• Whoomph!
    Eliza heard it. She would know that sound anywhere. It was santa, coming down the chimney. she glanced at her watch. It was time.
    She scurried out of bed soundlessly, carefully grabbed her glasses and slid them on, and her size 7 feet carefully padded out her bedroom door. She turned left, reaching up to hold the banister. Right, swing around, carefully down the steps... Fifth one creaked, skip it... Carefully, she stepped down of the last step... Three steps forward (she had been making these calculations since october), then turn right, through the archway... There he was! Fat, round, beard, hat, red, boots, bag, and all!
    He was real!
    Real, real, real!
    He got a deer in the headlights look for a minute, then relaxed.
    "Oh. A child. Hello there!" He said in a deep, jovial (yet quiet, for fear of parents) voice.
    Eliza, with her somewhat clumsy manners, knew she had to do something. She padded up to him, gently grasped his hand, and began leading him over to the victorian-style coach, across from the tree.
    "Do sit please, Mr.Santa Claus, and have some cookies.." She went over to the table, and grabbed the cookie tray.
    After carefully handing it to him, she sat down on the oriental carpet in front of him.
    "Yes, darling?"
    "Are you real?"
    He laughed good-naturedly. "I'm here now, aren't I?"
    "Of course, but this is obviously a dream, and if by some miracle you can hear me through a dream, I'd really like to know."
    "This is no dream, dear."
    "Prove it." She said, crossing her arms in a somewhat stubborn manner.
    He laughed. "Pinch me." He said slightly louder, but still whispering for the obvious reasons.
    Eliza got a horrified look on her face. "I wouldn't pinch you, Santa!!!" She protested.
    This made him chuckle. She gently pinched her left arm with her right. She winced slightly, then nodded.
    "Your'e right... " Her eyes brightened, remembering something; "My daddy said that if I really did meet you to ask if you could make the stocks go up? I'm sure that would be a gift to many people, the way he explained it."
    Santa started laughing, and didn't stop until tears came to his eyes. Chubby digits wiped away laughing tears from cheerful cheeks.
    "Intelligent, for once," He muttered.
    He glanced at his wrist, which bore no watch, but he reacted as if it did.
    "Do you have to leave, mr.santa, sir?" Eliza asked, pleading.
    He sighed, "No, actually. this is my last house, if you can believe it. I believe I can stay a bit longer to chat with my new intelluctual equal." As he said this, he pulled out a pipe, and lit it.
    "My mommy smokes." Eliza told him earnestly.
    He tilted his head slightly, pipe still in mouth.
    "She smokes long, thin, pieces of paper. I tried it once, I rolled up paper and lit it, and I don't see what she likes about it." She smiled, "But you do it in a nice way, it makes you like a daddy, sorta."
    "That makes my day."
    So there they sat, chatting away the night, until finally a bit of dawn peeked between the lace curtains and fell on Eliza's footie pajamas. A look of absolute terror fell on her face when she saw it.
    Her head hung, and her shoulders started to wobble.
    "Oh, dear, dear, don't cry." She looked up. he smiled respectfully at her. "Can't we continue this conversation next christmas, Eliza?"
    All disappointment fell from her face to make room for absolute joy. She bobbed her head.
    He smiled, and then they both heard it. A tiny squeak, just enough for both of them to reckognize the sound of two adults on the fifth step.
    "Bye bye, Santa."
    "Goodbye, Eliza." He lingered for a moment, standing slowly.

    "Shh! Be quiet!" Eliza's mom whispered to her husband, Mr.Barkley.
    He rolled his eyes.
    They crept down the stairs, and then one step creaked into the total silence. they looked at each other in alarm.
    Then they hurried down the last few steps, and walked leisurely into the drawing room, only to find their daughter sitting crosslegged, looking back at them, facing an empty coach.
    The presents under the tree were un-opened.
    "What were you doing, honey?" Mr.Barkley asked.
    "Talking to Santa."
    They shared a humorous smile between them. How cute, a silly child's imagination,
    They thought.
    How silly, Eliza was thinking, People who don't believe in