Stewart Bint | Guest Writer | 12 December 2020
LAST WEEK we exclusively launched the first instalment of a new three-part festive story by Stewart Bint, a Leicestershire-based published author, as he has teamed up with The Hinckley Free Press in a bid to try and bring some Christmas cheer to our readers during the challenging coronavirus times this Christmas.
As well as being a published author and novelist, Stewart is a magazine author and Public Relations writer.
This week, we’re sharing part two of his festive three-part story and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
At least the solicitor looked the same, I thought. Or did he? I’d seen old Chatstock in action in this courtroom many times, soberly attired in an immaculate dark suit. But somehow that suit now looked tatty and well-worn. And the man himself appeared to stoop a little, whereas he normally pulled himself up to his full height when beginning a case.
Mrs McHarris gave an irritated wave of her claw-like hand. “Yes, yes, do get on with it, Mr Chatstock.”
He coughed apologetically. “Call the prosecution witness, Miss Anne McGuigan.”
Miss Anne McGuigan was duly called and took her place in the witness box.
As she went through the formalities of pledging to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I stared at her, trying to remember where I’d seen her before. Of course, it had been in this very courtroom a few months ago. Like I say, I’m quick like that.
She’s a social worker and had again been involved in a case of cruelty to children. She looked to be about 35 years old and her stern face gave her a general haughty appearance. Yet, like Mrs McHarris and old Chatstock, there were some definite changes in her. The long, thin nose was even longer and thinner than I remembered it, and the tight, bloodless lips indicated where the mean mouth slashed its course above her pointed chin.
“Miss McGuigan,” old Chatstock was saying. “Will you tell the court in your own words exactly what effect Father Christmas’s actions have been having on children?”
She flashed steely grey eyes across the room to Santa Claus. “With pleasure. Why, it broke my heart to see those poor children sobbing, the way they were. That man has completely wrecked the spirit of Christmas. It can never be the same again as long as he’s out there, supposed to be bringing joy and happiness to all those poor little souls, when all he does is bring misery and heartache.”
“Yes, yes, quite, Miss McGuigan, quite. But can you tell us please, exactly what it is he’s said to have done?”
“Said to have done?” She seemed to spit the words with utter contempt. Especially the first one. “There’s no ‘said’ about it. He did it all right. It was him who came down all those chimneys on Christmas morning, no-one else.”
I didn’t think it’d be long before Mrs McHarris threw in her ten pen’orth. And I was right. I’m quick like that, you see.
“There is no law as far as I am aware against Santa Claus coming down people’s chimneys on Christmas morning,” she said.
Old Chatstock turned to face her. “I’m sure you’re right, Madam, but I must ask you to forgive Miss McGuigan for her unaccustomed outburst. It’s just that she’s seen the results of Santa Claus’s doings at first hand, and she feels very strongly about it all.”
He turned again to his witness. “Miss McGuigan, you really must refrain from making comments about what happened. If you could just stick to the facts, please.”
The mean little mouth turned sulky. “Oh, alright then. It’s just that what he’s done makes my blood boil.” Miss McGuigan swiftly moved on to what was asked of her before the magistrate or the lawyer could rebuke her again. “The happiness amongst children on Christmas morning over the past few years has been very limited. They’ve opened the presents Santa brought them and their little eyes have lit up with wonder and awe. That’s something I’ve seen on numerous occasions in my line of work. The present is new and shiny and of course they love it.
“But when they get together and compare presents, each child feels their friends’ gifts are always better than their own. They start to ask each other how much the presents cost, and they become discontented. That feeling quickly grows to a fierce jealousy, and in a very short time their sweet innocence becomes a lingering hate and resentment that they haven’t got a bigger, better, more expensive gift. If that isn’t cruel to the poor little dears, upsetting them like that, then I don’t know what is.”
Miss McGuigan continued in the same vein for another half hour, and was followed by a succession of children all saying what Christmas meant to them.
And the answers they gave…well:
“It means presents.”
“Lots to eat.”
“I think it’s about some geezer who died and we remember the day he died.”
“I like the chocolates.”
“Dad gets drunk and Mum cries.”
“It means I can get a new computer. The one Santa brought me last year isn’t as good as Robin’s, so I want a better one.”
“It’s Santa’s birthday, but instead of us giving him presents he gives us things instead.”
“Billy’s present always cost more than mine, so I like to break it when he lets me play with it.”
As a journalist I’ve become hardened and cynical to some of the nonsense people put forward in a courtroom, but when Santa started to defend himself it was all I could do to sniff back a tear.
End of part two
The final instalment of ‘The Trial of Santa Claus’ will be released exclusively next week here on The Hinckley Free Press.