Santa Claus harrumphed.
“We can try,” he told Chloe. “It’s a waste of time, if you ask me. He’ll never believe in me, but we can try.”
“Thank you,” she said, relieved. She blushed a little bit, pink roses on honey.
The old man briskly tapped his cane on the floor, twice, and then followed it down the steps from his throne. We trailed after him as he left Santa’s Village behind and hobbled slowly through an arch marked ‘Eaton’s Company Employees Only’. Beyond it was a hallway lined with doors. It was so long that the end of disappeared into the distance. He gestured over his shoulder for us to keep following.
Once into the hallway, his arthritis seemed to melt away, and he straightened and began to walk faster, then faster, and faster still. We began jogging to keep up, and then trotting, loping, sprinting, racing, rushing, dashing… until we were simply running after him, fast-as-you-can. I lost my breath, and felt my feet going out from under me.
As I fell, Chloe caught my hand and gave it a tug. I was suddenly weightless, flying with her, pulled along by her hand. Santa Claus flew in front of us, leading the way, and we followed the soles of his black boots. Doors flashed by in a blur. Somewhere along the way, the discarded cane whistled the air as it spun by.
Chloe turned her head to smile at me. The wind blew her hair around her face, and she held it back with her free hand. She was as beautiful as imagination, as lovely as the kind of good dream you can never quite remember when you wake up.
“Do you love this, or what?” she called.
“Watch where you’re flying,” I called back. The rushing air took my words away, but she heard me anyway. She always did.
At last, Santa slowed and landed, and my own feet touched the floor again. I looked back the way we had come, but the department store was gone from sight, far down the endless hallway. He opened one of the doors to reveal a room that was lined with pale green lockers. He strode in, found the one he wanted and threw it open.
“Turn around, please,” he said. “I need to change out of this awful costume. Let me pretend to have some privacy.”
He was undoing his broad black belt as we did what he asked. I glanced at Chloe.
“How can anyone so fat run that fast?” I whispered. “Were we really flying? What kind of a Santa Claus is he, anyway?”
She hugged herself, trying not to laugh. Her face was flushed.
“This is going to be so much fun,” she whispered in my ear. “Just wait.”
( -A Christmas Song for Chloe)