Let’s hear it for caroling. Every year I look forward to this. Bob and Pat and their amazing collection of dogs live in Graton, fifteen minutes’ drive from here, and they lay on appetizers and wine and huge vats of savory soup every Christmas Eve. The family is Jewish, but that’s no obstacle.
It’s a cozy little house, and when it’s full of chattering snacking people who are liberal with hugs, it’s a fine warm place to be. No soup, though, until after everybody gets their coats and scarves and ambles from house to house in Graton, which is what you would call a REALLY small town.
There are well-used mimeo sheets of lyrics (remember mimeo?) and some good singers and others whose onboard wine gives them courage, if not perfect pitch. The repertoire ranges from Dona Nobis Pacem to Jingle Bell Rock, and at each house requests are entertained. To date I don’t remember anybody requesting that we leave as soon as possible.
Then back home for the excellent soup (Bob was a professional chef for years) and more wine, and lots of laughs watching the Corgi do her Roomba act, snuffling every square inch of carpet for stray crumbs. She’s the right altitude for that sort of thing, while the Silken Windhound can only look yearningly at the food in your lap. (Go on, Google it, that dog really exists.)
Today, Christmas morning, we went for our customary coffees at our regular haunt, Hardcore Espresso—one of the small number of places in Sebastopol that stay open no matter what. One super-tall barista was wearing fuzzy antlers on top of his wool stocking cap and Molly-the-Owner sported a red long-tailed cap with a bell. Much laughing, much exuberance. Bless our uniquely endearing collection of small funky bunches of friends and neighbors. This is how we will not only survive, but thrive.
Wrote this for a show we did a long time ago that never got off the ground. Warning: long, gruesome at times, and about Christmas:
So the story is, this little Middle Eastern town, people going on day by day, working, paying taxes, making love, having babies, eat dinner, fight over who takes out the garbage.
But then all around there’s suffering and dying and pain and rape and lying and mucking up the sweet smells of the sacred earth. And people thought, we need some help here. What we need, we need a leader. No, more like a teacher, a priest—High Priest, no, he’s an asshole, but we need a prophet, a savior, we need … the Messiah!
So, according to the official biography of Jesus H. Christ, as authorized by the franchise, it goes like this:
Back East, there’s a number of Magi on the talk shows and book tours, and they’re talking about this magical child, born under a magical star. But the Administration, they’re watching television to know what’s going on, they hear about the Messiah. The Messiah? Well, fuck that. We better do a little preemptive dentistry on that.
So the Special Forces, they string out a perimeter of 20 kilometers around this little village where they pinpoint the clandestine development program. Orders are to neutralize all male progeny under the age of two. And there’s lotta grousing around the barracks, the soldiers, cause, first, we’re not those Roman sonsabitches, we’re Jews, this is killing our own people. And this is quick-strike, you go in, do it, get out, how you got time to check every screaming little kid for a prick? And then, lottta these soldiers are daddies, and what if that kid looks like mine?
But they were pros. They were patriotic.
Now the story that is told— No. Right now, we gotta talk about the slaughter. Cause we celebrate the birth, but we forget the slaughter. You know, three hundred people die in a plane crash, and one survives, and he says, What a miracle! God did one just for me!
So we celebrate the Christmas season without including the blood. Cause think about a couple hundred dead babies, we don’t feel much like shopping. But so what happens, holding onto the gift and forgetting what it came wrapped in, is that on this one magical day we celebrate the divine gift, and on each and every one of the three hundred and sixty-four other days, we memorialize the slaughter.
Well, the old proverb, you cannot make an omelet without killing chickens. So one solder, named Jim, he and his buddies take the left side the road, first house, family just standing in the living room, not even hiding. He grabs the baby, mother holds on. So he sticks the point on the baby and just … pokes. Goes right in, like butter, pulls out, big glug of blood, and mama yells and he splits her head one chop. He needs to feel something solid. Jim goes outside, there’s a pile of little kids, ten or twelve in a pile, they’re dead but a soldier is whacking on the pile, just hacking away, crazy, then runs across the road and starts in hacking his sword on a fig tree till the blade snaps and he keels over and vomits. Jim thinks what a nut. And mothers are howling a great howl, and his buddies start howling. Jim thinks they’re making fun of’em , that isn’t very nice, but they can’t stop. They howl, they howl, and the dogs pick up the howling, and then the hills. (Those hills are still howling today.)
And that’s all Jim remembered. They all got drunk that night. Round over the whole perimeter, maybe hundred fifty, two hundred little suspected Messiahs, besides the collateral damage.
