Betsy threw the soapy, dripping sponge at her mama , Amy. Instantly the two were at war. Soap snowballs were lobbed, splattering wetly down noses and trickling merrily down tee shirts.Amy grabbed her precious bundle and wrestled her to the ground, laughing and spluttering the two sat up rosy cheeked. Not many people had stopped by their charity car wash event. To stop her being disheartened Amy tried to make it as much fun as possible for Betsy.

Her beloved daughter was a tiny thing, her little spindly legs encased in calipers. She moved with a rolling gait that made her strawberry blonde curls bounce. Her violet eyes darkened with a steady determination. This Car Wash was all her idea. After being in hospital so long with the other kids she felt sad, for there were many who weren’t as lucky as she was to get home for the holiday. Betsy wanted them to have a chance at a Merry Christmas too. Betsy had all she needed, she was out in the sunshine with her mama for Christmas, and it just didn’t get any better than that.

Lots of people were driving by their home made sign and Amy knew in her heart that some were embarrassed to stop, the sight of Betsy making them avert their eyes.Amy tipped over the bucket and plopped Betsy on top so she could apply sunscreen to her already rosy shoulders. Standing up she began to untangle the hose from around a palm tree when she heard the strangest noise.

Clip clop, clip clop, snort, snort, clip clop, clip clop.

Betsy’s eyes were wide and her mouth opened in a perfect ‘o’. Amy turned to see a horse and cart was pulling into their drive! A man with a snowy beard wearing a blue Hawaiian shirt liberally adorned with palm trees sat up top. He had on a pair of orange shorts and his brown knobbly feet were slapped into flip-flops. Amy stood up and adjusted her sodden shorts.

“ Well what do we have here?” His voice deep and melodic rang out.

Betsy got off her bucket and clapped her hands in glee.

“ Mama, Mama, do I get to wash the horse?”

The old man jumped down and shook hands with both ladies. He tied his horse to a palm tree, filled the bucket up with water, and took the sponge from a gaping Amy. Gently he bent down and swung Betsy onto the horse’s back.

“ Now Betsy, this here is Rudy, just keep talking to him whilst your Mama and I get to washin the buggy.” Betsy leaned right over and whispered in Rudy’s ears. He listened most attentively and they twitched back and forth with interest.

Mama and the old man seemed to be having a grand time chatting behind her. Betsy felt the warm hard body beneath her and smelled the warm musky odor of Rudy. She truly felt like a princess atop this wonderful horse.They both came forward and the man swung Betsy gently to the ground.

“ Now, little one, it is time to give Rudy a good brush up.”

Betsy’s face itched where the man’s beard had tickled her face. He smelled of cinnamon and pine and Christmas Cookies all rolled into one.

Amy had brought out a box for her to stand on and the old man passed her a curry brush to smooth out Rudy’s mane. Rudy nickered in delight, the brush slid down over all those itchy spots he couldn’t reach. Then Rudy touched the little girl lovingly behind her ear with a wet nose, his lips undulating in a slobbery kiss. Amy’s eyes misted, for her little girl was having the time of her life.

By now cars were lined up and down the road to see what was happening, children craning their necks to get a glimpse of the horse. Quick as a flash the old man, Amy and Betsy washed car after car until dollar bills wet and crinkled filled the bucket.

As the sun was getting ready to simmer into an apricot sky the old man scooped both ladies up on the seat beside him and off they trotted to the beach. Rudy pranced proudly, his newly brushed mane catching droplets of sea spray.

Amy and Betsy sang Christmas Carols at the tops of their voices. Pelicans spinning ahead in time to the music. Soon they turned back down into their street as the rose gold of the day disappeared into a velvety dusk.

The old man lifted Amy down onto her drive and gave Betsy a hug whispering in her ear.
“ See you Christmas day, little one.”

Amy smiled as he slipped a card into her hand. They both waved until the silhouette merged into the night and they were sure they heard jungle bells and a muffled, ho, ho, ho.

Looking at the card in her hand Amy read ‘ Christmas Blessings’ and the name ‘S. Claus.’