~ The Winter of Our Discontent ~
by J.W. Heart

Disclaimers: This is a work of alternative fiction, so eventually there will be somewhat graphic depictions of women engaged in intimate acts. If this is illegal where you live???it's really time to move. If you are under age?.Move on. I'm not here to further your education.

Language: Yep?bad words. Be warned.

Thanks To: As always, my own dream woman, whose spirit is my inspiration everyday. And my beta readers, Alec Rene and M. Rae Patrick. Wordsmiths in their own right.

This is the 3rd in the Trace and Shannon series. I suggest that to fully comprehend what's happening here, you might want to read? Summer of Need and Meanwhile Back at the Ranch.

All comments, questions, and concerns for my mental health can be sent to

Chapter 1

Shannon and I made it through our first year on the ranch together. It was a learning experience to say the least. First you should know that little kids?really do believe the sun rises and sets on them. That was hard for me as I had been lead to believe it rose and set on me. My mistake. It's all right, I got over it. I think the hardest part was finding time away from little prying eyes, if you know what I mean. Lucky for me, the woman of my dreams, is brilliant. Just last week?

I pulled my truck into the drive; I knew my family was home. So really the sight of a trail of clothing leading from the drive to the barn peaked my interest. My curiosity getting the better of me, well that and I'm not totally stupid, I followed the trail.

I stopped occasionally to pick up the articles of clothing. First a pair of red socks. Much to big for a four year old. Next there was one of my flannel shirts. Not surprising really, the women in my life tended to take my clothes a lot. Which reminds me ??.I need to get new shirts. A very feminine pair of panties followed the shirt. Gods bless VS. A little further up was its matching bra. Well you get the idea right.

I grabbed the remaining article, yes jeans, and walked into the barn. Now you have to understand a couple things here. First being that Shannon and I while we love our daughter more than life. Well, we get very little alone time. And second, its December and damn cold. Thankfully the barn is heated for foaling.

The sight that greeted me was breath taking. All 5'4 inches of gloriously naked Shannon spread across a soft blanket on a bed of sweet hay. We've been together now for just over a year and the woman still knocks me senseless. Well, not that senseless, I was out of my clothes faster then you can say go.

We didn't say a word to each other, knowing time was of the essence. I slid over her body, feeling her wrap around me. Our lips meeting, passionate and hot. There would be no time for preliminaries this time. But it didn't seem that Shannon needed them anyway, she was more than ready. We spent the next half hour driving each other insane until we both flew off that edge. Gods I love that woman.

So you see my little vixen can be very creative about getting us alone together. I know you're wondering where JT was. Lets say Mother's everywhere know the value of naptime.

Now as you may have noticed, I said it was December. Which means snow and most importantly. ??Christmas. I was excited about this holiday. Ok I love Christmas, can blame me? Presents. It's the one time of the year when I actually don't mind shopping. And I discovered something last year that made it even better. Little kids like toys. And I love the toy store. Of course Shannon vowed she'd never go in one with me again. Hey, I swear that little boy started the whole thing. It's not my fault.

This year was going to be great. We were going to get our tree, hang our lights and the best part was that Syd and Dawg were going to come across the pond for the holidays. I hadn't seen my friends since last summer. This year was going to be special the whole family together. Including the new member, well, the new one on the way. Oh yea should tell you that Syd's pregnant. And no matter what Dawg says, that's not my fault either.

My loving wife took the little one to see Santa. I wanted to go but someone needed to hold this couch down. You never know when the furniture will get up and move itself around. That's a big problem in our house. And the frequency has increased of late. Seems every time I leave the house, when I walk back in everything is changed around. Nothing worse then furniture that can't make up its mind where it wants to be. Frankly I'm tired of running into it, there's just so much my shins can take. So I thought I'd keep an eye on it. Shannon just rolled her eyes when I told her that. You should follow her lead with that one. Just let it go.

