The following passage is a testament from Balthazar, who was found naked and desperate after days of being lost in the desert east of Bethlehem.
Describing the birth of the Christ child is a daunting task. How would you feel if you witnessed firsthand the savior of all of mankind, majestically bursting from a virgin’s womb? “Un-friggin’-believable!” is what I said at the time, but it didn’t feel like enough. Caspar muttered, “Hallelujah,” whatever that means.
Joseph wasn’t a trained midwife so the delivery itself was quite messy—running back and forth, trying to get into position, yelling “Will you MOVE?!” at the mules and sheep standing around. Melchior actually fainted when the placenta spilled. Totally fucked up his back. Me? I played it cool. I didn’t follow a brilliant heavenly star westward across miles and miles of scorching desert just to miss the big moment because I couldn’t keep my shit together.
Mary and Joseph were kind enough to allow us to crash at the manger that night. Every other place was booked, I guess for the holidays. We stayed the next day too, and said our goodbyes around twilight.
That was a mistake.
But we were filled with joy and reverence! And were extremely anxious to return to our homeland and spread the news that the savior is born! Well, as the sky darkened, we fully expected the Lord to provide a shining star to point the way back east, too. Yeah, I know—“Just follow the directions in the opposite order and reverse all the turns.” But we’d had no directions. We’d had a star. So we expected a return star, too.
But by time the celestial lights were visible it was clear that none of them were meant to be followed, necessarily. We kept silent, at first, but I’m sure we were all thinking the same thing. We just kept our camels drifting farther and farther from the manger.
Finally, after a couple of hours, Melchior finally blurted out, “What the fuck? How the hell are we supposed to get home?” I was actually relieved he said something to break the tension.
Since there’d been a steady breeze blowing Caspar suggested that maybe the Lord had sent that to be followed. Have you ever tried following a breeze? With camels? We just zigzagged in the sand for, I don’t know—like five thousand cubits. When the sun rose we saw the damn manger in the distance again. Although we discussed going back and asking Joseph for directions, we all agreed: Forget it. We were too embarrassed. We’re wise men! Yeah right.
We slept under a palm tree’s shade until nightfall. Because you know what we say—“Night time’s the right time.” It’s too hot to travel during the day, plus night is when the Lord sends giant fireballs and celestial beacons and shit. Which is why it sucked when a bunch of puffy clouds rolled in around sunset. So we sat there waiting for hours. And then—like He was fucking with us–it started to rain. To pour, like the Great Fucking Flood. The rain was cold as shit, too! IN THE DESERT.
When the clouds finally scattered the sun was already coming up. We camped again the next day but the wood was too soaked to burn. When nightfall came again? Bupkiss. Nothing. We started out anyway in hopes that the Lord would guide us by instinct alone. After several more jillions of cubits Melchior said, “Hey, we left our canteens back at camp.” That’s when I knew for sure we were fucked.
So there we were. The Three Stooges, bumbling about in the desert for a week. We lived off rainwater trapped in rocks. What did we eat? What else? Raw lizard meat. (I don’t even like cooked lizard meat.) We’d gotten so funky from sweating in the sun, we doused ourselves in the remaining frankincense to temper our putrid body odor. The camels were really in dire straits. Two of them gnawed through their ropes one night and escaped. The third was clearly getting delirious from lack of water and food. Poor beast began snapping at his own tail and squealing at the moon. We put him down in fear that he would turn on us. Since we didn’t have any blunt objects, we took turns wailing him in the head with haymakers over and over until he was out of his misery. That’s right: we beat up our own camel. Then we cooked and ate him. That was a dark day.
Soon enough, Caspar started to lose it, too. Melchior and I debated endlessly about what we should do. Meanwhile, Caspar just got worse and worse. Started French-kissing a particularly curvy cactus and calling it “Madame Ouchy Crotch” and “Miss Prickly Tits.” In the end, we decided to put him down, too. More beating up. Our knuckles began bleeding. We cooked and ate Caspar. (We had to! We were in the desert!) That was also a dark day.
By this point we knew that the Lord had abandoned us altogether. If Melchior and I were going to live, it would be by sheer guts, and luck. And we’d thought we’d gotten lucky when we spotted campfires in the distance one night. We thought we’d stumbled upon a caravan of nomads and we’d follow them to civilization. “Praise the Lord,” we shouted. But they weren’t humble travelers. They were a roaming band of thieves. “Fuck it. Take our leftover myrrh and gold,” we said. But they stole all our provisions, including our clothes. In fact, they took everything but the myrrh.
Got the picture? Two naked, starving, blundering wise men in the desert. The vultures were circling. It was only a matter of time before they would be scavenging our bones. Melchior made the only wise decision of the journey when he snuffed himself. He drank what was left of the myrrh. It ate the poor bastard from the inside out! Afterwards — and I know this sounds awful…But I had to!
When I was discovered by spice traders two days (and several bites of Melchior’s buttocks) later and taken to the nearest hut, villagers asked me how happy I was to be rescued. Happy? Huh! I lost three camels and my two best friends, not to mention my right foot, which somehow got gangrene. They’re going to fit me for a peg-leg, so that’s cool.
Looking back, I can’t help but wonder why the Lord didn’t answer our desperate prayers. Although maybe He did. After all, I’m alive.
Is that how He works? Delivers you to a place but makes you find your own way back? Is that supposed to be some kind of metaphor for life itself?
Shit. You know, it’s kinda’ funny, in a way. This whole debacle has made me a helluva lot wiser.