Ever since I was a boy I wanted to be an innkeeper. I thought I'd make lots of money, but the grownup reality turned out very differently. I'm the only one in town, yet it's a constant battle to make ends meet. Jerusalem's innkeepers do quite well, with lots of pilgrims three times a year, but I closed that door by falling foul of a powerful man. The choice was simple: Move to a small town, or be buried in Jerusalem. I moved.
I hated small-town life. Still hates it. For a man born in Jerusalem, used to the finer things in life, the small world of the townsfolk was torture. I tried a few places, finally ended up in Bethlehem, the town of David. Great history, but these days it is not exactly known as a tourist destination, so customers are scarce. And very demanding when they do come. But as long as they pay, everything's fine. Shekel, drachma or denarius, every currency is welcome in this inn!
Somewhere in all of this I lost myself. As the years went by I resigned myself to a life of struggle. You make mistakes, you pay for it. With every passing day I got more tired, more depressed, more hopeless. The childhood stories of our great nation faded into legend. The promise of a future king became a fantasy. Every silver lining had a big dark cloud in its heart.
Good news is hard to find these days. That's why I was rubbing my hands together when news came of Caesar's census. At the rate kids leave this town when they grow up, lots of people would have to return to be counted. Some would definitely stay with family, but there would be a lot more looking for a room, I was sure of that!
As always, my neighbours complained. I ignored them. So what if Caesar's meddling messed up their lives? All I could see was my fortunes rising with every tired traveler. One man's discomfort was another man's bread. Of course the tax collector would want his share of the spoils, but I have learned how to deal with that. You can't confiscate what you can't find, right?
Things turned out even better than I had hoped. I could charge what I wanted and get away with it. Looking back I know I should have built an extra room, as I planned before my wife got in the way. I had to turn away people keen to pay for a bed. Tonight this town is filled to capacity, and beyond. I even had to put a pregnant girl and her distressed husband in my stall. They couldn't pay my rates, but she was highly pregnant, and I had to be pragmatic: What if she gave birth outside my door? That would be really bad for business: "The inn that turned away a pregnant lady". Couldn't risk that, could I?
I never thought I'd get excited about a census. Guess that says a lot about me, but who cares. Tomorrow there will be new demands, new visitors to be taken for a ride. So I'll put one weary foot in front of the other, ignore the complaints, do what needs to be done. Soon it will be over.
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