks and he pulled them on. They came up almost to his knees and so now most of his body was covered.
I went back to the basement and and put his things in the dryer and came back to find him stretched out on the bed fast asleep. He looked so much different now, clean and safe and warm he looked like any ordinary kid might after a long hard day. I smiled and pulled the covers up over him and he mumbled something in his sleep.
I went in and cleaned out the bathtub and took a quick shower and brushed my teeth, got dressed and went down to get his clothes from the dryer. My roomies were still out so I fixed myself a bowl of cereal and sat down in front of our crappy little black and white TV and watched Carson while I ate.
A few minutes later Joe came out looking sleepy eyed, but when he saw my cereal he gave me those hungry puppy dog eyes and I got up and fixed him a bowl. We sat side by side on the couch and watched the rest of The Tonight Show then I suggested we get some sleep. Though I didn't have to go to school I had to work 5-10 at the cafe.
We piled down in my bed and a few minutes later I heard my roomies come in.
"My roomies are home," I said quietly, "so it's best you don't go wandering around. They might not understand why you're here."
"Are they mean?" Joe asked frowning.
I laughed, "No, but this is kinda weird and I'd rather not have to explain if I can help it."
"Oh, okay. No problem. Goodnight Mike....and thanks," he said reaching over to hug me awkwardly.
I hugged him back as best I could and said, "Goodnight Joe. And you're welcome."
"Mike?" he said sleepily as he snuggled into his pillow.
"Yeah," I replied softly.
"You...can call me Rabbit if you want....I don't mind. I..sorta like it," he said smiling.
I tousled his hair and I smiled back at him, "Goodnight little rabbit."
I lay there listening to his soft breathing until it was replaced by gentle snoring and in his sleep he snuggled closer, his warmth wrapping me up like a favorite blanket. I felt content and needed and soon I joined him in contented slumber.
I awoke once or twice confused by the worm softness pressed against me then remembered it was my little rabbit snuggled up beside me and went back to sleep. Once I awoke as he stirred and padded off to the bathroom, returning a few minutes later he paused long enough to give me a quick kiss on the cheek before settling back down again. I feigned sleep, too embarrassed and confused by my own feelings to acknowledge his show of affection. I wondered if I was being fair to him or myself. What if he became attached to me or worse yet, me to him and then he had to go away?
I worried that I was in over my head, but I didn't know what to do and anyway it was too late, I'd ready fed the pup and he'd followed me home. I finally managed to get back to sleep and I didn't wake until almost 10 the next day. There beside me still snoring softly was my little rabbit and he looked like a little angel.
I got up carefully and went in to use the bathroom and brush my teeth and when I returned Joe was awake and rubbing sleep from his eyes. He sat up and looked around as if he were dreaming and and stretched his lithe little body.
"Good morning Rabbit," I said cheerfully, "You hungry?"
"Morning," he said yawning softly, "Yep, starved."
"You stay put and I'll see if the coast is clear."
I went in to check on my roomies but as expected they were both already gone for the day. Both worked part time jobs and I knew their schedule pretty well by now and didn't expect them back till around 6.
I started breakfast and then went to check on Joe. He had peed and brushed his teeth using his stolen toothbrush and my toothpaste and was dressed in his now clean but still ragged clothes. He needed new clothes and new shoes and I guessed I had already decided I was going to buy them for him before the day was over.
"You like bacon, eggs and toast?"
"I like anything, " Joe said sitting down at our small dinette off the kitchen.
"Good, it's almost ready. You wanna set the table."
"Sure," he said anxious to help, "just show me where the stuff is."
Proudly he sat two places with my direction and I dished up the food. He ate slowly this morning, savoring every bite, or maybe he was stalling. He seemed less animated than the previous evening and very self absorbed and finally he laid down his fork and turned to me with sad eyes.
"I know I'm a pain and all, but can't I stay just a little while longer...just till Christmas. No one should be alone on Christmas," he said breaking my heart.
"You won't be alone if I get you to the right place. There will be lots of other kids there too."
"I didn't mean me," Joe said softy, "you need someone to keep ya company."
I didn't know what to say as I took a bite of toast and I took my time chewing and swallowing. He was the most sensitive soul I'd ever met or the world's smallest con artist.
"I could get into big trouble you know," I began, "harboring a run-away. They might get for kidnapping or child abuse."
"Bull," Joe said frowning, "the cops don't care bout me. They're probly glad I'm off the street. Sides, I aint exactly a run-away."
I picked up my glass of milk and stared at it before I replied, "Joe I'm just a college student barely making it as it is. I don't know anything about kids."
