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The Miserly Innkeeper
by Julie Michaelson
12/05/11
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In those days
a decree went out
from Caesar Augustus
that all the
world
should be
enrolled.
[Luke 2:1]
****************
"What did you
CHARGE
them?"

"NOTHING!
(Grunt.)
"NOW, LET'S
GET SOME SLEEP!"
(Narly, snarly mumble.)
(Grunt.)
"AND, TELL ME'CHAH
HE HAS TO GET UP
IN FOUR HOURS TO
MILK THE GOATS!"

"But......why didn't
you CHARGE them,
Grou'chee?"

"What do YOU care,
Net'tah? You're always saying I'm such
a MISER!"
(Grumbly grunt.)

"Well.......that's just
IT! I've never SEEN
you not count for.....
SCHEKELS....before!"

(Snort.)
"FORGET IT!
LET'S JUST GO
TO SLEEP!"
(Mumble.)
(Curse.)

"Once, you even
asked my own BROTHER
for payment for his
use of one of our GOATS!"

(Louder snort.)
"He's a LEECH,
that one IS! A
MILKER! OF MY
MONEY! WHY DOES
Belch'nech have to live
DOWN THE NEXT
ROAD? WHY DOES
HE HAVE TO HAVE
ELEVEN CHILDREN?
HE'S A SCHLEPPE,
THAT ONE IS!"

"Shhhhh,
Grou'chee!
You'll wake up the
paying GUESTS!
Shhhhh!"

(Grunt.)
"I should have CHARGED them,
MORE! I'm giving them
a DECENT PLACE to
STAY, and the BEST
goats' milk in this TOWN!"

"Yes, but that's why
I'm so confused,
Grou'chee! Why didn't
you CHARGE that young
COUPLE? Me'chah just
put in fresh STRAW....
and the barn is WARM..
with all ANIMALS in
there, tonight. And,
the WELL is right behind....."

(Snarly silence.)
(Mumble.)

"What was that,
Grou'che'lah?"

(Grunting, while lying
down on the little mattress.
The best blankets were being
used by the paying
guests.)
"NOTHING!
NOTHING!
IT WAS NOTHING!
NOW, GO TO SLEEP!"
(Grunt.)

(Silence.)

(More silence.)

(Whisper.)
"You can TELL me,
Grou'che'lah! I won't
TELL anybody!"

(Loud, mumbled sigh.)
(Snort.)
"If I DO......
will you make sure that
lazy son of mine gets up
in four hours....to milk
the GOATS,
Net'tah?"

"YES!
YES!"
(Sit up in bed.)
"Now....TELL me,
Grou'chee!"

(Sigh.)
(Silence.)
(Sit up in bed, too.)
(Whisper.)
"WELL.....and, if you
tell that no-good BROTHER of
YOURS........"

"No! Of COURSE not!"

"Or, that loud WIFE
of HIS...."

"Oh, no!
Who: BERTH'THAH,
the YENTAH?
No....never! Now,
TELL me!"

(Cranky sigh.)
"Well.......
I was STANDING in the
doorway.....
...pointing back to our STABLE...."

"Yes!
Yes!
I REMEMBER!"

"WILL YOU LET ME
FINISH? YOU didn't
see ANYTHING! YOU
were BACK BEHIND the DOOR!"

"Well, it was COLD!
Go on!"

(Grunt.)
(Shake head, irritably.)
"WELL.....
....I was nodding, and POINTING......"

"Yes?
Yes?
And, THEN... what?"

"Net'tah, will you STOP? You NEVER
even let me THINK!"
(Grunt.)

"Alright.....!
Go .......ON!"

(Sigh.)
"WELL.......
NATURALLY...
I looked over at the
MAN! I was ready to
BARGAIN with him,
over the one-night's
STAY."

"Well, Grou'chee,
I can't even IMAGINE that
they will be there just for one NIGHT....
..it might be a good WEEK.......!"

"Will you STOP? I
know! I KNOW! It's
giving me INDIGESTION!"

"Alright.
Alright.
Go ON."

(Moan.)
(Sigh.)
"WELL.....I was looking
at the young MAN....
taking my hand out of
my POCKET, about to
hold it OUT, when...."

