Two nights before Christmas, there was a small disagreement.
|“Look, kid, I’m trying to help you, here.”
“I know you are, Uncle Blitzen, but, I don’t want to change it. I mean, I just… you know… What’s wrong with Riley? ”
“What’s wrong with Riley? You’re honestly asking me this? Hey, Vixen! The kid wants to know what’s wrong with Riley?”
Vixen looked up from his cross-words puzzle. His ears came forward. “Who’s Riley?”
“The kid, here.” Blitzen indicated the deer sitting next to him. “This is Riley!”
Vixen looked at Riley. “You Riley?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing, Sir.” Riley said quickly.
Vixen stared at the young reindeer for a good long moment, then opened his mouth to say something but closed it again. He gave Blitzen a quick look and returned to his puzzle shaking his head sadly.
“It’s his name,” Blitzen whined. “I’m talking about his name!” He looked around the cardroom. “We can’t have a reindeer named, Riley! I mean, you kidding me! Irish Setters are named, Riley--not deers. Deers ain’t named Riley!”
The whole team was gathered in there. It was known as “The Card Room.” None of the reindeer responded. Dancer was at the jute box. Dasher and Prancer were playing Gin with Rudolph watching. “That’s not what I would have done,” Rudolph said as Prancer discarded.
“Give it a rest, Nose,” Dasher told him.
“Yeah, go read a comic book or something,” Prancer added. Then he looked over at the juke box. “And Dancer, you play that song one more time, I’m gonna come over there and—"
“Dashing through the snow, In a one-horse open sleigh, came on loudly from the juke, filling the large room from the wood floor to the wood rafters with jingling bells. The reindeer all groaned. Dancer began his dance. An empty Pepsi can flew across the room and bounced off his head. Dancer didn’t seem to notice. He was up on his hind legs now, swaying across the floor, his eyes closed and his forelegs waving side to side above his head.
They all watched him with bored smiles on their faces. Comet staggered over from the bar and yanked the electrical cord violently from the wall. The song instantly ended and the reindeer all stomped their hooves in applause.
“Come on!” Dancer said. “We got to get in the spirit here. We got one night to go!”
“Yeah, we got one more night to find this kid a different name if he’s taking Cupid’s place!” Blitzen demanded.
“What’s wrong with Cupid!” Rudolph asked.
They all looked over to Cupid in the corner by the fire. He had a checkered blanket over his lower legs. He looked up with rosy red eyes. His antlers seemed to spin slowly along with his head. “What’s not wrong with me?” he asked in a hoarse voice. “I mean it, what’s not wrong with me? First, I got a temperature of 103, then the chills. I got a sore throat, my whole body aches, and I have diarrhea!”
The room erupted with snorting laughter.
“Oh, you think that’s funny?” Cupid asked weakly.
“No, no. no,” Rudolph said in a gentle voice. The room quieted. “We think it’s hysterical!”
Again the room filled with laughter.
“Fellas!” Blitzen tried again. “We got to find this kid a new name!”
“What’s wrong with his name?” Dancer asked.
“That’s what I want to know,” Riley said.
“Oh, yeah,” Cupid moaned from the corner. “Everybody worry about the kid’s name while I slowly die over here!”
“The kid’s name is Riley, and that’s that!” Rudolph said. “Just be ready tomorrow night. And keep your nose out of my butt!”
Again there was laughter in the cardroom. There was no more mention of Riley’s name. And two nights later he did just fine.