The Winter of Discontent

Part 2

by J.W. Heart

Read Disclaimers in Part 1

Chapter 6

The next few days progressed well. Well, they went as could be expected when you have mysterious moving furniture, a pregnant woman and a four-year-old filled with the excitement of Santa's arrival. Truth was the last one that gave the most trouble.

You ever see a four-year-old child waiting for Christmas? It's not pretty. Kind of like a junkie waiting for its next fix. She didn't sit still, she couldn't sleep, she worried and wondered constantly about whether Santa would find the house and leave the right stuff. The kid must have inspected our chimney ten times in one day. She had to make sure it was clear so Santa could get down. I just hoped Santa could get my Harley under the tree.

Finally, just to give us all a break, Shannon took JT to the day care center for the afternoon. Which was a great idea because it gave us all a much-needed nap and some time to finish putting together some of her gifts. Anyone want to tell me why someone would box up three hundred loose pieces, toss in some instructions in Greek and call it a toy? Dawg and I spent our naptime putting that monstrosity together. And when we finished it was either a dollhouse or a missile silo. We just weren't sure. In either case we hid it in the spare room and awaited the return of small, blonde and holiday demented.

What greeted us was not the same child we sent out into the world. It was quiet, and for JT that's not normal. She immediately went up to her room to play and never once checked the chimney. When dinner rolled around she was still sullen. Her little green eyes look a touch glassy and I could see her nose was red; I thought she had been crying. Having seen the same adorable signs on her Mother. But Shannon was convinced it was a cold.

" Can I be 'scuzed?" The little one asked quietly. I had been watching her push her dinner around on her plate for fifteen minutes.

Shannon gave her permission and we all watched the tiny form go back up the stairs to her room.

" Shan?"

" I'm going Trace". By now we all knew something was up. This is the tough part of parenting. You feel helpless when they hurt or get sick. When she had the flu last year I was a wreck.

I waited about all I could stand before I mounted those steps myself, followed by Dawg and Syd who were just as worried. When we got to the bedroom door we stopped and surveyed the scene. There was Shannon holding a tiny, quivering body, tears streaming down her beautiful face. Let me tell you that nothing moves you faster then both of the loves in your life in tears.

I sat on the bed and wrapped them both in my arms. " Ok what's going on?"

JT looked up at me with huge tear filled eyes. It was pitiful.

" Bobby sez Santa's not real". She sobbed. I glanced at Shannon whose face mirrored her daughters. Her tears, I knew were for the loss of some of JT's innocence. It hurt me to think that someone was going to spoil our little girl's childhood dreams so quickly.

" Bobby's an idiot". I told her.

" His big brother telled him Trace. Said only babies think Santa brings presents".

" Well then his brother is an idiot too. Didn't I just have you ask Santa for my...umm know"? I winked.

" You was just teasin". She sighed dejectedly.

Oh boy. I was at a loss this time. Usually what I say..she agrees with. I was faced with two heart breaking situations. One. ......JT's way to young to stop believing in Santa. Hell I'm, not entirely sure I've stopped believing yet. And two, her Mother was crushed. She was nowhere near ready to let JT grow up this fast. Believe it or not, help came from a very unlikely source.

" Trace...come talk to me for a sec." Dawg called from the door. I didn't miss the wink she gave her wife as we passed.

She took me into their room and pushed me down on the bed. Get the idea out of your head. We're friends. Anyway, she reached into the closet and pulled out a brightly wrapped box and handed it to me.

" I think you might need this before Christmas". She stated.

I was bewildered. Not an uncommon thing but what this and the situation in the other room had to do with one another was beyond me. But like any good present receiver...I ripped it open.

Ok there's some explanation that I need to give here. I collect things. Not heads or anything but well, I collect books, letters, old stuff. I always have. They gave me a sense of history. Really I didn't think anyone noticed that, expect Shannon. Seems my buddy Dawg knew that little fact as well.

I sat there staring at the perfect answer to our little problem. I told Dawg to take it down stairs and I would get the kid. Of course that was after I grabbed the big lug up in a hug and kissed her blushing cheek.

Once I had my little family gathered in the living room and JT settled on my lap. I had Dawg hand me the large framed gift. Pressed behind glass, framed in oak, was an original copy of the editorial page of the New York Sun. Dated...1897

" Do you know what this is little bit?" I asked the little blonde on my lap.

" A really old paper".

" Yup a very old newspaper. But this ones special you see. Because once there was a little girl, who ask the same questions about Santa you did".

