. It was like Clinton and Trump. So, we ended up talking about the weather and the farm while Mary laid on the quilt with her eyes closed.
Then Dolores stood. “Time to go. Mary needs peace and quiet.”
The rest of the day they sat on the deck steadily talking. In the process drinking the rest of the wine and beer. It was dark when Dolores left telling Jeanne she would be here for an early breakfast.
I asked three or four times when was the baby due. I shook my head disgustedly. They had no idea and they weren’t worried. They checked the barn after the sun went down and all was OK. That was when Dolores went home.
That night was really weird. At midnight, there was a terrible lightning storm. No thunder at all. I got up and went to the window. The whole yard was lit as bolts of lightning flashed. Sheet lightning was everywhere. Ball lightning was dancing on the roof of the barn. A screech owl wailed, another owl was hooting in the distance and a coyote was howling from our deck.
I didn’t know if anything had happened so I was going to go back to bed. But Jeanne was up and throwing clothes on. “What are you doing getting dressed this early? It’s just after midnight.”
“Something is going on. Did you see all the lightning? The wild animals are going crazy. I swear I heard a donkey braying down in our yard.”
Before I could comment that we didn’t have a donkey, the phone rang. Who in the hell do you think would be calling at midnight. As soon as Jeanne picked up the phone, I knew who it was. It was Dolores and she was on her way over.
I started a pot of coffee as Jeanne flew out to the barn. Ten minutes later I was taking my first sip when Dolores trotted through the yard without even stopping. I took the pot and four empty cups and walked slowly to the barn.
Was I in for a surprise. Jeanne was handing a little baby to Dolores. “It’s a baby girl,” they cried in unison. I tried not to get excited so I poured four cups of coffee as everyone smiled and touched the baby. Mary was on the quilt, wearing a happy smile.
“How come it’s a girl? I thought it was supposed to be a boy.”
Dolores swayed back and forth with the child. “Whatever gave you that crazy idea?”
“It’s got to be a boy. Who ever heard of Joseph and Mary having a little girl? Nobody will believe it. You’ll be the laughing stock of Berlin.”
Dolores shook her head. “She’s going to be a queen. Just wait and see.”
She was fully dressed at six o’clock. I cringed. Something cataclysmic was about to happen because Jeanne usually doesn’t even think of getting up before nine.”
Before I could say a word, they were sitting on opposites sides of the table and talking.
The whole day was a total disaster. Jeanne and Dolores were constantly running from the deck to the barn. I’d try asking a question and they would be running and singing to the barn. They did tell me Joseph and Mary were still there and the baby was imminent.
I asked how eminent. I could see it now. The whole farm would be an encampment like Woodstock. People everywhere.
I asked them if they were going to get a doctor? All they would do is shrug their shoulders, give me a dumb grin and say, maybe today, tomorrow, the next day, this week or maybe next month. They didn’t have a clue. Then the dumb farmers from Ironshire returned.
Guess what? They were bearing a gift. A little lamb.”
You would have thought Jeanne and Dolores had won the super jackpot worth $100,000,000. They nearly had a fit right on the deck. Finally, they pulled the three farmers out to the barn and presented the little lamb. After the farmers left, here came the three people from the contest.”
You would think since they were supposed to be three kings bearing gifts, they would have something valuable. They had stopped at Pizza Hut and had a huge pizza with everything. They gave me a slice and ran to the barn. Twenty minutes later, they were gone and in no time the three dumb women came.
They had a bottle of wine and a twelve-pack of beer. I took a beer and on they went to the barn. After a while they left empty handed. It was fairly calm the rest of the day. Looking back, I can see it was the lull before the storm.”
After the three women left I took my time and walked to the barn. Joseph, Dolores and Jeanne were sitting at an old card table and Mary was lying on a big pile of hay with my prize quilt as a shawl. I was hoping for another slice of pizza but they had eaten the whole thing.”
I stood in the entryway for ten seconds. The girls ignored me. Finally, Joseph said, “Come join us and have a seat. What will you have? A bottle of beer or a glass of wine?”
I asked a lot of questions: Where were they from? Where were they going? When was the baby due? I never got a straight answer. It was like Clinton and Trump.
“Oh my God, Jeanne, it’s the Three Shepherds.” Dolores looked at Jeanne questioningly. “Can we take them to the barn?”
Jeanne was off the deck beckoning the three men to follow. She was pulling on them and Dolores was pushing. I watched them trot to the door but go in very slowly.
Three Shepherds. Where did they get that crazy idea? They were just three dumb farmers from Ironshire who had lost one of their lambs.
Twenty minutes later, all five came out of the barn and started prancing across the yard. They stopped by the deck. The farmer nodded at me and then talked to Jeanne.”
