THERE’S A BABY IN MY DINNER
Why are human beings so obsessed with numbers? They count everything! You wouldn’t find self-respecting donkeys wasting all our time counting things. Life’s too short for that. Humans. Though, well they’ll count anything. I know a person, not very far away, who has lots of bags full of little bits of gold. I can’t see the fascination, personally – when you’ve seen one bit of gold you’ve seen them all – but the spends hours every night counting them.
Now let me see, what was I working up to? Oh yes – the census. That’s how we came to be in the silly situation I’m in now. Apparently, the government had the bright idea of counting all the people when they won’t stand still for ten minutes at a time? Well, they decided to tell them to go back to the towns where they were born and register their names; and my master, Joseph, comes from Bethlehem. Now, make no mistake, Bethlehem is a wonderful place to come from – a lousy place to go to, but wonderful to come from. Trouble was, we had to go to it. And now we’re here.
To make matters worse, Joseph’s wife Mary was nine months pregnant, and seemed to think that gave her the right to ride on my back everywhere. Now that’s all very well, but when did you last see a pregnant donkey being given a piggyback by a human? Precisely. It’s species discrimination and I intend to make a complaint about it.
Anyway, that’s how we came to be here. We had a terrible journey – not a service area in sight the whole way, and the road’s been neglected for years. My feet are killing me – and I’ve got twice as many as you have!
Still, we eventually got here, and I was really looking forward to a warm stable, some soft straw and a good square meal. Well, you’ll never guess. All the rooms in the hotels were full – I told Joseph he should have booked, but would he listen? The first I knew about the problem was when I was just about to lie down on the straw and in came the innkeeper and offered Joseph and Mary my room. I don’t know what the world’s coming to. Not only that, but when the baby was born they put it to bed in my dinner! No kidding! Slapped it straight into the manger without so much as a ‘by your leave’! Human beings a really are an undeveloped species you know. I mean, we donkeys think nothing of having babies. We just get on with it, without fuss and bother, and when it’s born it has to stand on its own feet – literally – straight away. These humans, though, you never saw such a carry-on. Still, I must admit there’s something very special about a human baby – they’re sweet little things. So naturally I wanted to have a look. I wandered over to the manger – it was meant to be for me, after all – and had a look inside. As I looked in I caught the smell of the hay, and thought I’d just get a quick nibble while I was there. You’d have thought I was doing something dreadful! Mary screamed, and Joseph got hold of my collar and started to drag me away. I tell you I’d just about had enough. What with the walk, the invasion of my privacy and now I wasn’t even allowed to eat a bit of my own food. So maybe I overreacted, I don’t know, but I did something that comes very naturally to us donkeys. I dug my hooves into the earth floor and refused to move an inch. Even though my feet were hurting, it was worth it. I didn’t realise Joseph even knew some of the words he used! Very soon, the innkeeper and his wife came over to see what the fuss was about and I had a real live audience to play to, but they didn’t stay long. The wife disappeared to the house and came back with a bucket of most delicious-smelling oats you ever saw in your life. ‘Well’, I thought, ‘Somebody cares about me’. Then she went and put it the other side of the stable. Of course, I knew what the game was, but I decided I’d make my point. After all, donkeys are stubborn but we’re not stupid. So I walked over to the bucket and had a good feed and pretended not to notice Joseph tying me up.
Anyway, things have improved a bit now. We’ve got some visitors, and Mary’s letting them hold the baby, which gives me a chance for a good look. Mind you, I’m not too happy about the visitors – they’ve got distinct smell of sheep about them, and little bits of wool all over their clothes. They say they’re shepherds, and they’re telling some incredible story about angels coming to them and saying that a baby had been born. They say that they were so excited they left their flocks in the fields and came rushing over to see the baby. They certainly look and smell like shepherds, but I know their game. I mean, what shepherd who’s nay good leaves the sheep in the field at night without protection? Even if they did, they wouldn’t admit it to strangers.
No – I’ve got their number. Oh, I’ll admit they’re playing the part very well, right down to the grass stains on their clothes and the mud on their sandals, but I’ve got them rumbled. I know travelling salesmen when I see them. You mark my words, before those people leave, Mary and Joseph will have spent money they can’t afford on pretty little bootees and silly cardigans with lambs all over them – now donkeys I could understand.
Still, even though I don’t like to admit it I can see what the fuss is all about. He really does look like a pretty special baby.