Doug Penhall sighed as he looked longingly into the window of Diggidy Dog.
"Well," he said breathlessly, "There goes my idea for Secret Santa."
"Come on, Doug," Tom tried to sound encouraging, "You'll think of something. I mean, you have Ioki! Just go to the joke shop and pick up a gag gift."
"That's what I was thinking though a chili dog would be easier. Was that what you were going to do – get Booker a gag gift?"
"Oh Booker!" Tom rolled his eyes, "Don't remind me that I'm responsible for single-handedly brining Christmas cheer into that maniac's pathetic excuse of a life!"
"Harsh, Tom, harsh."
"I know it's harsh," Tom sighed, stuffing his frost bitten fingers into the pockets of his flannel jacket, "But it is Booker we're talking about here."
"Everyone deserves to be happy on Christmas, Tom, even Dennis."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Hey, I got to get going. Mom wants me over around six to help put up the tree."
"You still do that?"
"Help your mom with the tree?"
"It's tradition, Doug. Besides, how can I pass up freshly baked sugar cookies and cocoa?"
"True," Doug nodded understandingly, "Hug your mom for me."
"Will do," Tom nodded his goodbye and left Doug standing at the Diggidy Dog.
Surely Tom would think of something better than a gag gift for Booker. But then again, surely he could think of something better than a gag gift for Harry. Doug shook his head impatiently. They worked together for Pete's sake! Surely they could come up with good gift ideas for each other. Doug bit his lower lip and glanced through the window once more. A sign above the cash register caught his eye:
This Holiday Season Don't Forget!
Pick Up Your Diggidy Dog Gift Card Now
For Your Special Someone!
Okay, so Harry Ioki wasn't exactly Doug Penhall's idea of his "special someone" but a gift card would work. Less than twenty, more than five. Doug could literally see a light bulb floating above his head. A ten dollar gift card to Diggidy Dog! Perfect!
Dennis Booker sighed as he slammed the door of his apartment shut. He had had lots of bad days in his life but surely this had to be the worst. First, he couldn't close his case and was stressing out about it (as if it wasn't bad enough he'd have to book a kid for selling drugs to help pay for his mother's new heart transplant) but on top of that, he just had to have drawn Tom Hanson's name from the bag. Tom Hanson!
Dennis tossed his keys onto the table by the door and made his way over to the kitchen. After yanking open the refrigerator door, Dennis grabbed a beer. He figured he deserved it after today, even if he was trying to cut back. As he was about to go over to the living room and watch some TV, he noticed the red blinking light on the answering machine. Rolling his eyes, he took another swig of beer and pressed the button next to the light.
"Hi, Dennis, it's Mom. Look, I know your father and I promised to come and visit for Christmas and I know we had all the details squared away but I'm afraid we can't this year. I know we're breaking another promise but don't see it that way. See as us…rescheduling. That's it. Rescheduling! Please don't be mad, Dennis, we just can't make it this year. Flight prices are going up and Megan isn't feeling well. Her asthma is acting up even worse this year than in the past. Dennis, believe me, if we could, we would but we can't. There's no use trying to make it happen because it won't. Maybe next year, honey. Besides, you've been saying how you've made lots of new friends from working at…Jump…Street? Was that what it's called? Anyways, I am sure you can spend Christmas with one of them. That way you won't have to spend it alone. Again. Look, I have to go, Sweetie, but I just wanted to apologize and say I love you. Dad sends his regards and Megan sends a hug. We love you, Dennis, and if we could be there…"
The answering machine cut off.
Dennis placed his hand against the nape of his neck. Of course they couldn't come. Had he really thought that they would? Every year his mother swore on her life that they'd come and spend the holidays with him and every year something else – something more important – came up. Dennis didn't even bother to listen to the other message on the machine – something about some great deal on some great product. Dennis hated telemarketers. Come to think of it, he hated a lot of things at that particular moment. He hated Jump Street for wanting him to stay on, he hated Tom Hanson for being a better officer and better at everything than him, he hated Fuller for challenging him and creating that stupid Secret Santa idea, he hated Secret Santa because he had to buy Tom a gift, he hated Christmas for having to spend it alone…again, and he hated his parents, even Megan, for breaking another promise.
Doug lifted the familiar brown bottle to his lips and downed the rest of the bitter liquid – the only thing he didn't hate, the only thing he could always count on.