Bobby gives the oldest story a fresh new twist in this delightful Christmas story by Stella Whitelaw…
Mrs Teacher said the class had to write a story about the birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Not the actual birth, she added hurriedly.
Phew! Bobby had watched a bit of Casualty and Call The Midwife, and was put off by all that yelling and washing. He was sure Mary hadn’t yelled and demanded an epidural – it would only frighten the animals.
It was the ride on a donkey and the three wise men and the stable they were supposed to write about.
Everyone else in class sucked on the ends of their Biros, and some got blue ink round their mouths, then put their heads down and began scribbling.
Bobby stared out of the window.
Today he was counting vapour trails in the sky. It was his hobby. Each day he counted something. Yesterday it was brown dogs. He got six brown dogs and one with brown spots.
A new plot would help
“Bobby, stop staring out of the window and get on with your work.”
Mrs Teacher glared at him. She had a name pinned to the lapel of her top but he had never bothered to read it.
“Yes, miss,” he said meekly. “I was looking for inspiration.”
“You don’t need inspiration,” said Mrs Teacher. “We all know the story.”
That was the whole point. Everyone knew the story. Everyone was sick of the same old story. Year after year, the same stuff. A new plot would help, something with the Wow! factor.
Bobby had no idea where Mary and Joseph had come from or where they were going, so he guessed that they were homeless, sleeping on the streets in a sleeping bag with a bottle of cider. He decided that Mary and Joseph would be illegal immigrants, denied all benefits and housing support.
The two homeless immigrants needed transport, Bobby wrote. There was a train strike and a bus strike and Mary was not up to walking very far in her condition. They got as far as the countryside and were passing a donkey sanctuary.
“We’ll borrow a donkey,” said Joseph, leaping over a gate. Joseph was pretty athletic even in his flowing robes. “Here’s a nice little grey one.”
Joseph led the grey donkey out of the gate and helped Mary onto its back. It was not a comfortable ride for the pregnant Mary, jolting over the stones and boulders. It was a wonder she didn’t have a miscarriage!
Where would the Christmas story be then? Bobby thought. No Nativity play. No Christmas trees, no crackers, no presents. At least Herod wouldn’t have had to kill all those babies!
The village of Bethlehem was full, Bobby wrote. The Travel Lodge was full, too. So was the Premier Inn, because Lenny Henry was sleeping in a fluffy white bed on the beach.
Bobby’s head was full of this plight as he walked home. He saw two more vapour trails.
We’ll be famous on Facebook
What have you got to do for your homework?” his mum asked when Bobby got home.
“I’m rewriting the Christmas story,” he said, tucking into his tea. It was baked beans on toast with scrambled egg and a mug of tea. “We’re supposed to make it fresh and different.”
“Don’t forget the shepherds who see the evening star,” said Mum.
Bobby had forgotten about the shepherds but he had seen those huge trucks loaded with sheep, their heads sticking out of gaps, enjoying the scenery as they sped along the motorway. The three shepherds would be truck drivers moving sheep around the country.
His dad often read the Evening Star so these truck drivers could read about the baby Jesus being born in the newspaper when they stopped at a service station for a cuppa. He wrote:
“We must go and see this baby Jesus,” they agreed, getting back into their cabs. “It’s history in the making. Perhaps they will write about us and we’ll be famous on Facebook.”
The inn keeper, whose pub was called the Queen Vic, said Mary and Joseph could sleep in the stable. The baby was born without any fuss or bother and Mary wrapped him in swaddling clothes which she had bought at Mothercare when they had a sale on.
All the animals in the stable came to stare at the boy baby since it was pretty strange-looking and not at all like a baby lamb or a baby pig.
The King will give us a seat in the House of Lords
Word spread round the country faster than a newsflash on television. The three wise men, who regularly appeared on Question Time, thought they ought to get in first with gifts in case the baby was a real king and in line to the throne.
“We’ll take expensive gifts,” they said. “Then the King will give us favours and a seat in the House of Lords when we are old and on our last legs.”
Bobby looked out at the night sky.
The vapour trails were invisible at night though he could hear planes going over. Still, he’d seen seven which was not a bad score.
He went back to his writing.
The first wise man had an unpronounceable name. He put on his best clothes and got his chauffeur to drive him to the stable. He took a bar of gold. This was a sensible gift as the price of gold was going up. They had said so on Flog It.
The second wise man also had an unpronounceable name. He arrived in a helicopter that landed in a field near the stable. He brought a bag of francs and cents in case the baby went on a holiday abroad. This was pretty unlikely, but the currency would surely increase in value over the years.
The third wise man brought myrrh.
Bobby had no idea what myrrh was. “What’s myrrh, Mum?” he asked.
“It’s an African and South Asian gum resin used in making perfume,” she said, putting an apple pie in the oven. She watched a lot of quiz programmes in the afternoons and had acquired extensive knowledge. “It’s very expensive.”
Bobby continued writing.
The third wise man arrived on a camel with a bottle of very expensive after-shave which would be useful when the baby grew up, unless he had a beard.
The fourth wise man did not have a car or a helicopter or a camel and his bike was broken, so he walked to the stable with his gifts.
Bobby was tired out with this writing lark. His wrist ached. He wrote two more words: THE END.
There was a glimmer of a smile on Mrs Teacher’s face
He handed his work in the next morning with all the others.
“Turn to Chapter Two and do the exercise there while I read your Christmas stories,” Mrs Teacher said.
It was boring. Bobby put any old answers. What is a verb? A verb is a fruit from India with lots of hard red peel. What is a noun? A noun is a breed of mountain pig that can climb rocks as high as Everest. What is a sentence? A sentence is what you go to prison for.
Mrs Teacher was reading the stories. Occasionally Bobby caught a glimmer of a smile on her face. This was unusual as she rarely smiled.
She looked up and nodded towards him. “Bobby, come here, please. Your Christmas story is certainly different,” she began. “But please tell me why you have four wise men?”
“Well, miss, I thought the baby Jesus would be a bit fed up with those gifts they took him. So I decided I’d go along as the fourth wise men and give him some presents he would like.”
“And what did you give the baby Jesus, Bobby?”
“I gave him my Spider-Man outfit, my best monster game and three lollipops that were still wrapped up.”
Your story is certainly original
At the end of the school day, Mrs Teacher announced the winner of the Christmas story competition. To his surprise, Bobby heard his name called out and Mrs Teacher gave him a Snickers bar as a prize.
“Well done,” said Mrs Teacher. “Your story is certainly original.”
He wrapped the Snickers bar in a piece of lined school paper out of the waste bin. It didn’t have much writing on it. He would give his prize to his mum. After all, she had told him about the myrrh.
He wondered what he would have for tea. He hoped it was fish fingers.
As he walked home, he saw a yellow car. He was counting yellow cars today. That made five yellow cars and three orange cars, counting orange as a sort
He jumped with joy. It was turning into a brilliant day.