Exercise #19: Scenes at the Inn

Exercise 19 instructions

Following the instructions, (see the above link), I have chosen a scene, specifically, the arrival of Mary and Joseph at the Inn of Bethlehem, mentioned in the New Testament.  The four characters are Mary, Joseph, the Innkeeper (Simeon) and his wife (Johanna).  As for the listed options for writing, I chose option b.  Therefore, below, you will find two submissions, each 600 words long and each told from a different point of view, as indicated at the top of each submission.  As always, all comments are welcome.  Enjoy.

POV I: Joseph, First Person

Thankfully, we were within sight of Bethlehem when Mary felt her first pain. Her water broke when we reached the outskirts of town, though, and I worried that she would reach her time before we were safely within walls. I had to get her inside. The trouble was that I had no family I could turn to in Bethlehem so my only hope was the old clan-house my father once told me about when I was just a boy. At first, however, I was more than a little frightened when, after I knocked on the door, no one came out right away. A few minutes later, to my great relief, the door swung back and out came a little old man, his eyes fixed to the ground before him.

“There’s no room,” he growled at me, not lifting his gaze. “I’m sorry. You’ll have to find somewhere else to stay.”

“But, sir,” I replied in a panic, “my wife is in labor!”

The moment the words dropped from my lips, I had the innkeeper’s attention. But that didn’t make me feel any better, for the look with which he regarded Mary’s state was one of complete helplessness.

“I haven’t got an appropriate place to put you,” he told me, looking, if anything, more worried and hopeless as another pain made Mary gasp. “The entire inn is full. Even the private rooms that I save for when my children are visiting have extra guests in them. There are even extra guests in the room I usually reserve for my wife and I.”

I was stunned. From the looks of things, we weren’t about to come in. I had to convince him otherwise, for Mary’s sake. “But surely you don’t intend to turn us away,” I said, stepping back so that I could draw his attention to Mary’s suffering again. “Not with her like this.” Please, Lord, I prayed, Help thy servants in their desperation.

“Simeon,” said a woman’s voice from inside, like the answer to my prayer, “what’s keeping you?”

“More guests!” the old man, called back.

“You must be kidding,” the woman replied, sounding tired as her voice drew nearer the door.

“I already told them we have no place for them,” Simeon said, looking, if anything, more helpless than before. “What do we do?”

Please, dearest Lord, I prayed.

A woman emerged from the open door and the look in her eyes was like manna to me. Her eyes moved quickly between Mary and I and just from her expression, I knew she understood the situation.

“We’ll put them in the stable,” she said quietly. The innkeeper’s eyes went wide, and I thought he was going to say something in protest. “Come,” the woman said to me before her husband could speak. She grabbed a lantern and moved toward the side of the inn. “It looks like it’s almost her time The stable is warm and private. You’ll be safe there. Simeon,” she added, turning back to her husband, “I’ll need some of the boys’ old baby blankets to wrap the child in when it’s born.”

Without a word, the innkeeper ran inside. Meanwhile, I turned to Mary and gave her what I hoped was a reassuring squeeze. “Don’t worry, beloved,” I said, taking the donkey’s reins in my hand as I walked after the innkeeper’s wife. “The baby will be with us soon.”

Mary nodded weakly, clutching at her belly as another pain shot through her petite frame.

POV II: Simeon, Third Person Limited

Simeon and his wife, Johanna, had operated the Inn of Bethlehem, which was really an old clan-house, for over thirty years together and neither of them could have said they’d seen Bethlehem so busy before. The Inn itself was really just a large square courtyard where guests would spread a blanket for themselves where they would sleep and keep their things. Simeon and Johanna, their children long since grown, lived in a small building off to one side of the courtyard, near the front. The clan-house had been built near a series of caves that were usually used by the Temple shepherds during the winter-time. In winter, the inn was almost always empty. As such, the caves made excellent stables for guests of the Inn during the other months. Simeon had often marveled at the elegance of this arrangement, since the sheep would usually leave the caves a day or so before the first rush of spring guests arrived. This spring, though, Caesar Augustus had decided to tax the world.

The inn was soon full of people arriving to be taxed, Simeon’s usually unflagging patience was wearing desperately thin. Then, one night, there came a knock on the inn’s oak door. Muttering as he went to answer it, Simeon jerked the door aside, dreading the words he would have to say next.

“There’s no room,” he growled, not letting his gaze leave the ground, “I’m sorry. You’ll have to find somewhere else to stay.”

“But, sir,” a male voice protested, “my wife is in labor!”

At this, the old innkeeper’s eyes jerked up. Before him stood a young man about as old as Simeon’s second son, but with brown rather than red hair. Behind him, perched on a donkey and looking decidedly uncomfortable sat a girl of no more than sixteen years, round with child. She was very pale and already drenched in sweat.

“I haven’t got an appropriate place to put you,” Simeon explained, his brows furrowing as the girl gasped, bending forward in obvious pain. “The entire inn is full. Even the private rooms that I save for when my children are visiting have extra guests in them. There are even extra guests in the room I usually reserve for my wife and I.”

“But surely you don’t intend to turn us away,” the man countered worriedly, gesturing to his suffering wife. “Not like this.”

“Simeon, what’s keeping you?” said Johanna’s voice from inside.

“More guests!” Simeon called back.

“You must be kidding,” Johanna muttered, the sound of her house slippers drawing nearer to the door.

“I’ve already told them we have no place for them,” said Simeon, wishing now that Caesar had chosen a different day to issue his little tax. “What do we do?”

Johanna reached the door then and her eyes widened, seeming to take in the entire scene in a single glance. “We’ll put them in the stable,” she said, then.

Simeon’s eyes went wide. Never before had he been so desperate for space that he’d so much as considered putting a guest in the stable before.

“Come,” said Johanna to the waiting man, seizing a lantern in one hand as she lead the way around the inn. “It looks like it’s almost her time. The stable is warm and private. You’ll be safe there. Simeon,” she added, turning to her husband, “I’ll need some of the boys’ old baby blankets to wrap the child in when it’s born.”

Not daring to argue, Simeon turned and ran.

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