I had been prayin’ for the role of Mary in the church Christmas pageant. I had a hankerin’ for Mervyn Swank who was playin’ Joseph. But Georgette Raymond, who was my sworn rival on all things artful, got the part. Once again, I was a stupid angel.
Bad as my disappointment was, Georgette’s lips made it worse.
At the first rehearsal, Georgette claimed her mama said she could wear pink lipstick cause it accentuated her face — as if bein’ the star wasn’t enough.
When I politely informed her that it was a factual truth there was no lipstick in Bible times, she said, “This is for Mervyn, not history, so mind your own beeswax, Mona Stewart.”
With my worst fears confirmed as to Georgette’s lust after Mervyn, I said a few choice words under my breath. Sadly, my best friend, Loretta Henninger, was standin’ right next to me.
“Mona Stewart,” she whispered, “you apologize to Georgette for callin’ her a warty-faced, big-lipped toad. It’s a sin to call people names.”
I hated ’Retta when she got all goody on me like that.
I whispered back, “You know dang well I should’ve been Mary cause of my factual knowledge of the Bible and my love of Mervyn… also Jesus.”
“Too bad,” ’Retta said. “It would take a miracle to get rid of Georgette and God isn’t grantin’ one to no name-caller.”
“Pickle pie to you, ’Retta,” I said, and stuck out my tongue.
She was right, though; I needed a miracle before six p.m. on Christmas Eve.
With the pageant scheduled to commence in an hour, and the final dress rehearsal about to start, my miracle had not materialized, and Georgette was standin’ on my last nerve. But I had to carry on. So, when the wheezy old organ started playin’ I dutifully went down the center aisle to the front of the sanctuary and stood with the other winged losers under a canvas canopy that was our Bethlehem stable.
Us angels sang “Silent Night” and watched Mervyn’s and Georgette’s entrance. Reverend Johnson, who was directin’ our un-historical offerin’, was all excited for this part as Willie Smithson had loaned an ol’ dwarf horse, one more factual travesty, to play Mary’s donkey.
After pretendin’ to look all over for a place to rest, Mervyn finally led the poor beast with Georgette on its back — smilin’ like a pinky-lipped pig — to the canopy and tied it to one of the poles. Liftin’ her ample behind off the phony pony, Georgette did this Geisha girl shuffle that looked peculiar but allowed her to lean on Mervyn’s shoulder forcing him to wrap his arm around her pillow-stuffed waist. It was a disgustin’ display of affectation, and totally fallacious to the real story.
I was contemplatin’ the stupidity of all this when Miss Ethel started pumpin’ “What Child Is This?” on the organ. This was our cue for the birthin’ scene, one more triviality that I had to endure with a holiness demeanor I did not feel.
On the first note, Georgette dropped at Mervyn’s feet while us angels gathered round them in a circle. We sang, and she moaned real loud removin’ the pillow from under her costume. I moved the pillow with my foot and handed Georgette a swaddled baby Jesus that was hidden in my angel robe, and played by a Betsy-Wetsy doll.
At our first dress rehearsal, I pointed out the biologic inaccuracy to Reverend Johnson of a female doll playin’ our Lord. He said I should stop worryin’ about exactness as that was his job. I told him I felt a Biblical responsibility. He told me the conversation was over. The only redeeming development of this peculiar gender situation was that it fit with the hymn bein’ played.
Once the music ended, us angels spread out to reveal Mervyn and Georgette kneelin’ and lookin’ at the wrapped-up Jesus. Reverend Johnson called this the “production highlight,” the “holy tableau.” I deemed this moment the “holy too-bad.”
Then, a miracle transversed.
Georgette lifted Betsy-Wetsy Jesus and kissed him tenderly. But, after thirty seconds, her head didn’t raise up causin’ Reverend Johnson to declare, “Mary, git your mouth offa Jesus’ face so we can see him.”
A muffled snort came back as Georgette slowly straightened-up. Dang, if Jesus wasn’t stuck on her persnickety pink lips, and buck naked. His swaddlin’ had dropped off, a dilemma as the doll was dribblin’ in Betsy-Wetsy style all over God’s half-acre.
Reverend Johnson screeched, “Git Jesus off your face.” Followed by, “Git Jesus covered-up.” More he yelled, the harder Georgette cried, and spun around lookin’ like a Madonna sprinkler.
In all the commotion, the bitty horse-donkey spooked, and pulled the pole holdin’ him out from under the canopy. He bolted like a jack-rabbit, rope and pole flyin’ behind him, causin’ the canopy to fall down as a stream of cussin’ and cryin’ rose up.
With the stable ruined, Jesus wettin’, the angels screamin’ and a crazed dwarf-horse roamin’ the church, our presentation was doomed.
Usin’ a Ladies’ Guild dried flower arrangement, Reverend Johnson finally lured the tiny equine into the church office, and locked the door. He declared us kids would perform an impromptu concert that evenin’ instead of the pageant.
Georgette got unstuck from Betsy-Wetsy Jesus by pattin’ hot paper towels around her mouth. Her lips, though, were swelled-up so she couldn’t sing a lick. She sat out next to her mama whose scowl reminded me of King Herod after he heard the Wise Men went on home without even sendin’ a postcard on Jesus’ whereabouts.
As for me, I sang a solo, “O, Holy Night.” The line, “Fall on your knees and hear the angels’ voices,” was ’specially meaningful as it offered a most factual portrayal of my ministrations earlier that afternoon when I held Betsy-Wetsy Jesus, and knelt near a bottle of water and a glue stick askin’ for God’s historical mercy on the unhistorical actions I was about to take. Hallalujah, amen.
JB Smith is a freelance writer. Her fiction has appeared in various online and print publications.