Dogbert had some guts putting his short story out for critique. I had a say so I suppose I should put forward one of mine for some criticism. This is one I wrote hoping to find a market for it. Haven't even satisfactorily re-written it myself though. I have a real problem with two things. The first is the point of view problem. I've taken an omnipotent point of view but I'm unhappy with it because it assumes an adult tone but I want parts of it to reflect the main character's emotions (she is a child). The second problem I have is that I know I am too descriptive with character, not sufficiently descriptive with background and environment and I don't let actions speak for the character enough. Anyway on the understanding that it can be improved in terms of being a decent read I would appreciate some critique. And as I said to Dogbert, the darlings aren't immune. Anyway, I called it "Santa Claus and Emily Cleary". Ideas to improve it are welcome. 2429 words. Santa Claus and Emily Cleary Emily Cleary sat in her very own chair on the verandah thinking that she really liked the where she lived. Emily wanted to call it a “town” but her Mummy said it was a “township”.* Mummy said it was a small, dusty township and that she didn’t like it. But Emily had decided it was a nice place to live, so that was that. After all there were lots of nice children at school. Some lived in town and some of them lived on sheep stations and came in on the school bus every day. One of the children from a sheep station outside of town had his very own pony and he was going to let Emily ride him by herself after she had a few lessons and another of her friends promised to take her looking for lizards out near the town's airstrip. It was much better than back in Adelaide where Mum and Dad were always worried about where she was all the time. Emily's only concern was about Santa Claus. It was nearly Christmas and Emily was worried that Santa would be too busy to come to such a small town when he had the whole world to visit. In Adelaide Santa had arrived at their house every Christmas and left wonderful presents for her and for Mummy and Daddy. But that was Adelaide. Emily was sure that this Christmas Santa wouldn’t find them, after all Australia was very big and very, very empty. But, she brightened up as she thought about it. *Daddy was the town's policeman, surely Santa wouldn't forget him?* She would ask Mummy and Daddy, they would know, besides she had to tell them what Terry Rankine had told her. Meanwhile in the kitchen of the house Emily’s parents were having what she would call a “grown-ups” conversation. Anne Cleary put her cup down carefully and deliberately onto its saucer and looked at her husband. “So you really think it was worth coming here?” “Of course it was, it’s my first station on my own and that counts for a lot in my career,” David felt and sounded just a little too defensive. “It’s a backwater,” Anne said quietly, but insistently, “a little railway town somewhere between Perth and Port Augusta, just another tiny speck in the massive outback”. David looked sideways as he he spoke. “Perhaps it is and perhaps nothing much will happen, but we can do our two years here and get a transfer to a bigger station and then I’ll look for a Sergeant‘s job at Port Augusta or Whyalla or somewhere or even back in Adelaide.” David looked at his wife as she picked up her cup again, sipped at her coffee and slowly placed it down again on the saucer “In the meantime you’ve sentenced us to two years in this place.” *She said it coldly. “Sentenced”, the word hung in the air like a gaudy neon sign. *David knew that Anne had carefully selected the word before using it.* “It’ll fly by, wait and see,” he told her in what he hoped was an encouraging tone, “Places like this, they’re very much what you make of them, it’s not like back in the city where everything’s laid on.* Here you have to make your own fun.” “And what about Emily?”* She looked at him, her eyes fixed on him. More than once in the past few weeks Anne had told David that she wouldn’t hesitate to pack up her and Emily’s things and go back to Adelaide whilst David served his two year stint in the “backwater. “Emily’s adapting very well, she’s going to get riding lessons.”* He couldn’t help allowing the note of triumph in his voice to come through. “Riding lessons?” Anne looked at him incredulously. “Apparently one of the lads at school has taken quite a shine to her and - he has a pony!”