by Rick Cogbill and Will Enns
I don’t know why, but sometimes Dolly treats me like a small child.
‘Buck Pincher, will you stop poking the presents?’ my wife Dolly scolded.
‘You can’t find out what you’re getting till tomorrow morning. Why don’t you pour us some eggnog to sip while we watch the Grinch steal Christmas!’
As I lingered, she added, ‘One more sleep and you’ll see what St. Nick has for you! And you have to promise that you won’t get up before dawn again.’
Later, as I drifted of to be with the the sandman, I thought it would be nice if on this Christmas Eve, there would not be a midnight check-in to spoil my beauty rest.
Suddenly, a shrill screech set my nerve endings vibrating like tuning forks.
As I dropped back into my bed from the ceiling, I realized it was my own screech, a common reaction to a midnight office call. Some idiot needed a bed for the remainder of the night.
I looked out and what to my bleary eyes should appear but a dirt road in front of our motel. What happened to the four-lane highway, I thought. And what’s this young couple with a donkey doing on my doorstep?
‘Sorry,’ said the young man when I opened the door, ‘but with the shepherd’s conference taking up every room in Bethlehem, there’s nowhere else to go.’ Bethlehem? I thought this was Slumberland…
After dealing with the customers I returned to bed. Dolly asked who was out there.
‘A pair of crazy kids,’ I complained. ‘Out in this weather, and on a donkey of all things!’
‘Don’t they know it’s the night before Christmas?’ asked Dolly.
‘I dunno. Told them there was no room in the inn, but they said they would take anything with a roof.’
‘So what did you do?’ asked Dolly, more alert now.
‘Why, I charged them five shekels of tin and put them in the pool shed, er… I mean the stable. Yeah, I put them in the stable. Hated to do that, her being pregnant and all.’
‘YOU PUT A PREGNANT WOMAN IN THE STABLE?’ squealed Dolly. ‘Have you no shame?’
‘Sure I do, but the five shekels in my pocket will buy salve for my conscience, ho ho! Besides, what’s the chance she’ll come due overnight?’
‘You better use those shekels to buy yourself a thick blanket, because you’re sleeping in the doghouse tonight!’ snapped Dolly as she headed for the laundry.
‘Hah! The doghouse is full! Charged those three wise guys two shekels apiece for it,’ I chortled. ‘Dinged ‘em extra for their Camillacs, too. They said something about following ‘The Star’. Hey, is there a Broadway play in town that we don’t know about?’
The scene felt like a bad dream, so I stuck my head out the window for some fresh air.
‘Oh oh, here come some more shepherds. I bet I can get a couple more shekels if I put them in the crawl space. Hey, take a look at those guys all heading for the stable. I’m gonna go out there and charge ‘em extra if they think they can co-habitate just because it’s a stable.’
Dolly had no ear for my troubles. She bustled past me with blankets, pillows, hot water and towels.
‘I hope you’re charging ‘em extra for all that stuff,’ I hollered. ‘I told them housekeeping was not included at that price!’
A customer pounded on the office door. ‘Hey you, Innkeeper! You didn’t tell me you were running a Broadway musical tonight! Turn off the spotlight and let a tired Roman sleep, will ya?’
I looked out at the stable, lit from above like a stage.
The phone rang. It was Slim Shambles the wheelwright. ‘I’m real happy you got the whole Tabernacle Choir staying with you, but do they have to practice at three in the morning? Tell ‘em to clamp a lid on it! I can hear ’em all the way to my smithy.’
No sooner had Slim slammed the phone down than Hokey Mike of the Kosher Dog and Burger called. ‘Hey, what’s with the Calgary Stampede, already? There’s sheep and camels all over the road an’ my wife is givin’ me what for because her flower beds are getting eaten! Now give those guys a tune-up or I’ll call the Romans down on you!’
When Dolly came back in, she was bubbling with excitement. ‘That poor sweet couple; I got to help deliver their baby,’ she babbled. ‘Then I gave them back their money as a baby present!’
‘You did WHAT!’ I shouted, ‘That pair has been nothing but trouble since they arrived! Simon the Soothsayer already demanded a refund – said he didn’t like the vibes around here. And he was one of our best customers!’
‘Now calm down, Buck,’ Dolly soothed. ‘That young couple can’t help it if everyone in town wants to gawk at their new baby. You know, there’s something special about that child, but I can’t put my finger on it. Now take a pill and come back to bed.’
As I drifted off five shekels poorer, I thought I heard a choir of angels. I couldn’t be sure though; the only angel I know is Dolly, and her singing doesn’t sound like that when she takes a shower after I’ve used up the hot water.
The next morning when I awoke, the snow was melting off the pavement. Hey, what happened to the dirt road? I got dressed and went out to check the stable, er…pool shed? That’s funny, I mused, there were sheep and camels all over here last night. I searched the snow outside the shed, but found no signs of sheep tracks or even footprints!
‘That was some dream,’ I muttered as I went into the house. Dolly looked up from the stove.
‘What was a dream, dear?’ she asked as she seared the bacon into submission.
‘Don’t you remember the young couple with the baby and the donkey…’ I stopped, because Dolly was giving me the owly eye.
I turned towards the Christmas tree and changed the subject.
‘It must be time for presents! Can’t wait to see if I got that freon-cooled turbo-charged BIOS chip for my computer! Ah, I’m glad they invented Christmas, with all its commercialism. It’s the only day of the year where you can be greedy without feeling guilty!’ But inside of me, something was different.
Dolly put her arms around me and looked at the plastic Christmas tree, nearly buried beneath a mountain of brightly-wrapped packages. ‘Is that really why we have Christmas? Isn’t there more to it than just presents?’
‘Maybe,’ I shrugged. But a glance at the tiny manger scene on the mantle left me with a powerful sense of déjà vu. There were sure a lot of people around that manger last night. I wonder, why did they all come?
To contact the authors:
Will Enns <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rick Cogbill <email@example.com>
Each year, my wife Jennifer (Dolly) celebrates Christmas with her interior home decor. Friends come from far to ooh and aah and sip libations with us, but mostly just to ooh and aah. For those of you who didn’t hear about our gathering, here is a brief video. We hope Christmas is as happy for you as it is for us.
Will and Jennifer
Jennifer’s Christmas Decor: