Friday, December 21, 2012

The Nativity: A Sheep Remembers

"You think I get any royalties on this stuff? HA! Don't I wish?"

by Larry the Sheep

Well, the whole thing was a damned nuisance if you ask me. If I'm being totally honest, that's my first thought when someone brings up the subject of that particular evening. I had to laugh when I heard that song of yours, "O Holy Night." "Bloody right," I thought. "Wholly inconvenient." Before you churchgoers out there start judging me, try and look at this from my perspective. There I was, enjoying a lovely supper out of the manger (which after all is just a fancy word for "trough") when all of a sudden, I'm pushed aside so that this mewling infant can have a place to sleep. I said to them, "Excuse me! Someone was already using this manger, thank you!" But apparently, they didn't speak sheep. And to top it off, the little brat was glowing! Glowing! How are you supposed to go about your daily business of being a sheep with something like that going on?

"It was a garage, really."
It's funny. When you humans say that someone was "born in a barn," you mean that he has no manners. And yet, the chap you all seem to like best really was born in a barn! I never understood why that was such an insult. I mean, among my kind, it's a point of pride to have been born in a barn. It's a sign of class and sophistication. When I see a really suave, well-mannered sheep, I always say to myself, "He must have been born in a barn." Actually, to be blunt, the place was more like what you'd call a garage nowadays. People didn't have cars back then, of course, so they'd travel around by camel (if they were rich) or by donkey (if they weren't). The guests of the inn used the barn out back to "park" their "vehicles," so to speak. Of course, a few of us animals lived there on a more or less permanent basis. I say "more or less" because your time there was definitely limited. The innkeeper and his wife were raising us, to be sure, but not as pets. We sheep provided wool for clothes and the cows gave milk, naturally, but we all shared a common destiny: the dinner table. Don't get me wrong, though. I don't blame the humans. Look, it's a rough world. You do what you have to do to survive. If sheep could raise people for food, we would.

The innkeeper gets a bad rap out of this. I feel sorry for him, really, in spite of the fact that he wound up eating me. He's portrayed quite badly in the Nativity story, and it's just not fair. No, he didn't have any free rooms at the inn. But it was a bleedin' census weekend! I mean, what did Mary and Joseph expect? If they'd wanted a room so badly, they could have bloody well made a reservation in advance like everyone else! Honestly, Joe should have known better. Bethlehem was his hometown, for Christ's sake! It's not like today, where there's a Holiday Inn every fifteen feet. You'd think that, since he was from Bethlehem, Joseph might have had some relatives who could have put him up for the night. An uncle, a cousin... somebody! Maybe he didn't get on with his kin. That's really none of my business. My point is that the innkeeper wasn't the bad guy you all think he is. I mean, I knew the guy -- Irv, we called him. Maybe not a saint, but not a monster either. He was being awfully nice to let Joseph and Mary stay in his garage. It was better than being out in the cold, and he charged them exactly nothing for it. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Free lodgings for the night. Irv could have told them to hit the bricks -- I would have, if I'd been him -- but he didn't. He couldn't very well evict one of his paying customers, so he did what he could under the circumstances. And look at the thanks he gets!

The Magi: three very posh blokes.
Meanwhile, there's another one of your songs,"Silent Night," which completely and utterly misrepresents the events of that evening. It was anything but silent. And I don't just mean the baby either, though he cried like he was being paid by the decibel. No, the real commotion was caused by all those visitors. It was like Heathrow bloody Airport that night, I swear to you! It seemed like uninvited guests were falling from the sky. First it was the shepherds. Now, I didn't have too much personal experience with shepherds, having been raised by the innkeeper and his wife. But I've talked to sheep who'd been in flocks, and let me tell you, the word of mouth was not good. I don't want to get too graphic here, but let's just say that shepherds get lonely sometimes and look for affection wherever they can find it. So I was a little edgy when a few of those blokes started showing up. I thought they might be looking for love in all the wrong places, so to speak. And if that wasn't bad enough, then the bloody Magi dropped by. Now those three were -- there's no delicate way to put this -- high as kites when they arrived. I don't know what they'd been smoking, but you should have heard some of the rubbish they said that night. I honestly think they carried that frankincense around with them to cover up that tell-tale smell, sort of like how hippies use patchouli. But you could tell these were rather posh blokes, just by the way they were dressed. I figured them to be the idle rich with nothing better to do than follow stars around and barge into people's garages without being asked. Between the baby, the shepherds, and the Magi, you could barely get a bleat in edgewise that night. And to top it all off, this absolutely daft fellow called Gabriel staggered in, claiming to be an angel with a message directly from God. I'd heard enough by that point, so I just found a corner, curled up, and tried to get some sleep. When I woke up, Mary, Joseph, and the baby were gone, but a few of the shepherds were still there, having passed out during the night. And I think that two of the Magi had left the third one behind. His camel was missing, so the last time I saw him he was trying to hitchhike back home. I don't know if he ever made it. Frankly, I didn't much care.

I know it sounds like I'm being very blasé about all of this, but I honestly had no idea what was going on that night. In retrospect, I wish I'd paid more attention. Lord knows I've been asked about it enough bloody times. But we sheep are a practical bunch and don't go in much for this mysticism of yours. I didn't have what you'd call a "spiritual" experience that night. I just thought of it as a perfectly good meal wasted and a night's sleep interrupted. I do have a bit of a chuckle every year when I see myself depicted on calendars, Christmas cards, figurines, posters, pop-up books, and every bloody piece of merchandise you can imagine. Not that I'm resentful, mind you. It's my one claim to fame in an otherwise unremarkable life. Sometimes it's a hassle, but I've actually come to enjoy the fame over the years. Still in all, I wouldn't mind getting a cut of the royalties. Fat bloody chance of that happening.

But a sheep can dream, can't he?


  1. Do Sheep Dream of Ancillary Rights?

  2. I'm embarrassed to say that it took me until the last sentence of this story before realizing that I should probably include some kind of reference to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. So I worked one in just under the wire. On the plus side, it provided an ending for the story when I otherwise wouldn't have had one. So thanks, Philip K. Dick! You're not at all like your name!

  3. I'm surprised we didn't get a good ol' baaaaaaaa humbug!