Jippy Jones was missing. When I say missing, he hadn’t been in his normal spot for two days. His appearance at my coffee shop was as regular as the changing tides.
He was a strange little man, a scruffy goblin with baggy pants and a torso obscured by cavernous shirts. His age was hard to judge as his face was always shadowed by brown and grey bristles. Muddy eyes peered from under tufts of hair that poked like mouldy straw from a tartan cap. Rumours about Jippy were rife. Some said he was simple, that his mother dropped him on his head as a baby. Others said he was abandoned as a child as his father wouldn’t accept him. I personally thought he was just a little eccentric.
Jippy’s closest friend and companion was his dog, Snap. Snap was an ugly mutt of indeterminate heritage, a shaggy ginger ball with four short legs and severe halitosis. He had a nasty habit of snapping at flies and in summer, his clicking teeth drove us crazy.
In spite of that, he was a sweet-natured dog and an important part of Jippy’s outside performances. “Dance, Snap.” he would instruct as he lifted his violin to his shoulder. Snap would rise on his back legs and dance in stiff circles as the customers clapped along. If a fly happened to pass by, he would snap at it while dancing. A tourist from Holland nicknamed him “The Snap Dancer.” and the name stuck.
On the third morning, I hung up my apron. “I’m going to look for Jippy.” I told my 2-I-C. Jippy lived in a ramshackle hut with no electricity and only cold water and basic plumbing. The grass was knee-high and around the yard were stacked piles of bald tyres, bundles of firewood and empty bird cages. I parked on the verge and pulled open the rusty gate. Jippy was sitting on the step outside his front door but as I approached, I saw his face was pasty under the mess of whiskers and his eyes red-rimmed. I sat down next to him. “What’s wrong, Jippy?” His shoulders began to shake and rims of water wobbled in his eyes.
“It’s Snap, Miss Dawn. He died.”
I felt my heart crumple.
“I woke up on Tuesday and he was dead. Curled up on my bed besides me.”
I visited Jippy every morning that week. The second day, I took an armful of flowers and Jippy showed me Snap’s grave. I arranged the soft lilac blossoms on top of the mound and together we cried for the scruffy little dog and said a prayer of thankfulness for his life.
It was on the seventh day that I thought of getting him a puppy. I couldn’t afford a pedigree and somehow, a pound dog was more Jippy’s style. I found Jack in the first row of cages. A sad mongrel whose eyes told tales of neglect and abuse. “He was found on the roadside.” the attendant told me. “He’d been beaten and needed surgery on his back leg. He’ll need loads of love and attention but he’s still young and has a wonderful personality.” I looked deep into his mournful eyes. He was a small dog with a question-mark for a tail and wiry fur that sprung like silver corkscrews from his back; a dog with short, pricked ears and a heart yearning for love. As I patted him, a fly whizzed past and his teeth clicked together as he snapped at it.
Laughter bubbled up inside me. “He’s perfect. I’ll take him.”
An hour later, I knocked on Jippy’s door. “I know you can never replace Snap.” I told him. “But this dog needs someone who’ll care for him.” I lifted the trembling mutt out of the box and placed him in his arms. “Will you give him a chance, Jippy?” The dog pressed up against his chest and he gently rubbed his ears and murmured to him, rocking him slightly as though he were a baby. At last he lifted his eyes to me.
“I reckon Snap would want me to take him in. Thank you Miss Dawn.”
It was a month later that I heard the sweet notes of the violin filtering into the depths of the shop. Jippy was perched on his stool and next to him sat a bright-eyed mongrel. His fur shone, his posture was confident and every so often, his teeth clicked as he snapped at a fly.
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