‘Twas the night before Christmas… ~ Mary Margaret Pauer

“What a frappin’ shift,” he said to his wife, walking into their living room, glancing at the tree, bare, except for a string of popcorn. 

“Joe Jr. probably ate more than he strung;” She smiled and waved at the box of ornaments and the lights. ‘Santa’s gonna have to decorate tonight, you know, like he’s supposed to.”

“I’m so tired. Who waits until Christmas Eve, to take a of photo of their kid with Santa Claus anyway?” He unbuckled the black plastic belt and raised his arms. “Help me out of this get-up.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Your shirt stinks.”

“The lights were hot and I worried a kid would pee on my lap like last year. I sweated all right.”

“Yeah but, you won’t have to dress up again until, when. . .Easter?”

He thew himself onto the sofa. “Come here, give me a kiss.”

“Only one snuggle, then go tuck Joey in. He’s waiting for you.” She pushed the white beard away, pressed herself against his padded body, nuzzled his neck before sliding her lips to his. “No more until you say good-night to our son, and take a shower.” She wiggled her eyebrows and batted her eyelashes. 

“Ho, ho, ho.” He stepped out of the suit; by the time he reached Joey’s bed, she’d stuffed the costume in the large trash bag, stashed it in the closet.

Light from the hallway filtered into his son’s room. Joey Jr. sat upright in bed. 

“Santa won’t come unless you shut your eyes and go to sleep.”

“I have to tell you something.” His mouth opened in a smile wide enough to see where his permanent front tooth had almost closed the gap. Joey pulled his father closer. “I have to whisper it.”

His son’s breath tickled. “He’s already here. I heard him just now. He said, ho ho ho . . . like he’s supposed to.”

Joe Sr. did not want to smile. After a moment he said, “You still need to go to sleep and wait to see what Santa left for you in the morning.” 

His son shut his eyes “Ok Dad, but I’m getting up real early.”