Holiday Story Series (Part Three): "For Unto You - Good Neighbor"
Murray, KY – We conclude storyteller Robert Valentine's series of new perspectives on classic Christmas tales. This week's story is about a weary couple arriving at a farm one cold winter night long ago. This is the third and final story in his three part series, titled "For Unto You "
Aram was dancing.
At least, that is how it would have appeared to someone who could see in the dark. He jumped on one foot, holding the other with his hand. He made little animal-like noises in the back of his throat and his breathing was heavy.
"What are you doing, Husband?" Rebecca asked from the darkness of their bed on the floor.
"I am trying not to scream," he whispered. "Don't wake the children."
"The doorway, again?" his wife whispered in return, unable to conceal the smile in her voice.
"Yes. The cursed doorway." He lowered himself onto the bed and began to furiously rub the toes on his right foot. "I made that doorway myself, and it would have taken so little to have made it a half cubit wider, fool that I am."
"What was it? Why were you so long?" She asked, brushing his hand away and massaging his foot with her strong hands.
He leaned in closer to her and whispered softly, his breathing slower.
"It was nothing. Isaac sent a man from next door. The inn is filled to overflowing, and there is not so much as a place on his floor for a dog."
She stopped her ministrations. "We have no place for anyone in our house tonight; the children . . . and my brother is here, and ."
He put a finger to her lips. "Have no care; I took no one in. Believe me: I know your brother is here, and his wife and their children. Now there are two donkeys in the barn, but no more hay than I put up in season. Well, three," he said.
"Three what?" she asked.
"Three donkeys," he answered as he leaned back onto the bed of rushes with its soft woven cover. "The man has a wife, too, and she is close to birthing a baby. I told him to rest in the barn. He has a donkey that carries the woman, so that will be more hay gone. How I will feed the beast this winter, I do not know."
Rebecca was alert, now. "She is going to have a baby? When?"
"When God wishes her to have a baby," he said, with a sigh. "Not tonight, surely. You can see her in the morning, unless they move along."
"But who is this man?" she said with concern. "Do you know him?"
Aram smiled in the darkness. "I know him as well as I know myself; he is a carpenter, too, from Nazareth, I think. A brother carpenter will be of no harm to any of us."
Rebecca raised herself on one elbow. "Perhaps I should go to see ."
"Perhaps," Aram interrupted her, "You should go to sleep. They are tired, there is clean straw on the floor, hay for the beast in the manger, and a bright star for light so he doesn't kick the doorway."
"Besides," he breathed, putting his arm beneath her head so she leaned on his shoulder, "They will go soon, and no one will ever know they were here. What difference could it make one more baby in the world?"
Robert Valentine is a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Murray State University. He is also a professional storyteller. His stories and essays can be read in Murray Life Magazine.