By Gail Farrelly
Case in point. On a Sunday afternoon in December of 2006, I had just left St. Joseph’s Church and was on Cedar Street across from the A&P. I happened to glance over and see a Salvation Army Santa Claus ringing his bell outside the store and chatting with a group of teens. I liked that scene; it stayed in my mind.
As a mystery writer, I’m always on the lookout for story ideas, so when I got home I put the Santa-and- teens scenario into my computer. But not before I added this: what would happen if Santa were accused of a crime (stealing from a poor box at the church across the street, for example), and a teen had to come to his defense? The story idea sat on my computer for a few months. Almost forgotten, but not quite.
Fast forward to the spring of 2007 when I saw a call for short story submissions for a planned anthology of holiday crime stories, Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters, to be published later that year by Wolfmont Press, with profits going to the Toys for Tots Foundation. It seemed like the perfect home for what I had come to think of as my “Santa and the Poor Box” story. In fact, I never even toyed with the idea of thinking up an overly clever title for my story. “Santa and the Poor Box” suited it just fine.
I started to write the story and it came together really quickly. I didn’t mention Bronxville, but the action takes place in a small, quiet town in the suburbs of New York City. Sound familiar?
The characters and plot took shape. Santa was a Vietnam Vet who had a somewhat checkered past. The teenager who had a starring role, 14-year-old Lily, was willful, determined, and very smart. She was the only child of a widowed mom, Roberta (I have a sister named Roberta, and I’ve always loved that name) McHugh, who just happened to be an attorney. Eureka!
The story was one of 15 stories accepted for publication in the anthology. It was fun to see my story in print. The anthology is now on the Kindle.
I’ve published quite a few short stories, but “Santa and the Poor Box” is my favorite, and I think it always will be. I was thrilled when it got a second life in 2010, read on the radio by British voiceover artist Pearl Hewitt, on the Taping for the Blind show out of Houston, Texas. And now it has a third life (hey, like a cat, it may have six more!), just published by the online Kings River Life Magazine. Here’s the link (read for free): http://kingsriverlife.com/12/01/santa-and-the-poor-box/
If you check it out, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Happy Holidays!
Gail’s most recent holiday short stories are published by Untreed Reads: “They eDone Him Wrong” (in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping), “The Christmas Exception,” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” In addition to being sold at The Untreed Reads Store, they are also sold at Amazon and many other eretailers throughout the world. The first two are now in the Westchester Library System’s Digital Collection; the third should be available there soon.