Chapter 2

I wasn't really sleeping I was just resting my eyes. It's important to do that now and again, they get tired too. So I didn't hear the truck pull up the drive. Nor did I hear the door open. I did hear it slam closed however. But I'm not nearly as quick as a four year old on a mission. So I wasn't able to get out of the way of the little body that flung itself across my stomach. As I lay there sucking wind. ?

" Hi Trace! I seen Santa!" She was just so cute. Santa is a big deal to a four year old.

I pulled the little body closer and whispered. " Did you tell him?"

" Uh huh?A Harley, a black one. Just like you telled me". Hey?don't look at me like that. So it's really for me but I thought it best to have all my bases covered. Maybe Santa can pull some strings with the other blonde.

Speaking of the other blonde, she was leaning against the door jam. Looking very annoyed. For those not in a relationship. That's not a good thing. Usually means someone, me, is in trouble.

" Hi Honey". I smiled hoping that it would charm her into a better mood. It didn't work.

" Don't honey me. I can't believe you had a four year old ask Santa for a Harley". Now I've lived with this woman long enough that she should know ??this is exactly something I would do. And she did, so there was something else going on but I didn't get the chance to ask. She just walked off.

So I did what I always do when I'm left clueless. I asked the kid.

" Why is Momma upset?"

She shrugged her little shoulders. " I dunno, I think its cuz she had a fight with Santa's elf. I'm gonna go play". And she left me there. Still clueless.

Now my sweet gentle Shannon doesn't fight. Well not with people in public. That's something she reserves for me ??.at home. Where the making up can be held in some sort of privacy. And so the idea of her getting into it with anyone was disturbing. Not as disturbing as the image I had of my fiery blonde going after one of Santa's elves. I mean ???it's an elf. What can they possibly do to piss off a full grow woman.

So with that picture in my mind I went in search of my beloved wife. Hoping to find an answer to the maddening question. I knew when I walked into the kitchen and saw her slamming the cupboard doors; I should have just left it alone. But no one has ever said I had a lot of sense.

" Honey? What's wrong"? Not an original opener but hey we had a mystery to solve.

She turned to me; jaw clenched tight, green eyes burning. " I want you to go to the mall". She said stalking up to me, wrapping her hands in my shirt. " And kill that elf!" She yelled pulling me down to her face.

Ok so obviously the little Christmas elf had committed some grievous error. But I can't just go around executing elves. Not without reason. And it must have been really bad because Shannon isn't one prone to violence. Forget about her holding a gun on me, she didn't shoot so it doesn't count. So either the elf in question really screwed up or my wife was in the throws of PMS. Now here's a tip?never ?and I do mean never, ask a woman if she just might be over reacting because it's that time of the month. Just assume the world is wrong and she's the only sane one left in it. Trust me, it's just easier.

" Umm..honey?" I choked. " Let go?.you're cutting off the blood flow to my face".

She did release my shirt, but then buried herself in my arms. Hold tight to my waist. The tell tale sniffing against my shirt told me she was crying. Ok now the evil elf made my Shannon cry; I might just have to kill it anyway.

" Oh Trace she was awful". She sobbed. It's a pitiful sight really. Her green eyes all watery, nose all red. Still absolutely gorgeous. We have discussed in the past that I'm not well; you should know this by now.

I sat down on the chair pulling her onto my lap. Amazing but both Mother and child seem to feel better when I can hold them like this. She settled down and sat there laying her head on my shoulder.

" What happened?"

" Oh JT was waiting for her turn with Santa and this woman was talking to me". Finally were getting to the reason behind all this.

" The elf woman?". Ok so I needed to clear up some points. Frankly I was still confused.

" Yea. She said it was nice to see all the families coming out this year. And then asked where JT's father was and why he didn't come with us". She sniffed. Personally I thought it was kind of nosy, but then its nowhere USA. ??.enough said.

" Well you know JT nothing phases her". Ha! That's the truth. Kid's far too honest for my own good. " She tells this bitch that she doesn't have a Daddy, but she did have a Trace and that she was home making sure the furniture didn't move". See little bit understands too. I knew it wasn't just me having problems the furniture.