"Sure you do, "he said beaming, "so far you did just right with me. You're nice."
"Nice doesn't put a roof over our heads or get you an education. If...no...I can't."
"What? I'd do anything....anything," Joe pleaded.
"You'd have to go back to school, no excuses. I don't know how I'd get you enrolled though."
"Easy, you tell em you're my brother or something."
"But, I'm not and I couldn't show them any proof."
Joe sighed, "What is I got someone...someone who's kin to me to enroll me?"
"Huh, you have folks here?"
"Well, an uncle, but he don't want me. We might get him to enroll me though if you talked to him."
"That's crazy. He'd probably think I was a pervert or something. People are gonna think it's weird...a single guy having a little boy in his bed."
"Maybe we get another bed and put it in your room," Joe said thoughtfully ignoring all the other problems with his staying.
"This is crazy. My roomies would kick my ass out in a New York minute. No! We gotta find you a safe regular place to stay."
"Then I'll just go back to the street," Joe said stubbornly, "If you don't want me then nobody does," he added sounding sad.
"Joe......." I began, but I couldn't think of anything to say that would ease his pain at the moment.
"I thought you liked me," he sobbed, "I like you...I....loooo..ve..yo even," he said as tears ran down his cute face.
"Joe...Rabbit...it's not that I don't like you, I do. I tried to help you, doesn't that count?" I said near tears myself, "I could have left you out in the cold."
"I...I wish....wish you had," he sobbed, "I'd be happier. At first I thought you wanted me for...well, you know. I've done that for money before...then I saw you were just being nice and I got all excited cause I thought you were gonna help me."
"I'm trying Joe...I'm trying, but you gotta work with me, okay?"
"I...guess," he said wiping tears from his eyes, "can...can I stay till Christmas at least?"
I looked away and tried to think, "Okay, my roomies are going away for Christmas and won't be back till after the New Year so maybe we could make it work till then. But you gotta stay out of sight till tomorrow night when they leave, okay?"
"Sure," he said smiling, "Thanks Mike. I'm sorry about what I said before. I know you're a good guy and I'm a pain, but I'm just a widdle wabbit," he said grinning.
I tousled his hair and chuckled, "You little stinker. You're killing me here. How'd I get myself into this?"
"Just lucky I guess," he said grinning.
I shook my head in wonder, "Well, if you're gonna stay we need to go shopping today and get you some new things, like new shoes. I've got a credit card I've been dying to use."
"Really? You mean it? New shoes?" Joe said excitedly.
"Yeah, and some new clothes. We'll go to Kmart. They're cheap but they have good stuff.."
"Okay, when?" he asked dancing around like he needed to pee.
"The sooner the better. Cause I gotta work tonight."
"I'll help ya clean up this mess then we can go," he said grabbing his dirty plate and glass.
"We'll just stick them in the sink for now. I'll get em later. Come on let's clear then we'll go."
30 minutes later we were on our way to a Kmart not too far from the apartment. As we rode the bus Joe seemed very quiet and content not showing any of the excitement of earlier. I sat quietly watching the scenery and deep in thought. I wondered what my mom would think if she knew about Joe. Knowing her the way I did she probably would have wanted to adopt him. She'd always been a mom to all my friends while I was growing up. Not having a dad had been hard but she more than made up for it. If only she didn't live so far away.
"Is that it?" Joe asked suddenly animated once again as we pulled up to the bus stop near the store.
"Yep, come on let's book."
You'd have thought the kid had never seen the inside of a store before as he oohed and ahed at everything. On the midway everything caught his eye, especially the toys and I promised him we'd go by the toy department once we got his clothes and shoes.
We were in luck, there was a rack of clearance items for boys and they were blue lighting them for 1/2 price and I got him several pair of pants and shirts plus a new sweater and coat. He was as excited by the clothes as most kids would have been by a toy and I felt sort of bad for him.
From the boys department we picked up some underwear and socks and then headed over to the shoe department. Again we lucked out and got 2 pair of shoes for the price of one.
"Can I wear my new stuff now...please, please?" he begged.
"Well, let me ask someone. I don't want them to think we're trying to steal anything."
I talked to the young lady who had helped us in boys swear and she said it would be fine, that she would call up front and explain what we were doing and leave the price tags up there for when we checked out.
Joe was so excited that the young sales clerk, Judy laughed, "Boy he likes clothes, doesn't he?"
I smiled thinking, If only you knew.
Dressed in his new clothes, shoes, and coat he looked like a different boy and he hugged me fiercely after checking himself in the mirror.
