Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Room - A Short Story for Christmas

This short story comes from my book, titled She Thinks of Jesus, a collection of short stories told from the point of view of women who witnessed the events in the gospels. You can find and buy this book at Lulu.

…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. – Luke 2:7

Not another knock on the door. It hasn’t stopped all day.

“There’s no room,” I keep telling them, “no room.”

Then they sit there and they plead and they beg and they tell of what a long trip they have had and how they can’t find a room anywhere and I look like such a kind lady and they had to come here because of the census and can’t I find any room in my inn.

“No room,” I say, with a shrug of my shoulders. “There isn’t any room.”

Sometimes they get mad. Sometimes they cry. Neither emotion bothers me. I refuse to let myself get swayed by feelings. There’s no room for feelings in my inn.

I consider leaving the door unanswered, but perhaps they have lots of money? There’s no room for feelings, but there’s plenty of room for money. Show me enough Roman coins and I’ll show my guests a long-lost uncle who has unexpectedly turned up for the night and someone will have to move. There’s no room at the inn, but room can be found if the money is right.

I peer through the window, and then quickly move away. They look too poor to make it worthwhile.

“Please open the door,” the man cries. “My wife is about to have a baby.”

I look through the window again. I have heard that said before. I have even heard the groans and the moans that go with it. I have also seen the bundle of clothes removed from underneath the women’s garment the minutes she enters the house. There’s no room for anyone like that at my inn. I back away from the window.

“Please,” the man says. “You don’t understand. My son is special.”

One of my very few failings is that I can’t resist the chance to show people how stupid and wrong they are. Even though I know I should let the comment past, I cannot help myself. I yell back through the door.

"Every man thinks his wife’s baby is going to be a son. And what if it should be a daughter? Will she still be special then?”

“He will be a boy.”

“And how do you know?”

“I know.”

“Well, I don’t. I don’t know whether your son will be special – although I’m pretty sure he won’t be. I don’t know that he will be a boy, but there’s half a chance he will be. The only thing I do know is that there’s no room at the inn.”

I go back to the window in time to see the woman shrug and smile. A-ha! If she were really pregnant, she wouldn’t be so complacent. But I keep watching them anyway, and as they leave she holds her stomach in pain and grimaces. Just a small grimace - no exaggerated groan, for my benefit. That’s strange. Perhaps she really is pregnant.

Does it matter? There’s no room for pregnant women in my inn, especially not ones who might be in labour. There’s no room for contractions or agonized yells or extra requests or blood or mess or newborn baby’s cries. There’s no room for newborn babies – no matter how special they are.

But still I stare out the window, my eyes drawn to the woman, to her womb. I seem to imagine a baby speaking to me. Is it a baby? Or is it a man? Or is it a God?

Make room for me
, he seems to say, you need to make room for me in your life.
I open the door.

“Wait,” I yell. They turn around with expectant faces. “There’s no room in the inn, but you can sleep with the animals if you like.”

The man looks at the woman and she nods.

Ten hours later, and I wonder if I have been deceived after all. There has been no loud moans, nor any requests. The husband hasn’t asked for anything. But, no, there is a baby’s cry. So soft and gentle, though, not the usual bawl. Perhaps I should see if they need anything? No, I won’t. There’s no room for compassion in my life.

Some shepherds have turned up at my door. Shepherds! In the middle of the night! There’s no room for shepherds anywhere near my inn. Not in the middle of the night, and not ever! And I open the door to tell them so.

“We have come to see the Messiah,” they say.

“The Messiah?”

“We were told he was here.”

There’s no room for deluded people here. There’s no room for people who imagine things that aren’t there. There’s no room for faith in someone that doesn’t exist. No room for faith in a Messiah that people hope for just because they need a dream to cling to. There’s no room for Messiahs, hopes or dreams in my inn. And yet – and yet –

“He’s in the stable,” I say. And I wonder how I knew whom they meant. And I wonder why I am even wondering. There is no room for wonder in my life.

Perhaps you need to make room.

“What did you say?”

The shepherds turn around and look at each other, shaking their heads.
“We didn’t say anything,” one of them says.

They walk towards the stable, and as soon as I have returned to my bed there is another knock on the door. I want to ignore it, but with everything going on, who knows whom it will be? Three kings, perhaps?

It is not kings, but a wealthy man nonetheless. I can tell from his jewels and the quality of his garments.

“Sorry for the late hour,” he says. “I needed to come for the census, but my business transactions meant I got away later than usual. I have been told you are a woman who can find room for a lodger if the price is right.”

I say nothing.

“I can pay you handsomely,” he says.

I shake my head. “I’m sorry,” I say, “but there isn’t any room.”

Image Details: Joseph looks for shelter in Bethlehem , Tissot, 1899

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