It came to pass that a Sodom of Shepherds were elbowing each other in a tiny barn. Joseph was passing out cigars; Mary was glaring.
“Dude! What’re you going to name him?”
“We were thinking maybe Derek,” Joseph says, puffing away.
“We are NOT naming Him Derek”, Mary spits.
“Derek is a great name!” Joseph replies.
“Yeah, Dude, that’s *my* name!”
“We are NOT naming the Messiah Derek,” Mary says through gritted teeth.
“How about Gerald?” someone says. A lamb bleats plaintively.
“Right,” Mary smooths her skirt. “Thank you all for coming. We have a name chosen. You will learn it in” she appears to check the time, “five days. Go Away.” She folds her arms over her chest and watches them self-consciously file out. She sighs heavily. “Thank God that’s over,” she mutters.
“Shalom,” rumbles a deep voice in the dark doorway “We are here”
“Joey, as God is my witness…”
“Whoa, Mare, I totally don’t even know these dudes.”
“Zoroastrian Magi, milady,” the deep voice replies.
“Who, with the what now?” Joseph stutters.
“Magi, sirrah,” a second voice answers. “Followers of Zarathustra. We have come to see the Anointed One.”
“Goyim?” Mary asks.
“Hardly,” a third voice answers. The shadows begin to move.
“Shalom,” Mary says. The rustle of robes betrays the Magi’s movements. Shadows unfurl into brilliant satin colours: purples, reds, blues, and layers of cotton in shades of sand and sky.
“His birth was foretold”, the first Magus’ voice deep as night.
“By Messengers from…”, the second’s voice is like pebbles dropping into water. “Heaven.” The third Magus finishes.
“WHERE are you dudes from?” Joseph asks.
Mary sighs deeply and rolls her eyes. “I hope you don’t mind…er…sirs?…but you see, I’ve only just recently given birth, and…”
“Ah,” the first Magus gasps, drawing back slightly.
“You are…” the second continues.
“Unclean,” says the third.
“NO,” Mary insists. “I’m TIRED. Could you come back tomorrow?” The Magi bow deeply and seem to simply disappear from the barn.
“With all these visitors, SOMEBODY might have offered us a place to stay that doesn’t have…poop…on the floor.” Mary says, yawning.
“Wait,” Joseph says. He cradles his wife, who cradles the Son of God, and spreads his robe on the straw behind her.
“Thank you,” Mary says, eyes glistening.
Joseph sighs. “I just wish…the kid LOOKED like me, you know?”
“He’ll be a carpenter, just like you,” she replies, smiling.
“Yeah,” Joseph whispers in her ear as she closes her eyes. “A solid education in nails and wood is a fine way to make a living.”
For reasons she would not understand for 33 years, Mary shivers at Joseph’s words.
Mary’s been able to bathe in the trough, and now that her bleeding has stopped, she wants a proper bath. Joseph asks at the Inn. “He, uh, said you could go and bathe there.”
“What is it?” Mary asks.
“You’ll see,” Joseph says. Mary tucks Baby God into her sling and tentatively approaches the Inn. She frowns when she spies a newly-painted sign dangling above the door: הבית של מלך היהודים
After the washing-up, Mary returns to the barn, where she finds Joseph inhaling smoke from a hose attached to a fancy pot. Sitting opposite him, on three low milking stools, are the Magi in their jewelled satin robes. One wears a rolled turban, one wears a veil over his face, and one wears a sort of crown. The fancy pot makes a bubbling sound every time they inhale. Each of the Magi rises to bow at her entrance.
“Greetings, Most Holy Mother,” says the one with the deep voice.
“Blessings upon thee,” says the second Magus.
“Shalom,” says the third. Mary bows her head in return.
“We have been to see the King,” the first Magus says sadly.
“There is news,” the second shakes his head.
“Terrible news,” the third finishes as he coils the hose over the fancy pot.