The mouse had heard a few beasts flump down on the straw in his time, but this was the quietest, the weariest. The donkey’s long ears flopped either side of his face as he landed, framing enormous brown eyes that drooped with tiredness. He peered at the mouse. “Is everything ready?” he sighed, his eyes almost closing with the effort of speaking.
“Ready?” asked the mouse, a little confused.
“Surely everyone knows,” thought the donkey to himself. In his exhaustion he’d almost forgotten it was the very meekness of their journey that was going to make it so remarkable. “You must’ve seen the Star.” The mouse looked blank. “Oh well, not to worry. I’m sure He’s got a plan for this bit.”
“Oh, I never worry about much,’’ squeaked the mouse. “Apart from getting squashed, of course. That’s the downside of living in a cosy stable. But it’s worth it for the free food and a mattress. As long as you keep your wits about you. Though Uncle Lazarus did come to a sticky end when that cow….” The donkey’s exasperated face loomed worryingly large in front of him.
“Ooh! That Star. I did wonder, now you come to mention it. Anyway. What plan? And who’s He?”
“Never mind all the questions, mouse. We need…”
“Oh, but you must call me Simeon,” the mouse interrupted. “What’s your name by the way? And who are these people? Most unusual in a stable. But I suppose the town is a bit busy at the moment.” Simeon muttered to himself as he skittered about in the straw by the donkey’s hooves.
“Stop! Now!” Simeon froze. The donkey sounded serious. “Right. I am Joshua and I have travelled a very long way with this man and his wife. Mary and Joseph? Mean anything to you?”
“Er, no. Sorry Joshua. We mice don’t hear of much beyond the stables, let alone the rest of Bethlehem or The Great Desert Beyond.”
“Well, if you think this is unusual, wait until the other visitors turn up,” said the donkey, his tired old face breaking into a grin.
“There’s more?” Simeon’s eyes widened.
“Oh yes. Only a few sheep and their shepherds to start with. But then there’ll be three very important Kings and their camels.”
“Camels! But they’re stinky and rude! And thinking about it, it was one of them that rolled on poor Uncle Lazarus, not a cow.” This was all too much for the mouse who was by now dashing back and forth in a blind panic.
Joshua opened his mouth to shout stop again but was interrupted by a cry of anguish from Mary. The baby must be on its way. “I can’t find my ring Joseph. I can’t do this without it. I need to hold it, feel it in my hands……”
“There, there, Mary.” Joseph tried to be soothing, but Mary was having none of it.
“Oh, good God, help us.” Joshua clambered to his feet as Joseph began rummaging around in the straw.
‘You can’t say that,” squeaked the mouse. “It’s not allowed!”
“Oh yes I can, believe me, Simeon. Today of all days I most certainly can. Mary’s mother gave her that ring. It means everything to her. She’ll panic without it. What are we to do? It’ll be like looking for a needle in a haystack.” Even wise old Joshua looked as though he was about to join in the commotion.
Suddenly Simeon felt a great sense of calm flow through him making his whiskers quiver with unexpected delight. “I’ll find the ring,” he shouted up to the donkey. “I’ll find it. Needles in haystacks are my speciality.” And with that he disappeared into the straw.
“Well I’ll be blowed,” thought Joshua. “That’s what he’s here for. I wondered where he fitted in. He tried to nuzzle Mary, tell her that it would be alright. But she was too frantic for comfort.
Sure enough, Simeon reappeared in a matter of moments with a band of silver in his mouth. He dropped the ring in front of Joseph who was still frantically pulling at clumps of straw. “Mary, look. It’s here. It seems to have appeared from thin air.”
Mary beamed with relief as Joseph placed the ring in her outstretched hands, light from the Star pouring through the stable door. “It’s a miracle,” she said.
Once again, Joshua flumped down on the straw. He turned to Simeon whose little heart was beating with joy. “It certainly is that,” he whispered to the mouse. “Thank you.”
Article and illustrations by one of our volunteers – Isobel Hunt
CAM4animals would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, health and happiness.
If you would like to help one of the wonderful donkey and other equine charities, here are a few suggestions:
Isobel is an active CAM4animals supporter along with her Jack Russell who has integrated veterinary care. She has a background in wildlife conservation and writing, and is passionate about the importance of addressing environmental issues.