Style: Drama. Duration: 7min
(Setting: Around a table in the health centre in Bethlehem.)
Admin: …alright, then. You (points at Social Worker) see to the father, you (points at Nurse) keep an eye on the mother and the children, and you (points to Doctor) track down those missing patient records. If that’s everything, it is four o’clock, and I must be getting back to my desk – the Roman Occupation Office for Judea has just sent new guidelines through for a scroll-less office environment!
(All get up to leave, except SocialWorker)
Social: Actually there was one thing… the carpenter family.
Admin: Oh, Hold on. (Flicks through his papers) C for Carpenter?
Nurse: No, they’re not from Bethlehem… We had you put them on the ‘at risk’ register. Joseph, the carpenter? Line of David? Came for the census? Young wife? Had a baby here? Weren’t really prepared? Wrapped him in swaddling clothes? They’re staying for a bit?
Social: We’ve had this conversation before.
Doctor: Oh, this wasn’t the stable fiasco, was it?
Nurse: Yes. I had an appointment with Mrs Keeper, the old landlady at The Kings Head.
Admin: That place has changed its name, hasn’t it?
Nurse: Yes, it’s called The Star now. Once I’d finished with Mrs Keeper and her baby she asked me whether I’d take a look in the stable. I’d not heard anything about it, then, but I went out back, and there, in amongst all the straw and the animals was a scared little Nazarene couple.
Social: This was the week of the census, remember. The town was heaving. You couldn’t find a place to stay for love nor money.
Nurse: Poor little thing, Mary – that’s her name – ridden all the way, just the previous night. She was exhausted, nine months pregnant, and ready to give birth any hour. I had Mr and Mrs Keeper lend them a few towels, and have some water ready. I came back the next day.
Admin: And the little boy was lying in the animal’s feeding trough.
Nurse: You do remember.
Doctor: I’m sure we all do. It made the Bethlehem health services look very bad.
Nurse: At least they put the towels down. I was worried about infection.
Admin: Wasn’t there something about the company they kept as well…?
Social: Some shepherds came to visit. They were there when I was sent for, when the baby arrived.
Doctor: Oh dear.
Admin: I doubt that helped their new position in the community?
Social: Exactly. Essentially refugees, living in a stable, throwing themselves upon the mercy of the Bethlehem taxpayer for medical support, and then who do they have for visitors?
Social: Not a wise move. But not exactly a crime.
Nurse: I checked the baby over that night, lovely little thing. I remember the mother was worried that he wasn’t crying. I said, that won’t bother you in a few night’s time, my dear. Some are just quieter than others. A healthy baby boy. You should thank God, I said, and they almost laughed. Funny couple. And, to be fair to them, their shepherd friends were very well behaved, very quiet. Almost worshipful.
Admin: Where are they now?
Social: This is why I bring them up. After the census, they got out of the stable, moved upstairs, and took a room at the inn. Joseph knocked up a table for Mrs Keeper, and since then he’s done a bit more work out the back of the stable. He’s making a name for himself – he was quite the craftsman back in Nazareth.
Nurse: As for Mary, poor girl, the little babe took to breastfeeding as if he had to spend 40 nights in the desert! And once he spoke his first words – so many questions! The boy is almost two now.
Doctor: He’s had all his jabs.
Nurse: Mary didn’t go to the first-time mothers group we run here – she didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t blame her, really – I think they had a hard time of it back at home, when Mary found out she was pregnant.
Social: But they’ve started going to the Temple as a family now.
Admin: And the shepherds?
Social: Put it this way. Last time I dropped in on them for a chat, three blokes dressed to the nines, from miles away were bowing at the knee, and giving the little boy some pretty fancy presents.
Nurse: How on earth did they know about a little carpenter family?
Social: I don’t know – they were from the east!
Admin: Ahh, Croydon. (insert local place-name)
Social: Anyway, the point is, they’re attracting a better class of person of late.
Admin: So what do you want me to do?
Nurse: Well, the boy’s healthy, the mother’s well, the father’s doing well…
Social: …and they just got given gold, frankincense and myrrh from three godfathers out of nowhere!
Nurse: However they started out, someone up there has definitely got their eye on them. I think we can take them off the ‘at-risk’ register.
Admin: Agreed. God bless them. (Exeunt.)
Copyright David Ralf, all rights reserved.