" She asked who?"

" The people who wrote the paper, you know, the grown ups who know all about the news and stuff". She nodded her little head in understanding.

" Ok so do you want to know what they said about Santa all those years ago?" Again she nodded.

Editor: Francis P. Church

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor--- I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon

" She really ask that Trace?"

" Yes she did. You want to hear the answer?" She snuggled closer to me as I read the famous reply.

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

JT looked at me slightly bewildered.

" That means even grown ups sometimes can be stupid and not believe in things just because we can't see them". I explained. Receiving a nod, I continued.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to have men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

" Just 'cuz you don't see it, don't mean it's not there". She whispered. Her understanding of the piece of literature was amazing.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world, which neither the strongest men, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

When I finished I wasn't the only one with tears in my eyes. Dawg had her arms wrapped around her wife and child, both crying quietly. Shannon stared at me with her green eyes glistening, a look of complete love and adoration on her face. A look that meant I had done well. The best sight to greet me as I gazed at my little family was JT's smile. Her little dimples on her little cheeks letting me know that she understood and accepted the words written so long ago.

" I love you Trace". She said her tiny arms secure around my neck. " Bobby's an idiot".

" Yup". I had to agree. Bobby was going to grow up one of those narrow-minded people, who hate their jobs and only live life from the outside. But maybe, just maybe, my little bit here will keep that innocence, that thing that makes great things happen, that spark of childhood.

Chapter 7

We were finally 4 days out from the big one. JT was once again in hyper mode. Only this didn't matter. Personally I would have climbed up the chimney myself if she had asked. I was just thrilled she still believed. And just as a reminder, I hung that old bit of newsprint in her room. It seemed like the right place for it.

You know life never goes according to plan. Especially around the holidays. So it came as no shock when Shannon announced she needed to go to the mall again. I was truly blessed when Dawg agreed to go with her. I think she'd had enough of her wife. Syd hadn't been feeling really well the last day or so and it was taking its toll.

So I sent them off. If I had known it was going to be into a blizzard I probably would have insisted they stay. But hell...I'm not a weather forecaster. But it was really starting to pile up out there and they had only been gone a couple hours. I really hoped they made it home before it got to deep. Living in the sticks it isn't like the roads are going to get plowed anytime soon.

I sat there in the chair watching the snowfall, lost in my worries. And I heard it.

" Trace!"

Hmm...not JT it was to low and Shannon was still gone had to be Syd. I was contemplating answering when JT ran into the room arms flailing...

" You gotta come quick". She yelled and then ran back out. You have got to love the way little kids display panic.

I ran up the steps and found Syd in the bathroom sitting there in a pool of what I can only describe as primordial ooze.

" Eww gross". Well it was.

" My water broke Trace, it's not gross". That was her opinion. It took a second for the 'water breaking' thing to sink in.

" Oh no way Syd! You have to wait till Dawg gets back". I was emphatic about that. Unfortunately...she wasn't listening.

" Trace God Damn it! Help me up". So I waded in through the ooze and helped her stand. I had just gotten her to her feet when a contraction hit and she latched onto my arm. I don't know which of us screamed louder but she took flesh with her, I know she did.

" Syd it's to early to have this baby. So stop it!" I ordered. Even JT looked at me like I was stupid.

" Get the phone little bit". I sent JT out of the room and scooped Syd up and stumbled to the nearest bed. Which unfortunately was mine. But try carrying a pregnant woman.

I had her settled as best I could for all her screaming and cussing. She said words I never knew existed and named off things I could do with myself that I know are not anatomically possible. For some reason I thought birth would take longer. And in between contractions I stated that fact to Syd. Who kicked me in the head and told me her mother and sisters had all delivered quickly. Now's a good time to let me know that.

JT came back with the phone and to her credit my smart little angel also brought the phone book. And leaving the little one to Syd, I quickly looked up and dialed a Doc near town. Who promptly told me that we needed to call 911. Well...duh. And the way this was going the kid would be walking before the ambulance got there. I would have bent his ear a little more but Syd's screaming made it hard to concentrate.

JT is a little trooper; she stood at Syd's head telling her it would be ok. Now if she would come over here and tell me that things would be fine. But no ...I had to talk to Doris the 911 operator, who by the way had been through four births of her own and had the gall to tell me...I needed to calm down.

" I can't calm down..didn't you hear me?! She's having a baby!" The woman was insufferable. Probably because she just kept laughing.

