And There Were In the Same Country
A Redneck Christmas
The truck sat there like a very sick patient in surgery; frame supported by concrete blocks, hood raised, drop lights snaked into every nook and crevice. The surgeons sat nearby, leaning against a large and supportive oak tree. Several beer bottles lay strewn at their feet. It was eleven PM on a densely moonless night.
“Well, we finally got the old water pump out. The rest should be easy. The new one should pop right in.” Buck tried to sound encouraging.
“It should but it won’t. They never do.” Tim was in no mood to be encouraged. “We have to get it done, though. I have to be at work at seven. One more absence or tardy and I loose this job too. You know, it’s not fair. I work hard. I don’t miss unless I have to. But hard work don’t count. The only thing that counts is the rules. If I get sick and miss work I have to go to the doctor and I can’t pay a doctor on what they pay me. It’s a … what do they call it? A catch 22. There’s no way you can win.”
“Well, you know what they say. Life is hard and then you die.” Buck took a suspicious looking cigarette from his shirt pocket. He lit it and took a deep drag. He handed it to Tim.
“Here, this’ll help.”
Tim took it and examined it carefully. After some consideration he put it in his mouth and inhaled deeply.
“I’m beginning to think I need some of the serious stuff.”
“Don’t go there man. I did, remember? It nearly ruined my life.”
“So this don’t?” He held up the stub of a cigarette.
“Well, it wasn’t much of a life anyway.”
They smoked on in silence.
Buck was the first to see it. “What’s that?”
“That light in the sky. See? To the northeast.”
Tim looked where Buck pointed. “I don’t know. Probably a plane with its landing lights on. Why, what did you think it was, a UFO?”
“I don’t know but its coming this way fast.”
Buck was right. It had seemed to be a long way off but suddenly it was there. It came to rest in the middle of the front yard and cast a light a least 300 feet in diameter. Everything, the truck, the house trailer, the dogs could be seen as clearly as if it was daylight. In the center of the circle stood a person (man, woman, you couldn’t tell) at least eight feet tall. He (she, it) was dressed in a brilliant white gown and the light seemed to originate with him. Tim and Buck could see little of this because they were flat on their faces terrified for their lives.
The person spoke.
“Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. You will find the baby in a barn on route 24 about a 100 yards east of the intersection with route 14.”
Suddenly the person was joined by at least 300 just like him. They were all speaking; no shouting. At first Tim could not make out what they were saying. It sounded like babbling but at the same time it sounded harmonious and musical. Then gradually it began to make sense. They were singing.
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and good will toward men.”
Then they were gone.
Slowly Buck and Tim stood and looked around. Everything was the same as before.
Buck looked respectfully at the weed in his hand. “Whoa, this is some righteous stuff.”
Tim looked at him seriously. “Buck, that wasn’t the dope. That really happened.”
“Come on Tim. We been drinking beer and smoking dope. It’s late and we’re tired. It was just our imagination.”
“So, we both imagined the same thing at the same time? A tall guy with a white robe told about a baby in a barn? About 300 other tall guys singing ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth…”
Buck joined in.
“Peace and good will toward men.”
Tim started looking for his jacket.
“What are you doing Tim?”
“I’m going to find that barn.”
“In what? The truck’s still broke.”
“I don’t know. I’ll walk if I have to.”
It was four AM. The barn was not one of those picturesque red barns that you see on calendars. It was ramshackle with large gaps between some of the boards. If it had ever been painted you couldn’t tell it now. Buck and Tim approached cautiously, careful of what they stepped in. They eased up to the half open door and slipped inside.
Tim didn’t know what to expect but this wasn’t it. You wouldn’t expect to find a god in this setting. A young man in his mid twenties stood in the middle of the barn. He didn’t look reputable. Hair long and stringy, faded jeans, threadbare sweatshirt. A young girl, no more than fifteen, sat next to him on an overturned crate. She too was poorly groomed and poorly dressed. They both looked down with rapt attention into a feeding trough filled with fresh straw. The straw was covered with a blanket and on the blanket lay a baby. The moon had risen and it so happened that a gap in the roof allowed a moonbeam to flood the scene with a soft light. It seemed that a heavenly, ethereal spotlight had been trained on the baby.
Buck and Tim stayed in the shadows near the wall and watched. There were already eight or ten people in the barn besides the man, woman, and child. They were poor, rich, middle class, men, women, various racial backgrounds. There was no way to define them as part of a particular segment of society. They would come into the barn and look intently at the baby. There was no conversation. Some would stop and kneel in front of the baby before they left.
Tim watched from the shadows. He remembered two stories in the news recently. One, a teenage girl killed her newborn baby and took her own life. The other, a three-day-old baby had been found in a Dumpster. He looked at this girl. She was radiant. He remembered when his sister had her baby. She looked like that. But she was in a hospital. Warm, dry, surrounded and supported by family and friends. This girl had no reason to be radiant. She should be afraid and depressed. But that was not what he saw on her face. She looked joyful.
Tim looked at the young man. He too had joy written all over him. Tim knew what he would be thinking about. Formula, diapers, doctor bills. How would he pay for them? But instead these two seemed to think their lives were blessed by the arrival of this infant, that their lives had been changed for the better. They would look occasionally at each other, then back at the baby. Tears glistened in their eyes.
The girl looked up at the hole in the roof to the source of the heavenly light. The expression on her face spoke of peace, gratitude, confidence, trust. Tim looked up too, searching for the comfort he saw in her. Tim didn’t want to live the way he had been living. He wanted to change, but how? He had tried. God knows he had tried. He remembered the words of the chorus he had heard earlier. What did the angel say? A Savior. If anybody needed a Savior…
He turned back to look at the new parents. He watched the worshipers who came and went. Then he looked at the baby. Finally there was a vacancy in front of the feeding trough. He walked over and got down on his knees. He sat back on his heels and gazed intently at the child. Tears welled up in his eyes and spilled over to run gently down his face. Finally he leaned forward and laid his forehead on the cool earth of the barn floor.
But Buck drifted out into the darkness.
Copyright © 2012 by Angus B. Lewis
All rights reserved