" Uh oh".

" No kidding. The woman glared at me like I was something evil and disgusting. Started talking under her breath about homos and crap. I just lost it Trace". She looked up at me with those big green eyes, horrified. " There I was in the middle of the mall yelling at one of Santa's elves about intolerance and bigots. And she was screaming at me about family and decent folks. Her stupid bells ringing. It was a terrible scene". She snuggled deeper into my arms.

Now I swear I didn't mean to but damn???I just couldn't help myself. I got this vision of Shannon shaking the hell out of the elf, bells jingling, words flying and JT calm as could be sitting on Santa's lap relating her Christmas list. I had to laugh.

Shannon looked at me totally disbelieving my reaction. And I laughed harder. I tried to hold it in I really did. But the tears burned my eyes. I finally gave up and just went with it.

" Trace it isn't funny. Her pointed hat flew off. People were standing around staring. Some even took pictures. The candy canes she was holding fell all over the floor. Kids from all over the mall were scrambling to get them. I almost caused a riot. I was so embarrassed". She pouted, jumping off my lap and stalking to the counter.

Which was bad for me because by this time I had lost all control and fell right on the floor. To hell with dignity, that was just too funny. They say laughter is contagious, and it's a good thing for me its true. Eventually Shannon started chuckling, and then lost her own composure.

It took ten minutes to get ourselves back under control. Both of us with tears streaming down our faces. I wrapped my arms around her sweet body and kissed her blonde head.

" Well?.I'm not sure my killing her can top what's already been done baby".

" I guess you're right". She giggled.

I was pleased that the situation was diffused. The idea of committing elf homicide just wasn't very festive. I mean?killing an elf at Christmas time most likely holds some pretty stiff penalties. That's probably where they got the guy to play Santa. He's last year's elf killer.

Chapter 3

Ok I know they're my friends but Shannon has become close with them as well. So I didn't see why it was my duty to pick them up at the airport. I did have other things to do. But?.here I am because as we know?I like being able to sleep in my own bed at night; JT kicks in her sleep. So I'm waiting in a crowded airport having left the child to the ever-important furniture-sitting job.

Have you ever noticed that people in an airport at holiday time are really not all there? I know that's quite an observation coming from me. But really, you have young couples standing at the luggage carousel waiting for their bags. And you just know that she's taking him home for the first time to meet the folks. You can tell that because he's fidgeting and she's going over the names of all the relatives he's going to meet. And the poor guy is becoming increasingly pale. A cold sweat has broken out on his forehead. And his eyes started darting around looking for an escape route.

Then you have other couples, the more established ones, with children in tow. The kids are screaming because they didn't get any sleep on the flight. Mom looks worn to a frazzle and Dad is carrying 3 bags all filled with gifts and has a carrier strapped to his shoulder dragging another three bags behind him. He is also looking for an escape route. Watching them I decided that we were never flying anywhere, at least until JT was far into her teens. That thought brings home a whole other kind of horror but we aren't going to think about that right now.

I think my favorite people to watch were the businessmen. You know the guys in rumpled suits carrying a single overnight bad and a briefcase. They dodge the around the crying kids, avoid Mom like the plague and barely scrape by Dad and his luggage train. They duck out of the way of the young man who is a sickly shade of green. These are they guys who find the escape route.

I was pretty lost in my people watching so I didn't notice my friend's arrival. Well not until Dawg picked me up from behind and swung me like a child in circles. It's totally embarrassing that she can do that. She only put me down when Syd smacked her and ordered it. Never argue with a pregnant woman who has been on an airplane for over 20 hours.

" Damn Dawg people are staring here". I never blush just put that thought right out of your minds.

" It's good to see you too sunshine".

They looked great. Well Dawg looked great, Syd was kind of green?like the kid by the baggage. And huge!?.ok even I know you don't tell a pregnant woman that. Give me some credit.

" Syd you look fantastic". I wasn't lying she really did once you got past the green thing.