" Yes I know women have babies everyday. But not on my bed they don't!"

" Hey this baby is not my fault!" Damn woman must have talked to Dawg.

" Fine ...yes I can do that".

I looked to Syd who was grimacing; I guessed that wasn't a good thing. It didn't look like a good thing. But at least she wasn't screaming.

" Trace! I need to push". Oh no.

" No no pushing. Pushing makes the baby come. No baby coming out, you have to wait". Yes I was panicking.

And so...she pushed anyway. And to my utter dismay and against my will I was forced to look in a place that I shouldn't be looking. Well not on anyone but Shannon. You know there are some things best left private between friends.

" Jesus Trace its not like you haven't seen it all before". Oh she was trying to be logical but she wasn't the one down here.

" Syd it's not the same. Well' its kind of the same but.." I whined.

" Trace.........shut up". Just then she drew in a long breath and. the top of her lungs. JT covered her ears. The paint on the house peeled. Dogs from 20 miles away hid under their porches. Then the most amazing thing happened...something the size of a grapefruit was peeking out of that place I was trying not to look at.

" Hey I think I see the head". I know....duh. Shut up.

" I'm going to kill Dawg!" She yelled. And at this moment I was more then happy to agree to help her. We went on like this for what I was sure was an eternity. Which I later found out was fifteen minutes. But still the longest fifteen minutes of my life. Syd would scream and push, JT would cover her ears and look at me like I should fix it. I didn't think duct tape was the answer here. any case it was to late to just tape her shut.

Finally the head popped out. I know that sounds strange but it did. Just pop! Kind of cool if you could ignore all the gore. Now through this all I still had the Mother of four on the phone telling me what to do. You didn't really think I was flying solo here did you? Ha! And the woman wanted me to support the baby's head. Which meant getting even closer to the forbidden place. So I turned my head and just slipped my hand under the little dark grapefruit.

You know, it's very lucky that childbirth is a natural thing. The body says push and you do. And so Syd just followed what her body told her. Which at this point I'm sure it was screaming. " Get this damn thing out of me!" ....At least that's what Syd was screaming as she pushed again.

To my surprise little tiny shoulders slipped right out, followed by the rest of a long body. And Syd fell back on the bed with a huge relieved sigh. JT was there, her job to place cool rags on Syd's head. She was doing a great job.

I had the rough part I had to pick up the baby and place it on Syd's tummy until the paramedics got there to cut the cord. Well...had to pinch the damn thing off first. Easy enough....we used the string from JT's yoyo. And I laid the screaming child on her.........yes her...Mother's belly.

I sat back and gazed at the miracle of life. JT looking on in awe. Syd smiling sweetly. The baby...well...have you ever seen a newborn child? They look something like a cross between a hairless Sharpei and a lizard with a skin condition, and multi-colored. This one was bluish with a little pink and purple thrown in for good measure. It was slimy and yet had scales. At the same time. And the darkest head of hair you had ever seen. And lots of it.

You know timing is everything and neither my wife nor Dawg had any. As we sat there watching the little critter turn colors...mostly pinkish now, they finally arrived. Well, they got there at the same time the ambulance pulled up.

I heard the door bust open and JT took off to tell her Mother what had happened. I stood up and got the hell out of the way, more then ready to let professionals take over this little exercise in terror. Dawg was in the room first though. Stopping dead in her tracks when she spotted Syd lying there with the baby on her stomach.

" Congratulations! It's a puppy-lizard". I said smacking her on the back and moving off to find my wife and just pass out in her arms.

That wasn't meant to be however, as JT dragged her Mother into the room to show her the newborn. I don't see the big deal here. Ok...yes the miracle of birth was not lost on me and I'm sure later, when I've had a chance to processes everything I'll break down and ball like a baby. But its fuzzy, wrinkled and has scales. And my wife, who I'm sure has 20/20 vision, calls it beautiful.

I gave up. I left and went down to the living room and waited for the madness to end. I watched and waved as the paramedics took Syd and the baby out on a stretcher. Dawg following behind them talking to Shannon. JT climbed onto my lap and snuggled me. Which is what I needed.

When they had all gone, with the exception of Shannon who stayed to care for me during my soon to be nervous breakdown. She sat next to me and laid her head on my shoulder.

" Isn't it wonderful Trace?"

Was she insane? " Yea sure". If she was insane I thought it best not to provoke her. And she leaned up and kissed me. Long and deep. The kind that leaves you breathless and wanting more.

