"Thank...you...Santa...Love...Audrey...There! Is it okay if I put a smiley face, too, BA?"
"Sure, Audrey. Santa'd like that."
"Okay." The little girl carefully completed her drawing and put down the pencil. "Okay, BA. All done. Do you think he'll read it?"
"O'course he'll read it. Santa reads all the letters he gets."
"Okay." Satisfied, Audrey folded her letter and stuffed it carefully into the envelope. BA had already addressed it for her, and put the stamp on. She smiled up at her big friend. "Now, it's your turn, BA."
"My turn? I don't write letters to Santa!" He scowled at her, knowing she wasn't the least bit intimidated by it.
"Why not? Don't you believe in Santa any more? That's why he don't come with presents for you. He only comes to people that still believe in him." Audrey looked so sad at the thought that her friend didn't believe in Santa, BA relented.
"Yeh, I b'lieve in Santa. But grown-ups don't write to Santa. He only brings presents to little kids."
"That's 'cause they don't write to him." Honestly, grown-ups could be so dumb. She grabbed her pencil and a piece of paper and shoved them at BA. "Write your letter, BA. I'll help you."
BA sighed. This little gal had started coming to the center about three weeks ago and commandeered BA's lap almost from the start. She bullied him mercilessly, and he loved every minute of it.
"Okay, okay. But I don't know what to ask for. I got most what I want. And I ain't asking for no toys!"
"Nobody has everything they want. You can ask him for stuff you can't get yourself. That's what I always do."
BA sighed again.
"What do you really, really want, BA? More'n anything else in the whole world?"
BA almost gave her a flippant answer, but she was dead serious. He sighed. Picked up the pencil.
"Dear Santa..." Audrey prompted.
"I know, I know. Dear Santa...please bring ma mama a new TV set..."
"BA! You can get that for her. You're s'posed to ask for stuff you can't get yourself!" The scowl the imp gave him would have put his own to shame.
"Okay..." BA would have to take this seriously. Audrey wouldn't let him by with anything less.
"Please give Decker a new post, so's I can come home more often and ma mama won't have to worry so much."
Audrey smiled and nodded. BA shook his head uncomfortably, but continued.
"Please send ma friend, Hannibal, some patience, so the Jazz don't get him ki...," he glanced at the little girl, "...in trouble...
"For ma friend, Face, please send him some real confidence, so he don't have to go provin' somethin' all the time...
"And for Murdock, send him some peace, so he kin git out of that hospital for good."
He looked up from the letter, surprised at what he'd written. Audrey was watching him, a small smile on her face.
"See, BA?" She almost whispered it. "You knew what to ask for, after all." She hopped down from his lap, the serious business done. "Cookies?"
"Sure, little sister. You go on in. I'll be right there." He watched as she skipped away. Very carefully, he folded the letter, and stuck it inside Audrey's envelope, next to her own.