from his sleep, Joseph did as the angel had directed him; he took Mary home to
be his wife, but had no intercourse with her until her son was born.’
‘Whoa, wait a
fricking-fracking minute.’ Joseph scooted forward to the edge of his
seat, his hand held up in front of him.
Language.’ Mary shifted in her chair, her tightly crossed knees turning
slightly away from her husband.
as he put down the scroll and looked across the wide expanse of his desk at the
elderly couple. He’d known from the beginning it was a mistake to give
the Messiah’s rather dull and uneducated parents any sort of editorial
involvement with the Gospel. But the Messiah had been insistent and what
the Messiah wanted, the Messiah usually got. He locked down his
frustration and forced a measured tone into his voice.
is the problem, Joseph?’
intercourse thing. The whole world needs to know we didn’t play
hide-the-sausage for a year?’
that people know Mary was a virgin.’
You’ve got to be kidding me. Half the plumbers in Bethlehem –’
here,’ Matthew leaned forward on his desk to cut Joseph off, ‘is that Mary is seen to have been a virgin at the time of conception. Otherwise people
will throw doubts over the authenticity of the immaculate conception. And
that is one thing we can’t have.’
‘Well excuse me
and my private life, I’m very sure.’
his head. The naivety was almost charming. Almost.
stepfather of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Holy Messiah, the
Saviour. You’re a celebrity, Joseph, I’m afraid you don’t get a private
Joseph ran a
hand down his long white beard and considered this. It wasn’t like he
hadn’t known what he was getting into. A great big fricking angel
suddenly appears in your living room, wings knocking over ornaments and
candlesticks as they unfurled, you know this isn’t your common-or-garden
one-too-many-whiskies type of vision. This was the real deal, the top
banana, the Big Kahuna. And after all the angel had only said ‘no
intercourse’ – back in those days Mary could suck a Trigon ball through
a twelve-foot length of garden hose, so it wasn’t exactly that much of a
hardship. And some of the young worshippers had been, well, most …
accommodating. But that wasn’t really the point. Still, a celebrity
‘What sort of
Matthew put the
gospel to one side and consulted his notes.
from being generally revered, you’ll also be made a saint.’ He looked
over the rim of the spectacles. ‘March the nineteenth be OK for your
Joseph reached forward
and put a hand on the edge of Matthew’s desk, tried to pretend he wasn’t quite
reeling from shock. He puffed his chest out slightly and cleared his
say… I suppose it’ll be spring then, not too hot for a feast, not too
cold. Yes,’ he blew out a breath. ‘I think March would be OK.’
remembered something the Messiah once told him. ‘Sincerity,’ Jesus had said,
elbowing him in the ribs as the crowd applauded after a particularly
well-received speech on the drawbacks on stoning. ‘If you can fake that,
you’ve got it made.’
He lifted his
hands and gave Joseph his most winning smile.
consider you the very personification of fatherly solicitude and
vigilance. Virgins,’ Matthew’s voice deepened and he pretended not to see
the look of disapproval on Mary’s face, ‘virgins will consider you the
model protector of virginal integrity.’
Joseph tapped a
staccato beat with his fingers on the corner of the desk.
nodded. His notes also said Joseph would become Patron of Holy Death, but
it would probably be better to bring that up later. Joseph had never been
very good with stiffs.
OK.’ Joseph dipped his head. ‘Maybe I can live with that.
After all, like you said, I’ll be seen as a protector, the very
personiclifation …’ Joseph cleared his throat. ‘Whatever you said thing.’
his eyebrows drawn down, lips pursed in concentration, as though Joseph had
just explained the theory of relativity. Whatever that was.
Joseph, very good. May I continue then?’
back in his chair and reached across with a patriarchal hand to pat his wife on
the elbow. Mary lifted her arm from the chair and folded it across her
chest, her lips slicing a thin line across her face. Joseph waved for
Matthew to go on.
up the scroll and ran a finger across the page.
‘Where was I?
Oh yes. And he named the child Jesus.’
down the scroll again, admittedly in rather a theatrical manner, and regarded his
guests over the top of his glasses. Joseph’s expression slowly turned
from expectant attentiveness to confusion.
said he’s planning to add something about the Angel Gabriel’s visitation and a
few bits and bobs about your family, but, well, yes, that is about the long and
the short of it.’
Joseph got to
his feet, all former attempts at decorum gone; he tossed his white hair behind
him and his eyes grew red with rage.
all I’ve been through? The sleepless nights, the constant questions of
“Why this, why that” – as if he didn’t bloody well know already – all those
“You’re not my real father anyway” taunts, the teenage years… Oh, and let me
tell you, Holy Messiah he might be now, but holy child he bloody well was
not. And as for the whole Herod thing, don’t even get me started on the
trouble we …’
sagely, tuning out Joseph’s rant and glancing through the window to see an ox
pulling a cart of vegetables towards the market. He wondered what it
might be like to return to the life of a simple peasant. No more Gospels,
no more dealing with the vagaries of the Messiah, no more having to act
holier-than-thou day-in, day-out. Just a simple existence. An ox
and a cart and a bunch of vegetables. A small thatched cottage. A
nice plump wife.
Well, it was a
nice thought, but he couldn’t quite see himself giving up the privileges of
rank that easily.
he said, his hands held out to placate Joseph. ‘This isn’t fixed in
stone. We’re not talking commandments here. Look, I’ve still got a
bit of room in Matthew Two, let’s see if we can’t work something out there.’
reluctantly settled back into his chair, Matthew could only wonder at the
things he had to go through for his faith. Still, it could be
worse. At least he hadn’t been given the Psalms. He really hated
©2007 Ben Wright
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