Friday, 27 December 2013

The Innkeeper - morning after the night before

Because, like Luke, I wonder about the back story.

Nathaniel surveyed the morning morass of disheveled rugs and cushions surrounding the tables piled high with breakfast dishes and tide-lined bowls of yoghurt. Stretching his shoulder muscles back and forth until he felt his spine click, he yawned and yawned 'til the last bit of breath came out as a disgruntled harrumph. Then he set to work.

It was the last day of the census and his guests were making the most of the early start. Travelling back into the hill towns was a risky business even by daylight; that shepherds had been in the town had not escaped their notice. They wouldn't want to be meeting up with the likes of them on a lonely road. They had all left at first light, hoping to be back in their own homes well before dusk.

The census, albeit enforced by the Roman authorities, had given families and friends a chance to come together and his guests had made the most of it; sharing stories, songs and dancing into the night. Now it was the morning after the night before and they had had the equal luxury of walking away from the resulting chaos.

'If I had more staff,' Nathaniel thought to himself, 'I'd be walking away from this too.' But there was only one servant girl and a cook who came later in the day. His wife had been the hospitable one; he had never reconciled himself to her death. Never wanted anyone else. Now it was just a matter of taking one day after another.   The inn wasn't much of business either  but it was all he had; a livelihood. 'Not much of a life,' he commented to himself bitterly. 

As he threw all the cushions into a corner he saw the servant girl standing in the doorway, chewing the corner of her veil; she held a basket of peelings, leftovers and stale bread on her hip. 'I don't want to take this; those people might still be there,' she grumbled. Nathaniel had totally forgotten the couple he had sent round to the stable in desperation to get them off his doorstep. 'Give it here then, and get on with sweeping this out. Anyway,they're probably long gone.'

The bells of the goats heralded the coming feast to the rest of the animals and Nathaniel could barely make it through the gate of the small corral before the basket was upended onto the earth and a free-for-all of fur and feathers broke out. The sound of laughter echoed out of the dark of the cave. Not gone, then. Something must be wrong. Nathaniel shouted out 'How goes it, friend?'

The man walked out to meet him with smile and an outstretched hand. 'Our thanks for your hospitality, and a place of safety for the birth of our son.' Nathaniel was taken aback. A baby; and he had sent them to be with the animals. What would his wife had said? 

'Is your wife well?' A bit presumptuous, but the man seemed pleased. 'Miriam...excuse me, I am Joseph and my wife is Miriam. She is well, thank you. Tired... but grateful, as we both are. We'll be on our way as soon as she has a little more strength.' Joseph's words were filled with sincerity. 'Perhaps, in the meantime, I could repay you with some labour of my own? I can work with wood and stone.'

Nathaniel recognised the sense of the pride within Joseph; found his younger self in the strength and optimism of his gaze. Out of the shadows the woman appeared, a shawl wrapped across her shoulder and hip, cradling the newborn; his hand outstretched on her chest. The small hand, perfect to the pearl-like nails,  gleaming with life. 

With the easy sway of motherhood already in her, Miriam moved closer to her husband and turned so that the child rested between them. The baby held his gaze. 'I will tell him of your kindness,' she said without even a touch of reproach. Reaching out, she put her hand on his shoulder in the same gesture his wife would use to get his attention. 'Mr...?'

He had been staring at the child. Strangely it seemed that it was his wife's eyes looking back. Quietly, within him he could feel her loving presence ; her warm heart next to his,  beating a new rhythm into his own heart. 

 'Nathaniel,' he replied,'call me Nathaniel. And, it may be too late but there is a room. A room you'd be welcome to. And something to eat...whatever you need. I'm sorry about last night.  I'm sorry that I did not welcome you properly.'

'Nathaniel,' Joseph nodded,'Gift of the Lord.And so you are. Don't be sorry. Last night, everyone turned their back on us except you.  Whatever your reasons; whatever your regrets; remember, that when you were needed, you said 'yes'.



Lynda said...

You have a real gift that blesses your readers deeply. This is another story that causes me to ponder the question of when I say 'yes' and whether I'm grateful enough when others say 'yes'.

Gelli Ma said...

Thanks Lynda for your kind comments. Blessings of the season mx+

Anonymous said...

I've only just found this, but it is beautiful. Thank you! Having been there, where according to tradition these things happened, only last year, my eyes filled with that light again, and tears. Thank you again for such lovely writing.