Jerusalem, December 15, 2010: The Archeological Museum announced today the historic discovery of scrolls dating from approximately 0 A.D. The scrolls were found inside an urn buried under a mound of fossilized sheep dung in cave on the western slope of Mt Ararat. The discovery was made by a couple of French backpackers, Moses and Rebekka Valmont. While hiking, they were arguing about honeybees and Noah’s Arc. Moses insisted that only a queen and a drone were taken on board, while Rebekka claimed that the queen would have had an entourage of worker bees with her, as otherwise she would not have survived nor been able to lay eggs. Distracted by their argument, they stumbled into the cave. Immediately, they donned their energy-efficient headlamps and espied the handle of an urn. Moses dug out the urn with his penknife while Rebekka smoked a Gauloise, and discovered that sheep dung, even fossilized sheep dung, is highly flammable. However, they managed to extract the urn – with its precious contents - from its armor of fossilized sheep dung. Scholars at the museum in Jerusalem have been working day and night to translate these extraordinary documents. The following appears to be the narrative of a shepherd from the region of Bethlehem.
“Last week the weather took a turn for the worse so my flock and I came down from the hills looking for some warmth. Actually I was looking for warmth and olives and mead, and the sheep just followed me because that is what sheep do. That is how we ended up in a decrepit stable along with a carpenter, his very pregnant wife, three guys who smelled like incense and spoke a strange tongue, and a bunch of annoying androgynes with molting wings and later I learned they were the latest fashion in angels. To make a long story short, the pregnant wife gave birth – which was amazing since the angels kept telling us she was a virgin – and we all ended up hanging out in the stable, drinking mead and keeping warm. By morning, we had all agreed to stay in touch and exchanged addresses, though this was hard because the three foreigners were still unintelligible and the new parents and their babe were about to flee into Egypt.
But that’s not the point. The point is, the reason I am writing all this down and the reason I will put this scroll in a safe place when I am finished, is that without this document future generations – those of you reading this in a couple of thousand years – will have only the dimmest idea of what that guy in a homespun robe with a crooked staff and mangy sheep was doing in the stable on that night. Because most of you will not have the slightest idea what a shepherd does, because sheepherding will no longer be considered as a serious career option. Here in Judea, there will be no more shepherds, or very few, because sheep and goats are ruminants with no concern for ecological sustainability and they will have eaten every bit of greenery, every bud, every stick of an olive tree trying to survive. Most of the sheep in the world will be in China; in fact there will be twice as many sheep in China as there are in Australia, second on the Global sheep stock list. My country won’t even make the list.
Things will have changed so much that the ‘authorities’ will object to a store’s very generous proposition of giving away a sheep with each refrigerator. I have only the dimmest notion of what is a refrigerator, but I am well acquainted with sheep, and this seems to me a good idea. And if the Muslims, whoever they may be, choose to slaughter the gifted sheep, well that is fine too.
And how do I know this? Because I am a fictional character, and I know whatever my creator chooses for me to know, and little else.
Now I am going to roll up this scroll tighter than a sheep’s rectum and stick it in this urn.