Last Christmas Eve, I decided to stay up late and finally see for myself if the story is true, if animals are all given the power of speech at midnight. Legend has it, they’re briefly able to talk in order to spread the news of Jesus’s birth. What a wondrous thing that would be to witness.
So, after all the humans were asleep, I went out to the barn at 11:59, with a handful of Christmas cookies to offer. And sure enough, there was a rustling among all the animals there and a collective clearing of throats at the stroke of midnight. Then the animals all looked at me, and the talking began.
Jo-Jo was the first of the donkeys to speak. “Good Lord, you again?” she said. “Can’t you leave us in peace for 8 hours?”
Her steadfast companion, Foghorn, narrowed his eyes and said, “Looks like she’s gained weight again. She eats two cookies for every one she gives us.”
I took a step back in shock and stuffed the cookies back in my pocket before the donkeys could see them.
Then I heard a voice from the goat pen. “I haven’t seen hair like that since the 1980s.” A spider dangled from a dusty light fixture, eyed me critically and said, “You ever hear of Botox? I hear it’s all the rage.”
A mouse lolling atop a bale of hay yelled, “How come you never bring any cheese? Don’t you care about the hungry?” A toad emerged from under the water trough and said, “I read that last article you wrote. It sucked.”
As I turned and hurried out the barn, I heard an owl screeching, “Pay her no mind. She doesn’t even have a thousand Twitter followers.”
I got back to the house and slammed the door, breathing hard. It was a traumatic experience from which I still haven’t quite recovered.
And that, my friends, is how I came to discover the reason that animals, despite their incredible means of communicating without words and social media, never developed the capacity for language:
God loves us too much.
About the art: The image of “The Nativity” by the Italian painter Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni), which hangs at The Met in New York City, is in the public domain and was obtained through Wikimedia Commons.