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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Real Santa Chapter 41 (8 days to Xmas YIKES)

THE BICYCLE WAS by the tree when she came down. The blue

Schwinn stood out like a diamond. The red ribbon on the handlebars

beckoned her, and Mary and her father went outside. It had been

snowing all week, and the streets still had a thick layer of slushy white.

Her father walked with her on the new bike, holding it up, letting her

glide through the quiet snow.

Santa had brought her what she asked for in the letter her mother

mailed. Dear Santa, I want a blue Schwinn Stringray Banana bike with

five gears. Her parents told her Santa might not be able to deliver such

a bike. But there it was when she came down the slippery wooden

stairs. Sylvia and Shirley and Daffney were wrong. They had walked

home one day, and she had been the lone holdout: Santa was real.

Riding out in the bracing air, she was a happy ten-year-old as her

father huffed by her. And then it happened. The handlebars shifted,

and when she turned straight the handlebars pointed to the left.

Her father frowned and looked at the bike, pulling out an adjustable

wrench from his coat. “I thought I had tightened that bolt down

enough,” he murmured. Mary stared at him as he tightened the steering

wheel, turning the wheel between his legs. Had he really said he

had tightened the handlebars?

“I thought Santa put the bike together, Daddy.”

And years later she realized how tired her father had been. He

had come home from his sales job, and then stayed up half the night
assembling toys. His eyes were red rimmed with heavy bags under

them. He was bent over the bike with a stubble, cranking the bolt in

the center of the handlebars. He wasn’t thinking, and that’s why he

said what he said.

“You’re looking at Santa,” he muttered.

And Mary had stared at him. He kept torquing the bolt with his

bare hands chapped and slightly red from the cold. He finished and

handed her the bike. “There you go.” Mary held the bike and put one

leg over and then paused. She looked at her father, whose eyes had

started watering from the cold, his long overcoat tailing out in the


“You’re Santa Claus, Dad?”

“Yeah, but don’t tell your brothers. They still believe.”

And Mary felt her breath leave. She felt the cheery white world

go away. She brushed away the tears and pushed off, but the bike

slid in the snow, and she felt the rutted ice on her cheek. Her father

picked her up.

“Hey, kiddo, maybe we should try this when it’s not so cold.”

And she had nodded, keeping her head down, brushing away the

tears she blamed on the wind. Her father never knew he had delivered

the hammer blow to her belief in Santa Claus. Even then she knew that

would crush her mother, who went to elaborate means to keep her

belief alive. But she had lost it, and there was simply no turning back.

And that day is what she thought about when she heard the

reindeer trampling overhead like thunder. It’s what got her staring

out the window at Dean floating in space in the green beret with the

snow and fog enveloping the roof. And as she stood at the window,

she felt like that little girl again who had cried on that cold, snowy

Christmas day. And she realized then what George had said was true.

She would have paid a million dollars to have her belief in Santa back.

“I am practical, dammit,” she muttered, hearing nine reindeer

scuff about on her roof.

But there was something about a man who would lead a sled of

reindeer onto a roof for his daughter. And now that man was about

to go down a chimney. Mary considered for the first time that her

husband just might kill himself.

Real Santa

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Books by William Hazelgrove