"Thank you maam," Joe said to Judy flashing her his brightest smile, "You're nice."
She smiled and I saw love in her eyes. Then Joe sealed the deal as he melted against her and gave her a fierce hug.
"Well thank you," Judy said as she patted him affectionately, You're a sweet little thing. I wish I had one like you at home."
"Do you have any kids maam?"
"No," Judy said looking at me sadly, "My husband and I can't have children, but we'd like to adopt some day."
Bingo, I thought to myself as a plan began to form in my mind.
"So have you and your husband tried to adopt yet?" I asked curiously.
"Yes, we've been approved, but we're still waiting. There's so much red tape and they move so slowly. We've been waiting for over a year now."
I said thoughtfully, "So if you could find a child that was eligible
you'd probably be able to adopt right away?"
"Yes, I suppose. My husband is a lawyer and his law firm is paying for everything."
"Hmmmm...I don't want to sound mysterious or weird but could I buy you a Coke or something in the cafe and talk to you?"
She looked startled, but sensing my good intentions she nodded.
"Joe would you like to go over to the toy department and look around for a little while. I'll be over in a few minutes."
"You mean it?"
"Sure, just don't make a mess or break anything," I warned.
"I won't. I promise." he said and then he was gone in a flash.
"He seems like a great kid. Is he your little brother?"
"No, that's what I'd like to talk to you about."
"Okay, I'm due a break. Let me tell someone and I'll meet you in the cafe.
She joined me a few minutes later and I bought us Cokes and we settled into a booth. Several other employees gave us a curious look and I hoped I wasn't causing Judy any grief.
"Joe is an orphan," I began, "a street kid actually. I found him hanging around the restaurant where I work and well....I fed him and he followed me home," I said laughing nervously.
To my great relief she laughed as well, "Like a puppy?"
"Yeah, but I call him Rabbit," and I explained why and told her all the rest that had happened since I had first seen his grimy little nose pressed against the cafe window. "So you see, Joe needs a home. I can't keep a little kid, I'm just a college kid myself."
"So..you want me to adopt him?" she asked incredulously.
"I'm sorry...I know it's crazy...I've wasted your time....I just...I'm so scared for him and I want him to have a good home. I really care about him. I know it's crazy...I'm sorry I bothered you."
"Whoa, wait a minute. I didn't say no. He seems like a great kid, but I'd have to know more about him, make sure his story checks out, stuff like that."
"Sure, I guess I just sort of took everything he told me as the truth. You think he might be lying?"
"I don't know. Probably not, but it's best to check. Do you know his last name?"
"Uh, no...he never told me. I'm stupid I guess."
"No, you're sweet for trying to help him. I wish my husband was here, he'd know all the right things to do."
"Well, maybe we could all could get together...if you think...."
"I think it would be better if we didn't tell Joe we were checking out his story Mr.....?"
"Mike, Mike Thomas, but you can just call me Mike."
"Mike, I'm Judy. I'm going to give you my phone number. Later when you and Joe are alone ask him his name and get as many details as you can then call me and I'll let you talk to my husband."
"You think he'll be alright with all this?"
She smiled, "My husband wants a son so bad he'd do almost anything to get one. If Joe is adoptable my husband will find a way."
I smiled, "Really? Okay, well...I promised him he could stay with me till after Christmas so we've got time to figure this all out. I better go find him before he gets suspicious. I don't want to get his hopes up."
"You know there's a chance he might not accept us," she said kindly, "but if he wants us I think we can work something out."
We exchanged numbers then and I went off to the toy department to find Joe. I found him studying a large box which contained an electric road race set. I could see by the look of pure joy and fascination on his face that this was something he truly desired and I decided that he would have it, but not now.....Christmas morning. I'd slip back later and buy it, wrap it and put it in my closet until Christmas Eve. I couldn't believe how excited I was at the prospect of surprising him and I decided it must be how a father feels when making his child's wish come true.
"Find anything you like?" I asked as I approached.
"This is so awesome," he said pointing at the race car set, "it even has jumps and stuff."
"Cool, I had one sorta like that when I was about your age, but not as cool."
"Really, I never had anything like this before. My folks were kinda poor so all I usually got was stuff I needed anyway, like clothes and stuff like that."
"Well, I can't afford the race track but if you can find something for around 5 bucks I'll buy that for you."
"Really?" he said excitedly, "Yeah, I can do that."
He'd already scoped out most of the toys long before I arrived and he settled for a hand held pinball game that was 4.99. We put it in the basket and after a few stops to pick up some things I needed for the apartment we headed to check outs. As we passed the grocery section I picked up some candy and cookies and Joe gave me a big smile melting my heart.
