I entered a Christmas story contest a few weeks ago and submitted two entries. This one won third place and I thought I’d share it – Merry Christmas!
A Crown Fit for A King
“Hurry up, Benji!”
Benji pulled the old hay out of the stall as Caleb, his brother, pushed the feed trough to the corner.
“I’m hurryin’!”, Benji retorted.
A lamb bleated in disapproval of having been jostled with Benji’s last bundle of hay. Caleb grabbed the tools and made his way to the barn door. “I’ll go tell father it’s ready.”
Benji followed, stopping to look back at the stall they had cleaned out.
“What are you doing?” Caleb asked.
Benji looked at Caleb. “Did you look at the lady? I mean, really look at her?”
Caleb turned to go. “You’re weird.”
Benji hurried to catch up with him. “It’s like she kinda glowed.”
Caleb shook his head. “Go get their donkey and put him in the back stable. Give him some fresh water and hay. And don’t say stupid things.”
Benji ran to the side of the house, retrieved the donkey and ushered him into the back of the barn. As he finished giving the animal fresh water, he heard voices coming from the large stall.
“Are you comfortable, Mary?,” he heard a man ask.
He walked into where the couple was getting settled.
“Well, hello,” the woman said softly, turning toward Benji and then wincing as another contraction claimed her smile.
“”Hi,” Benji said. “I was feeding your donkey and giving him fresh water.”
“Thank you.” The man stood and reached out to shake Benji’s hand. “I’m Joseph and this is my wife Mary.”
Benji immediately looked to Mary. “You’re so pretty.” He could hear Caleb’s voice in his head to not say such things.
Mary turned away slightly and straightened her robe. “Thank you,” she said quietly, then looked up. “What is your name?”
“Benji. It’s short for Benjamin but Caleb said I haven’t grown into my name yet.”
Mary smiled. “Caleb must be a big brother?”
“Well,” Mary turned away from Benji and held Joseph’s hand. “It’s a strong name. I’m sure,” she added with great effort, “you’ll grow into it very soon.”
“Are you okay? Do you need me to get anything for you?” Benji asked as he watched her.
“Some fresh water?” Joseph asked, seeing the boys’ concern and trying to distract him.
“Yes, sir,” Benji replied eagerly.
He hurried out of the barn and returned with fresh water. “Anything else?”
“Maybe stay close to the door – in case we need anything?” Joseph asked.
“I can do that but I need to let my father know.”
After he convinced his father it hadn’t been his idea to get involved but actually had been invited, Benji grabbed a piece of wood and his knife from off the kitchen shelf and went back to the barn.
“I’m here if you need anything,” Benji shouted from outside.
“Thanks, Benji,” Joseph called back.
Benji sat down and began whittling. Once in a while it sounded as if Mary was trying to scream. Benji was relieved when he saw his mother coming toward him.
“Benji, what are you doing out here?” she asked.
“Father said I could stay. Joesph asked me to help them.”
“How are they doing?”
“Well, she sounds really sick. He sounds kinda scared. I don’t want to go in unless I have to.”
Benji’s mother chuckled. “I’ll see if they need help.”
She knocked on the open door. Benji could hear them talking and then his mother called, “Benji, quickly run and fetch some blankets!”
He returned with an armful of blankets. Joseph met him at the door. “I’ll wait here,” Benji stated as he gave Joseph the blankets.
“Mr. Joseph? Is Miss Mary going to be okay?”
Joseph smiled. “Yes, Benji. She’ll be just fine.”
It was almost dark and seemed only seconds had passed when Benji heard his mother loudly say, “Push!”
He wondered if he should go in and help them ‘push’. Was it the trough they needed moved? Just as he stood to find out he heard it – a faint cry. And then laughter. All the pain and all the hurting disappeared and he could hear Mary and Joseph and his mother laughing. Laughing!
It was almost an hour before his mother came out. Benji jumped up. “Is Miss Mary okay? Is it a boy?”
His mother smiled. “Mary is fine and yes, it is a boy.”
“Can I see them?”
“Later. They need some rest now. Why don’t you bring your whittling to the house?”
“Can I stay?” he asked. “In case they need me?”
“Yes. But, don’t go in unless you’re invited.”
Benji whittled until he couldn’t ignore his hunger any longer and walked to his house.
“Good timing,” his mother said as he walked in. “Dinner is ready. Take this tray to our guests first. They are probably starving.”
Benji took the tray out to Mary and Joseph.
“Hello?” he called as he reached the barn.
“Hi Benji,” Joseph said, approaching the door. “Wow. It looks like a feast for a king!” Joseph said, taking the tray. “You want to see him?” Joseph asked with a grin.
“Yes!” Benji said and followed Joseph.
“Something smells good,” Mary said.
“My mother thought you might be hungry.” Benji looked over at the baby, who was sleeping in the trough.
“Would you like to go and see him?” Mary asked.
Benji nodded and went to the sleeping baby and knelt down beside him.
“He’s so beautiful,” he said looking at Mary. “He kind of glows.”
“Yes. He kind of does.”
Benji pulled a piece of wood from his tunic pocket.
“I want him to have this.” He handed her a piece of wood. “I started it a while ago and wasn’t sure what it was going to be until today. It’s too little for him to wear, but it’s a crown – if you can’t tell.”
Mary looked over at Joseph, then back to Benji.
“Oh, I can tell, Benjamin” Mary said with tears in her eyes, “and it’s absolutely perfect.”