The Innkeeper's story

Paul Greenberg

12/25/2006 12:01:00 AM - Paul Greenberg

And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them at the inn. -Luke 2:7

Yeah, sure, I remember 'em. How could an innkeeper forget? Even without you reporters coming by years later and asking all kinds of questions. There was just something about 'em. Like they was always standing in a light or something. I don't know. All I know is that they needed a place to stay, the house was full, so I did the best I could. I sure didn't turn 'em away. Put that down: I didn't turn 'em away. Everybody seems to forget that, ya know.

If you're gonna tell the story, tell the full story, for God's sake. This is a respectable inn, always has been, always will be. We don't put guests up in any stables, but what can you do if you're full up? You gotta make do.

I guess I could've just turned 'em away, and you people would've left me alone. Instead I try to do the right thing, and have to answer all these questions every year. What do they say - no good geed goes unpunished?

They seemed a nice enough couple - from somewhere up north, I think. Not used to the big city. Something about having to pay their taxes and the husband's coming from around here. Joe Something was his name; I forget.

Hers? You got me, buster. We get so many folks coming through this time of year. And everybody's always complaining about taxes. I know, believe me I know. Mine are too high, too.

Still, there was something unusual about the lady, so quiet, so gentle, like she knew something. I think this was her first. She was worried, of course, you could tell, and just about worn out. Traveling ain't easy. Not on these roads. Her husband was in even worse shape; men take these things harder, you know. So, like I said, I did the best I could. And they did all right, didn't they? A healthy baby boy. You can't beat that. I was glad about it. No liability.

You feel better seeing a happy family. You always do. Next morning they was anxious to leave. All concerned about what they had to do next. That's the thing about happy families. They never know how happy they are at the time, busy as they are.

The only thing I was told, mister, was that the lady needed a place for the night, and what was I supposed to do? Like I said, all the rooms were taken. Kick somebody out? I could lose my license. It wasn't as if they had a reservation. So I sent 'em out back. It wasn't till those other guys, the ones in limos, came by all dressed up and with those expensive gifts from the East, that I figured something was up. But by that time it was a little late, ya know?

I'd done the best I could. It wasn't like I'd known who they was. They looked like everybody else except maybe that business with the light all about 'em.

What's that, you say? Do I have different standards for different folks?

Of course not. We know the law. No discrimination. First come, first served, and all that. Still, looking back at it, there was something special about that night, not that I noticed it at the time. A bright star. And a kind of, well, hopeful feeling.

But that's the way you feel whenever a baby's about to be born, isn't it, that the whole world's gettin' to starting all over again, and how this time, by God, we just might get it right, ya know?

Maybe that's why I had such a good feeling when I saw the baby. Cutest thing you ever saw. But they all are at first, don't ya know, before the world gets to 'em. And to all of us, I guess. I didn't figure the kid would turn out any different, but you never know, there was a special kind of glow about Him. Good health, I suppose. They say his folks came from good stock.

You never know who you're gonna meet on the road. No tellin' what a boy like that could become.

But it wasn't just the baby, it was something in the air that brought everything out. That sky. That star. The moon. And a kind of, I don't know, music. Like the angels were singin' or something. Probably just the night wind. It'll play tricks on you this time of year. Unseasonable, the weather was. Like it is right before a change. Before a storm comes through and changes everything. Makes you kind of uneasy, like something's about to happen any minute. Like the whole world's waitin' for something.

Maybe I'm imaginin' it, 'cause I didn't notice anything special at the time. That's how things go in this business, ya know, you get so busy, what with the fresh linens and touchy customers and tryin' to find good help, that before you know it, it's all over, and it's only when you're lookin' back at 'em that you see how things really were at the time.

When something's actually happening, you can miss out if you're not looking real close. There's no Signs and Wonders and all that unless you're lookin' for 'em. Hey, who knows, maybe something's happening right now we should be paying attention to, huh? Whaddya think?