A Young Legionary In Bethlehem: The Christmas Story Never Told

December 25, 2018 at 11:56 pm (Short Story) (, , )

The young legionary had had a bad day.

After a night of rowdy drinking, he had forgotten the standard for his regiment.

And had left it overnight in the little town of Bethlehem.

The officer in charge of the regiment was thankfully merciful.

Instead of court martialing the young legionary for his most serious offense, he just sent the young legionary back to Bethlehem to retrieve it.

Although being sent back to Bethlehem was punishment enough the young legionary figured.

For Bethlehem had to be the most god forsaken place on this earth.

“Have fun in Bethlehem, Pompey,” his fellow legionaries had said to him.

Pompey was his nickname.

Pompey of course had been the name of the Roman general who had lost to Julius Caesar in the Roman civil war.

It was an inside joke that earned the young legionary his nickname.

As Pompey set out from Jerusalem towards Bethelehem, he did have to admit that the star he saw in the sky that seemed to be hovering directly over the little town was indeed most impressive.

Probably the only impressive thing about the place, Pompey thought to himself.

He sighed as he rode his horse.

Last week he had gotten a Dear Antony letter from his girlfriend Julia the woman he expected to marry when he returned to Rome.

She had met someone else- the “man of her dreams” as she had put it and was going to be marrying him.

“Argh!” Pompey hit his forehead with his metallic gloved hand as he recalled the letter.

What was it about women and the men of their dreams?

Usually the dream always turned out to be a nightmare, his father had once told him.

And may that be the case with Julia’s “man of her dreams” Pompey cursed the couple.

He looked towards his left and noticed a small group of shepherds tending their flocks by night.

“What an exciting job that must be,” Pompey remarked to himself sarcastically as he laughed.

He brought the horse to a halt for a minute.

He thought he had heard something.

He turned and looked in every direction.

And listened.

But now nothing.

What was it? he had heard.

For one brief shining moment, it sounded like music.

Heavenly music.

Surely it must have been the “music of the spheres” that the great philosopher Aristotle had written about.

And for one moment, he had been privileged to hear it.

Pompey looked up in the sky.

It seemed like a bunch of lesser lights were now surrounding that great star.

He rode on until he came to the inn where he and his fellow legionaries had stayed last night.

“I say, innkeeper,” he addressed the man pouring wine amongst the raucous crowd of guests, “could you tell me where I ahem! left my standard last night?”.

A rather beautiful and alluring young woman giggled at the way he had asked the question and looked at him appreciatively.

“And is your standard up to mine?” She winked at him.

Pompey looked at her.

That would certainly be a dish of revenge best served hot against Julia’s betrayal the young legionary thought to himself.

But no he best get the standard and return to Jerusalem.

He looked back to the innkeeper.

“Your comrade Drusillus took it with him this morning when he left,” the innkeeper answered.

What?

Pompey was shocked.

Drusillus had taken the standard?

That bastard.

And Drusillus had never told him.

Pompey turned back to the beautiful and alluring young woman.

She might be the prize worth waiting for on this useless trip to Bethlehem.

But already her eyes and her attention were elsewhere.

“Do you love me?” She teasingly asked a man.

“What is love?” He answered back to laughs and back slaps from his male companions.

“Come on,” she pretended to pout, “do you love me?”.

“All right,” the man answered, “I do love you and that is the gods’ honest truth.”

“What is truth?” Asked one of the man’s companions to much laughter.

The woman raised her dress and beckoned him, “Then come on. Show me your truth, baby.”

Pompey winced and turned away.

As he did so, through the window, he caught sight of a stable in a cave just behind the inn.

Anyways it was time to get back to Jerusalem.

Pompey got on his horse and pointed it in the direction of Jerusalem.

The horse started to walk but with great difficulty.

“Blessed Mercury,” Pompey sighed, “he’s broken a horseshoe.”

Fortunately for Pompey, there was a blacksmith’s shop right next to the inn.

The blacksmith was rather angry at being wakened but when Pompey showed the man what he could pay him, the man set to work.

Pompey stood watching the man pound nails into the new horseshoe and then decided to buy himself some wine from the inn.

Seeing as how the night was starting to turn cold, Pompey asked for a cup of hot spiced wine.

The wine was nice and hot, Pompey thought to himself as he put hands around the cup to warm them.

