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Organising the school’s Nativity play had been a nightmare. From arguments over sheep who wanted to be Mary or Joseph instead, to the Shepherd who wanted to be a Wise Man instead because his best friend was a wise man, to the Innkeeper who didn’t want to be in the play at all, casting and rehearsals had been the worst days of Miss Williams’ teaching career.

Still, as the parents filed in and settled down on the bright orange plastic chairs, it seemed as if it was going to be okay.

She stood at the back and watched little Helen Adams as Mary receive the good news from Tina Morris’s Angel Gabriel, watched Mark Guthrie, playing Joseph, announce their journey.

“We Must Go To Bethlehem,” he said loudly, enunciating each word in the distinctive manner of a small self-conscious child trying to act. “I Have Got A Donkey For You To Ride.”

The chorus sidled on as Mark and Helen dragged a large toy donkey around the stage, singing “Little Donkey” with varying degrees of enthusiasm. So far, so good. Some of the chorus looked unhappy but there were no tears and nobody had run off the stage.

Dave Rogers, playing the innkeeper, came on at the side of the stage behind a large cardboard cut-out of a house and door. Mark mimed knocking, stamping his foot to make the noise, and Dave opened the door and looked out.

“Hello Innkeeper,” said Mark. “I Am Here With My Wife And We Need A Room For The Night. We Have Travelled Far And We Are Tired.”

“Of course,” said Dave. “Come on in.”

Silence fell throughout the hall and Miss Williams covered her face with her hands.

On stage, Mark and Helen looked at each other uncomfortably. Dave grinned out at the audience. He was enjoying this far too much.

Suddenly, from the side of the stage, one of the other girls appeared. Carrie Stewart had only been given a chorus part, but had hurriedly tied somebody’s shirt around her waist to look like an apron and produced a rolling pin from somewhere.

“Don’t you be daft,” she cried, waving the rolling pin towards Dave. “You know full well we’ve got no room left! There’s nowhere for anyone to sleep unless they take the stable!”

Miss Williams looked up in awe. Dave started to say something, but Carrie shouted over him.

“You get back in there right now! We have thirsty customers waiting!”

Dave’s shoulders slumped as he admitted defeat and slunk off the stage.

“I’m sorry,” Carrie said to Mark. “We have no room but the stable, but you are welcome to sleep there if you like.”

Mark and Helen were visibly relieved to be back to the script.

“Thank You Innkeeper,” said Mark. Carrie whispered something to him. “Thank You, Innkeeper’s Wife. We Would Like To Stay In Your Stable.”

Miss Williams leaned back against the wall and smiled. Next year, she would have to give Carrie Stewart a bigger part.

© Kari Fay