We found the register where Judy had left the tags from Joe's clothes and checked out. It wasn't as much as I'd feared and I estimated I still had plenty of credit left on my card to get Joe's gifts even if it would take me the next six months to pay for them.
I splurged and we took a cab to the apartment because I was running short on time. We hurried to the apartment with our bags and I got ready for work. I fixed Joe a couple of sandwiches and piled some chips and cookies on the plate and he ate while I tidied up the kitchen.
Soon my roomies would be home from work and I wanted Joe out of sight. Before I left I made up a plate of candy, chips, and cookies and handed him a couple of sodas to tide him over while I was gone.
"Be as quite as possible, okay? I don't want my roomies to know you're here if possible."
"I'll be quiet as a mouse," he promised, "Got any books to read?"
"Yeah, a few," then showed him my paperbacks and mags.
"I'll be fine, thanks," Joe said leafing through the stack of mags.
I left him to his own devices and practically ran the six blocks to work and barely made it on time. We were busy all night and I barely had time to think about Joe, or Christmas, or anything else, but as the evening wound down Charlie asked me if I was still feeding the street kid and I found myself confiding everything to him. He listened with rapt attention, not saying a word until I finished.
"He really got to you, didn't he?" he chuckled.
"Yeah, sorta. I mean what would you have done?"
He shrugged, "I don't know, but I wouldna took him home, you can count on that. My old lady says we raised ours and she don't want no more," he laughed, "Me, I'd like some grandkids to spoil."
"Do you think I'll get into trouble over this....I mean if the cops found out or anything?"
"I don't think so. You didn't abduct him or molest him. He came of his own free will so you're probably covered by the Good Samaritan law or something."
I frowned. I didn't think that applied to my situation, but I didn't say anything. We got busy and I didn't have a chance to talk further until it was closing time.
"You want these last burgers to take to the kid?" Charlie asked as he was cleaning the grill.
"I'll take em. Joe's probly full of candy but I know my roomies'll eat em."
"Okay, I'll bag em up. Me, I'm tired of burgers."
When I arrived at the apartment a half hour later I found my roomies watching TV and Joe was piled down on the couch between them.
"Hey Mike, we found your little buddy in your room. Why didn't you tell us about him?" Clark said grinning. Clark was 22 and from Texas. He was broad shouldered and short but had a baby face and a kind disposition.
"Yeah," Phil added, "did you think we'd kick a little kid out at Christmas?" Phil was Clark's opposite, thin as a rail and tall, but he too had a kind heart and was a great roommate.
I shrugged, "It just sorta happened so fast. You were gone most of the time. I ...uh, brought some burgers home," I said stupidly holding out the bag and Clark snatched it up quickly.
"One each," he said digging in the bag, "You hungry Joe?"
"Sure," Joe said treating Clark like an old friend.
"Joe, can I talk to you for a minute....alone?" I said eying him critically.
He squirmed beneath my gaze but nodded and followed me to my room.
"What happened? I asked simply, trying not to be angry. "I asked you to lay low and not make any noise."
"I'm sorry," he said pitifully, "I guess they heard the pin ball machine game. I didn't think about it till Clark came knocking on the door...then it was too late."
"And what did you tell them?"
"The truth...I told em everything. Is that okay?" He asked looking anxious.
"I guess," I said with out commitment. I'd have to talk to them later and make sure they truly understood.
We rejoined my roomies who had heated up the burgers and added condiments.
"You like mustard Joe?" Clark asked wielding the mustard container.
"Sure, anyway is fine," Joe assured him. I guessed that since he usually ate out a dumpster he wasn't too picky.
"You want one Mike?" Clark asked as he took a bite of his.
"No thanks, I ate at work. I'm gonna go take a shower and wash the smell of burgers and onions off me."
I left the three of them to eat their burgers and watch It's a Wonderful Life on TV and took a long hot shower. I didn't know why I was so upset that Joe had revealed himself to my roomies. Was I afraid for me or jealous that Joe had made friends of them so quickly?
I dressed in sweats and when I returned to the living room I found Joe fast asleep on the couch between them, his feet in Clark's lap and his head in Phil's. Again I was moved by how peaceful and beautiful he was while sleeping, just like an angel.
My roomies smiled at me and Clark whispered, "Can we keep him?"
I smiled and shook my head in disbelief. I had underestimated my roomies and felt a rush of relief and remorse at the same time. And suddenly I was sure everything would be alright after all.
"I'm gonna put him to bed," I said quietly, "then we'll talk, okay?"
