coal dad indicted

BY SUE MARRA BYHAM

SNOOTVILLE, PA -- Simon Sed, the notorious "Coal Dad" and Snootville father of four, was indicted yesterday on disorderly conduct following a fracas at the Prisci Preschool attended by his youngest son.

The Sed child (whose name has been withheld due to age and vulnerability, although experts agree he has already been scarred for life) precipitated events by bringing a lump of coal to school and frightening the other students during naptime with a lurid tale about ruined holidays. The lump had been obtained by his father at an old railroad crossing and placed on the family dinner table the previous evening.

"Few children have ever seen a lump of coal," Mr. Sed explained to police in an attempt to defend his heinous behavior. "I presented one to my children as an object lesson."

In fact, Simon Sed had threatened his offspring with the Christmas-morning receipt of a single lump of coal presented in one of his unwashed socks and nailed to a brick-colored cabinet (which, according to his estranged wife Lou Sed, was all the stingy S.O.B. could provide in the way of a fireplace).

The child's teacher acted quickly to both confiscate the coal and call in the school's child psychologist. And according to a statement read by the teacher at a meeting of concerned parents: "It is true that three couples -- whose firstborns are suffering from recurring nightmares about a Christmas without largesse -- have negotiated a settlement to pay for psychiatric care, but rumors that the school will close due to the expense of defending a class action lawsuit are unfounded."

In a school meeting immediately following the incident, Mr. Sed insisted he had never intended for his son to be a proselytizer, "much less a smuggler," and he accused the school of being lax in providing the sort of security "that made it possible for a child to enter the building with a lump of coal hidden in his stocking cap."

Prisci's principal countered with: "It's the responsibility of the parent to search the child for ordinary objects. Strip-searches at Prisci are weapons-focused only."

At which point Mr. Sed hit the Principal with the lump of coal and had to be restrained by several witnesses.

A letter sent to prospective parents on the school's waiting list referred to the security breach that had resulted in so much misery to so many innocents: "In a firm response to the urging of a horrified community, we have determined that effective following the Christmas break, all toddlers entering the school will be strip-searched. And their parents will be also."

Simon Sed has vowed to appeal his conviction, claiming religious persecution. "My wife and I are atheists who believe strongly in Santa and retribution," he said.

The child's new foster parents have removed him from the Prisci Preschool to an undisclosed location in New England for an experimental therapy involving total immersion in the accepted holiday traditions, including compulsory gift-giving without judgmental prejudice.

"Let us say once and for all that there are no 'bad' children," said a lawyer representing the parents of the three most grievously debilitated youngsters. "To suggest otherwise, especially with minors present, is unconscionable."

Mr. Sed's lawyer responded: "If there is such a thing as a quaint holiday tradition, surely the receipt of a stocking with a lump of coal in the toe is it."

Recriminations and retaliations are expected from one and all.

Sue Marra Byham is the Grand Prize Winner of our Holiday Fake News Contest! Sue receives $50, errant parent merchandise, and Kentucky bourbon! Sue lives with her family and other wildlife in a backyard habitat where Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware collide. She has twice been honorably mentioned in The Year's Best Fantasy and attributes her ability to sneak a little fantasy into everything she writes (even CD liner notes) to the fact that as a child her adoring parents smothered her with Christmas gifts and refrained from making any serious or lengthy references to coal. Sue can be reached at: byham@kennett.net.