A Christmas Tale
Velvel shivered in the cold winter wind. His pelt was not as dense as it once had been. In his youth Velvel’s thick, lupine fur had been as black as the midnight sky. His hunter’s eyes had flashed with the reflected brilliance of a thousand stars, as bright as the one he now saw passing in the night.
Now Velvel’s coat was gray. His eyes were as milky as the clouded objects captured by his gaze. His once-taut muscles hung loosely, and his stiff joints ached with a cold kind of fire.
The shepherds had caught and killed the stronger, younger members of Velvel’s clan. Alas, the young wolves had possessed the strength to pursue and feast on the flocks but neither the wit nor the speed to elude the shepherds’ traps or outrun their stones and arrows.
Now Velvel was alone. He was old, he was tired and he felt very hungry. From a distance he stalked the grazing flocks, hoping to spot a lamb who had wandered away or a birthing ewe or a helplessly blind old ram. The last time Velvel had chased a stray lamb, it had gamboled away before he could catch it. He had been reduced to eating carrion from which he frightened away the vultures with a menacing growl. If he didn’t find something to eat soon, it would not be long before they would be feeding on his flesh!
Then, amazingly, the star passed directly overhead. It left a trail of blazing light and something else—strains of unheard music, shadows of something unseen. The shepherds stared after the star. Then, as though transfixed, they rose together as one and began to follow the star in the direction of the nearby town.
Velvel saw that the gate to the sheepfold had been left open. There was nothing between him and all those sheep. There were no shepherds and no staffs or stones to stop him. At the thought of the warm, tender lamb’s flesh that soon might fill his belly, juices Velvel had not experienced for many days flooded his mouth, swept over the stumps of his ancient yellow teeth and wet the matted fur at his chest.
Velvel struggled to his feet as quickly as he could—but wait! He must be careful. Even if the shepherds were not there to defend the flock, most of the sheep could run faster than he could. So, using all the stealth he could muster, he crouched low and pulled himself along, slowly creeping ever closer to the sleeping flock.
As Velvel came quite close to his prey, he stood erect and prepared to attack. Then he looked up once more at that star in the night sky—and felt—what? Expectancy? Weariness? Reluctance? He was uncertain.
Velvel yawned a great wolf yawn. Perhaps he was not so hungry after all. A nap would be nice. He eased his grizzled haunches down onto the hard soil of the sheep pen outside of Bethlehem and lay down very close to a warm, sleeping lamb.
The lamb stirred. Opening just one eye, he looked up at Velvel. Then he turned and went back to sleep, unafraid. Side by side, the two slept and dreamed about a great and beautiful light that grew and grew until its brilliance and warmth flooded the whole earth.