The Christmas Donkey and Flannery O’Conner: PART II

“Hello Kelley. I am about to introduce you to Flossie, our donkey. Bring your men on back to the horse barn if you like.” She spoke in a very friendly way and i started to relax a little. Flannery O’Conner had said she would lend me her donkey to be employed that night in the First Methodist Church’s Christmas pageant. And I had brought two young men and a flatbed truck to Andalusia for the job.

She was neither attractive nor ugly. In my mind she was someone I knew but could not remember when or where I had met her before. The most striking thing about her was her manner. Direct and friendly in a way I never expected from others and rarely got except occasionally from store clerks trying to help me find something to buy. Later he reflected that here was something else about the way she talked, something unique in his dealings with adults other than his own Father. She was as present as my best teacher when she had just asked a difficult question. And yet somehow she was warm and at ease like my own Father whenever he showed up at my Father’s little store.

As well as I can remember the horse barn was a small thing close to the house. Mrs O’Conner signaled to the other guys that they should stay at the entrance. She opened the gate to the donkey’s stalland introduced me to her as formally as she might introduce someone in a reception line to the guest of honor. While I fed the apple I had brought to my new acquaintance Mrs. O’Conner let me know nicely that Flossie was not a donkey, but a hinny. Donkey was as inappropriate for a female donkey as dog was for a bitch. But the atmosphere of the ceremony was a continuation of the warm treatment I had already received.

Together the others helped me to show Flossie up the wide board onto the flat bed truck, down again and after a strollaroung the yard of the house, back up into the flt bed truck. There was nary a hitch. I was to ride in the truck near Flossie as i was advised she had not spent “a lot of time trucking agound, so she would appreciate the company.”

Just before the truck pulled away and after a brief exchange about the schedule of the pageant and the time of return, Mrs. O’Conner informed me bluntly that “You are going to find Flossie a lot more difficult to deal with when you get her to that Methodist church and try to get her to act like a Protestant. She isn’t one and won’t be comfortable being required to act like one. That is a sweet animal, but a very Catholic one.”

On the way to the church I decided that the last warning must have been in the way of a kind of joke. No serious person could possibly imagine that a donkey had a religious loyalty. Besides Flossie was very docile and even nudged my hand a little when I petted her. She was not going to be any trouble. I felt sure of it.

At the church the first question was how to get the donkey inside to the room the other guys had already set up for her comfort until she should be needed for the theatrical trip carrying mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt at the end of the pageant’s nativity drama. There was already fodder and water and the needed huge amount of newspapers to catch any posterior accidents.

Flossie came down the board ramp to the side of the church as though that board ramp was as familiar as her stall. But when we put the same ramp down for her passage into the church she froze. We begged with pleas and strokes, threatened with a belt and fists, bribed with carrots and apples, blindfolded and tugged, pushed and half lifted the beast, but she stood as still and firm as the Statute of Liberty. After better than a half hour of failing to get forward progress, we tried turning her around for another approach, but this also failed.

Exhausted all three of Flossie’s keepers gave up and sat down for a minute to smoke a cigarette. Suddenly Flossie moved and so quickly that she was in the church and half way down the hall to sanctuary before we could get to our feet and chase her. Which we did. Too late. Near the end of the hall she turned sharply into the pastor’s office, where she instantly half squatted to defecate. She did that copiously on both the rug and the floor and the pastor’s desk.

We of course went to work cleaning up behind her and quiding her into the room prepared for her. Another half hour later we conferenced and decided this gliche was not going to ruin her expected performance. Soon the other members of the cast turned up and all showed affection for dear Flossie. i said nothing about her former misdeeds.

Since the dresss rehearsal was to precede the play, we ahd plenty of time to practice observing Flossie make numerous practice walks around the alter to the imagined Egypt on the other side of the alter and back again. Some of them involved the playing of loud organ music, the darkening of the sanctuary,and the presence of an audience standing close to the donkey’s path. Nothing worried her in the least. She performed beautifully. i began to relax. The pageant was rather silly to me, but Mrs O’Conner was going to be made proud of the donkey she had loaned to me. The writer’s health was not good I had been told, and she would definitely not be attending this performance.

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