So the way they tell it: One little boy, engendered by the Lord God of Hosts to redeem us out of our sins, got away, skipped town, then came back and grew up to be the Savior. Who, even if you are not of the Christian faith, was generally agreed to be a very nice person.
But now suppose— I don’t want to offend anybody’s proclivities, but just give it the benefit of the doubt. We’re just speculating. It’s just a story, like a speech by the President, it doesn’t have to be true. It’s poetry.
Suppose the little baby Messiah, him or her, we don’t know about that, was in the village that day, about the fourth house down, and the soldier grabbed it and flung it into the air, and the Son or Daughter of God was skewered on a sword, like a puppy dog. And the one that got away, he was just a kid. Just a kid.
Suppose, about the age of twelve, the little boy that escaped, his mommy and daddy told him the story. It was a miracle, showed God’s love and they thanked God for bringing’em safe. And he asked, “What about the other babies?” They said “Shut up with that!”
And the story, they took him to the big city, and looking at the big tall buildings and all the sights, then suddenly “Where’s the kid?” And they find him in the Temple, with the priests and the rabbis, asking all these questions. Why? Why why why why why? Why!!!? And they’re talking about sin and obedience and the scriptures and the opinions of Rabbi Horscht and Rabbi Borscht, and he said, “Why?” They said “Who is this kid?” And his mom grabbed him, “Don’t you ever do that again!”
He knew then that the Messiah was dead. And he alone escaped alive to know it. He felt so guilty. So he knew if there was ever going to be a Messiah, he’d have to do it. Fake it till you make it.
Over the years, he did better than fake it. He studied up. Applied himself. Lost weight. Got a pair of sandals good for walking. And he wrote some beautiful songs that went into people’s hearts, and you couldn’t help but dance to it, even if you’re a big fat slob but you’re cavorting and prancing, it feels so good. Although, he didn’t hold onto his copyrights, so his label kinda simplified the lyrics, changed the arrangements, so you hear his stuff mostly in elevators or selling somebody a bill of goods.
Then he’s hung up to dry. Took’em thirty-three years but they caught him. And they tacked him up like a poster on a bulletin board, they riveted him onto a $24.95 bronze memorial crucifix hanging on the wall, with his own mother howling, and he wanted somebody to stomp his head in, cause it hurt so bad.
And he’s up there, look out over the city, and the hills and the howling in the hills (I thirst!), and he knew he’d failed. All those babies that died, and the real Messiah that died with a sword up its little ass, and (Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!)—he had blown it. He saw the villages, the town, and cities, whole races of humankind upon whom the soldiers would charge down to wipe those babies off the face of the earth—in his name. (My God my God why hast Thou forsaken me?) In his name.
And he heard a voice: What you talking about?
Now this might have been the voice of the Lord God of Hosts. Yahweh. Jehovah. Our Heavenly Father. But it sounded like a woman. You know some guys have high voices, and you call on the phone, “Hi, Mrs. Wolinski, could I talk to Sam?” “This is Sam.” So it coulda been the Father. But it sounded female.
She said Whatsa matter, boy? You think you so special? You think they wasted the real Messiah and now they got the I’ll-try-my-best-to-be-the-Messiah Messiah? You think the Divine Breath of the Universe that spews out fish eggs and dandelion seeds and Big Macs and SUVs and mosquitoes by the quadrazillions, has only got the human eggs and spermatozoa for one Messiah? We got tons of plutonium and uranium and trillium and billium and congolium and vitriolium to blow the lid off the whole fucking planet, but we don’t got the makings for more than one Messiah? Oh my no.
She say, You hear that howling, over the hills? That’s your mama crying down there, but up here, from the vantage point that you have achieved in life, with a scenic view, you hear the hills of the Promised Land. That is the howls of labor. That is the women birthing messiahs, numberless.
And he hears it. The mothers of the sons and the daughters. Howling out what it takes to give birth to a god. He’s hanging there hearing the birth of gods. The head crowns from the cervix, and she waits, she waits, and then she starts to push, and a god sees light. And the god on the cross, he laughed like a loon, cause it took him so long to get it.
And for these women, who will not say that they birth the Savior? Who will deny them this claim? Who will not see that these women give birth, by the millions, to Saviors every day? That we send forth commandos daily to neutralize these Saviors? These tiny suckling Saviors who despite our best efforts are still being born.
And some escape, and live, and sing. And the labor lives in their mothers, and the coming of light.
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© Bishop & Fuller
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Reblogged this on hummingbearnet and commented:
Best version of the Christmas story I’ve ever read! Thanks, Conrad and Elizabeth!