I was coming back from the Dropp Inn and I met the three wise men, standing in the lane outside The Tasty Spot, at the fence, broken glass at their feet, munching into a kebab.
‘Whit did you dae with your camels?’ I asked Melchor.
‘I think we’re eating one of them.’ Melchor made a face as he bit into the Pitta bread, the sauce running down his hand. He was the smallest of the wandering trio. They all insisted on wearing the same gear so non-wise men and non-wise women, didn’t discriminate against them: black Crombie coat down to his ankles, Ugg boots and a tartan bunnet, the peak of which keeps the rain from spattering the thick lenses of his specs.
Not that I’m saying the other wise men wear specs. I’m not very good at explaining things. Caspar is a big black man that doesn’t even wear the traditional tartan bunnet, which isn’t very wise, as it always rains in Scotland, especially when it was meant to be dry. But you wouldn’t argue with him, because he’s a heavyweight, who practiced scowling for a living. And when it does come to an argument he turns everything into a Chinese proverb. Nobody wants to argue with a Chinese proverb, not even me. ‘The camels are tied up behind the pub.’ He nodded his head in that direction.
I’m not saying I didn’t believe him, but like the Tau, black can be white and white black and Caspar was a sour faced cunt, so I stretched my legs and peeked around the corner. Sure enough Balthazar was tending the camels, which were tied by gold cords to the back fence of the pub and burdened with enough cheap tat to shame a goat herder. From what I could see the wise men hadn’t been very wise in their purchases, but they were immigrants and you’ve got to expect that kind of thing. There just wasn’t enough jobs for wise men in the East. Nor would it have been politically correct to describe Balthazar as a weedy and baldy Jew, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was just happy to have a job as wise man.
‘How you doin Balthazar?’ I held up my hand in greeting. Balthazar speaks more languages than Google, but he never tried to teach me English, which I appreciated.
‘Yes, apart from losing the star. It is very favourable conditions.’ He slapped one of the camels on the nose with the back of his hand because it was trying to eat his ear. ‘Stop it,’ he added as the camel nuzzled up to him.
That made me think, something I didn’t do very often, there was more going on there as meets the eye. Now I came to think of it Balthazar was always tending the camels while the other two were inside arguing about whose turn it was to buy a round. You’d have thought being wise men they’d have been able to count to two. Melchor had once pulled out a sword that most of us agreed was no’ a bad chib, but he was too late, Caspar caught him with the low blow of a Chinese proverb, and it fell clattering to the ground. Next thing Melchor was up at the bar buying double whiskeys. Makes you think, who was paying for the drinks for all these wise men, but us dafties? I sneaked away with Melchor’s sword to teach him a valuable lesson about leaving things lying about, but Caspar spotted me.
‘There’s none so blind as those that won’t see.’ I speared him with that saying and nipped out the door, before he caught me with a rejoinder.
I caught up with them later at their campsite in what they called The Green Oasis. We just called it Dalmuir Park. The wise men were impressive tent makers and, even by Dalmuir standards, impressive bevvy artists. They had a couple of mallard ducks turning on a spit, a brazier kept your arse warm and they had all kinds of drinks but seemed to favour a local beverage called Eldorado.
Let me tell you, I don’t usually get involved in wise-man business, but because I was there and because of the Eldorado I thought I was a wise guy too. If someone is daft enough to hand you the microphone, of course, you’re going to sing. So I was hooked into the group that helped decide who the next Messiah was. The star had went missing and it was down to us to find him.
‘Look,’ I said, ‘it’s pretty simple, everyone thinks they’re the Messiah, but why don’t you ask them to prove it.’
‘A new beginning, a guide to all nations, in the form of a new-born child.’ Balthazar was drinking from a bottle of brandy with a poofy name, and he didn’t even blink, when he took a swig. ‘How is that possible?’
‘Easy, the proof is in the pudding. America elected a donkey.’ I winked at Caspar, to get him on board.
‘Whit is this election, thing, you’re speaking about?’ Melchor was a greedy bastard. He’d a duck leg in his hand and was scratching at his teeth with a long fingernail trying to get a bit of prime flesh out of his strong white teeth.
‘An actual physical donkey,’ Balthazar cut in, his hand up in a stop sign, ‘and not as a metaphor?’
‘Aye, I mean no’. Anyway, that’s the old way of doing things.’ I said, ‘the proof is in the pudding again’ and blundered on, ‘everything is on the internet nowadays. Put out a call, ask for the Messiah to come in an audition.’ I was winging it now, flung down another swig of Eldorado to help me think. ‘Put it on the telly, ask him to do the usual stuff, water into wine, walking on water, raising a dead person from the dead.’
‘A dead person?’ Caspar raised his eyebrows so high, his hair went on holiday. I waited for him to add something to his statement, because it usual came in a tick-tock kind of rhythm. But what worried me more was he’d stopped drinking. Between me and you, I didn’t mind admitting I think he might have had an alcohol-dependence problem.
Alkies don’t usually bother me, but I decided to do a bit of backtracking. ‘Aye, well, maybe no’ raise an actual physical person. Maybe start with a hamster.’
‘Or a donkey?’ Balthazar had that smug look on his mug.
‘Fuck off.’ The vehemence in my voice surprised me, but him goading me, give me another idea. ‘Well, I’m no’ saying the Messiah should go on the telly and actually kill somebody, but we could maybe wait for an old person to die, stick some tubes down his throat, up his nose, down his ear and all that and when he was deid we could film it and then when’s he’s risen we could slow-mo re-run of all those wee things kicking off. We could have David Attenborough doing the commentary.’
I looked from one wise man to the other. ‘David Attenborough.’ I said it again. They couldn’t help being impressed. ‘Aye, David Attenborough.’ That’s when I had my revelation. ‘We could cut out the middleman. Wire David Attenborough up with all the gadgets. Cause he’s about 95 and can’t have long to go and he can do his own commentary of himself dying. And then we can wheel in the Messiah and he can bring him back to life and David Attenborough could do the commentary of himself coming back to life.’ I took another swig of Eldorado and flung the empty outside the tent.