Zac trudged round the corner of the house with the kind of barely concealed rage that only a 15-year old can manage. This was all so embarrassing. Nobody else in the whole street tied their donkey at the front of the house instead of the back. Nobody else in the street had to do it religiously every morning like it was some kind of sacred duty. Nobody else got a lecture from their dad, or their grandad, or whoever else was up, about how this was a ‘sacred duty’. And nobody, but nobody, had to repeat the words just to prove they hadn’t forgotten them. It had been his dad this morning. ‘Say them out loud son’, he had said. ‘Say them out loud so I know you’ve got them’. In a monotone intended to convey his fury at this ridiculous ritual, Zac had intoned them once again . ‘If someone says’ the Lord has need of it’, I am to hand the donkey over without any further thought’. ‘Why’ asked his father. ‘Why does that matter in the name of all that’s holy’? . Zac resisted the temptation to say that he couldn’t care less, and gave the official response – ‘because we are sleepers dad, put here for this one sacred duty, this one single moment,and today it may come’.
He repeated the words in his head once again as he leant against the donkey’s warm and dusty flank and tied up its rope. Except, incredibly, they were NOT in his head. There, behind him, a stranger was uttering them. He looked as awkward as the boy felt, but there could be no doubt he was saying the ‘magic’ words. ‘The Lord has need of it’. Zac tried to reply, but his throat was constricted beyond speech. He simply handed over the rope, and watched the receding figures of man and beast as they disappeared off up the road.
Whatever would he tell his dad?
With Thanks to Richard Littledale
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