The best that Kim and Craig could work out was that Braydon had somehow come detached from the tree, which had fallen on top of Second and Third Sheep, which in turn had fallen onto Tayla. Kassie, unharmed physically but having experienced too many traumas with her brother that week, vindicated in her warnings yet feeling no victory, had retreated into the corner in tears, her angelic prophecy left hanging, much like Braydon, who was swinging wildly from the harness, his right arm the worse for wear.
When he finally became coherent at the hospital, Braydon mentioned that, as he had fallen from the tree, his right arm, positioned as it was in the star shield, had bent awkwardly in response to the fall, and that he had heard something like a snap, having around that moment then lost consciousness.
“It wasn’t your fault,” said Sue.
“Yes it was,” said Grant. “You were a dickhead.”
Braydon mumbled, “I thought you told me not to swear.”
“It was necessary,” said Grant.
He held Braydon’s left hand while the doctor prepared the cast.
Much of the town was still gathered at the hall as Sue, Grant, Braydon and a slightly less teary Kassie drove back from the hospital. Parking at the hall, Grant stepped outside for a moment to say, “It’s okay. He’s broken his arm, but he’s okay.” Most just stared awkwardly at Grant, but he looked unabashed back at them. “Is something wrong?” he added. “Is my second head showing?” No-one said anything, and Grant returned to the car and drove home. He slept that night at his old house, in his old bed.
In the morning, tongues – temporarily paralysed by Grant’s unexpected confidence – were wagging once more. Some said the usual things:
“Can you believe his nerve?”
“Who did he think he was, talking to us like that?”
“Thinks he’s the normal one, does he?”
But others were rehearsing new lines.
“Maybe,” said Ethel, “the play was telling us something.”
“What?” asked May.
“I’m not sure,” said Ethel. “But I felt like it was…speaking to us.”
May said nothing, but felt somehow that Ethel was right.
Kev too felt different, and, when Rob started on his usual tirade against Grant, said, “Maybe we need to give him a chance.”
Rob, however, thought nothing of the sort, and was in the middle of covering all the reasons, from the cult in Warrnambool to the unroadworthy incident on the road to Mt Gambier when Grant himself walked into the store to buy milk.
“My ears are burning,” he said.
“Oh,” said Rob.
“Keep going,” he said. “I’m enjoying the story.”
“Nah,” said Rob. “It’s okay.”
“It’s a bit boring, though,” said Grant. “I mean, the truth was way more interesting. The bit about the Virgin Mary was way off. It was a vision of a Native American deity. I was high at the time.”
Someone shuffled their feet. Another said, “Hmph.”
“But the truth’s always weirder than the fiction. That’s what I learnt.”
The cash register stopped.
“I mean, can you imagine what I found?”
No-one imagined. No-one said anything.
“There was actually a group of people who thought something way stranger than anything I’d heard before.”
A child dropped an apple. Their mother picked the apple up and told them to shush.
“They believed that God came to earth and walked around as a human, then died, then rose again.”
The child crunched on the apple. The mother said, “Shush,” again.
“Can you believe that? It puts our town gossip to shame. I had to get in on that one.”
No-one could believe it. No-one replied.
“Got no response?” said Grant.
Nope. No response handy.
“I might just get some milk,” said Grant. Everyone stayed still. “Excuse me, Rob,” said Grant.
“The milk’s behind you, mate.”
“Oh,” said Rob.
Grant took the milk, paid and left. For a moment, the silence in the store looked set to last longer than any the town had heard before. It was broken only by Braydon appearing in the doorway, arm in a sling, calling out, “He can fly, you know.”
You’ll still hear differing accounts, of course. Those who still have it in for Grant will tell the story in such a way that he is entirely to blame. Those who hate Tayla’s mother – there’s a few of them – will suggest it was Tayla’s fault all along. Jordan still looks sheepish about it all, as does Third Sheep. But this conclusion, when all’s said, is the closest the town has come to unanimity about the events: that Braydon thought he could fly, that the sheep got stuck, and that Tayla, annoying though her mother is, was not really to blame for any of it.
And the sight of Grant driving around town, once again in his McKenna Electrical van, causes less stir than it did once. Most people let him into their homes to do work for them, and the word is that Sue is once again doing the books for the company. He has fewer visions of supernatural deities preventing him from concluding jobs. In fact, he has none. But he has one strange idiosyncracy, which is that, out of respect for his son, he never helps install Christmas lights. His son, it seems, has an incurable fear of Christmas trees, at least of anything balancing on top of them, and Grant says he doesn’t want to upset his son more than he has done already.
Though relatively pleased with the success of their first experiment with theatre, Kim and Craig say that they are happy not to do a Christmas play again next year. They have another event to organise, and have heard that there is a wonderful song that the children can sing together, called “Christmas is a Birthday Party”. Kim hopes that, as with all songs that the primary school kids have sung in the past, it will die quietly after they sing it and never be heard again.