A heavy tavern door opened letting in the stifling heat. “Shut that door, James! It’s roasting outside,” Saul called out.
“Hey Saul, how come you aren’t open?” James asked coming to the table where three men sit.
“I dunno. I woke up feeling like maybe I wouldn’t open today. Let people spend time with family.”
“Whew – what a summer, huh? With the census takers, too many people milling around in this heat,” James said reaching for a glass of the honeyed wine in the center of the table.
“Joel was telling us about the commotion last night,” David said. “OK, so Hiram is sold out. And?”
“Right, Hiram is sold out – as is everyone – and then, real late, a couple shows up at the door.”
James wiped his brow. “A couple of what?”
“A couple of hay barrels. What do you think? A couple – a man and his wife. So they show up to be counted on account of the man being of the House of David and they’re looking for a place to stay. No room at Hiram’s inn but the lady, she’s pregnant – really pregnant. You know Hiram, his heart went out to the,m so he says they can stay in the barn if they need to.”
Saul cut in. “That Hiram is a good man. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”
“The couple settles in the barn and guess what?” Joel said. “The lady has the baby – in the middle of Hiram’s barn.”
“You’re kidding me!” James exclaimed. “She has a kid in a stable? Are they well?”
Joel shrugged. “I guess so. The lady swaddled it in some old clothes and it was fine. But it gets even stranger. Now, Hiram is a prince of a guy but those animals; they are the noisiest barn of animals in town. Last night? Not a sound.”
James jumped in excitedly, “That’s right. I walked by there with the missus and we commented on how we didn’t hear anything. Usually that cow never shuts up. Not a peep last night.”
David was puzzled. “The animals are quiet – with a kid being born in their barn?”
Saul pointed at David’s hand. “What happened to your hand”
“Oh, I hit it with my hammer this morning.”
“What were you doing?” Saul asked.
“The Widow Greene’s shutters were just about off their hinges and with this dust kicking up she’ll have an inch on her floors before long. So I fixed them up.”
“Good for you, my friend,” Saul said.
“Eh,” David said, waving them off. “Wasn’t anything. I got to thinking about the poor thing out there all alone.”
Saul turned back to Joel. “So those shepherds milling around last night – what was that about?”
“They came down to check the kid out.”
“How’d they know about the kid?” James asked.
“The one I asked says an ‘angel’ told them to go. I guess if I were in a field by myself all the time, I’d call anyone who talked to me an ‘angel’ as well.” Joel said with a laugh. “But it gets better.”
“Better than a kid in a stable with shepherds coming to see it because some crazy loner says they should?” Saul asked.
“No, I know what you’re talking about, “ David said. “Melchoir and the others. They stopped in my shop this morning. Don’t tell me they’re here because of the kid too?”
“What others? James asked.
“Uh, Gaspar and that guy from up north… Balthasar. Nice guys,” David answered.
“Yeah, and they brought gifts,” Joel stated.
“Gifts? Why?” James asked.
“You know, you bring a little something when someone has a baby,” David answered.
Joel said, “Yeah, but these weren’t ‘a little something’. Gaspar, he brought gold. Balthasar brings frankincense…”
David interrupted. “Do you know how hard it is to find frankincense right now? Aaron has been sold out for months.”
Joel continued, “Melchoir brought some myrrh.”
David slammed his hand on the table, “Oh come on! A pinch of myrrh costs more than my house!”
“My sister had a baby last month and the most she got was a goat. A skinny one, too,” Saul said.
“Hey Joel, how’d you know all this?” James asked.
“I was on my way to Irv’s when I saw all the activity, so I asked around.”
“Why were you going to see Irv?” Saul asked.
“I took him that donkey.”
“I thought he couldn’t afford that donkey?” Saul asked.
“Yeah. He’s had a hard year. I gave him a break.”
“Twenty years you’ve been trading animals, this is the biggest break you’ve ever given,” David laughed, patting Joel’s shoulder.
“I know, I know. I guess I’m becoming an old softy. It felt right, you know. Actually,” he chuckled, “it felt pretty good.”
“I should head out. The shop is pretty busy,” David said, with a wave.
“I’m going to go home, too,” James said. “My oldest is home. There was the most amazing star last night. We might go watch it tonight from the hilltop.”
“Hey, James, since it’s on your way home, why don’t you take some of that bread behind the counter and this pitcher of wine for that couple over at Hiram’s,” Saul said, handing him the pitcher.
James waved also, and left with the food.
“You know, I’m going to catch up with James. Maybe I should check on Hiram’s animals – make sure there’s nothing wrong with them,” Joel said, rising.
Saul opened the door. “Be well in this heat, my friend. Quite a story last night, huh? Hey, Joel – do you think they’ll be telling this story a hundred years from now?”
“Maybe… it’s a good story.” Joel said fanning himself. “I hope they move it to winter, though – it’s a scorcher!”
Here’s to good stories everywhere. Peace on Earth, my friends, and goodwill toward men!