I finally told the other three, “If you think you have the balls, then let’s go to that Church and see who can do the deed.”
Don shook his head. “Count me out. I’m going home.” I saw worry on his face, but not for us. I dismissed it at the moment.
“Okay, Don. Have a good night, and a merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” he mumbled. As he walked away, some of the other guys called him a pussy. He kept walking without another word.
We went to the church without him, and soon stood before the life-size Nativity scene. And we stood silently for several minutes.
Finally, one of my friends asked, “So who’s it gonna be?”
“Don’t look at me,” I said.
With a chuckle, the most outgoing among us said, “Hey, you were the one who challenged the size of our balls. Do you have any?”
I wasn’t about to turn down that challenge, so I stepped over the rail and knelt down to pilfer the Jesus doll... and then I saw it move.
“Holy shit,” I said. “That’s a real baby.”
“Bull,” a friend said. “It’s a realistic doll.”
The baby cried. “Nope, that’s a real baby, alright,” Mr. Outgoing said. “My sister has one.”
Another friend said, “Dude, your sister’s only sixteen.”
“Shut up,” I yelled, bringing louder cries from the baby. This startled my friends, so they darted toward the road.
Mr. Outgoing said, “Someone heard it! Come on, man, get out of there!”
I picked the baby up. It was somehow warm, even lying out in the element like that. I smiled and said, “You go on. I need to make sure this kid is taken care of.”
“Suit yourself.” He and the other two fled as a light shone on me.
I held a hand up to see a man holding a flashlight. It was Father O’Neil. “What are you doing in the Nativity, son? Are you stealing the Lord Christ child?”
I gulped. “Someone already did. They left a real baby in His place... sir.”
He briefly moved the beam from my eyes to the child in my arms before pulling out a cell phone and dialing 911. After relaying the story, he hung up to wait for the police to arrive. Once the phone was back in his pocket, he asked me, “And how did you come to discover this child?”
I blurted out, “I was walking by and heard a baby cry, so I followed the sound.”
He frowned. “Is that true?”
I thought about the events of the evening. Finally, I said, “No; but I tell you what. If you don’t tell the cops what I was doing out here, I won’t tell them what you did to traumatize Don Wilkins.”
It was a bluff, but I saw the priest’s face. I didn’t know anything, but apparently he didn’t know that, and he panicked. Something had been done to Don, and Father O’Neil’s facial expression spilled the entire story. Finally, he grunted out, “Deal. Now hand me that baby and get out of here.”
I found myself growing angry. “No. I’ll hold onto the kid until the cops get here, if you don’t mind.”
When the cops came, we answered their questions without mentioning each other’s crime. I lived up to my part of the bargain, and he his. The baby was taken to social services and I later learned he had found a new family for Christmas, so he had a happy ending. I was determined to see to it that he wasn’t the only one.
The next day, I went to Don’s house and told him that I understood why he hated that church. He hugged me, tears streaming down his face. I asked if he wanted to see Father O’Neil behind bars, so he agreed to go to the cops himself and report it. Apparently, Don hadn’t been the only former altar boy abused by the priest, and more stepped forward once he was arrested. I felt a Christmas miracle had been done by my friend Don and countless other abuse survivors, and it was all because a dumb teenage boy had tried to prove he had the balls to steal baby Jesus.