" Thanks Trace you lie well, Shannon would be proud". She laughed hugging me tight.

" Where is your other and better looking half?" Dawg asked grinning.

" Home, she had some last minute things to take care of".

" Why didn't you bring the little darling?" Syd questioned. Syd loved JT, fell in love with that little blonde tornado on day one and it was a mutual affection. It was also why Dawg blamed me for Syd's current condition. She reasoned that if I had never met Shannon and Shannon had never had a kid. Then of course Syd would never have fallen in love with the little beast and hence ??she wouldn't have wanted one of her own. I didn't say it was a logical reason.

" She's at home watching the furniture". Ok so yes they too looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted a second head. " You'll see what I mean. Just pay attention when you walk back into the house for any reason". I warned.

We made quick work of getting the bags and getting out of the congested airport. I had been paying close attention to the businessmen, just followed their lead. The ride home was smooth. Well?if you don't count the 5 times we had to stop so Syd could use a restroom.

" Does this happen all the time?" I questioned Dawg who was sitting in the back seat as we waited yet again for Syd to do her thing.

" Yea?more lately. I actually was concerned until the Doc told me it was normal. Didn't seem normal to me. A grow woman shouldn't have a bladder the size of a walnut". She sighed.

I just agreed, what else could I do. I wasn't there for Shannon's pregnancy, something that still hurt to think about. So really I knew nothing about the phenomenon.

We finally managed to make it home. JT was out the door like a shot, racing out to the truck to see the other woman she worshipped. Besides Shannon and me. No matter what we tried she was still leery of Dawg. She skidded to a halt when she saw Syd.

" Whoa?.Syd you got fat!" Ok so no one told the kid the rule about that.

Shannon luckily came up behind. " No honey Syd's going to have a baby, remember?" She explained to our bewildered child.

" How'd it get inside?" She question looking at Syd's protruding tummy.

Shannon gave me a beseeching look. Yea right!

" No way?I'll teach her to drive. This ones all yours". I picked up the bags and headed for the house, Dawg right on my heels. Neither of us willing to venture into that one.

Chapter 4

Now I'm not prone to sudden bouts of sentiment or anything like that. But that evening after we had tucked our little one into bed and it was just the four of us sitting in the living room. The scene struck me. Dawg was leaning back against the arm of the sofa; Syd was settled back against her chest. My big, butch friend had her arms around the rounded belly of her lover. Softly stroking, circling. Like she was comforting the baby within.

The room was lit with just the glow of the fire and few candles. The light flickered in Syd's gentle hazel eyes. It cast a warm shadow over her features. They say that pregnant women glow. I thought they really meant sweat but that's not it. Syd had this look of absolute serenity about her. There was something in her eyes, in her smile, something beyond what us mere mortals have. I found myself wondering if she knew a secret that the rest of us could only guess at. She looked at peace. For the first time in our friendship?I envied Dawg. I would have given anything to see that same look on Shannon's face. I missed that part; I wasn't there for the miracle of bringing JT into the world. There are just some things you can never get back.

Dawg was a study in contrasts. See on the outside, the part that she showed the world, all you saw was this butch woman. No fear, no insecurities, all dry wit and sarcasm. Her demeanor made you think that Syd's pregnancy was just another event in life. But sitting there watching the two, I saw something in her as well. Her soft brown eyes had a spark that was never there before. She looked at Syd with adoration and awe. Holding her partner like she was the most precious thing in the universe. The unconscious stroking of Syd's tummy, well?I took it as a sort of silent communication. Her connection to the live growing there. No matter what Dawg said. This baby meant as much to her as it did to Syd, if not more.

Anyway it was one of those moments you put away and pull out to look at later, when you need to find a peaceful minute or a reason to push harder. However, later I discovered I should have been paying closer attention to Shannon. I would have been prepared for the conversation then. ?.Maybe.

I lay there wrapped around my lover, slowly drifting off to sleep. The room was dark and the house quiet. Snow falling gently outside. A true Hallmark moment.

