[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the Christmas pageant, they chose me to play Joseph, father of the Christ child. Normally, a coveted role, since Joseph and Mary all but necked on stage. And it bears mentioning: in most denominations, the role of Mary is reserved for the loveliest girl in church.
But come to find out, I wasn’t selected because I was Bethlehem’s homecoming king; it was because I was fat. See, if you were overweight as a child, you know what I’m talking about. Chubby kids are regarded as more older-looking than their peers. This is especially true if they’re also rosy-cheeked, with fat little legs that won’t fit into jeans.
That year, I learned how bad an actor I was. Rehearsals didn’t go well. When I tried to wrap the nude newborn Savior in his swaddling dishrag, he made a stinky in my arms.
To which I shouted, “Jesus Christ!”
I handed him to Mary, who yelled, “Holy Mother of God!”
In the play, I had one line. “Look ye, shepherds who abideth in yonder field, who keepeth watch o’re thine flocks by night.” Which loosely translates into, “How y’all been doin’?”
I recited my line exactly once, during rehearsal before Mrs. Ciderwell fired me. She demoted me to director’s assistant. And to replace me, she chose Roger Dole, a dead-ringer for Donny Osmond. He inherited my old costume.
Roger tugged the belly of his oversized tunic and said, “Hey, Virgin Mary, I think I’m pregnant, too.”
Everyone thought that was a real gut-buster.
Well, our rehearsals went smoothly until Roger’s first performance. When it came time for him to say his debut line, he froze like a deer with Alzheimer’s.
“Psst, Roger,” I whispered from backstage.
He looked at me, helpless.
So, I fed him Roger his line, one word at a time. He repeated me, verbatim.
“Shepherds, listen ye,” Roger said. “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have…”
To which the shepherds responded, “The facts of life. Verily sayeth ye, the facts of life.”
I winked at Roger. “Break a leg, Joe.”