“If the little lamb shows up, keep it for Joseph and Mary. They began walking out the lane singing Joy to the World off key and sounding terrible.”
“What are we going to do?” Dolores cocked an ear at the ebbing music. “We should be out telling the world.”
Jeanne was shaking her head. “Both Mary and Joseph said not to. We can’t do anything they don’t approve.”
You won’t believe the rest of that morning. Three men came saying we had won gifts from some clearing house. Dolores nearly had a conniption thinking they were the Three Kings bearing gifts. They followed the same routine. Take them to the barn and send them home singing carols.
Then three women arrived with pamphlets describing the birth of the cosmos. Of course, Dolores knew right away that they were the Three Wise Men. When they left, they were singing Silent Night.
Dolores and Jeanne fell into their chairs and started on another slice of melon. I was tired of this nonsense. I talked mainly to Dolores.
“They were women, you idiot. How can they be Wise Men? This whole thing is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
Dolores ignored me. She started talking to Jeanne saying she would be here early tomorrow. She gulped down the rest of her melons and waltzed down the lane.”
The next day was even worse. I had just finished enjoying my first cup of coffee on the deck. It was still dawn; everything was quiet except for two hoot owls calling each other. I leaned back at peace with the world. Then I sensed someone else was in the yard. Dolores walked up on the deck with her tablet. Before I could say anything, Jeanne appeared at the table with two cups of coffee.
“Well, what’s going on out in the barn?” Jeanne didn’t answer. She kept on humming. I think it was Silent Night. “You know you are going overboard on this. That is not Mary and Joe out in the barn.”
Something was wrong. She was like she had five vodka and tonics and a tequila shooter. I was scratching my head wondering what I could say to snap her out when she glanced down the lane and started grinning.
I knew who it was without even looking. “It’s Dolores, isn’t it?” Jeanne smiled and I turned slowly toward the lane. Sure enough, Dolores was walking into the yard intently studying her tablet. She stopped about ten feet from our deck.
“Where are Joseph and Mary?”
Jeanne was off the deck in a flash and pulling Dolores towards the barn. I debated on following then to the barn, but I decided against it. It was all crazy and I didn’t want to get involved. Jeanne came running back, went in the house without a word and came out with my best quilt. My mom had made it especially for me.
“Mary needs this. The straw is giving her a rash.”
I started to protest but Jeanne was halfway to the barn. I slowly finished my melon and threw the rind out in the yard for the chickens.
Half an hour later they came walking to the deck. I should say dancing and singing. I think they were singing Joy to the World.
Jeanne pointed at a chair at the table. “How about a slice of melon for breakfast?”
Dolores nodded and looked at me. “How does it feel to have Joseph and Mary in your barn? I’m so excited and want to yell it from the roof tops but Joseph said not right now.”
“You both are crazier than loons. That’s Joseph and Mary Smith or Joseph and Mary Jones out in the barn. How can you be so dumb and gullible? It’s not even Christmas time. It’s June. And Bethlehem is four or five thousand miles away.”
Dolores had a dumb grin on her face. “Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice. Christmas falls in the Winter Solstice time frame. Exactly six months apart.”
Who can argue with logic like that? I was getting ready to tell her how stupid she sounded when I heard a noise. I looked to our lane and three men were coming.
“Good morning friends. We were wondering if you have seen a stray lamb. We were riding by yesterday and one escaped from our trailer. A pretty little lamb. We would love to have it back.”
Jeanne barely nodded. “I don’t know. It seems strange that Dolores was looking for Joseph and Mary.” She stared across the breakfast table. “You do know who Joseph and Mary are, don’t you?”
“Of course, I know about them from the bible. But that was two thousand years ago.”
The next morning, we were eating breakfast on the deck again. I had a delicious melon from the garden. I looked up. A man and a clearly pregnant woman were walking up the lane. He was holding on her elbow and helping her along. I looked at Jeanne and she was staring at the two people. I didn’t know what to do; Get up and help? Ask them what they were doing? Call the police? Call the church? But Jeanne spoke first.
“Hi, can we help you?”
“We would like a place to rest. As you can see, my wife is heavy with child. We would spend the night and be gone tomorrow.”
“My wife jumped out of her chair and went to the railing.”
“Yes, we have plenty of room for you and your wife. We have two spare bedrooms upstairs.”
“No, all we want is a barn to rest in for a while. A little hay and water to drink would be fine.”
I opened my mouth to speak again but Jeanne was already talking and leaving the deck.
“We have a nice barn and plenty of hay and clean water.” She went to the other side of Mary. “Let’s go to the barn. Let me help, please.”