“Blessed Juno, what a chilly night,” the young legionary thought to himself, “definitely not a night for men or beasts to be about. As the gods like Augustus in Rome and the Olympians on Mount Olympus keep warm in their palaces, we of a lesser breed freeze. The cold is definitely not a place for a true god to be found.”

Pompey, warmed by the wine, decided to take a walk around Bethlehem.

There was not much to see around the town the young legionary noticed.

But as he walked he noticed the bright star in the sky seemed to be directly over the stable in the cave behind the inn.

Pompey decided to walk there and take a look.

As he stood outside the cave manger, the young legionary took a sip from his cup.

“Great Bacchus,” Pompey sighed, “I really should have been drinking it as I walked around town. The wine has turned cold.”

As he stood there, the young legionary thought he could hear a baby gurgling from inside the cave.

Pompey was familiar with the sound of babies gurgling because he had been present at his older sister’s house when his nephew had been born.

Pompey entered the cave.

And the sight he saw shook him to the very core of his being.

For inside the cave was a young man standing protectively over a beautiful young woman (probably the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life) who lay on straw holding a recently born baby.

“What child is this?” Pompey thought when he looked at the babe.

No sooner had he thought that question than he thought he heard again (albeit momentarily) the beautiful heavenly music of the spheres he had heard earlier on the road into Bethlehem.

“What do you want?” Asked the young man who protectively clasped the shoulder of the beautiful young woman.

The young woman herself looked at the young legionary without fear.

Great unknown god, she was beautiful, Pompey thought to himself.

A different sort of beauty from the alluring beauty of the temptress he had encountered in the inn.

A pure beauty.

A most pure beauty.

A beauty capable of capturing a man’s soul and not just his body.

The baby gurgled again.

“I thought I heard a baby gurgling,” Pompey answered the young man’s question, “and wondered what a baby was doing inside a stable inside a cave.”

“There was no room in the inn,” the young man answered simply.

The baby seemed to beckon to the young legionary.

The legionary approached.

The child then grasped the young legionary’s cup and stuck his tiny hands inside the cup and washed them.

“I’m so sorry,” the young woman gasped.

“Quite all right,” Pompey smiled and bowed, “I wish you a wonderful evening.”

He quickly left the cave.

And as he did so, the same group of shepherds he had seen earlier this evening were now entering the cave.

Astonished, Pompey started sipping the wine again.

Good Lord, Pompey thought to himself, the wine is warm again.

The wine had turned cold from his walk around town.

Then this baby had stuck his hands in the cup and washed them.

And now the wine was warm again.

What child is this? Pompey once again thought to himself.

He was still pondering that question as he finished the wine (which also seemed to have improved in taste as a result of the child touching it), returned the cup to the inn and then walked next door to the blacksmith.

Thankfully the blacksmith had finished the horseshoe and had put it on the young legionary’s horse.

Well, the young legionary nicknamed Pompey thought to himself, at least the last days of Pompey wouldn’t be spent in Bethlehem.

He returned his thoughts again to the child inside the cave.

What child is this? The young legionary thought to himself a third time.

Oh well, probably greater things to ponder in the scheme of things, the young legionary thought to himself, after all it’s not likely I’ll ever encounter this child again.

And with that, the young legionary named Pontius Pilate got on his horse and rode out of Bethlehem.

-A short story written by Christopher
Christmas Day December 25th 2018.

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15 Comments

  1. David Redpath said,

    Brilliant, Christopher,
    like a guiding star ๐ŸŒŸ

  2. Nicholas C. Rossis said,

    One of the best Christmas stories I’ve ever read! I hope you had a magical one ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Nicholas C. Rossis said,

    Reblogged this on Nicholas C. Rossis and commented:
    A lovely Christmas story by Chris. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  4. Hyperion said,

    I agree with the others. An excellent story with a dramatic ending. Your range of capability to cover any subject well is always evident in your stories. Punctuous Pilates would repay the Christ Childโ€™s favor of the warm wine by fillfilling humankindโ€™s destiny.

  5. Jennifer Vasquez said,

    Wow, awesome twist at the end!

  6. Snapshotsincursive said,

    Well Done! ๐ŸŒŸโœจ๐Ÿ’ซ

  7. Marina Costa said,

    Reblogged this on Marina Costa.

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