When they left the hospital it was after eight in the evening. By the time they reached the shelter they had stayed at the previous night, it was full and the doors locked. They had wandered the streets looking for some shelter from the wind and the cold. As they passed a vacant lot, Maura could walk no further. Jose saw the burn barrel, some wood, and a door on the side of a building that might help to shelter Maura. They stopped and Jose built a fire in the barrel.
Once again Maura’s scream broke into Jose’s thoughts. The contractions were coming much closer together now. Jose helped Maura count through the pain, encouraged her to take a deep breath, and then he stood up. He knew that the baby would be born very quickly now. There was no time to look for help. Having made up his mind, Jose took off his coats, sweater, shirt and undershirt. He carefully folded the undershirt and shirt and laid them next to the burn barrel to keep them warm. He then put his sweater, sweatshirt, scarf, and coat back on.
Reaching into his pocket, Jose pulled out a large pocket knife. It had been given to him by his grandfather. He opened the knife and reached into the fire for a burning board. Laying the open blade on the burning wood Jose was careful to sterilize as much of the knife as he could. Thus prepared, he knelt again by Maura and held her hand. Watching this steady, careful preparation, Maura suddenly found comfort in Jose’s presence and compassion, despite the great discomfort of birth.
Maura knew, was most certain, that she was supposed to be with Jose. She would never forget the look on her cousin Beth’s face, when she told her that she was leaving with Jose. Nothing Beth or Zack could have said would have changed her mind. Being eighteen, her cousin could not legally stop her and, given how busy the business was at that time, Beth did not try.
So, after the cherries were all picked, she joined with Jose in the migratory life. Until today, she had never questioned the correctness of her decision. When the next wave of pain struck, Maura sucked in air deep and quick. Gripping Jose’s hand tight, clenching her teeth, and listening to him count, she waited for the pain to pass. She was beginning to develop a routine as the contractions came ever more frequently.
Editor’s note: Check back here tomorrow for the next installment in Rev. Bill Sterritt’s modern adaptation of the nativity story. RI Future is serializing Sterritt’s 26-page short story throughout the holiday season. Here’s my post on the Amicable Congregational Church’s nativity story and scene.