" Trace?"

" Huh?" I tried to economize my words hoping this would be short and I could go back to sleep.

" Syd looked beautiful tonight huh?"

" Uh huh". Sleep???.sleep. ??sleep.

" What do you think about having another baby?"

" What?!" Ok wide-awake now.

She turned her body over in my arms, still snuggled against me. " Another baby Trace. You know like JT only smaller".

" What's wrong with the one we have?" Smaller? Geezz the kids a shrimp do they get smaller?

" There's nothing wrong with her". She stated.

" Well then why replace her. We just got this model broken in". For those out there who have never dealt with the ticking of a woman's biological clock. This argument does not work.

She rose up and smacked me in the shoulder. " Not replacing her you duffus. Having another baby, a little brother or sister for her to play with".

" Ummm?.. And when, where, how?" I wondered if this wasn't just a by productive of having Syd around. Or if maybe she really was in the throws of PMS. In either case I felt it best to indulge her for the moment.

" Well." She began moving over to her back facing up to the ceiling. Something she does when in thought. " I had the last one?" She let the statement hang.

No Fucking way! " No fucking way!" At least my mind and mouth were in sync this time.

" I was kidding honey". She laughed. Thank the Goddess. " Having a little Trace would be great but ?.I don't think the world is ready for two of you. But I wouldn't mind having another". Her voice hopeful.

Now I really wasn't ready for this conversation. And while the idea of a pregnant Shannon appealed to me in some ways. The thought of a tiny little life, all new and helpless???well???that terrified me.

" Lets get through the holidays Shan. Then maybe we can think about it. But I'm not sure I really want to have another".

" Promise you'll think about it Trace." She pleaded.

" Sure babe". Like I had a choice. You never spring something like that on a person who is laying in the dark, with hours to just contemplate things. Needless to say ?.I didn't get much sleep. And for some reason had an over whelming urge to wake Dawg and tell her this ??.was her fault.

Chapter 5

" Trace the trees not straight". My ever so observant wife offered. Of course she did that from over in the corner, while Dawg and I wrestled the huge pine into the stand.

" Honey, neither are we. It fits right in".

" Trace it needs to be straight or it wont look right". Ok ?I've had it with holiday stuff. I just wanted toys, but did I get that?no. Here I am fighting with a tree, a tree mind you.

" JT! Get the secret weapon". I sent the child after the one thing that would fix this problem quickly and allow me to have dinner before I starve to death. See we had already cut, folded, spindled and mutilated?it still didn't fit right in the stand.

JT came barreling back into the living room narrowly missing the coffee table, which had move across the room once again while we were out getting the stupid tree to begin with.

" Here Trace". She said handing me ???the duct tape. Hey?it has many uses.

" Aright!" Dawg shouted. See?she knows the many uses as well.

We just went about our tree fixing, ignoring the concerned looks our wives were giving us. I was right; in record time we had that puppy up sitting there as pretty as you please. Never mind that the back was taped to the wall. Hey at least that way I was assured it wouldn't be getting up and wandering around.

" Well?what do you think little bit?" I asked my buddy, picking her up so she could get the full effect. She wrapped her slender arms around my neck and laid her golden head on my shoulder.

" It'll be better with presents".

Hey you can't argue that logic. And with that all settled we went off to raid the kitchen. Of course would we be allowed to eat in peace? Hell no?we have el Prego and her side kick?she demon?the hormone twins, to deal with.

" Trace!"

" Dawg!" Oh simultaneous screeching.

" Yes" We answered in unison. Neither of us brave enough to actually go out there and see what they wanted. We're not stupid..that most likely will lead to more work. And I already smell like a car air freshener.

You know when they yell like that you should just go out there, because if you don't..they come and get you. We were making our sandwiches when JT looked up.

"Uh oh?Momma I just did like Trace ask me to". The little traitor. You know if I were 3 feet tall and had those dimples I could get away with murder too.