I carried Joe to bed and laid him down gently and covered him up and was suddenly overwhelmed with such deep feelings for him that I felt tears sting my eyes. I bent and kissed his cheek and hurriedly left him before I started bawling.
They confirmed that he had indeed told them the truth, as much as he knew, that is, and I filled them in on the rest. I explained that that I'd found a couple who might adopt Joe if everything checked out and they nodded.
"Aww...too bad..we could've raised him right," Clark said stirring from the couch, "anyone want ice cream?"
Neither of us did. Phil gave me a thoughtful look then smiled, "We could make this a really great Christmas for him though."
"I smiled, "Yeah....wait a minute, you guys are leaving Christmas Eve to go home to your families."
"Well...we could have Christmas before we go...he could have two Christmases couldn't he?"
"Well, I guess we could have dinner or something. I'm off work. What time does your plane leave?"
"Not till 7:30, and Clark's leaves at 8 so we'd have time. I got a little money...how about you Clark?"
Clark had returned with a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream and he sat down heavily on the couch, "Sure, I got some Christmas money form my granny.....I'm in."
I told them about the race car set then, but explained that I wanted to save that for Christmas morning. I made plans to go purchase it tomorrow along with a few other things and Phil and Clark agreed to keep Joe busy while I was gone.In return I'd keep him occupied while they did their shopping and got everything ready. There wasn't time to cook but there was a deli nearby where I could get everything we needed for a reasonable price since I knew the owner.
After making our plans we headed to bed and I laid down beside Rabbit. He was snoring softly and I could feel his warmth as he lay next to me in my small bed. I had grown way too attached to him in the few days I 'd known him, but all I really wanted was for him to be happy and if finding him a good home was what it took I was going to do it no matter how hard it was to give him up.
It took me a while to go to sleep as I lay there watching him sleep and smiling at the beautiful little boy beside me. I knew it was crazy, but somewhere along the way I had grown to love him and that was a wonderful feeling. I was young and there would be many more loves in my life, all of them different, but this one I would remember forever.
As sleep overtook me I was whisked away into pleasant dream filled slumber and I did not wake till morning. I awoke early and quietly slipped out of bed and got dressed and tiptoed out to the kitchen to find Clark drinking coffee and eating cereal while Phil was decorating a tiny tree with colorful ornaments. I didn't ask where he got them, Phil was very resourceful though.
"The lights are crooked," Clark offered as he munched his corn flakes.
"You're crazy," Phil fired back, "It's perfect."
I laughed, "You've been busy I see. Joe's still asleep. I'm gonna run down to Kmart and get his gifts and maybe a few more decorations. I'll be back in about two hours. See that he's out of the apartment about then, okay?"
"Sure, don't worry. We got it all figured out," Phil said placing a star atop the tree.
At Kmart I bought the gifts and wrapping paper and a few other things, including more cookies, candy canes for the tree and some chocolates. I also bought Holiday napkins and plates for the dinner and a few more decorations for the apartment.
When I got back to the apartment I found it empty and I quickly wrapped the gifts and hid them in my closet. I rushed back out to the Deli and bought everything I needed for the dinner and put everything away. I had just finished when the door opened and in came Joe and my roomies.
"Wow, we had fun," Joe said beaming, "Clark and Phil took me to the arcade and we played games. It was cool."
I smiled, "Thanks guys," I said giving my roomies a wink, "I got everything done I needed to.
"Well, we gotta go do...some stuff," Phil said winking back.
"Sure," I said placing an arm around Joe, "Rabbit and I will find something fun to do, won't we?"
Joe nodded and leaned into me. He felt warm and solid and I hugged him to me.
"This has been the best two days of my life," he said closing his eyes and sighing softly, "I hope it never ends."
Were those tears in my roomies eyes? I really had underestimated them, they were as tender hearted as I was and I smiled at this new revelation. I realized I had a few tears clouding my eyes too and I wiped them away and turned to Joe.
"What do you want to do Rabbit?"
"See a movie," he said suddenly, "I've never been to a movie."
"No way," I said with disbelief, Well, you will when we're done. Come on."
I took him to an afternoon matinee at a little theater nearby and by 5 o'clock we were back home. Clark and Phil had outdone themselves. The apartment was decorated with tinsel and bells and tiny lights twinkled on the tree and around one window and beneath the tree were a dozen or so colorful, if not expertly wrapped gifts. The table was set with the holiday dinnerware I'd bought and the food I had bought at the deli filled the table.
"Merry Christmas!" they yelled as we entered.
Joe shook with excitement, "It's not even Christmas yet," he said in a small voice, "Hey, what's all this?"