* “Riding lessons….” “Don’t worry - his parents know about it, they’ll supervise her. Oh and we’re not suppose to know about it yet But, being the local copper….” Anne became slightly animated, almost enthusiastic but she sounded as if she were talking to herself and not David. “We’ll have to get her some riding gear.* A helmet’s essential.* I can ring Annabelle, her girls don’t ride any longer, she probably has some gear that will fit Emily.” “Santa will provide!”* David said as he picked up his mug of coffee. “Of course ‘Santa’ will, ‘Santa’ always does.* If, of course, by ‘Santa’ you mean my father,” Anne spoke quickly, preventing David from interrupting, “And speaking of Santa, I suppose we’ll have to load up the Landcruiser and head to Adelaide to see him.* Emily will be terribly disappointed if she doesn’t see him.” “Well we could but then we could wait for the Tea and Sugar to bring him here.” “What’s that?” “The Tea and Sugar. *It’s the provisions train.* I was talking about it to Les the stationmaster yesterday.* Apparently the railway company brings Santa up from Port Augusta on the Tea and Sugar train and he sees all the kids on the line way out to Ooldea and Cook and out to the border.* It’s a tradition, been going for years.” “Oh”, Anne looked surprised, “well I suppose that’ll save us a few days travelling and of course the expense.” David was about to argue with Anne over yet another crack from her about money when he heard the door to the kitchen flew open and Emily streaked in, chattering happily. “I’m going to ride Terry Rankine’s pony! His Mummy said I could, can I ride him Mummy and Daddy? I won’t fall off, I promise!” Emily’s face was shining with delight at the prospect of riding a real live pony.* Anne looked over at David before she turned back to her daughter to give her a smile. “Of course you can darling, of course you can.” “I’m going to be a cowgirl!” Emily squealed happily and clapped her hands together in delight. “No darling, you’re going to be an equestrienne,” Anne chided her gently. David had been told by his predecessor that the Christmas Ball was usually a fairly friendly affair but that he would have to be careful about relations between the stockmen from the outlying sheep stations and the railway people who lived in the town. Differences of opinion on the dance floor could quickly end up as fights in the paddock behind the community hall. Heeding that advice David had decided to wear uniform that night at the Ball. He wouldn’t be dancing and that would put Anne in a foul mood, but duty came first. The fight didn't occur until much later that night and he was close by when it happened. David was standing with his back to the dance floor talking to one of the townspeople when he heard a ruckus behind him.* He turned to see two men rolling around on the dance floor struggling and punching one another.* David strode onto the dance floor and grabbed at the man who was on top and wrestled him upright. The man struggled and fought and David was losing his physical control over the man when a big fettler stepped in and grabbed the younger fellow and bellowed in his face in a strong German accent, “Stop fighting the Constable!” The man looked back at the fettler with wide eyes and did exactly as he was told. David turned his attention to the older man who was picking himself up off the dance floor. He looked to be okay. "You’re both under arrest for disorderly behaviour!"* David was breathing heavily as he spoke, "come on, out to the truck." With the big fettler holding the still-struggling younger man, the four walked from the hall and out into the warm night towards the police four-wheel drive. "In the back the pair of you - and no fighting!"* He warned them as he opened the back door.* The older man got in silently, the younger man, who had started struggling and swearing again, was helped into the back of the truck by David’s fettler assistant. "Is that all now?"* The fettler asked David. "Yeah, thanks mate, I needed your help badly," David told him as they shook hands. "You are our policeman, of course I help you," the big man shrugged his shoulders as if he couldn't understand what David meant.* This wasn't the city, David told himself.* He turned and climbed into the cabin of the police vehicle. Back at the police station the two arrested men sat in chairs studiously avoiding looking at one another. David was about to write their details in the charge book when there was a knock on the door. He opened it to see a man of about thirty wearing expensive bush clothing and, paradoxically, a battered and stained wide-brimmed hat. "Can I help you?"