" I love did great". She whispered against my lips.

" I helped" JT said, making sure we knew I wasn't alone in this.

" Yup you did little bit".

" They're naming her Allison. I told Dawg we would go up tonight and see them".

She might have said more, I don't know. I drifted off there. JT nestled against my chest and my beautiful Shannon wrapped around me. And for was peaceful.

Chapter 8

By the time we made it home from seeing Syd and the puppy, it was way past my bedtime. I have to tell you, the baby wasn't looking much better. I was really beginning to think the kid was doomed to look like a squished, scaly puppy. Shannon assures me they get better looking. I really hope so. I can't think of a good way to tell Dawg her kid is ugly.

I followed my wife into the house, watching her little butt in front of me. Hey I may have been tired but I'm not blind. Besides, it really is worth looking at. So anyway she was carrying the kid, who was doing her best imitation being boneless. Little kids become boneless when they're asleep. It's a scientific fact. She took the sleeping blonde upstairs and left me standing there.

It was quiet now. You would never know that just hours before we had delivered a baby and had people all over, yelling and screaming. The bags from Shannon's shopping trip were still in the hall. As was a newspaper one of them must have picked up while they were out. I grabbed the paper and headed to the living room. Kicked off my boots and settled back to enjoy the quiet.

I flipped open the paper and staring right back at me from the front page...was Shannon. Not just Shannon, but Shannon and an elf. My sweet wife had a hold of the elf's collar, shaking the hell out of the woman. There were indeed candy canes all over the floor. And the kids really did scramble to get them. And in the back of this chaos....sat our daughter on Santa's knee. The headline read...Mother Manhandles Nosy Elf...

Oh it wasn't just artwork, they had an article to go along with it. Some bull about how Christmas has become so commercial so on and so on. In any case, there was my family...front page news. Now I could have just ignored this. I could have kept it from Shannon. But....where's the fun in that. We all know I'm not right....let it go.

So my beautiful, blonde, goddess like wife, headed back down the stairs and promptly snuggled against me. I smiled at her. She smiled back. I Grinned. She smacked me.

" What's the grin for? Did you get into the gifts again?" She's so suspicious. time I got into them.

" No". I just kept grinning.

" Trace you're making me nervous. What's the matter with you?"

" Nothing". I said innocently. Hey I can look innocent when I have to.

" Uh huh". She just kept eyeing me.

I reached over to the coffee table and picked up a pen. Then pulling the paper out from under the couch. Still grinning I handed both items to her.

" Can I have your autograph?"

She looked down at the paper and it took a full minute for the picture to register. Her face went from a look of complete confusion to shock to out right full-blown red embarrassment. She looked up at me, her eyes filled with abject horror.

" Oh God Trace". She gasped. Her complexion reddening further. I was pretty sure she was going to go up in flames soon.

" It's a good picture honey. I think they really caught you in a good light. See they even got that little vein in your forehead that throbs when you get mad". I said pointing out the aforementioned. "And JT looks awesome back there on Santa's lap". She was not amused. I could tell this because she rolled the paper up and started beating me with it.

" Trace....this is not funny". She said in-between smacking me. " I. Am. Not. A. Violent. Person!" She enunciated each word, driving it home with another whack with the paper. Oh yea I was convinced. Not!

" Honey ....umm?" She looked completely devastated when she realized what she was doing. Her green eyes filled with tears and I felt like a heel for being mean about the whole thing. Well...except the part where she beat me with the paper. I just pulled her onto my lap and held her while she cried. I've said it before. It's the only thing to do when faced with an emotional woman.

It took some time but she regained herself but stayed snuggled in my arms. Like I minded. I loved the feel of her against me.

" Better?"

" Uh huh"

" It's not so bad Shan. No one is going to care about some stupid article in a back woods paper". I tried to reassure her.

" I hope not. I wouldn't be able to face people if they all saw it". She sniffed.

" What people? The people here? Come on Shan, the people here would probably pat you on the back for doing what they wish they could do. Do you know how many Mother's out there probably wish they could take a whack at one of those Mall elves?" She chuckled, a good sign.

" You're right. It's no big deal". She finally agreed.

" Good. Let's go to bed bruiser". That earned me one last whack but she followed me anyway.

I was pretty sure things were back to normal when I went to bed. That'll teach me to think. I woke up in the night to the sounds of scraping coming from downstairs. I reached over to wake Shannon but found her already gone. So I was forced to get up and check the noise out myself.

