December 22nd

Otto, the choir master, was under strict instructions to stay in bed and rest, but at last he was given the okay from the hospital to leave. He would stay with the pastor, where the housekeeper could help look after him. Most of the village came to visit at some point and Ludwig came up with a plan to make sure he could take part in the festivities. Since Anton was staying with Ludwig for the festivities, he was able to lend Otto his fancy, movable bed. They would be able to decorate it nicely and, by wrapping him up in festive blankets, he would be able to spend Christmas with everyone else in the barn, without disobeying doctor’s orders to stay in bed. Otto was so happy, he cried when they shared the plan with him.

Ludwig returned to the barn in the evening, to run through the plans once again, double-checking every item to ensure that nothing was missing. The villagers had done a great job, hanging up decorations, setting up the tree and piling up the presents around it. Everyone had a task and they all worked together to see it through. The electrician helped wire all the festive lights properly, so there would be no chance of a power outage. Some families had brought and set up warming plates and fridges in the barn to keep the food and drinks warm or cold, as necessary. Most brought heaters and blankets, pillows and chairs to make sure everybody would be cosy, warm and comfortable.

Huge pots of punch and boxes upon boxes of Christmas cookies began to fill the barn with the scent of cinnamon, apples, oranges cloves and gingerbread. Ludwig saw that the first items of fresh food were already in the fridge and cutlery and napkins had been laid out on the tables.

He thought he could sit in here forever, but it was getting late and the barn was no substitute for a comfortable bed.

“We should call it a night, I think, Gary,” he said.
Silence. The goat, who had been by his side all day, was gone.

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