“Come,” they told me.
The three strangers passing through my city that night. They stopped to listen as I played my Derbekkeh, my hand drum. My only possession. It isn’t much, but it is all that I have. And it is my hope of a future. I make noise to make my living.
“Come?” I paused and asked.
“We are on our way to visit the newborn king.” One of them replied with a smile.
“To honor him with our finest gifts,” said another.
“And lay them before him,” said the third.
And so I went.
We arrived. The stable was similar to the one I had been sneaking into for shelter the nights before. But inside, just beyond the sheep and the steer, I could see a tired young man and woman. Between them, a feeding trough. A manger. But I saw no royalty. No king, no queen, no prince. I looked up to the faces of the three men who brought me. Their eyes were fixed on the manger. Trembling, tear-filled eyes. They dropped to their knees and presented their gifts on the ground before the manger.
And then I noticed him, the baby in the trough, bound like an Egyptian mummy in swaddling bands. Only his face showing in the starlight. So unfortunate. So vulnerable. No safe home. No warm bed. Only a momma and papa. And they looked so poor. I saw no possessions around them, But I could see in their faces that their hope and joy was in their newborn child. Is this the king?
“Little baby,” I whispered, not to disrupt the quiet. “I am a poor boy too.” I glanced over at the gifts which sat atop the straw and seed on the ground. Gold, incense, valuable oils. I hung my head.
“I have no gift to bring,” I said, softly, to his mother and father. “Nothing fit to give a king, or even a baby.” I paused. I had my Derbekkeh. My drum. A drum is not appropriate to play for a resting baby. Why did these men bring me here? I thought.
“I have only my drum.” I said to them. “Should I play for you?”
His mamma nodded.
So I played. Soft and gentle, I played. I played in time with the quiet sounds of the night. The breaths of the ox, blowing from its nose into the straw on the floor. The shuffling of the lamb as it nuzzled up to its mother. I played my drum for the baby boy. The newborn that these three strangers called “King”. I played my best for him.
Then, he smiled at me.
Me and my drum.
When he is not drawing and writing stories, Joe spends as much time in nature as possible, looking under rocks and catching critters.
His Instagram account is a steady patter of brilliant, story-laden art you can follow at: https://www.instagram.com/joesutphin/