Short Stories.

Breast Milk for Mary

In the nativity scene, Mary enters the inn like a rusty warship entering a polluted harbour, firing off a few rounds. Like most anxious mothers, she’s in survival mode and doesn’t give a figlet what people think. She sends a few hay-bails flying, pulls herself together and apologises: “It’s just my way of protecting my baby, I want people to know I mean business – I don’t want to hurt you, but you all look so dangerous – whose fault is that?” She is followed at a distance by Joseph, carrying a baby in one arm, leading a donkey in the other. There was silence and she continued: “My past is another thing. So don’t you talk about how close I was to my pet orang a tang. I need a crib for Jesus.”

 

She was shaking and making everyone else around her nervous and the inn-keeper broke away from under another conversation: “No you can’t.”

Mary didn’t get it. “Can’t what?”

“Have a room. There’s no room in the Inn.”

Mary knew it was time to mellow.

“How are you?” She said to the packed room, turning slowly; Madona smile meeting everyone else on a slow orbit of every face in the room: “I don’t want to be discommodious, I don’t want to put anyone out. Last night I gave birth lying next to a donkey and I want to improve my circumstances.” They were at a loss and looking for the inn-keeper to show leadership. The expression on Joseph’s face brought tears to the eyes of the donkey. Mary persisted: “I’m so comfortless and inconsolable. I’m so without hope. How could you be feckless when God is so mysteriously fertile. I had a dream I was ravished by an angel sent by God and now I’m a pregnant virgin with a baby messiah.” Not a word was spoken. “How can you… ignore my plight? If you can’t believe in me, believe in little Jesus.”

 

The inn-keeper struggled to his feet and addressed Mary and the room at large.

 

“I’m having a mid-life crisis. Old age is comfortless and inconsolable. How can I believe in little Jesus? God hasn’t said anything to me! If Gods’ going to pull these tricks, he should inform everyone, not just you and your silent friend. How can a sane person in control of his faculties …” He changed tack and continued: “ I’m living in the material world, experiencing the rapid deterioration of my agility, my ability to desire and be passionate, still tortured by the longing for romance and success. I’m doing too many favours as it is. I can’t respond to spiritual conundrums and false hopes.  

 

Mary had smiled her Madona smile all the way through this insulting speech; but her eyes were swords in contradiction to her mouth. He tremored before unlocking himself from her mysterious spell: “Don’t you have any friends? Why are you wandering from town to town claiming to be fucked by God with nothing but a donkey and a retard? This is beyond belief! I’ve had enough of people wanting to spend the night here with nothing to spend. They’ve all got a story like you. It doesn’t hold water. It’s no wonder you don’t have any friends, you’re as mad as a hatter in a monastery. Go back to where you came from.”

Mary continued smiling the unnerving smile at the inn-keeper. “But it’s for the child, inn-keeper, Goddam it. We have to do it for the children. I don’t want you to sacrifice yourself for me, I want you to help little Jesus.”

 

The innkeeper poured Mary and Joseph both a beer. By giving them something, even though it wasn’t what they wanted, he could take the high ground: “Spending time is what people do here, Mary. They spend money for the time they are here. I don’t mind if they sip one beer the whole day through. You can sit at the bar with humanists; they don’t talk crap, that’s all I ask. Otherwise I’ll give you a dark beer for your breastmilk and send you on your way.” He filled a tankard of beer and continued to berate her: “The world is flawed, Mary. It makes it easier to face death, I reckon. I’m not grumpy because my limbs have begun to tire and my organs aren’t working well: running an inn involves meeting all shape and type of person and your one of the worst I’ve ever encountered. In the Inn, I’ve seen the cracks in the brain and the folly and fallaciousness and I’m not exaggerating when I say – I’ve never seen a more feculent performance as this all my life. Drink your beer and be on your way.”

 

Now Mary and the silent Joseph had a moment of silent communication. Mary took Jesus from him, took a sip and then with a long, gulping, mouthful, drained the tankard –

 

“I’ve got news for you, inn-keeper… Little Jesus, Joseph and me are going to make more money than you or the Roman Empire could ever imagine. Suck eggs and die.” 

 

 

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