"It's an early Christmas," I explained, "just for you."
I saw tears cloud up in his eyes and he looked at each of us with so much love that it almost overwhelmed us.
"Clark and Phil have to leave later, they're flying home for Christmas so they wanted to give you a nice Christmas surprise before they go."
"Just for me?" he said looking as if he were ready to start bawling.
"Yeah, buddy....just for you. So come on, let's eat before it gets cold," Clark said placing the turkey on the table.
When we were seated Joe looked at me expectantly, "Aren't you gonna bless it?"
I blushed. I'm ashamed to say I often forgot to thank God for all he did for me and I knew this occasion certainly deserved an extra effort on my part.
"Sure, I said bowing my head, "Lord, thank you for this time together, for this bountiful feast, but most of all for my friends Clark and Phil and for bringing us a new friend, Joe. Lord I pray you'll watch over Clark and Phil as they travel and you'll bring them safely back to us. Lord I pray you'll help us to find a good home for Joe and that we stay in touch with him and he'll always be our friend. Amen."
I blushed again, "Sorry, I ramble on," I muttered noticing Clark and Phil wiping their eyes. Nothing melts a heart like someone praying for you.
Joe was smiling, his eyes twinkling merrily. "This is the best Christmas I ever had. Thanks you guys," he said hopping down to give each of us a hug.
In a husky voice deep with emotion Clark suggested we eat and began carving the turkey. Soon the air was filled with the heavenly aroma of our meal and the soft polite conversation of four males comfortable with one another.
When we were all pleasantly full we moved to the living room and Phil passed out the presents. There were those my roomies and I had bought for one another and eight for Joe, four from each of my roomies.
I was saving mine for Christmas day but I couldn't tell him, but he didn't seem to notice or care where the gifts came from as the wrapping paper flew.
Even I was amazed at the thought my roomies had put into their purchases and Joe was so excited he kept jumping up and hugging each of us in turn.
When the gifts were finally unwrapped and their treasures revealed he sat caressing each gift in turn, a look of sheer joy and astonishment on his face, then he turned to me and said softly, "You gotta let me stay now, otherwise I got no place to keep my stuff."
I laughed, but I knew he was serious. Then I remembered Judy and her promise to help and suddenly I was filled with such peace. It was as if God had just taken a burden from me. Somehow I knew Joe would find a good home and soon.
I cleaned up the mess while Phil and Clark packed and later when they left after hugs and handshakes all around I was left with my little rabbit.
"This is the best time of my life," Joe said leaning back against the couch at my feet where he was parked among his gifts.
"It's pretty nice for me too," I said sliding down beside him. Before us the lights twinkled merrily and outside snow began to fall. "Looks like it's gonna be a white Christmas after all."
"Really!" Joe said jumping up to look out the window at the huge flakes falling all around, "Can we build a snowman tomorrow?"
"We'll see," I said sounding like my mom had when I asked her the same question not too many years ago. I smiled at the thought of my mom and missed her even more.
"Mike? Joe said leaning against me, "You guys didn't hafta do all this , just being here was good enough."
"It was fun, we enjoyed it. Besides Clark and Phil did most of the work and I learned a few things about them that I didn't know before. They're really decent guys."
"Yeah, so are you. Thanks," he said hugging me once again.
"You're welcome Rabbit. Anyway there's plenty of food for tomorrow and who knows, maybe Santa Claus will stop by tonight and tomorrow you'll have a few more presents to unwrap."
He eyed me questioningly but said nothing, instead he hugged my neck and then jumped up and ran off to the bedroom. When he returned he was carrying something in his hand.
"I don't have anything really good to give you," he began slowly, but this is special to me and I want you to have it. It belonged to my dad."
He held out his hand and when he opened it there was a shiny little pocket night nestled in the fold of it. Where had he concealed it all this time I had no idea, perhaps he had stashed it somewhere in my bedroom that first night.
"I...can't take this Joe, it's too special."
He looked at me with hurt eyes, "Don't you like it?"
"Oh, yes more than any gift you could have given me, but you should keep it...to remind you of you father."
He shook his head, "I'll always remember him...but I want to make sure you always remember me...so please," he begged as he held the knife out to me once more.
Smiling I took it and said, "Okay, but you can use it anytime you want," I said wiping a tear from my eye, "When you visit."
We shook on it then he gave me a quick hug. We watched TV till Joe fell asleep on the couch and I carried him to bed. While he slumbered I carried the gifts I'd hidden in the closet to the living room and placed them under the tree. I showered and slipped into bed beside Joe who was snoring softly and soon I joined him.