" Its all right baby, Momma knows you were just influenced by the big dumb barbarians". My once sweet wife cooed as she picked our child up off the counter. " Why don't you go play in your room".

"Oh sure, she gets sent to play and I get to hear about the evils of duct tape. Life's not fair." Ok whining probably isn't going to help but it was worth a try.

" Trace she's four".

" Ha! She might only be four but who do you think gave us the idea to tape the tree to the wall in the first place?"

" Oh no". She whimpered. " You've turned her into one of you". She moaned, burying herself in my arms. Guess I'm not in that much trouble.

" Well?at least its straight now". Dawg offered shrugging her broad shoulders. Ever so helpful she is. Syd smacked her in the head.

" Hey, honey don't do that, you might give me brain damage". She complained rubbing her head.

" To late" Her wife shot back at her. Then reached over and took her sandwich.

I laughed at the shocked look on Dawg's face, until Shannon snatched mine as well and took off with it.

" Fine! I'm going to take a shower." I had enough of hormonal, sandwich stealing women. Ok so I was cranky, I had pine pitch in places it shouldn't be and there was an obvious lack of appreciation for my fix it skills.

You know, truth be told, I'm being unreasonable. I know shocked me too. But its true, I think I still have the baby conversation stuck in my tiny mind. Well, and when I had finally fallen asleep last night. I was awaken by a nightmare of a thirty-foot infant chasing me around the ranch. And it needed a diaper change.

So that's what led me to the shower. And standing there I realized that?hot water is good for many things. Like washing away pine pitch and bad dreams. Of course the compact, tight body naked and pressed against my back was helpful as well. She washed away all my worries with her small hands. Caressing my breasts, teasing nipples to stiff peaks. Slick and wet sliding over my hips and down my thighs. She ran her tongue down my spine and chased away all other forms of thought.

Her tongue continued its torturous path. Down the back of my thighs and then retracing its journey adding a tender bite to my cheek. The lower one. I had to place my hands on the wall, I only have two legs and neither was working well. She gently nudged my legs apart and slid without a word to her knees. I felt the sharp nip to my hip and gasped, looking down to see her blond head poised at my sex. She ran that sweet tongue through the slick folds, a shock ripping through my body forcing my eyes closed and long moan to escape me.

Her hungry mouth tasted, explored, devoured. She was relentless and I was helpless against her. Like I was going to make her stop. Ha! She drove her tongue deeper, stroking me harder, as she slipped her hands up over my taut stomach finally resting on my breasts. Fingers used to torture hardened nipples as she sucked me into her mouth and I felt myself throb against her tongue. It could have been an eternity or just a second, time had lost meaning. I moved against her begging her to take me higher.

My knees grew weaker, breath harsher, I knew I wouldn't last much longer and I pleaded with her to take me over. I heard her moan, my words exciting her as well. And she gently bit down on my swollen nub. I screamed her name as the world shattered. Shards of light speeding through the darkness behind my eyes. I felt her release me and help me slide to the floor unable to stand on my own anymore. We lay there with the water beating down on us. Wrapped in each other's arms.

" I love you Trace". She whispered against my chest. If I could have spoken I would have, but I couldn't so I kissed her instead. And damned if I could remember why I had been so upset in the first place.

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 is?it 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 leaves 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 well?.you 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 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.

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.
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, the 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 time?it 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 forcaster. 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 so?it 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 hey?.you 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. ?screamed?at 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. Well?in 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 you?you 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 now?life 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. Geezz?one 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 embarrassement. 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 afore mentioned. "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 inbetween 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 Satna makes his visit?you'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 it?it 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-exsistant. 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.

" Okay?it's all yours". Finally!

" Why are we giving her a Barbie Doll anyway? Isn't this just going to damage her psychologically? I mean ??.no 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 dimise 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 Harely 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 were 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 got 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 was?my gift from??.my 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 frankly?it 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 kids 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 something 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 manilla 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. I 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 Virgina, there is a Santa Claus" passage. Duh??.

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