The dog slept at the bottom of the bed, on top of the little girl’s covered feet. She was warm under her blanket (knitted by Papa’s mama), but she felt too relaxed. Her brain was bouncing around, and could not keep itself steady.
Next to the girl’s bed there was a window, with a plastic candle on its sill. An orange bulb screwed into it.
‘That orange sure glows, Benny,’ spoke the small girl, faintly. The orange light washed her and the dog in its dreamlike light.
The beagle lifted his head, only slightly.
‘I simply can’t stay still, Benny,’ she piped, sitting up in her bed. The blanket fell from around her chest.
‘It’s almost Christmas!’ That came out too loud. The girl heard Mama turn in her bed from the next room.
She leaned down, closer to the dog. ‘Shh, shh, sorry, Benny.’ The girl studied the orange aura covering the room. ‘But, it’s almost Christmas, and I may be too excited…’
The beagle lifted his head higher, searching for the calendar hanging in the room. He was not good with remembering dates, but the dog was fairly sure the holiday was still weeks away.
The little girl grabbed his cheeks and turned his face to hers. She whispered, ‘I really am excited, Benny, I swear I am…’ She looked back and forth, as if expecting someone to be eavesdropping. ‘But, this Santa business… I don’t know, Benny… It’s odd, and I’m suspicious.’
The beagle’s tongue lapped out of his mouth, and he licked his girl’s hand.
Salty, he thought as he licked. I’m always hungry. Like that hog Papa keeps in the barn.
‘Oh, Ben, I don’t wanna jump to conclusions, but…’
The small girl listened for Mama or Papa to toss in bed, again. When she heard only snoring coming from their room, she continued.
‘Benny, I’m not fibbing here, but I think Mama and Papa are having one over on us.’
The dog whimpered.
‘I know, Benny, I know,’ the girl cooed, rubbing his chin. ‘But, I’m pretty certain. I think they’re having a little fun with us.’
She looked to the plastic candle, burning orange against the window. Outside, a whisper of snow traveled from the dark sky to the ground, blanketing the old bales of hay with frost.
The small girl turned, pulling the beagle with her, and she sat cross-legged in front of the window. Together, girl and dog, watched the world outside, sailing toward winter and colder shores.
Her delicate palm petted his head.
‘It’s probably Mama,’ said the little girl. ‘Papa’s always so tired by the time dinner’s on the table. It’s probably up to Mama to be Santa on Christmas Eve.’
The beagle felt himself succumbing to slumber, once more.
‘Mama’s full of energy, Benny. She’s got to be Santa.’
Short snores came from the dog. The small girl smiled and laughed, silently.
The snow fell from the clouds, light and fragile, and onto the grass without breaking. The girl gazed into the darkness, her face awake with the shine of the orange bulb. She knew her Mama was Santa, she considered the knowledge.
Petting the beagle’s sleeping frame, the little girl said, ‘You probably think I’m crazy, Ben… but, Mama is Santa.’
The dog kicked softly in his sleep. Dreaming his dreams.
‘Christmas Eve, Benny, we’ll sneak down the stairs, and you’ll see…’
Down floated the snow. Away from its chill, the small girl held her friend.
‘… You’ll see, Benny. Mama Claus fills the stockings. She places the presents under the tree, just so.’
The plastic candle with the orange bulb glowed on.
‘No chimney for Mama Claus to sneak down. She uses the stairs, Benny.’
The girl sensed her eyes growing tired.
‘We’re lucky, Benny. So lucky. Just think on it, Ben…’
Yawning, she closed her eyes, her head tilting downward. But, she spoke, still. One final thought before midnight.
‘Out of all the mamas in the world, Benny, our Mama is Santa.’
The window, with the plastic candle and its orange light, it framed the little girl and her beagle, and held them as they slept.