You know, it’s not all that easy being a watchman. You catch what sleep you can during the day while the few friends you have are going about their business, then it’s up when the sun goes down, on your feet all night, cold, lonely, brooding about tomorrow. Most nights, it’s a boring job—not much goes on in this little corner of the world.
But every once in a while, something does come along, like it did last night. Three strange fellows, dressed like kings (kings!), arriving from the east. Said they were following a star (a star!), but I didn’t see no star. Said they were looking for a baby (a baby!) and that they even had gifts (gifts!) for the child. “What’s in the packages?” says I.
“Gold, frankincense, and myrrh,” says the black one.
“Oh, I know all about gold,” I say. “But why would a baby need gold? And what’s them other two things?”
They looked at each other, then at me, like I was stupid or something. “Frankincense,” says one of the other two (I couldn’t see which one because it was getting dark), “because it makes us think about God (oh boy, we’ve got a real doozy here!) and myrrh because it takes away the pain of this world.”
“This baby’s in pain?” I said. “What’s the matter with him?”
“He’s not in pain yet, but he will be. Someday.”
Now I was getting suspicious. “What’s that supposed to mean? You’re not looking for trouble, are you? Maybe you should just move along.”
“Which way to Bethlehem?” one of them asks.
“Bethlehem? Why would three fancy kings ever want to go to a little town like Bethlehem?”
I’d had enough of these fellows. Didn’t trust any of them. So I pointed over my shoulder, over to the west. “Bethlehem’s that way.”
How far?” says one of them.
“Not really sure,” says I. “Two days, maybe a week. Depends.”
“Depends on what?”
“Oh, you know: like on how fast those camels go; or if you stop to rest. And you know, if that gold is getting too heavy, you can leave it with me.” I laughed, but they didn’t think that was very funny. People don’t have much of a sense of humor anymore. Especially these three wise guys. I started to shoo them along.
“Wait,” says the one in front. “What do you know about Herod?”
“Herod?” says I. “How should I know? I’m just a watchman; you’re a king. Don’t you kings ever talk to each other?”
“No,” he says, all serious like. “We don’t even want Herod to know we’re here.”
Now I was really getting suspicious. “And why’s that?” I asked.
“Because of the baby. We think Herod might be jealous.”
“Herod? Jealous of a baby?” These guys were really getting on my nerves.
‘Yes! This baby is a king, too.”
I’d had enough. “OK. That’s it. Move along. Let’s just pretend this whole conversation never happened. I didn’t see you and you didn’t see me. On your way!”
And so off they went, toward Bethlehem to find a baby who was a king. All that gold and whatever them other two things were, pointing up to a star that wasn’t there. People, these days!
Like I told you, it’s not easy being a watchman.
I’ll be right back. (That’s me talking.)
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com
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