Flash Fiction Story 057: A Children's Story About Crime And Punishment And Cowboys

The town of Ogalaram had a few problems, but liked to believe it was a nice place to live. 

The town had some poor people who didn’t have enough to eat. That bothered a lot of people in the town, but for the life of them, they couldn’t come up with a solution.

The bears who lived in the woods attacked town on the regular. In fact, no other town had a problem with bear attacks like Ogalaram did. Nobody had the foggiest idea how to fix it. 

Then there was crime. Ogalaram had a lot of crime, and the townspeople knew exactly who was to blame.

They all knew Donny The Crook was the lowdownest crook who ever crooked.

His crookiness was not a matter of much debate. For one thing, it was right there in his name. For another, he didn’t really try to hide that he was a crook. He had boasted about how clever his crimes were at town meetings, at the saloon, and even out in the street to anyone who would listen.

Even his friends knew he was a crook! They didn’t care that Donny was crook, because Donny always remembered to steal a little bit extra for his friends, but they knew. Everyone knew!

On a bleary winter day, the townspeople had had enough of Donny robbing the town bank, rustling all of the ranchers’ cattle, and letting the bears in the wood run roughshod throughout the town. They went to the Good and Wise Sheriff and demanded action.

“Arrest him!” the townspeople chanted. “Run him out of town!” they wailed. “He loves those bears in the wood so much, let him live with them!” they crowed.

The Good and Wise Sheriff knew a mob brewing when he saw one. He put his hands up to quiet the crowd and told them in a firm voice: “Now, listen here, people. We got laws, and laws is the only thing that’ll get us out of this. I’m hearin’ your concerns, and I’m gonna find out the truth of all this, and if somebody’s been acting criminal in this town, I won’t rest until they go before the Judge.”

Satisfied that justice said is justice done, the townspeople went back to their lives, and the Sheriff went about his work. He checked the records of the bank. He went to talk to each of the ranch owners, to find out just what had been stolen. He even went to talk to the bears in the woods, to see if they would cooperate with his investigation.

There was clearly a lot more crime going on in the town of Ogalaram than the Sheriff originally thought. Over those next few months, he was able to bring most of Donny’s gang (and more than a few of the Bears in the Woods) up before the judge to stand trial for all sorts of dastardly deeds.

And so his investigation continued… And continued… And continued some more. All the while Donny started to change his tune. If he ever thought somebody might put him behind bars for all the black-hearted stuff he’d pulled, he might not have boasted about it so much, even if he loved boasting. “I ain’t no crook,” he’d cry. The townspeople would just roll their eyes and go back about their day. The Sheriff would deal with him.

The investigation continued yet some more, until one fine spring day, Donny The Crook was told the best news he had heard in a good long while.

The Good and Wise Sheriff had come up short. In all of his prodding, and all of his cajoling (and all of the numerous boasts Donny the Crook himself had made) the Sheriff couldn’t come up with anything that the Judge could use. The investigation had come to an end.

The townspeople were furious! The owner of the dry goods store bellowed, “What about all of his meetings with the bears in the woods?!” The saloon owner screamed, “How could you not make a conclusion about obstruction of justice?!” The blacksmith shouted, “I think the metaphor of this story’s gotten a little heavy handed!”

The Sheriff sympathized, but had to send them along their way. There was nothing that could be done at the moment. Donny the Crook had gotten away with it. All of it.

But what the townspeople didn’t realize then, and Donny the Crook wouldn’t realize until it was much too late, is this simple truth about crooks:

There is nothing sloppier than a crook who thinks he’s gotten away with it.

The townspeople (and for that matter, the Sheriff) would get another chance to bring Donny to justice. They just had to wait. Just ‘cause Donny was also the mayor didn’t mean a darn thing. Even if they’d never get him before a judge, they’d certainly get a chance to vote him out soon enough.

Art by Eris O’Reilly

Art by Eris O’Reilly