Magdalena turned her attention to Santo.
“We need to go,” she said. “We have to finish everything and everyone east of the Mississippi tonight. Last year it took us five days to get as far as Fiji, Tahiti, and Samoa. We were nearly late to the Hawaiian Islands, all because you stopped and looked at everything along the way.”
“I like looking at things,” he said. “What’s the point of travelling around the whole world if we never get to see anything? It was you who wouldn’t leave Budapest that year. I thought I was going to have to leave you behind.”
“That was over a hundred years ago, Santo.” Her voice turned wistful, and she looked away from us, out at the city lights. “Our hotel room balcony was right out over the river, do you remember?”
Knowing that flight was imminent, the camel-deer stirred and stamped. There was a great rustling, a sound like fresh bed sheets being snapped and spread in the air. I realized that they were unfurling huge wings over their backs. They were diaphanous, and caught the light when the camel deer spread and slowly tested them. The wingtips left sparkles in the air; the pinpoints of light floated softly down to the rooftop. The ground around the animals began to glow with the residue.
“They look like dragonfly wings,” I told Chloe.
“Well, they’re related to dragons,” she said, perplexed. “What did you think their wings would look like?”
“Deer don’t have wings in the first place,” I said. “That’s what I thought they would look like.”
She turned her attention back to the old couple.
“You say the strangest things sometimes,” she murmured.
The camel-deer were winding up like a great engine. Their wings moved faster, and the sleigh began to creak and rock on its moorings. I could feel the thrumming power of it through my feet. It was time for Magdalena and Santo to go. He stared at me, and made up his mind.
“I just need a minute more here,” he told his wife. “I want to show what we do…what this is really all about.”
“Chloe knows what we do.” Magdalena was puzzled. “We do Christmas. What will you show her?”
Santo raised a hand and pointed at me. The rings on his fingers caught the colored light from the street. I felt another stirring of nerves.
“Not Chloe,” he said. “This one! He’s been babbling about wrapping paper and candy canes and Christmas dinner since I met him. He won’t stop talking. He’s muddled.”
“I’ve hardly said a word,” I protested. “About anything at all.”
“You see? He has an answer for everything."
Chloe took my arm and pulled me close to her.
“He isn’t muddled,” she said. “He’s just all in black-and-white. He needs to be colorized.”
Magdalena looked at me, skeptically.
“He looks incurably real to me,” she said. “When I look at him, I see interest rates and newspapers, office buildings and football scores, job promotions, television programs, text books and statistics.”
“Rush hour traffic, and clearance sales at the grocery store,” Santo offered.
“He’s lost the capacity for magic,” Magdalena said. “He doesn’t wonder where rainbows come from, and he isn’t afraid of thunder and lightning. He doesn’t gasp at the beauty of it all. He can’t even cry during sad movies.”
“Not even 'Black Beauty’ at the very end,” Santo agreed. “Not ‘Charlotte’s Web’, or 'Casablanca’ when the plane is leaving. That one makes me cry, every time.”
“You’re going to need an awful lot of crayons if you’re going to color this one, Chloe,” Magdalena said. “A jumbo-sized box that’s never been opened… the kind with bonus colors, like magenta and green tangerine.”
Chloe hugged me to her, tighter.
“I have a lot of crayons,” she said. “I’ve been saving them my whole life. A lot of color is what he needs, and it’s exactly what I have. Please, please... show him Christmas.”
( -A Christmas Song for Chloe)
we’re awfully close now... to be continued