Christmas in Paris: What If It Had All Started Here?
- Published on Wednesday, 09 December 2015 00:00
- Written by David Jaggard
The Greatest Story
Ever Told, Retold
If that star had shone about 2,000 miles farther north and west, nativity scenes would look like this today.
Some people think of him as a divine prophet, some think of him as a historical figure, and others only think of him when they hit their thumb with a hammer. But myth or messiah, there’s one thing certain about Jesus Christ: he sure gets a lot of attention this time of year.
As the Christmas decorations began cropping up around town in the past week or so, I started thinking: Paris was already a city in Year One. What if Jesus had been born here instead of in Bethlehem? That old familiar tale would read rather differently...
... And in those days there went forth a decree from Caesar Sarkozus that everyone in the land be taxed. Again. This time it was to fund the construction of a curved, pointy, all-bronze tower in the capital that would be “taller than the pyramids.” Another crazy government scheme.
Anyway, thus it came to pass that all citizens, for like the fifth time that year, had to go to their town of origin to register for this new fiscal program.
Out in the distant suburbs, beyond Bus Zone Five, there lived a carpenter named Joseph. Or at least he hoped to be a carpenter someday — he had failed the university entrance exam, gone to trade school and passed all the carpentry courses three years earlier but was still waiting for his certification to come through.
Joseph was originally from Paris, so he had to go there to register with his wife Marie-Christine, who was great with child. Which came as sort of a surprise to Joseph because, well... Ahh, let’s just say that he was surprised, but didn’t dwell on it.
When they arrived in Paris, all the inns were already full because in addition to the influx of tax registrants like them, plus the regular crowds of tourists, it was also Fashion Fortnight and marketplace buyers from all over the known world were in town to check out the new spring-summer 0001 robes, sandals and headcloths.
After seeking lodging all afternoon in vain, Joseph and Marie-Christine, weary and donkey-lagged, finally got what must have been the last available rental in town, found through a new service called EarthWaterAndFireBnB.
It was a top-floor walk-up maid’s room in a building whose ground floor was occupied by a 24-hour bagel and burger joint. Not exactly heavenly, but in a good location near the Arc de Triomphe.
Just as the landlord finished explaining how they shouldn’t talk to anyone, especially the neighbors, about having rented the place, Marie-Christine’s water broke. So they resaddled the donkey and took off for the nearest hospital.
By the time they got to the ER, her contractions were only a few minutes apart. But first the receptionist insisted on having copies of Marie-Christine’s national ID card, passport, health-insurance papers, social-security attestation, liability waiver and surgery consent form in case she needed a robespierrean section, all of which had to be prepared by an official scribe.
Then there was another a delay when it turned out that they had forgotten to bring their most recent lamp-oil bill as proof of domicile, but finally she was admitted, and the baby, a seven-pound, nine-ounce boy, was born one minute after midnight on December 25th.
This was before the days of four-month maternity leave, so Joseph and Marie-Christine immediately clothed their son in a swaddling ensemble from the Pagan Dior junior collection and went back to their garret.
Meanwhile, in the yard of a country house in the Oise region north of Paris, three former classmates from a prestigious lycée — a poet, a philosopher and a researcher — were hanging out, drinking mead spritzers and talking about a grandiose business plan to market a smartscroll search app consisting of a team of learned scholars to whom users could submit questions delivered by fleet-footed messenger.
Suddenly, an angel appeared before them in a pool of light. The men gaped in awe as she opened her mouth to speak, but before she could get a word out, the researcher asked, “Are you here to invest in our startup?”
“I’m not that kind of angel,” she said. “But behold, I bring you glad tidings.”
“Why should we perceive your tidings to be, as you say, ‘glad’ if you are not prepared to offer what we require most, namely seed capital for our visionary venture?” the philosopher asked.
“Shut up and listen for once, willya?” the angel replied. “This night a great king is born in Paris, I think in the eighth arrondissement. Or maybe it’s the 17th. Whatever — head for the star, look for a manger and you shall find him.”
Figuring that maybe a new monarch would give them a grant for their project, or at least a tax break, they decided to go into town and seek him out. And if they couldn’t find him, maybe take in the late show at the Folies Bergères, which the researcher had heard was really hot stuff, featuring a lascivious new dance called the urn-urn.
Only two of the men had horses (the poet had never been able to afford one), so they took off with their deux chevaux, galloping really fast in the left lane and “tailnosing” all the chariots on the road to Paris.
Halfway there they stopped off at the Carolus Gallus carrier-pigeon station to pick up a few gifts in duty free: a gold Cartier hourglass, a bottle of Chanel No. 1 and some foie gras.
Arriving in the city, they got stuck on a narrow street behind a slow-moving oxcart full of people. By coincidence, it was the chorus line from the Folies Bergères, who had just got off work and were on their way to an after-hours club on the Champs Elysées.
Hoping to maybe get something going with one of the dancers later, the poet invited them all to go see the newborn king, and they headed en masse for the “star” — Place de l’Etoile.
After going around the traffic circle, harried and disoriented, about 10 times, one of them spotted an ad for the bagel and burger stand with the slogan “Bon à Manger,” and hither they went.
They found the new mother downstairs in the restaurant, posing with the baby for an entire roomful of painters. There seemed to be hundreds of them. The manager was storming around yelling, “Bohemian deadbeats! Either order something or get out!”
Joseph was in the corner with his toolbox, putting together a crib from IKΣA and staring in disbelief at the instructions. Threading their way among the easels, the Three Oise Men gathered around the baby and proffered their gifts while the Bergères chorines all got down on one knee to do stretches.
“What’s your name?” one of the dancers asked the mother.
“Marie-Christine,” she replied.
“Where’d you ever get a name like that?” the philosopher asked. “And what about the baby? What’s his name?”
“Yes,” the visitors and artists all cried in chorus. “What would be his name?”
Just then Joseph hit his thumb with a hammer.
Note to readers: David Jaggard’s e-book Quorum of One: Satire 1998-2011 is now available on Amazon as well as iTunes, iBookstore, Nook, Reader Store, Kobo, Copia and many other distributors.
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