I watched Jeanne guide them to the barn and disappear inside. It was ten minutes before Jeanne trotted back to the house. In a few minutes, she came out with a huge tray of food: cold fried chicken, sliced tomatoes, rye bread, butter, a glass of milk and more. She didn’t say a word. Just trotted to the barn.
I was getting ready to go to the barn when Jeanne came skipping back to the house, humming a gospel song and clapping her hands. I could tell right then she was out of her gourd.
She had seen the light. She really thought that was the original Joseph and Mary out in the barn.
I knew Jeanne had fallen into the pool at the deep end. I knew that wasn’t Joseph and Mary out in the barn and this wasn’t Bethlehem.
Someone was walking up our lane while we were having breakfast. When the person got closer, we recognized Dolores.
I glanced across the table at Jeanne. “What in the hell is Dolores doing walking up our lane at breakfast time?”
Jeanne didn’t answer, instead she waved at Dolores. “Dolores, how nice you came to visit. How about joining us for breakfast?”
Dolores shook her head for at least ten seconds. “Where are Joseph and Mary?”
“Who? Joseph and Mary who? What’s their last name?”
Dolores scratched her head. “I don’t know. Joseph is an out of work carpenter and Mary is going to have a baby very soon.” Dolores pulled a tablet from a bag and studied it intently.
I leaned close to Jeanne and whispered, “I think she fell from the turnip truck this morning. Sometimes her six pack is shy a can.” I turned back to Dolores. “What’s on your tablet? Does it have a GPS system?”
Dolores examined her tablet, turning it over and looking at both sides. She nodded. “Something similar. It says Joseph and Mary are here or soon will be here.”
Jeanne spoke before I could answer.
“I can assure you Joseph and Mary are not here. You sure you won’t have some breakfast with us.”
Dolores face showed befuddlement. “No, no. I must have made a mistake. Excuse me please, I have to go now.” She turned and began walking quickly out the lane. After a few steps, she broke into a trot.
“What do you think is going on?” Jeanne leaned over the railing watching Dolores trot out the lane. “Something is going on. Did you see the shooting star last night? It went directly over our house. It lit up the whole neighborhood. Was there anything about it on WBOC news this morning?”
I took my time chewing on the sausage. Something really odd was going on. Elvis was seen in Brazil last week and Trump is our president. “They said something about a large meteor or the tail end of a comet lighting up the sky. Whatever it was either burned up in the atmosphere or kept on going and escaped the earth’s gravity. It could be half way to Mars by now.”
A JULY EVENING (1940)
Sometimes after supper, the neighborhood children would congregate in our yard. If it were only Rudy and me, we would throw corn cobs at the bats circling over and around the corn crib. We had sold most of the corn in the spring. This was corn that was used to feed the seven thousand chickens we raised for the broiler industry. By now there were thousands of corn weevils in and around the corn. Twenty-five to fifty bats would be feasting on the weevils and any other bug that got in their way.
There was no chance of us hitting a bat. The bats would follow the corn cob up and then swerve down after the cob. Where the bats were during the day was a total mystery.
If Hilda or Ruth came, we would play “red-light green-light”, “Simon says”, “Mother may I” or some other simple game. We would play until dark. Then it was chase lightning bugs. Before pesticides and herbicides, fire flies were in the yard by the hundreds.
Bob-whites would be calling. They would usually be close by feeding in the rows of corn. Whip-poor-wills would be singing. They lived along the edge of the woods. Hoot owls would be deeper into the forest. Each owl hooting to mark his or her territory. Sometimes, late at night, a screech owl would call from a tree in our yard right outside our bedroom windows.
If most of the neighboring children came, we would play “Hit the Ricket.” Actually, it was hit the tin-can. It is a variation of hide and seek. A tin-can was placed on a brickbat. A brickbat being a broken brick. It was like home plate in baseball and was called home. The game started by someone hitting the tin-can with a bat. The person who was “it’ ran after the can while everyone ran like mad and hid.
The “it” person started searching for the others. He didn’t have to tag anyone, just see them.
After seeing someone, the “it” person ran back to home and touched the tin-can. Those caught were out of the game for the time being. The “it” person couldn’t go too far away from the tin-can. If he did, someone could run to the brickbat, pick up the bat, and hit the tin-can. This would free all the caught children. He had to catch everyone to get out of being “it.”
It was a hard job for the younger children like Rudy and me. Luckily darkness would come quickly. Everyone would go home before it was completely dark. A flashlight was a treasure that no one had. Dad had the only one at our home. A large five cell flashlight that he used to check on the chickens late at night.
Afterwards, Lois and I would come in and go straight to bed. If it was an unbearable hot night, we would all sleep on the screened-in porch.
11/13/16 500 words.