(Despite his suspicions about his more handsome and wealthier cousin Rockstud, Joseph went along with what the angel said, and stood by his Mary as she began to fill her belly with Jesus.)
Now, Caesar decided to count all the inhabitants of his earth, so that he might tax the living shite out of them. [NB: This formed the precursor to modern society where nations used the census to determine how many soldiers they could conscript and send into battle. Nasty things, censuses.]
Anyhow, Joseph and his wife headed for the town of his forefathers, Bethlehem. Midway along the road between Nazareth and Bethlehem, Mary, sitting upon the family steed, Dobbins, said: ‘So, I packed up all the clothes.’
‘That’s great, love’ said Joseph. Mary was a talker.
‘And I swept the floors and shut the windows.’
‘That’s great, love.’
‘And sealed all the jars until we return.’
‘Mother of God,’ muttered Joseph (correctly, as it turned out). ‘That’s wonderful, sweetie.’
‘So that’s us all done,’ said Mary, ‘because all you had to do was book the accommodation in Bethlehem.’
Fuck, thought Joseph. The bloody accommodation.
‘Joseph…?’ said Mary.
‘Yes, sweetlings,’ he replied.
‘The accommodation,’ she said.
‘What about it, darling?’
‘Really dear, It’s the only thing I had to do,’ he said, smiling encouragingly, buying time as he cast about inwardly for an excuse.
‘Yes, but did you do it?’
‘Did I…? Did I do it? Ha! That’s a good one, love, ha ha,’ said Joseph. ‘Did I do it, indeed!’
‘Joe, did you…’
‘Alright, alright! I did, at the Bethlehem Six-Pointed Star.’
‘I am serious,’ said Joseph. ‘Yes, I did. At the Six-Pointed Star. Only the best for my family, I said to myself.’
‘Joseph, how can you afford that, it’s over seventy denarii per night.’
‘Two hundred, if you get a royal suite with views towards Jerusalem,’ said Joseph, pausing a moment then adding in a concerned tone: ‘I just hope they got it.’
‘Well the deposit, darling.’
‘Well, didn’t you just use the credit card.’
‘You know me and technology. I just posted it to them.’
‘Darling, it’ll be fine. Don’t worry.’
‘Okay. That’s fantastic, Joey baby. Coz the Rabins, honey, the Rabins left it too late as usual, with that schlep of a husband of hers, and they’re having to stay in some flea-infested place–’
‘Ha,’ said Joseph, ‘sure that’s Yahtzik through and through. It isn’t even like he has anything to do, having sold the business.’
‘I know,’ said Mary. ‘Now, will we get the shuttle bus in or did you order a cab in advance?’
‘You know me, Mary, I’m egalitarian,’ replied Joseph, having forgotten the cab. ‘We’ll take a bus like the common people.’
Night was falling as they finally reached the town centre, the shuttle bus having taking the most circuituous route imaginable through all the outlying busstops and neighbourhoods, then the drivers changing, with the half-hour delay there, then rush hour traffic, heavier than normal as everyone tried to get in (or out, depending on whether they wanted to be counted in the census or not).
At last, they reached the Six-Pointed Star, the pinnacle of Jewish hoteliery at the time. They stood across the street admiring it. Hansom carriages were drawn up outside, men wore an ecletic mix of the tallest tophats and the finest robes, whilst ladies were adorned with pearls and the latest Turkish and Eastern fabrics.
‘Wow,’ said Mary, ‘this place is amazing. Is that Madonna?’
Joseph squinted: ‘No, she’s much older looking.’
Mary turned to Joseph and said. ‘You’re a swell guy, Joey: Mummy was wrong about you.’
‘You know it babes,’ said Joseph. ‘Now just wait here until I check that the room is ready.’
Mary rubbed her swollen belly. ‘Well, can’t I come across and rest my feet at a couch?’
‘No no, someone will come and carry you up to the room. That’s what you pay the big bucks for,’ said Joseph with a smile as he headed for the entrance.
Watching his small ragged frame cutting across the lanes of traffic and entering the high-class hotel, as the hotel doorman threw him a look of disgust, Mary began to have misgivings.
‘Unbelievable!’ said Joseph storming out of the lobby and across the street.
‘Shower of bastards!’ he shouted.
‘Joey, what is it?’ said Mary.
‘They went and sold our room to someone else.’
‘Someone comes late to the game, not having booked in advance like us, and offers the front desk manager a little sweetener to override the booking, and then…’
‘…you see, then they do that and the honest innocents like us turn up…’
‘You didn’t book it, did you?’
‘What?’ said Joseph, outraged.
Mary levelled her gaze at him.
‘Well, not as such, no,’ he said.
‘What does that mean?’
‘Oh, Jesus Christ,’ said Mary.
Luckily for Joseph, the baby kicked at the sound of his name.
‘Oh Joey, the baby!’ said Mary. ‘I think I’m going to have the baby.’
‘Oh Jesus,’ said Joseph. He looked around them, but everywhere had No Vacancy signs. There was nothing for it but to find somewhere else to deliver the baby.
Luckily, he recalled having passed by the Stables Youth Hostel on their way into town. It was dingy, nothing but straw mattresses on the floor – and the people put one in mind of a bunch of farm animals – but it wasn’t like there were many other options on the table…
‘She’s not going to pop, is she?’ said Eamon, the youth behind the counter.
‘No, Eamon, she’s just feeling unwell after something she ate,’ said Joseph. ‘Ha, Indian food, am I right?’
‘Well, alright, because there’s an extra fee for anyone delivering in the hostel. It’s not allowed, you hear?’
‘Fine,’ sniffed Joseph to Mary. ‘Youth are so bloody conservative these days, it’s ridiculous.’
Mary groaned in response, and they made their way to the room. En route, Joseph met two young nurses – Philomena and Gracie – in the hallway. He asked them for their help, and they obliged, bringing their trainee midwife friend, Delores, with them.
What followed was written down for posterity, and therefore we join our hands and repeat:
Hold it Mary! [said Joseph]
Phillo, Grace; Delores is with ye?
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and [turning to Mary] blessed is the fruit of thy womb. [She gave a moan]
Hold it Mary.
[Aside] Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death, Eamon!
‘I thought I said no babies,’ said Eamon, appearing at the door. ‘I’m putting an extra charge on the room,’ then he turned and disappeared down the hallway.
‘That fella’s an awful drip,’ said Joseph. ‘Mary, how’re you feeling?’
But she was sleeping, exhausted from the effort.
The little boy Jesus also asleep in the hypoallergenic hay kindly provided by Eamon, who wasn’t the worst really.
‘Well girls, know anywhere I can wet the baby’s head at this hour?’ asked Joseph, just a father like any other, on this night of the birth of the saviour of the world.