I stumbled downstairs in my Taz boxers and bunny slippers. I peeked around the corner of the hall into the living room and there before me was the solution to a mystery that had plagued me for weeks.

Shannon was moving the furniture. I watched as she totally rearranged the room. All but the Christmas tree, which was still taped to the wall. I had suspected for some time that my wife was doing this. But I thought it was something she was doing just to torture me. As I stood there in the dim light I realized that when Shannon has something on her mind, she finds something to keep herself busy while she works it out. I do that too. But for me it's more like taking a drive or going for a run.

I left her there, lost in her thoughts as she uprooted the furniture from its current home and relocated it. Best not to get involved in that.

Chapter 9

Christmas Eve should be the one time you are legally allowed to drug your children. If you've never seen a small child the day before Santa makes his're lucky. I said before it's a lot like looking at a little crack addict; it gets worse. Little eyes glaze over, nothing you say to them seems to register, they literally vibrate. I mean would be a fantastic phenomenon if it weren't happening in your house.

Luckily my wife's a genius. Well, and she's been through this before. So she had our little darling in the kitchen making cookies to leave for the big guy. My job was to do the last minute wrapping. Now let me tell you, my wrapping skills are right up there with my cooking skills, non-existent. But I was doing my best and had only managed to tape myself to the bed once. Hey...that's good for me. Of course that would be the time Shannon had come up to check on me.

" Trace, what are you doing?" A silly question I thought, considering she's the one who sent me up here to do this. Perhaps she was just questioning the twelve feet of red and silver paper I had rolled out on the floor. Or the bows I had stuck to it.

" I'm wrapping Shan". I was fairly proud of my progress. I'd only been up here an hour and I was more then half way through the remaining pile of gifts.

" Trace you don't need that much paper to wrap a Barbie Doll. And the bow goes on after you have it wrapped".

" Who's doing this?" It was my project; she needed to go back to her cookies. I picked up the pink box containing the doll and placed it in the middle of my paper.

"'s all yours". Finally!

" Why are we giving her a Barbie Doll anyway? Isn't this just going to damage her psychologically? I mean one can live up to this ideal". It was a question that had plagued me when we bought the little frilly, way to perfect toy. I had wanted to give her the WWF Chyna action figure. Shannon was not amuse.

" All little girls need to have at least one Barbie. Didn't you have one when you were little?".

" Yes. But she met with an untimely demise when the jeep she was driving struck a land mind and blew up. She had inadvertently driven into a war zone. Took both my G.I. Joes and a whole team of little green army men to find all the pieces". It's true. The perky blonde should have stayed in the mansion but you know Babs, she thinks she can do it all. Ha! That little M-80 fixed her.

Shannon just shook her head and left me there in my sea of ribbons and paper. Which was fine, and I took out the little pink Harley and wrapped it up with the doll. Hey...if JT was going to play with Barbie, it was going to be Butch Barbie.

Putting a child to bed on Christmas Eve is a lot like a war. You need an act of congress and full senate approval. And a threat or two doesn't hurt either. JT may only be four, but she's a smart four. I swear the kid can come up with more reasons not to do something than....well than me. But after checking the cookies 3 times, and 2 trips to the bathroom, and a glass of water she was finally all snug in her bed.

It took another 3 hours to get all the gifts under the tree and Shannon and I to get into bed. But we made it there. Now all we had to do was wait for JT to come in and wake us up. I wondered for a minute if Shannon had told her that we weren't opening gifts until Dawg and Syd got there. They would be coming by right after Syd and the puppy was released from the hospital. Oh well...she'll get over it.....right?

Chapter 10

Bright sunlight filtered in through the window, waking me. Two things struck me as odd right off the bat. The first being, that JT wasn't up before the dawn trying to force us out of bed. The second, and by far the most disconcerting, was Dawg standing at the end of the bed staring at us.

" Merry Christmas!" Oh she always was far too cheerful in the morning.

" Yup".

" Come on sunshine you've gotta see this". She said pulling the covers off our warm, nude bodies.

" Hey!" Shannon screamed when the cool air hit her naked butt. Dawg, being Dawg, just leered. I finally had to smack her with a pillow.

" You have one of your own". She did, Syd was right downstairs. At least I hoped she was.

" Yea but mine hasn't looked like that for a few months". She commented, still ogling my wife's behind.

Shannon pulled the sheet off the bed and wrapped it around herself. Then marched up to my tall friend and poked her in the chest. " I'm going to tell her you said that".

