It’s always good when you win. I tell the youth basketball team I coach to “just go out and have fun” before every game. Then, I add the admonition “but it’s always more fun when you win” just to remind them of the idea of the game.
Today, I won the first writing award I’ve ever won in the fiction writing area. I’ve won several journalistic awards over the years but never anything in fiction. Yes, I know I basically just repeated myself.
Anyway, this was a Christmas short story competition at the Nashville Writer’s meet up. I won in the category of best characters and took third overall. As you will see, it was a mystery but had a funny twist. Our rules were that it had to be 1200 words or less and had to be titled “The Curious Case of the —– Santa.” In my case, well, here it is, you read it.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE NAKED SANTA
“You certainly don’t see that every day,” Patrolman Joseph Garland observed as he lifted the fluttering yellow tape and ducked under to enter the crime scene.
“You mean to tell me you’ve never seen a naked fat man lying on the curb near Little Chicago?” posed Police Detective Grant Holly, following the officer into the restricted area as a crowd of rubberneckers assembled outside the perimeter.
“Not a dead one,” the young officer quipped, giving the detective a wry smile. “Most of the naked, fat men I see on my beat are very much alive.”
The detective gave the young patrolman a long look. “Maybe it’s time you changed beats, officer.”
The young patrolman nodded in agreement.
“Well, of all the naked fat men I’ve seen over the years none of them has looked as much like Santa Claus as this one,” the policeman admitted as the pair stood gawking at the nude body before them.
“What makes you say that, officer? Just out of curiosity,” Holly asked.
“Well, I suppose it’s the Santa hat he’s wearing, or maybe it’s black boots, or the long white beard, the rosy cheeks and the nose like a cherry,” the officer answered. “Or, maybe it’s the bag of toys lying right beside the body that says ‘Property of the North Pole.’”
“You do have a point there,” Holly admitted. “Our victim does bear a striking resemblance to the jolly ole elf. You believe in Santa Claus, son?”
“Nah,” the policeman answered as he blew in his hands, the crisp December wind sending a chill up his spine. “Although, I did once see my momma kissing Santa Claus.”
“Really?” Holly wondered. “Underneath the mistletoe last night?”
“Nah,” Garland admitted as he looked at the ground in embarrassment. “It was actually my Uncle Hank. He had a white scraggly beard and a thing for my mother. My dad was a traveling latex salesman who was away from home a lot. My uncle was an unemployed salmon fisherman who smelled of fish and Febreze.”
Holly’s eyes opened wide from the revelation. “Why weren’t you in bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in your head?”
“Well, first off, I don’t have the slightest what a sugar plum is and frankly it sounds pretty gross,” the young lawman declared. “Actually, I snuck downstairs to try to catch Santa coming down the chimney. Imagine my surprise.”
“Yeah, imagine,” Holly said, raising his brow.
“Anyway, do we have information on the cause of death?” the detective questioned as he surveyed the body before him.
“Blunt trauma,” Garland shot back. “The side that’s facing the ground looks like cranberry sauce.”
“Any ideas on the murder weapon?” Holly questioned.
“Thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole?” the policeman smirked.
Holly rolled his eyes at the officer snide remark. “Any idea how long he’s been here? Has rigor set in?”
The officer stepped over and touched the dead man’s torso, shaking him slightly.
“Well?” the detective asked.
“Still like a bowl full of jelly, sir,” Garland reported. “He hasn’t been here too long.”
“Who found him?” the detective queried.
“Little Chicago is having some writer meet up,” Garland replied. “One of them found him lying here.”
“Was he dead already?” Holly asked.
“Nah,” the officer shot back. “He’s self-published and has a problem with telling instead of showing. He’s got potential, though. I’ve read worse.”
“Not the writer – Santa I mean,” Holly boomed.
“Oh, yeah,” Garland said. “Santa had already been sleighed by the time they found him.”
Holly glared at the officer’s self-congratulatory grin.
“Get it? Sleighed? Santa drives a sleigh? He’s dead. Yes.” the officer explained.
All the detective could do was shake his head in disgust.
“You realize what this means, don’t you?” Holly asked the young patrolman as he shifted his focus back to the dead man.
“Yeah,” the officer answered. “I’m not going to be getting that rod and reel I asked for this Christmas.”
“Your warped sense of humor alone would have gotten you a lump of coal anyway,” Holly shot back. “No, this means we’ve definitely got someone out there on the naughty list this year.”
“Any suspects?” Garland quizzed the wily detective.
“Aside from the Grinch and Scrooge McDuck, not a one,” Holly admitted. “Who would want to kill Santa Claus?”
“But sir, aren’t we overlooking the most curious part of all of this?” Garland asked.
“What’s that?” Holly asked.
The fact that our Santa is naked as a jay bird,” Garland replied. “I’d say it’d be awkward for Santa to be sliding down chimneys butt naked.”
“Yeah,” Holly agreed. “And think about the trauma it’d cause if some wide-eyed child came down and caught Santa eating cookies and milk in his birthday suit.”
“Um, you forget,” Garland interjected. “I caught my momma kissing Uncle Hank.”
“Ho, Ho, No,” Holly shook his head. “Sad, but true.”
“Okay, well, we aren’t going to solve the case standing here,” the detective declared as he looked back at the crowd, intent on questioning some of the bystanders.
His plans were put on hold as Detective Chris Moss emerged from the crowd with another man.
“Your case is solved,” Moss revealed.
“Is this our killer?” Holly asked, eyeing the man who was dressed in a pilot uniform.
“There is no killer,” Moss shot back.
“Um, someone needs to tell Santa that,” the patrolman spoke up, getting sharp looks from both of the detectives.
“He wasn’t murdered,” Moss announced. “It was an accident.”
Both Holly and Garland looked curiously at Moss.
“He was the Santa for the mall,” Moss explained. “He was supposed to skydive into the mall parking lot earlier this morning but things didn’t go as planned. We just arrived from the airport.”
The man in the pilot outfit stepped up and took over the story.
“I was flying our Santa and we were nearing the drop zone so he began messing with his parachute,” the he explained. “It was a small plane and he was a big man so I told him to sit down because we were hitting turbulence. Well, he didn’t listen and all of a sudden the door came open and the weight of the toy bag pulled him backwards. His chute and one-piece Santa outfit caught on the seat and ripped off as he fell.”
“Wait, you’re saying …” Holly began.
“Yep,” the pilot cut him off. “Santa was going commando.”
“Did he exclaim anything as he fell out of sight?” the patrolman interjected.
The pilot gave the smart-mouthed officer a long look. “Yeah – Oh Shit! What do you think he’d say while falling out of an airplane from five thousand feet without a chute?”
The sound of a bell chimed at that moment.
“What was that?” Holly asked.
“I’m not sure, sir,” the young patrolman said. “But I think our Santa just got his wings.”
“He sure could have used them earlier this morning,” the pilot quipped.
“Well, looks like this Santa mystery is wrapped up like a Red Ryder BB gun underneath the Christmas tree ,” Holly announced. “Let’s get some lunch. Just no cranberry sauce.”