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Long Story Short · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Christmas in Cleveland
Monday, December 25, 2017


Two police officers found a couple of homeless people accompanied by a newborn baby in a park near the harbour. The baby was roughly swaddled in a threadbare and dirty onesie, and has immediately been transferred to a hospital to receive emergency medical care.

It was around midnight when two police officers on a routine patrol in Goorich-Kirtland Park were alerted by what seemed to be the wails of a baby. They followed the sound and found a couple of homeless people, seated on a bench, who were lulling a very small child, clothed in a skimpy and old onesie. With the temperatures dropping well below 30, the officers immediately called an ambulance in, which carried the baby away to one of the city’s hospitals (the police refused to disclose which one for privacy reasons).

The two parents had no ids to show to the police officers. They claimed to come from the Middle East, though their exact country of origin remains unknown, as well as how or where they entered the United States. In rudimentary English, the man said he was a carpenter and he and his pregnant wife had fled the war. His wife explained the baby was their son, but at the same time she pretended to be still a virgin. The couple has been arrested and placed in custody, while police inquires of all nearby maternity wards in search of anyone whose newborn baby could have been abducted during the night. DNA tests will be conducted if that search fails.

The couple could be charged for abduction and illegal entry in the United States and face jail or deportation. The fate of the baby remains unknown at this stage. In the event he is the real newborn son of the couple, he would be granted American citizenship and entrusted to a foster family.

Asked about this affair during his morning briefing, Cleveland’s mayor, Frank J. Jackson, has once more deplored the lack of means to build centers where homeless people could be sheltered in dignity. He blames the federal administration, which, he says “has repeatedly cut down the fundings we use to keep the shelters open throughout winter. I’m not surprised by such a case, and I wonder how it has not happened before.” He said he would help those people as best he could, even in court if necessary.

Police detectives wonder if this case might be somehow linked to the interception, only hours before, of three strangers by a prowl car. According the sheriff, those strangers, whom he calls “vagrants”, were roving aimlessly through downtown streets, adorned in precious, but exceedingly strange garments. When asked to decline their identity by the police officers, they declared they were “mages and messengers of God” and were following a mysterious “star” that led them to Cleveland. The strangers were unarmed but the bags they carried with them contained various dubious substances that have been seized and dispatched to laboratories for analysis. “We feared they could be drugs or explosive substances,” declared the sheriff. “We were told that a random ISIS attack was more than likely. We cannot take any chance with delirious bums who behave irrationally and might well be up to no good.”

Though the results of the analyses were not available at the time, the sheriff stated that the three strangers could be indicted for drug detention or for planning a terror attack. The prosecutor declined to comment at this stage.

Robert Portman, junior senator for Ohio and leader of the Republicans in the state, regrets the situation, but has also wondered how strangers without passports could sneak through the United States’ border and travel hundreds of kilometres without being spotted by authorities.
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#1 · 2
· · >>Monokeras
I'm assuming somewhere there's a report by the Air Force deatailing how they shot down unidentified winged creatures that very same night.
#2 · 2
· · >>Monokeras
Clever approach to leveraging both the prompt and the season.

Not 100% sure how likely the State would be to separate a newborn from their presumable mother, but still plausible enough to be unsettling.

Stylistically consistent and appropriate voice, didn't notice any serious mistakes. So, some straining of the suspension of disbelief, but overall a well constructed piece.
#3 · 1
· · >>libertydude
I don’t think we ever got a minific written as a newspaper article so kudos for that —

The idea is fun enough: what would happen if Jesus was to be born nowadays in an advanced country like the US (the story is US centric but I’m sure it could be located anywhere else)? I think the story points out some of the hurdles, but on the other hand comes across as a little clichéd. The current mess in the Middle East is an ideal scenario for a fic like this.

Also I’m not really sure about the legal implications, but I can’t really comment on that.