Dawg isn't stupid; she knew enough to be afraid. I watched her pale slightly and swallow hard. " Umm....Sorry?" She offered sheepishly.

" Yea yea...what is it we need to see?"

" Oh yea! Come on .....this is just to cute". And she took off out the door like we were supposed to follow. I felt like we were in an episode of Lassie.

It took a few more minutes but we managed to get dressed. Well Shannon made us get dressed; I was just going to go down in my slippers and boxers. When we got down the steps I just stood there. The tree was lit and the fire was going. Snow was falling gently out side; visible from the front window. Syd was sitting in the old rocker beside the fireplace with the puppy wrapped in a blanket, tucked into her arms. She was radiant.

I looked around the room and felt .....content. And then I saw it...the reason Dawg had dragged us out of bed. Under the tree, among the gifts, was a little lump. Wrapped in her blanket JT had crawled under there and was fast asleep. The little imp must have gotten up sometime in the night. One of our demented friends had stuck a bow on her tiny butt. The sight had Shannon running for the camera.

After the pictures were taken, you need those things to torture them with later; I decided to wake the sleeping gift.

" Hey little bit". I shook her gently. Her sleepy green eyes opened and she struggled to focus.

" M'rry Chris'mas Trace". She yawned.

I picked her up and cradled her little body in my arms. Kissing the blonde head. " What were you doing under there?"

" I forgot your present". She said holding up folded sheet of construction paper.

" Is this for me?" She nodded as I sat with her in my lap. I opened the gift gently. You had to it was taped up tight.....with duct tape. Once I managed to get it open I unfolded it. And there drawn on this paper was something that was akin to a stick figure horse only it had sort of lopsided circles where the legs should be and antlers. But I knew what it was. It was black and silver and I knew. She had given me my Harley.

" My bike!" I said smiling at her. She was thrilled I knew what it was. Her little eyes lit up and she nodded. I hugged her tight. " Thank you".

" Welcome. I didn't think Santa would get a real one in his sleigh". She explained.

" Well......this one is better". And it gift gift.

Shannon leaned over and kissed my cheek. Tears shimmering in her eyes. I guess I wasn't dry-eyed either. You know sometimes the things we think we want are nothing when you compare them to the things you already have.

But the peaceful moment didn't last long and before you knew it the gifts were shredded. Paper was everywhere. JT had bows stuck to her entire body. Quite was a great morning. Shannon got to hold the puppy while Syd opened her own gifts. I'm not sure that was a good thing. She got this far-away look on her face. I knew that "baby" talk was going to happen again.

I looked over at the bundle in my wife's arms. The kid had gotten better looking over the last few days. Not as scaly. Her tiny fist was in her sweet, little, bowed mouth. And she was looking up at Shannon with the most intense gaze I think I'd ever seen. Her little cloudy eyes trying to focus and I noticed they were turning. The blue eyes were slowly being replaced with brown. Coupled with the full head of almost black hair you would swear Dawg really did have something to do with this kid's parentage.

" Hey Dawg? Do you have a talent we don't know about? This kid looks just like you". I had to ask.

She smiled at me. " I have six brothers Trace. Who do you think the donor was?"

" Eww.....too much information". There are some things you just don't want to think about. That's one of them.

Things that morning were great. As I knew they would be. I had my bike and my girls. JT had her Barbie who was popping wheelies on her own bike. Much to Shannon's dismay. Syd and little Ally were wrapped in Dawg's arms. And my wife was snuggled against my side playing with her new laptop. Everything couldn't have been more perfect. And then.......

When the knock on the door came I knew it wasn't going to be good. No one is out on Christmas day at this time just for a social call. And Maggie wasn't due for dinner for another hour. Shannon had gotten up to answer and when she came back in the room I could tell something was wrong.

In her hands she held manila envelope. Like the ones they send you "do not fold, spindle or mutilate" papers in. The look on her face was one of sheer terror. I got up immediately and went to her.

" Shan, baby....what's wrong?" She let out a sharp sob and handed me the envelope.

I wrapped my arm around her trembling shoulders and took the papers out. Inside was a newspaper clipping of Shannon and the elf, with JT in the background. A neatly written note accompanied.

Hello Sis

Now I wonder why my own sister

never told me she had a child? I'll be

Seeing you and my niece very soon.


Oh god!..... And so it begins.....

The End

Oct. 2002.

I borrowed the " Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" passage. Duh.......

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