by Gail Farrelly
Enjoy this fun Halloween tale from Gail Farrelly, while not a mystery it does have a mystery twist of sorts at the end.
Once upon a time there was a seven-year-old girl in the Bronx who had been very bad during the day on Halloween. At least, that was what her parents claimed and they punished her after supper by sending her to her room to spend the rest of the evening alone. No trick-or-treating for this mini miscreant.
The little girl was furious. All she had done was tease her little sister a few times. Big deal. Was it her fault that she had a big, fat, cry baby for a little sister? Phooey, she was thinking, as she sat on her bed and stared at the walls of her room. She saw RED; no orange and black for her that night.
Moping around the room, she searched for a way to vent her anger at her parents. There seemed to be no appeal and no way to fight back–or was there? She thought of what her father had told the family just the night before. The cost of electricity was going up and they all had to pitch in and monitor its use. It cost a nickel, he claimed, each time someone flicked the light switch, so lights should be used only when it was absolutely necessary. Was this one of those times?
As she glanced at the light switch, a light went on in her head. Eureka! For the offense of disciplining her, her parents would have to pay on the electricity bill. In this case, she decided on a fine of fifty cents. She walked over to the light switch and flicked it on and off–counting five, ten, fifteen, twenty and so on. It felt wonderful when she hit fifty. This was much more fun than trick-or-treating!
Halloween was only the beginning. She practiced this strategy on quite a few occasions. A pint-sized Judge Judy, she “charged” her parents for any actions or decisions of which she disapproved. Fifty cents was the minimum fine, but some parental offenses merited more. The whole system worked perfectly. When she got into trouble, only half her brain listened to the parental lecture, the other half silently assessed the damages. Would the light switch penalty be fifty cents or more? It was a coping mechanism that proved to be fabulous for this little brat.
Fast forward to her college days. She’s in a psychology class and the professor is talking about the ingenious ways people learn to cope. Her friend (she knows where all the bodies are buried) sitting next to the brat in class raises her hand and tells the light switch story–naming no names, of course. The professor says it’s a good example of coping but cautions, “It also shows a criminal mind.” Uh-oh.
Press the fast forward button again: time for the brat to choose a career. She decides to become a crime novelist. It’s safer than being a criminal, and it’ll give her the opportunity to get back at anyone who does her wrong. She can develop characters (disguised, of course) based on such folks and then just kill them off whenever she feels like it–a great way to cope, she figures. The light switch got her through the early years of her life; her pen and her killer imagination will get her through the later ones.
She and her pen lived happily ever after.
More of Gail’s short stories, and many other Halloween stories, can be found in our Terrific Tales section.