Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Shepherd's Tale

And there were shepherds in the same district living in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of God shone round about them, and they feared exceedingly.

"The poitin's poisoned," Seamus exclaimed. "I'm hallucinating."

They'd been sharing a jar, trying to keep warm, and to a man they were heated through. Wasn't it like Seamus to panic, always listening to the warnings that were issued every year. There's chicken droppings been found in poitin, that was the latest scare meant to put an end to drinking. Cormac knew that his cousin brewed the best poitin this side of Tuam and there were no adulterants.

"Fancy a drop?" Cormac offered the guest.

"I bring you good news," the angel said, and took another wet. "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you."

"Grand, grand," Seamus said. He took the bottle back before the visitor polished it off. Clearly this one had no idea how powerful a beverage this was.

"You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger," the angel concluded.

The news delivered, the angel stumbled off, singing of glory and peace to men of good will. Poitin would do that to a fella, put him in a generous state of mind and ease any and all burdens. It also caused the occasional hallucination, Cormac realized, because it looked like the stranger floated up to the heavens and the one voice singing magnified into a multitude like a choir giving voice.

"Let's us go over to Bethlehem," Seamus said.

"Sure and it couldn't hurt," Cormac agreed. "Might be strangers passing through and here's a new babby born and no one about to wet the wee little head."

So they went with haste, and they found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger.

"An angel told me to call his name Jesus," Joseph said when the shepherds asked after the child's health.

Cormac wasn't sure about offering a drop to a man he didn't know, but if ever there was proof that this Joseph had taken drink in his life, this angel business proved it. The men passed the bottle around and offered their heartiest, and somewhat inebriated, congratulations to the proud da.

"I'm not the father, actually," Joseph said.

"No indeed, our boy was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit," Mary chimed in.

"'Tis a sacred thing, missus," Cormac said and he offered the last of the poitin to a woman who must have taken advantage of the medicinal effects of the spirit during her labor.

They admired the baby a little more, paid compliments to the lovely mother and made bawdy jokes with Joseph. Before they wore out their welcome, the shepherds left the family in their temporary lodging, all well warmed by several drops of the cratur.

And the shephereds returned, glorifying and praising. Cormac couldn't wait to tell his cousin how splendid this year's batch of moonshine had proved to be.

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