“I suppose we’ll have to clean up this mess,”Gertruida says with a sigh. As usual, she is right. Boggel’s Place is strewn with wrapping paper and the skeletons of used Christmas crackers. The leaking ice bucked was responsible for the little pond in the middle of the room while Vetfaan may be blamed for the streamers dangling from the fan in the ceiling. “If Boggel sees the place looking like this, he’ll have a fit.”
Last night’s Christmas party was a huge success. It had been Kleinpiet’s turn to be Joseph this year while Precilla filled her usual role as Mary. Vetfaan says he doesn’t think the two Biblical figures could have had such a close relationship: them being unmarried at the time, understand? It was left to the three wise men to separate the two – Oudoom, Vetfaan and Platnees intervened just as the smooching got too serious.
Gertruida says it’s a lesson learned: next year the Christmas play should be held at the beginning of the evening, and Joseph may not attach some mistletoe to the rafter above the counter. Not ever again. A virgin birth should imply purity, after all.
“Hey, but you must agree that we weren’t responsible for all the mess. Those sheep Vetfaan brought must have eaten something odd before they came here. And it’s not as if they had the good manners to choose a designated spot at all. They spread more than goodwill all over the floor.” Kleinpiet has donned a glove and points to the accumulating evidence in the bag he’s holding.
“Don’t blame my sheep, Kleinpiet!” Vetfaan leans on his shovel, breathing hard behind the handkerchief over his nose. “Your cow made a considerable contribution, as you can see very clearly.”
“I wonder how Boggel is feeling this morning? I’ve never seen him lose the plot like he did last night! One moment he was a shepherd gaurding the sheep at night, the next he handed out the peach brandy – even Oudoom had three glasses.” Precilla feels much better after the three Brufens she had for breakfast.
Gertruida unravels the streamers from the fan, balancing on a chair. “But you must admit he was a huge success as a Russian dancer. He could have won fair and square. I thought he was very good at it – never knew he could do those funny moves while balancing on one foot.”
“He had some help, remember? With his hunchback and the support of the cow’s leg, he made it look easy. It’s such a pity that the cow didn’t cooperate, though. Ten more seconds, and he would have completed the dance.”
They fall silent as each one remembers the plaintive moooo! before the cow decided she has had enough. The kick was executed with bovine flair – landing perfectly on Boggel’s wriggling rump to propel him on a crash course with the mistletoe. Mary, Joseph and the Three Wise Men managed to drag Boggel to bed, placing (as it was Christmas, after all) two cold beers on his table before leaving. Gertruida (who knows everything) said Boggel’s condition was due to the kick – from the peach brandy, not the cow.
Just when the last sheep dropping is carefully cajoled from under the counter, Boggel stumbles into the room. Except for the lump on his forehead (he landed on the table on his way down, but a considerate sheep softened his fall to the floor), he seems to be all right. On the third attempt he manages to croak a recognisable Good morning and then: “Is Christmas over?”
Fortunately for Boggel, it is. It’ll be a full year before it is Christmas again. With most of the mess cleared up, the Rolbossers sit down at the counter to discuss the evening’s events. Boggel manages to find some cold beers to shove over the counter.
“Nah, I think he won’t be in today. Said a nativity play shouldn’t be like ours. Once his headache is gone, I’m sure he’s going to work on a sermon for next Sunday.” Precilla sounds worried. “I think he’s upset.”
“He should be. Platnees had to take him home.”
“No man, Platnees took the cow to the shed. He said so himself.” It’s Vetfaan’s turn to look worried.
“Ahem.” When Gertruida says Ahem! like that, you know she knows something that you should know, but don’t. “Then what is the cow doing on the lawn in front of the church?”
Maybe it’s a good idea to leave Rolbos right now. Some things are better left unsaid – especially since the cow can’t (and the rest won’t) tell you why that was the last nativity play to feature in Boggel’s Place. I can reveal that Oudoom recovered sufficiently to deliver a long sermon on Love thy neighbour enough to see him safely home; and that Boggel refuses to ever do his Kossak imitation again.
But all is not lost. Gertruida is working on a new play for next year, based on the story of the Nutcracker. She says there are more animals in the story and she’ll see to it that nobody drinks a drop before the performance.
Shows you: even she can be wrong sometimes.
Please do watch out for the cow if you ever should visit Rolbos. She’s the one with the innocent eyes staring at you from beneath the alluringly long eyelashes. You’d swear she’s the kindest, friendliest, nicest cow you’ll ever see. But…people who know, say that she changes her expression when you are a few feet away. They say she is the only cow on the planet capable of an evil smile…