"Mike! Mike! Santa did come!" I heard Joe shouting as I struggled up out of sleep.
"Well, well," I see the jolly old fat man left a little something for us," I said wandering in and pretending to see the gifts for the first time.
"You got one too, Joe said reading the gift tags, "You gonna open it?"
"Of course," I said as Joe handed me the brightly wrapped gift I'd bought for myself, "but first you open one...how bout that big one there?"
His eyes lit up as he pulled the large package from beneath and tree and began tearing at the wrapping paper and when he saw what was beneath he screamed with joy.
"No way! How....? Oh my God...thank you...thank you...thank you soooo much..."
"Don't' thank me, thank Santa," I chuckled.
"Aww...I know how it works...Santa aint real...you got it for me...didn't ya?"
"I guess it depends on your definition of Santa," I said without admitting anything.
"Whadda mean?" Joe asked pausing to flash me a questioningly look as he opened the box carefully.
"Santa isn't real so much as a person as he is as an ideal."
"No, ideal. An ideal is a concept or way of doing things. You see Santa Clause represents the good in all of us and at Christmas he sorta reminds us of all the good stuff we should be doing all the time."
"Like givin presents to street kids?" Joe offered.
I smiled, "Yep. You see if we acted the way we do at Christmas all year long the world wouldn't have street kids, or starving families. No war, no crime, no pain...but, it's not like that. But at least we have Christmas, that one day each year when most of us set aside all our petty differences and enjoy life as God intended it."
Joe smiled, "I see...so Santa Clause is really you and me and all of us...everyone who believes in Christmas."
I nodded, "Exactly. So see...Santa Clause is real."
"Yeah, he is, "Joe said under his breath, "So...Santa will you help me set up this track?" he added giggling.
"Ho! HO! Ho!" I said dropping to the floor and tickling him.
We rolled around on the floor for a few minutes as I tickled him causing him to giggle and when I finally let him up he grabbed me around the neck and rubbed his nose against mine and hugged me fiercely. My heart melted and I knew I was in love with this little kid for sure.
"I wish you were my dad," Joe said sighing.
"Someday I'd like to have kids Joe, but I'm not ready to be a dad yet. Maybe a big brother though. When we find you a home I promise I'll try to see you as often as possible if they allow it."
"They have to...or I won't go with them," he said stubbornly.
"Let's not worry about that right now...okay?" Let's just enjoy the time we have together. Come on let's set this thing up."
He forgot all of his worries as we set up the track and played for hours with it. I must confess I enjoyed myself as much as he did.
Around 1 o'clock we ate leftovers and watched TV while Joe played with some of his other toys. Then we took a nap, me on the couch and Joe stretched out in the floor clutching a catcher's mitt Clark had bought him.
I awoke first and while Joe slept I went to my bedroom and made a phone call. I felt foolish as Judy picked up the phone. I hated bothering her on Christmas Day but....I just had to know."
"Mike?" She said and I could hear the happiness in her voice, "I'm glad you called. I told Doug, my husband, about Joe and he's as excited as I am. He wants to meet Joe."
"Great, when?" I asked feeling a little strange. I had such mixed feelings, on one hand I couldn't keep Joe but I'd come to care for him and loosing him would leave a big hole in my heart and my life, but on the other I wanted him to have a good home and be happy. He deserved that much from me.
"Well, if it's not too much trouble how about tomorrow. You could bring him and have dinner with us and we could get to know both of you better."
So soon? I thought sadly, but the sooner the better I supposed. Still deep inside I wanted Joe to myself for a little longer.
"Sure...that would be fine," I said trying to sound pleased, "What should I tell him?"
She hesitated a moment then answered excitedly, The truth Mike. Doug and I have agreed, we want to adopt Joe as soon as possible."
"But...I thought your husband wanted to check his story out first and meet him before he decided."
"That's only to make sure he wants us...we've already decided. I...think I already love Joe and Doug trusts my instincts."
"Well, okay. We'll be there then."
She gave me their address and I agreed to be there by 6:30 with Joe. I returned to the living room and sat down in the floor beside Joe who still asleep. I watched him for a moment and listened to his soft breathing as his chest rose and fell. I realized after a few minutes that I was crying and I didn't know why. I'd become too attached to him, I guessed and now his leaving would be painful. But somehow I'd get over it because this was the right thing to do. Everyone deserved a good home and Judy and her husband could give that to Joe.
I wiped tears from eyes and suddenly Joe stirred and sat up. He smiled when he saw me then seeing the tears in my eyes he moved closer, "What's wrong Mike?" he said in a comforting voice.
