“I am putting myself forward for the role of Baby Jesus in the village nativity play,” Frederick announced during tea.
Mother looked up from her digestive biscuit. “Frederick, I believe it’s more traditional to cast an infant in that role. Mrs. Farrell’s daughter Gertrude just had a boy, I propose we use him.”
Frederick scowled. “I’ve seen the child; he is an ugly baby and should be kept indoors until he is able to contribute to society, perhaps as a bee-keeper. They wear masks, don’t they?”
“You cannot play the Christ child.” Mother was firm. “You’re a grown man, too big, for a start.”
“Ah, I had thought of that. I plan on creating a manger with a hole in the bottom, through which I shall stick my head. Strategically placed hay will complete the illusion.” He smiled triumphantly.
“You’ll make us the joke of the village, more so than your grandfather has already done, after the incident involving the badgers and the mayor’s automobile last month.” She took a sip of tea. “No, I absolutely forbid it.” Seeing the disappointed look on Frederick’s face, she softened. “My dear, we ARE looking for someone to play a Wise Man.”
Frederick shook his head vehemently. “No, quite impossible. I’ve seen the costume and it is no friend to one of my complexion.”
Mother sighed. “You could be Father Christmas and distribute toys to the children after the play?”
“Would I have to speak to them?”
“I’m afraid it IS customary.”
A frown crossed his face, suddenly replaced by a wide grin. “I shall direct! The play was appalling last year, in need of a professional.” He saw Mother about to protest and held up his hand. “Nay, do not try to dissuade me, I am firmly committed to the idea.”
Mother gave up and, finishing a last mouthful of tea, wearily nodded her assent.
The night of the play arrived and the town hall was filled; latecomers were forced to stand at the back, fighting to get a decent view of the stage. Frederick had dropped hints in the run up to the play that this year would be spectacular, original, and groundbreaking.
The lights went down and the noise of the gathered villagers dropped to a hush. Suddenly trumpets, drums, and tubas blared from off stage, startling those in the first few rows of the hall. All eyes were on the stage as Mary and Joseph, in brightly coloured silks and damasks, danced with a stuffed donkey, the pillow Mary wore to show her advanced stage of pregnancy slipping as she leaped into Joseph’s arms.
The music stopped abruptly and the lighting dulled as the biblical couple, now donning plain white masks, mimed the labour and birth of the child. Despite the confused and offended looks on the faces of the audience, the play continued. Wise men visited the child to the rhythm of rumba music while juggling their gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Shepherds wearing the latest French fashion limbo’d under their crooks as Frederick’s hunting dogs, wearing sheepskin coats, ran around the stage tripping up the actors. One of the dogs managed to grab the Christ child, played by a teddy bear wrapped in a dishcloth, and tore off the head as the curtain finally fell to the strains of Also Sprach Zarathustra.
The following Christmas Frederick was suddenly and expediently called away to stay with a distant cousin on the continent for the holidays.
Copyright Kelly Evans