* David asked him. "Yeah mate, I run Nangena Station up the road, you've got one of me men in there, young fella, had a bit of a stoush at the hall. I'm here to pick him up." "Sorry, he's arrested, he'll be in the cells overnight," David informed him crisply. "Eh?"* The station manager looked genuinely surprised, "what're you locking him up for?* Bob releases 'em into my custody when they get a bit pissed and act up." "Well Bob doesn't work here any more," David told him, "I do and your bloke's in the can for the night." "Bugger," the manager shook his head, "he's one of me best stockmen too.* Alright then, I'll get him in the morning."* With a resigned look the station manager turned and walked from the police station verandah.* David closed the door and turned back into the office. As he did so he noticed the older man looking at him from his chair across the room. "Are you gunna lock me up too?"* He asked in a quiet voice. "Yeah, you're both pinched," David said firmly. "But the railways they'll sack me for sure in the morning,"*the man told him. David felt a sharp pang of guilt but he knew his duty. "Mate I've got no choice, you're arrested, I can’t un-arrest you." "But what about the kids?"* His voice was querulous. David frowned, "Kids?* At your age?” "No, no, not mine - all the kids, the kids in town, the kids out on the line.* What about them?"* "I don't understand" David told him. "I'm Santa Claus.” David paused. Oh no, not a nutter. "Are you feeling alright?* Did you get a knock on the head in the fight?"* The man shook his head, impatient with this thick copper. "I'm alright.* I'm the bloke that does Santa on the Tea and Sugar.* If I’m pinched the railways will sack me on the spot and the kids won't get to see Santa." David suddenly felt very sick. He thought of Emily's disappointment, although he could always take her to town to see the pageant and Santa come in to Adelaide. But then he thought of the rest of the children, the town kids with whom Emily was getting on so well and the kids out on the line and those from the sheep stations, they wouldn't get a chance to see Santa this year. And what would Anne say?* That would really break things. The young stockman looked at David smugly.* He glanced at the older man and then back at David and raised his eyebrows.* “Hey, you pinched Santa!”* He started to chortle, “you bloody well pinched Santa!” The cheeky laughter of the young stockman annoyed the hell out of David but it made his mind up . “Shoot through, the pair of you,” he told them. The young stockman winked at David then stood and sauntered out of the office. The older man stood but stopped and nodded to David just before he closed the door behind him. Emily was so excited. Mummy and Daddy had taken her to the community hall where everyone had been lined up to meet Santa who was sitting in the big chair in the hall with with the gifts he had brought for the children. The room was buzzing with noise but then someone had blown a whistle and just like at school everyone knew to keep quiet because something important was about to happen. She was standing with Mummy and Daddy but Daddy wasn’t wearing his uniform so he wasn’t being a policeman that day. “Emily Cleary!” Santa had called out her name!* “Emily, come here,” She felt Mummy’s hands squeezing her shoulders and then gently pushing her out on the floor of the hall towards where Santa sat in that big chair. Santa was beaming at her through his long white beard.* She stared as Santa leaned down to speak to her. “Hello Emily – and why do you think I picked you out to be one of my helpers today?” Emily wasn’t a shy child but she found herself a bit lost for words and all she could do was shake her head. Santa beamed through his beard at her. “Well Emily, I had a few problems with my sleigh and I had to have my reindeer put in stables for a little while until the sleigh is fixed. I nearly didn’t get here, did you know that?” Emily stared at Santa and shook her head again. “You know Emily if it wasn’t for the local policeman I would never have made it to the town.” “Township Santa,” Emily corrected him, “Mummy says it’s a township, not a town.” “And Mummy is of course, right,” Santa told her, “and who is the local policeman?” Emily just about trilled with delight. “My Daddy!” She told Santa. He beamed right back at her. “Yes he is Emily and your Daddy made sure that Santa could visit the outback this Christmas!” Emily looked from Santa at her parents and saw that they were standing and smiling at her and Daddy had his arm around Mummy’s shoulder. At that moment she knew she was the proudest and happiest little girl in the world.* And she had yet to ride Terry Rankine’s pony!