I shook my head, "Nothing, just slept too long I guess. I feel groggy....disoriented."
He yawned, "I feel good. How long did we sleep?"
"Not too long," I said dismissing his question, "I need to talk to you Rabbit."
"Okay," he said looking at me with worried eyes, "Is something wrong?"
I smiled nervously, "No, in fact things are great. You know what I told you the other day about letting you stay here just until I could find you a good home?"
"Uh huh...you promised I could stay through the Holidays," he said looking frantic.
"You remember that lady at Kmart, Judy?"
"Sure she was nice," Joe said smiling, "Why?"
"Well....remember when I sent you to the toy department? I sat down and talked to her about you and she said she and her husband might be interested in adopting you."
He sat quietly for a moment digesting what I'd just said then he frowned, "Suppose I go...will...will...I ever see you again?"
"I hope so," I said honestly, that would be up to Judy and her husband. I...can't promise anything, but I think they are good people and would be open to that."
"Then I won't let them adopt me unless they let you. I'd rather live on the street and just come visit you than to never see you again," he said stubbornly.
"Joe, you need a home...a family. They want us to come to dinner tomorrow evening so they can get to know you."
"Well...I guess we could go...but I'm gonna ask em if I can see you and if they say no then I won't let em adopt me."
"That sounds fair. They seem like nice people."
He shrugged, "We'll see." he said trying to sound tough.
Joe was relatively quiet the rest of the evening even when we ate supper. He played with his toys for a while then sat down beside me on the couch and we watched TV until bedtime. There was so much we both wanted to say, but neither of us could find the words right then.
The next day Joe seemed more relaxed, but I felt even more on edge. I burned the pancakes I was trying to make for breakfast and my nerves were frazzled. I went out to check the mailbox that afternoon and discovered a card from my mom and a long letter and that only made me feel more melancholy. Even the check for 100.00 it contained couldn't cheer me up.
We made it through the day somehow and after bathing and getting dressed we started for Judy's house. I splurged on a cab since I was a hundred dollars richer after my mother's gift and it didn't take us long to get there. The house was in a well kept but older neighborhood with white houses and picket fences and Judy's was a cute little Victorian with a wrap around porch and a detached garage.There were twinkling lights all around the house and through a huge bowed window we caught a glimpse of a magnificent tree adorned with hundreds of lights, tinsel, and shiny ornaments. In short it was perfect and even Joe gasped at the sight of it.
"See," I said smiling to hide my real feelings, "It's a great house. I just know you'll love it here."
Joe was spared the need to respond as the front door opened and Judy and a handsome athletic looking man stepped out onto the porch.
"Joe, Mike thank you for coming, Judy said smiling broadly, Come in you must be half frozen."
Once inside we were introduced to Judy's husband Doug and my first impression of him was that he was as great as Judy. I felt a little guilty as I realized I'd hoped he was a jerk and Joe wouldn't like him, but as I watched him and Joe interact I knew...Joe had found a new home.
Dinner was delicious, but I barely picked at it as I tried to keep up my end of the conversation. I felt betrayed, Joe barely glanced at me as he chatted with his prospective parents as if he'd known them forever. Still it was for the best and I vowed to bow out gracefully.
Then suddenly Joe jumped down from his chair and came around to where I sat as Judy and Doug watched with surprise and interest.
"I like it here," Joe began, and you're both really nice and I guess I'd like to live here, but...there's just one thing."
"What's that sweetie?" Judy asked smiling and nodding at her husband.
"Mike,...he's my friend. He saved me...he's been really nice to me and he found me a home and want to keep him as my friend. So if I live here I gotta be able to see Mike," he said stubbornly.
"Of course," Doug said looking relieved that it was such a simple request, "Mike will always be welcome here and maybe you can visit him once in a while."
"I'd like that, I said finding my voice. Then Joe hugged me and made his way around the table hugging his new parents. The rest of the evening was magical.
Six months later the adoption was final and Joe became Joseph Ethan Taylor. I'm a frequent visitor in the Taylor home and once or twice a month Joe stays over at my apartment. My roomies usually spoil him rotten while he's there, but hey, what are surrogate uncles for?
I hope you enjoyed this little Christmas story. I wrote it several years ago in long hand and had to transpose it and edit it as I went. I know some of you are probably disappointed that it contained no sex, but true boy love isn't about sex. Anyway there is plenty of sex on Nifty and in my other stories so I don't feel bad about offering something a little different.
As always comments are welcomed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out my other stories at Nifty in the Prolific Authors Section.
Happy Holidays from Kewl Dad