The Christmas music was all polished and ready, the set done, the parts assigned. Getting the animals delivered on time was left to Grady and Goober. They had volunteered because they had a cousin who had a petting zoo out east of town. Their cousin had told them they could borrow whatever nativity animals they wanted. They decided to run over late in the afternoon and load up the cattle trailer with what they wanted and haul them to the church.
Never prone to making contingency plans, they were unprepared for the news that the sheep all had some kind of hoof disease and wouldn’t be able to go. Goober said he understood but Grady had a different opinion.
“You can’t have a manger scene without sheep,” Grady said.
“You can’t?” Goober asked.
“No, the Bible specifically says there were sheep there.”
“You sure about that?”
“Yeah, probably, and besides there were shepherds so there had to be sheep.”
“Oh,” Goober said. The light bulb was dim but it still went off somewhere inside Goober’s head. “Wait. We don’t need no sheep. All we have to do is put some cotton on Jack and you got yourself a sheep dog.”
“That ain’t what a sheep dog is,” Grady replied.
Goober was much further down the road of planning than backing up to deal with names. They loaded up a donkey, some chickens, three goats and a cow and headed to the church. On the way they stopped off and picked up the yellow Lab and took some cotton out of an old quilt.
“How you expect to get that to stick on Jack?” Grady asked.
“Elmer’s.” It was a simple answer given whenever duct tape seemed inappropriate.
Everything was in place and the program began. Then Jack started to scratch. Seems the Elmer’s had begun to agitate the fleas. Being the social dog he was, Jack walked all around the nativity scene and checked on all the other characters. Every few seconds he’d stop and scratch. Soon the shepherds were itching, then the wise men. Finally Mary and Joseph felt the critters crawling all over them under their robes. A couple of the little girls dressed as angels began to cry when they saw little bugs crawling across their arms and hands.
It wasn’t long before the ladies on the front row of the choir began to itch. They tried not to scratch but the urge overpowered them. Soon everyone on stage was squirming and rubbing and scratching. But somehow they finished the program.
When Pastor Jerguson stood in the front thanking them for their wonderful performance, he, too, felt something tiny crawling on the back of his neck. He quickly prayed and at the same time headed for the side door. He yelled amen about the same time the door slammed and he was gone. When the people looked up, all the costumes and choir robes where on the floor, but nobody remained on the stage, except a donkey, some chickens, three goats, a cow and a sheep dog scratching by the manger that still held a baby doll pretending to be baby Jesus.
On the way back to the petting zoo, Goober called and left a voice mail on the church recorder saying he’d have the auditorium fumigated tomorrow. It was the last time Grady and Goober were ever asked to help out with the Christmas music program.