Delinquency Report by Herschel Cozine

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A young boy loses his belief in Santa and turns to petty shoplifting with the belief that it no longer matters if he's naughty or nice. The lesson he learns as a result is more valuable than anything he could steal. A short holiday story from our Nibs literary line.


It was on the eve of my ninth Christmas that my innocence was shattered. I discovered to my dismay that Santa Claus was not a jolly old elf in a red suit. He was a middle-aged man with a beer belly and stained T-shirt; the man I called my father. I had already become an agnostic the year before when my Superman cape reeked of my father’s cigar smoke. But I ignored it in a futile attempt to maintain the myth. This particular Christmas, however, I caught him in the act of assembling my electric train on Christmas Eve after I had (ostensibly) gone to bed.

I faced the revelation with mixed feelings. On the downside I had to lower my expectations of fancy presents and become a little more realistic in my requests. On the other hand I was no longer faced with the onerous task of maintaining good behavior, especially toward the end of the year when I expected Santa would be paying attention. Not that it seemed to matter. I could never find a correlation between my deportment and the quantity or quality of the presents I received. I suspected Santa was treating anything less than grand theft auto as a “boys will be boys” infraction not deserving of his attention. Still, I wasn’t taking any chances.

But that was over now. With Santa no longer an influence in my life I became a new person. It was the beginning of my life of crime.

My first foray into the underworld occurred, quite by accident, at Woolworth’s five and ten cent store. I lifted a yoyo, retail value: five cents. This was during the depression when a penny still had some value. I had not set out to steal. But I found the yoyo lying on the floor in the toy department, begging to be stolen. In a burst of daring, I slipped it in my pocket and walked out the door, fully expecting the long arm of the law would descend on my head and I would be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Nothing happened. Nothing, that is, until I got home. My mother, a species that is blessed with x-ray eyes, a naturally suspicious nature, and an intuition that beggars description, sensed my guilt and reacted as only a mother can.

“Where did you get that?” she said, pointing to the yoyo.

“From Jimmy,” I said.

She frowned, and I knew I was in for a grilling.

“Why would Jimmy give you his yoyo?”

I thought quickly. “I traded my Bill Dickey baseball card for it.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Why would you do that?”

“I have two of them,” I said, which were the first words of truth uttered in the conversation. I made a note to get rid of one in case she decided to check it out.

She nodded towards the yoyo. “It looks new.”

“It is,” I said. (Another true statement.) “Jimmy got it in his stocking and didn’t want it. He hates yoyos.”

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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