"What?
WHAT?"

(Muffled curse.)
"I.....SAW...SOMETHING.... out of the CORNER
of my EYE! I SAW
something!"

(Silence.)

"I turned my HEAD....
to glance at the woman
on the DONKEY....she
was all hunched OVER..
and GASPING.."

"YES,
YES!
But, it's her FIRST
one.....she won't have
THAT baby till MIDDAY, or LATER! I'll have
BERTH'THAH go to see her in the MORNING!"

(Snort.)
(Nod.)
"Neah.....that BABY will be here, before THEN."

(Impatient whisper.)
"SO?
WHAT HAPPENED?"

(Silence.)
"WELL.......I went to
turn back to the man...
still holding my hand out, when....."

"YES?"

"I SAW SOMETHING...
in the CORNER of my
EYE, again.....and turned
back."

"WHAT?"

(Lowered whisper.)
"It was a big......MAN....
Net'tah!
A big MAN!
A MAN!
STANDING BEHIND
THE WOMAN on the
DONKEY!"

(Whisper, accompanied
by an incredulous tone.)
"WHAT?
Were you DREAMING?"

(Impatient whisper:
accompanied by a grumble.)
"NO!
NO!
He was HUGE!
Bigger than your
BROTHER! And,
not so FAT!
Not like Belch'nech!
No!
.......But, HUGE!
HUGE!
HE MUST HAVE BEEN EIGHT
OR NINE FEET TALL!"
and......HUGE!......and,
he was all.......lit UP!
Like a giant LANTERN!"

(Whispered laugh.)
"Oh, GROU'CHEE.....
it was LATE......you had
FALLEN ASLEEP in that CHAIR by the DOOR.....waiting for the GUESTS to finish laying out their
MATS, for the night!"

"NET'TAH!
I'M TELLING YOU!
It wasn't a DREAM!
I was AWAKE!
And, that bedraggled COUPLE was certainly REAL!
YOU heard them KNOCK!
You saw me open the door,
and step OUTSIDE!"

(Laugh.)
"Maybe it was just
your IMAGINATION.
Why would those people be traveling with
a GIANT?"
(Whispered giggles.)
"What was he: on
FIRE?"
(Laugh.)

"And.....he had this
HUGE SWORD....at his
SIDE! It was the size
of two or three HUNDRED....
of those Romans' swords!"

(A fresh burst of laughter
erupted in the dark, quiet
little room. The air smelled
of burnt out candles.
Outside, the cold wind
blew around the thick sides
of the cluttered, full
house.)

(Cranky snort.)
"Oh, FORGET IT!
LET'S just go to BED!
I'm TELLING....YOU!
There was a GIANT!
An UNSMILING one!
And, he was staring right at ME!
.....Scared me to DEATH!
I wouldn't have asked that
scraggly young man ...for a plug SCHEKEL!
HELL!
[Snort.]
They can STAY in that
stable for the next
six MONTHS, if they
WANT! Till the baby's
old enough to WALK!"

(Muffled giggles could
be heard, as Net'tah
turned over into her
smothered pillow.)
(Silence.)
(Then the giggles started up, again.)

(Whispered mumble
from the pillow beside
her.)
"I'm TELLIN' you,
Net'tah.....it was a huge
GIANT! Why ELSE
wouldn't I have asked
for some MONEY?
HELL!
You KNOW me!
WE'VE been married
30 years!
Remember that time
I charged your MOTHER for using
our...... OUTHOUSE?"

(The smothered laughter suddenly stopped.)
"OH.....thats RIGHT.
I ......REMEMBER."

(Whispered mumble,
accompanied by the
clever tone of someone who's just
won an argument.)
"Uh....HUH!
Hm.....HM!
A GIANT,
Net'tah!
A ..........GIANT."
**********************
And,
she gave birth
to her first-born son
and
wrapped him
in swaddling cloths,
and laid him
in a manger,
because there
was no place for them
in the inn.
[Luke 2:7]



Notes: A schleppe: [Yiddish]
a nere'do'well. A mooch.
Yentah [Yiddish]: the town gossip.

Copyright 2011.

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