Monday, 4 February 2013

FLASH FICTION AT FIVE: An Extraordinary Coincidence by Jenny Twist

“Of course, we really ought to call him Jesus.”
Mary threw a pillow at him. “I get enough flack for marrying someone called Joseph without calling the baby Jesus. Anyway it’d be blasphemous.”
“No, it wouldn’t. They call Spanish kids Jesus all the time. What about that footballer, Jesus Navas?”
“Oh well, maybe it’s all right in Spain,” she agreed reluctantly, “but not in Cleckheaton. The poor little bugger would be a laughing stock. And anyway it’s not his real name.”
“What, Jesus Navas?”
“No, Stupid, Jesus Jesus, the Jesus. It’s just a title isn’t it? It means something like ‘the anointed one’.”
“I’ve never heard that before. Where’d you get it from?”
Mary shifted uncomfortably on the bed. “Actually, I can’t remember. I think it was on the television. It said his real name was something like Abdul Ben Joseph.”
“That’s a good name,” Joe said. “Ben. I like Ben. It’s a strong name.”
Mary pushed away a slight feeling of guilt. She had dreamt the other night that an angel appeared to her and told her to call the baby Jesus. No doubt brought on by too much red wine.


Christmas Eve they both got off work early and headed off in their ancient car for Cornwall, to spend Christmas with Mary’s mother. Joe had been dubious but Mary had laughed at him. “The baby isn’t due for three weeks yet,” she said. “And first babies are always late, anyway.”

But somebody must have miscalculated because Mary’s pains began when they were just over halfway. Joe panicked and wanted to go back, but Mary insisted on carrying on. “I might as well have him in Truro. It’ll be nice having my mother there.”
So they soldiered on, getting lost in twisting Cornish lanes with high hedges and no signposts. When they finally emerged it was half past ten and Mary’s pains were coming fast and strong. “Just head for the nearest village,” she gasped.
There were lights in the distance and Joe turned the car in that direction.
The village was in full party mode. All the houses had Christmas lights in the window and the pub was a veritable fairyland of flashing bulbs and glowing Santas. Mary saw the inn sign and groaned – The Bethlehem Inn. “I’ll never live this down,” she muttered.
Joe disappeared through the open front door and emerged a moment later with a round, rosy couple.
“This is Mr and Mrs Wentworth, the landlord and landlady,” he said, indicating the pair, the female half of which bustled down the steps and opened the car door. “Out you get,” the woman said. “We’ve no rooms available, unfortunately, it being Christmas Eve, but we can put you up in the Stable.”
Mary rolled her eyes. “I don’t believe this.”
The woman laughed. “It’s all right dear, it’s not a real stable any more. We’ve had it converted to a granny flat. But my mother’s staying with my sister for Christmas, so it’s available. She won’t mind. Come on, pet. Let’s get you comfortable.”
Between them, she and Joe man-handled Mary up the steps to a small building attached to the side of the pub while Mr Wentworth was dispatched to get the doctor. Surprisingly, he went straight back into the pub.
Before Mary had even got into bed, the doctor and the district nurse, both mildly inebriated, had arrived. “They were at the party,” Mr Wentworth explained, then disappeared in a hurry before anything messy started to happen.


It all went exceptionally easily for a first birth. The whole thing was managed expertly by Nurse Evie, whilst the doctor looked on benignly and encouraged the proceedings with merry cries of ‘Push!’ in between sips of brandy.
By two in the morning it was all over. Mary and baby were washed and tidied and there were clean sheets on the bed.
“Well, that went like clockwork and no mistake,” said Mrs Wentworth, beaming at her new guest, who was sleeping peacefully against his mother’s breast. “I’ll go and make you a cup of tea. And would you like some toast?”
Mary nodded her grateful assent and Mrs Wentworth left the room, stopping at the door to call over her shoulder.
“Oh, I forgot to say, there’s some people to see you.”
“What!” Joe went to the window. It was dark outside and all he could see was the reflection of the room behind him, but there seemed to be something or rather some things milling about out there. And he thought he heard the occasional bleat. “Bloody Hell,” he said and wrenched open the door. There in the lamplight stood half a dozen men in rough clothes, carrying sticks and crooks. The area in front of the pub was full of sheep and dogs.
“Now, I know this sounds a bit daft,” one of the men said, taking off his knitted cap and twisting it in his hands, “but there was this angel, you see, up on the common, and he said…”
“You’d better come in,” said Joe. Then, turning to Mary, who was smiling down at the baby. “I told you we should have called him Jesus.”

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