The Cattle Are Lowing

by Jane Davitt

Jim stood in the throng of carolers and tried not to wince. Good hearing didn't necessarily mean perfect pitch for most people, but for a Sentinel, apparently it came with the package.

Thirty people, good cops, nice people, and not one of them could carry a tune in the proverbial bucket. He was in agony here and the clink and rustle of money dropped into the collecting tins for the orphans was the only welcome sound.

His feet were wet and cold, too.

Resolutely miming to 'Away in a Manger' because he wasn't going to be part of the massacre of one of his favorite carols, he let his thoughts stray to Mary and Joseph's dilemma. Today, they'd go to a shelter, he supposed; in a small town they might even get moved on as vagrants.

He wondered what he'd do if someone turned up on his doorstep, homeless, in need, desperate for a place to sleep. Easy to blame the innkeeper and call him hardhearted, but nowadays with fire regulations and occupancy limits, Mary and Joseph wouldn't have fared much better.

Blair elbowed him in the ribs, reminding him of one waif and stray he'd taken in. A week? It had been four years now, and Blair was showing no signs of leaving, not that Jim wanted him to. "Sing, will you?" Blair hissed. "Pretend you're in the shower."

In the press of people, Jim could get away with goosing Blair. The resultant yelp was a perfect C that rang out loud and clear.

Jim grinned and joined in for the final chorus.

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