It’s a cute questioning on how little our civilization has advanced since two thousand years ago. We’ve made progresses in some fields, but in some other we’re still the same, or we even have regressed.
#4 · 2
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher >>Monokeras
This could definitely use some prose touch-up. While the idea and presentation is super cute, it doesn't really read like a newspaper article to me, which does a lot of damage to the illusion you are attempting to present. Things like "His wife explained the baby was their son, but at the same time she pretended to be still a virgin." are just pretty intense editorializing and don't fit newspaper article voicing well.

This is REALLY on the nose. Like I get that the intent is satirical, but man, this one is so direct it hurts. Quite possibly something that will work for other people (or maybe even just earlier in the round), but it ends up as a bit of a turnoff to me here. Consider this one of those personal pieces of advice: it doesn't work for me, but I might just be the wrong audience here.
#5 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
Cut away the bits that don't read like a newspaper article, as Andrew suggested, and you could probably fit in segments about the shepherds and about Herod a dictator wanting to murder all the baby boys as well.

I liked it, even if it was on the nose. But then again, I'm pretty sure I'm the right audience for this one.
#6 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
I’m split about this one. On the one hand, I like the idea of examining how Jesus Christ being born in the modern-day United States might change how the story proceeds (would he walk across Lake Michigan instead, or wander the White Sands of New Mexico for forty days?). I also liked how the authorities’ actions, while somewhat humorous, felt realistic to how many people would react to such a strange event. It’s supposedly a fantastic and wonderful occurrence, but the cynicism of our current society thinks something more sinister is going on. Just look at how the newspaper twists it into a political issue about refugees and terrorism, something many media outlets seem to do these days, regardless of whether the subject really entails it or not.

However, there’s also elements that don’t work. There are sections in the story where the article feels less like a news piece and more like a traditional short story (i.e. the ending paragraphs about the Three Wise Men). That really clashed with the more realistic tone the story was going for, and made the satirical elements harder to buy. I also thought that the story’s internal logic didn’t entirely work. As >>Monokeras said, transporting Middle Eastern characters to America, but keeping them their regular Biblical selves clashes with the story’s central idea (Christ’s birth in modern-day America). Without updating the characters to a more feasible American perspective, it makes little sense for the story to not take place in the modern-day Middle East (which, by all accounts, probably could use a Messiah about now). Ulysses didn’t put a bunch of ancient Greeks in 1920s Dublin just because it was based off of The Odyssey, and this story should’ve definitely followed that model.

In the end, there’s a firm idea here, but it simply wasn’t thought out enough to be effective. Figure out what you want the main concept to be, and base the resulting story around that.
#7 · 3
· · >>Monokeras
What US newspaper is gonna use kilometres?

In any case, in complete agreement with >>AndrewRogue. This doesn't read like a professional news article.
#8 ·
· · >>Monokeras
To me, putting the birth of jesus in a modern setting was a nice idea, and the really interesting part was thinking about our society in the context of this biblical story. That's what you caught my attention with.
But the "there's too much distrust" thought wasn't enough to hold it for long. The second part about the "three strangers" felt like it just spelled out what I already had imagined after reading the first one. I lost interest there

Also I have to agree with the others: the relatively simple and repetitive sentence structure coupled with wordings like "but at the same time she pretended" and "He blames the federal administration" gave me the impression this article wasn't from a professional newspaper.
#9 · 2
· · >>Monokeras
Look, it's nice writing and all... but I feel like it's in slightly poor taste. The reason is in the first sentence of the first paragraph, cause like an idiot I wrote that first.

This reads more like a satirical website than a respected newspaper because of some of its phrases, which others have pointed out. And wouldn't the date of the paper be the 26th, or even the 27th? It takes time to print stuff, so this paper came before the actual event would have. Oh, and the birth of Christ, historically, would have happened sometime in summer, the whole December 25th thing came from the Spanish turning the Aztec(Pretty sure) celebration Birth of the Sun into Birth of the Son... but that's me being a nitpicking nerd.

Anyway, some people have expressed doubt on the legal aspect of it. I'm gonna be here and say it depends upon the state, but in my family's experience the state can, and will, separate a child like this. And there is almost nothing you can do about it depending, once again, on which state you're in.

To put it simply, nice try, fell flat for me.