Three hot, dusty camels trudge across a nighttime desert waste. Their hotter, dustier riders slump tiredly in their seats. Each occasionally looks up at a particularly bright star in the sky ahead of them.
Melchior: <Straightens and begins to sing>We three kings of Orient are. Bearing gifts we….
Gaspar: Oh cripes! He’s in the mead again, Balthazar!
Balthazar: Melchior, will you please quit it with the
kings bit? No one believes you.
Gaspar: Seriously. If we are supposed to be kings, where are our entourages?
Melchior: Like I told that barmaid back in Jerusalem, Gaspar: “With the economic downturn, we’ve had to make cutbacks in the sycophant budget.”
Gaspar: And how’d that pickup line work out for you, your majesty?
Melchior: Shut up.
<They ride along through a brief silence>
Balthazar: And why do you need to pump yourself up, anyway? We’re astrologers—the best astrologers in the world. We can look into the sky and divine the purposes of God.
Melchior: <Yodels>We are the Kings of Astrology!
<Balthazar and Gaspar shake their heads>
Balthazar: Speaking of kings, I woke up this morning with the unmistakable impression that once we find this kid, we should go home some way other than back through Jerusalem.
Gaspar: Gee, you think? That Herod character seemed a bit too eager to hand over the keys to the palace to a replacement he never heard of. If I really were a king, my definition of “going and worshiping him too” would consist mostly of dropping the kid in a very deep well.
Melchior: I’m happy to go home another route. Herod smells worse than ol’ Camile here. <Slaps his camel’s flank affectionately>
Gaspar: That, and the fact that that barmaid’s father will have had all this intervening time to sharpen his scimitar….
<Balthazar coughs on some sand>
Balthazar: Well, whatever Melchior’s thinking about kingship and whatnot, he’s got the right idea about a drink. <Starts to rummage through his camel’s pack. Finds a present and pulls it out> Hey! My gift for the kid! Did you guys remember to bring yours?
Gaspar: Don’t you think you might have asked that question earlier, when we were still able to turn around?
Balthazar: I got him a batch of Frankincense.
Melchior: Still on with the incense? It’s a baby. You’ll give it colic.
Balthazar: Look, my reading still says the kid’s gonna be a god. He better get used to people waving incense around his face. What’d you get him, Gaspar?
Melchior: Cash? You got him cash? You might as well have gotten him a Target gift card!
Gaspar: Look, my reading is that the child will be a king, not a god…
Balthazar: Something you might have kept to yourself around Herod…
Gaspar: <Overrides Balthazar’s interjection>… and nothing says
you’re the king quite like gold.
Melchior: Gold says,
Here’s some cash, I couldn’t be bothered to think of anything appropriate to get you.
Gaspar: <Makes a rude gesture a Melchior>OK, Miss Manners, what did you get the child?
Melchior: <Mumbles something>
Gaspar: What’s that? You didn’t really forget your gift, did you? You’re not adding your name onto my tag, like you did for Balthazar’s last birthday.
Balthazar: I remember that. You still owe me a gift.
Melchior: I didn’t forget my gift. It’s secure in my pack.
Balthazar: Then what is it?
Melchior: Look, my reading just doesn’t end well for this poor kid. Doom, Gathering Gloom, Death, and all that.
<Gaspar and Balthazar stare at Melchior aghast.>
Gaspar: Melchior, you cannot give a shroud for a baby shower gift.
Melchior: No! No. I just got to thinking and Myrrh popped into my head.
Gaspar: Perfume? You bought a baby perfume?
Balthazar: Maybe the mom will like it.
Melchior: I didn’t actually get pure Myrrh…. That’s kind of expensive, and I’m a little short this month.
Balthazar: Then what are you… Wait! You didn’t, Melchior.
Melchior: <Defiantly>Yes I did. What of it?
Balthazar: You brought a bottle of Fernet Branca?!?
Gaspar: I’d have gone with the perfume.
Melchior: Come on, it’s got Myrrh in it! And we love it.
Gaspar: We are bartenders.
Balthazar: We are astrologers.
Gaspar: We are astrologers who tend bar to make ends meet. Together, that makes us the wisest men on Earth.
But after a long shift kissing the backsides of arrogant camel brokers in their red power keffiyehs, we need something exotic to cleanse the pallet. Fernet Branca gets rid of every bad taste you got in one shot.
Balthazar: Leaves it’s own rather… imposing set of aftertastes. Like the Myrrh, for instance.
Melchior: I brought a case of Canada Dry Ginger Ale too.
Gaspar: Oh… well… that’s fine then.
<Melchior starts to relax.>
Gaspar: Except, have you forgotten it’s a gift for a freaking baby?
Melchior: Look guys, like I said: My reading says this kid has got a rough road ahead. I figure he’s going to need to fight off a lot of bad tastes in his mouth. I’m just trying to equip him properly.
<Tired, companionable silence>
Gaspar: <Spits>Ugh, all this sand… Look, Melchior, I’ve got a lot of gold here. It was a good month for tips for me. Let’s stop off at the next town, and we’ll buy some real Myrrh for your gift.
Balthazar: Perfume would be more appropriate for a god than booze….
Melchior: <Suspiciously>And why, pray tell, are you suddenly feeling so much like sharing, Gaspar?
Gaspar: Well…. <rubs his throat> If you are going to give real Myrrh when we find the kid, then we can crack open your bottle of Fernet Branca right now….
<Fade to black>
Balthazar: Um, Melchior, I don’t suppose you brought any Moxie, did you?
And that, children, is the real story of Epiphany!