Something nudged Brent; he roused and opened his eyes. A shape hung over him and he quickly turned on the bedside lamp. The shape instantly took on form and color, if not meaning. Brent closed his eyes again and then reopened them. The form persisted.
He elbowed his wife, sleeping in bed next to him.
“Wake up, honey.”
“There’s a llama in the room.”
A short silence was heard before Nina asked, “A one-l lama or a two-l llama?”
“Would one be better than the other?”
“The one-l lama might be housebroken. Otherwise, no.”
“It’s a two-l llama.”
Nina yawned. “What time is it?”
Brent craned his head a bit to see the clock. “It’s 2:30.”
“Why do you suppose there would be a llama of any number of l’s in our bedroom at 2:30 a.m.?”
“Haven’t a clue.”
“You haven’t interrogated the animal?”
“Don’t see much point. They never speak English.”
“Mm. I suppose not. They’re from Chile, aren’t they?”
“Sounds about right. Somewhere in the Andes, anyway.”
“Perhaps this one has a passport you could examine.”
“I feel as though you don’t believe me and that you’re patronizing me. Barely. Won’t you look over here so you can see there really is a two-l llama in our bedroom?”
Nina sighed theatrically but honestly; morning would come too soon as it was without extraneous apparitions. She rolled over toward her husband’s side of the bed and finally opened her eyes.
“Fine,” she said. “There’s a llama in our bedroom. I have an extremely important presentation to give at work in six and a half hours, so I’m going back to sleep. Please deal with this.” And she rolled back to her previous spot.
“That’s all the more curious you are about this?”
“I am … what’s that thing judges do?”
“No. An r-word. Recline? Recreate?”
“That’s it. I am recusing myself from the present peculiar circumstances because I have a conflict of interest with my need for sleep. Handle this, dear, and quietly. And turn the light off.”
“That’s your final word on the subject?”
“I hope so.”
He frowned and looked away from his wife. The llama stood high over him, regarding him placidly.
Brent tried to remember what precious little he had ever known about llamas. He seemed to recall their being described as gentle, good-natured beasts with soft hair. He was more concerned about the former as he pushed back the covers and stood up.
Now he stood high over the llama, which was about four and a half feet tall. Brent considered himself no expert on the matter, but this appeared to be a young llama, not yet fully grown. He patted its side and found the creature’s reputation for gentility was well deserved.
“C’mon,” Brent told it. “She needs her sleep. Like I don’t, but she makes more money than I do so she wins.”
After just a bit of work, Brent got the llama turned around and headed out of the bedroom. He reached back and turned off his lamp and followed the llama into the darkness.
The llama headed straight into the living room of the house. Brent turned on the lights to reveal a fully dressed man dozing lightly on the couch.
“Ed?” the man asked sleepily. “Is that you?”
“No,” Brent said.
The unfamiliar voice and unexpected reply woke the man fully. “Oh, God! Don’t shoot! Please, don’t shoot me!”
“Why not?” Brent asked.
“Because … because…” The man took stock of Brent’s pajamas and his empty hands. “Because you don’t have a gun.” And he relaxed a little. “Who are you? And what are you doing in Ed’s house?”
“My name is Brent, and neither of us is in Ed’s house. We are in my house. So the questions are: Who are you? What are you doing in my house? And does this llama belong to you?”
“Yeah, he’s mine. His name is Jesus,” which he pronounced hay-soos in the Spanish fashion. The man reached out a hand and the llama went over and nuzzled him briefly.
“Jesus the Llama.”
“Yeah, ’cause we had no idea how his mom got pregnant with no male llamas around.”
Brent found he had nothing to say about that, so he forged onward. “And my other questions?”
“Oh, I’m Maury. I thought this was Ed’s house. He said the family would probably be asleep when I showed up and I should just use the key under the mat to let myself in.”
“I don’t keep a key under the mat. How did you get in?”
“Well, that annoyed me a little at Ed, ’cause I thought he’d forgotten the key. I just picked the lock.”
“This is a skill you’ve perfected over the years?” Brent asked.
“Never done it before, in fact,” Maury said. “But I was tired and wanted in, so I figured it out. All I needed was my penknife. It was easy.”
Brent looked toward his front door and contemplated it afresh and uneasily.
“It was either that or break a window,” Maury continued. “Take your pick.”
“Neither would satisfy me. Why did you think this is Ed’s house?”
“The address, mostly: 46 Crestwood Lane.”
“This is 64 Crestwood Lane.”
Maury punched a sofa pillow in disgust. “Aww, man! My damn dyslexia again! But it is dark, you know.”
Brent nodded. “I suppose the glow-in-the-dark numbers on both the mailbox and the porch made it particularly difficult for you.”
Maury rolled his eyes and slumped back on the couch.
To satisfy an earlier point, Brent asked, “Llamas come from the Andes, don’t they?”
“Yep. But my family has had llamas for years. This guy’s a citizen; he’s from our farm near Fairview.”
“Does Ed know about Jesus the Llama?”
“Oh, sure,” Maury said, brightening again. “I brought him for Ed. Well, I mean, he’s my llama. I’m raising him on the farm and everything. But Ed wanted something special for some big fund-raiser his Lions Club is doing. He’s putting together a petting zoo and knew I had llamas.”
“And the llama shall lie down with the Lions,” Brent said.
“Something like that,” Maury agreed. “Jesus won’t even be the star attraction. Ed knows someone who’s got a camel and gives rides.”
“That will be exciting,” Brent nearly agreed. “Speaking of excitement, I think I’ve had enough for one night. Perhaps you and Jesus wouldn’t mind going up the road to see about boarding Ed’s ark. There’s really no room at this inn.”
“Oh, yeah, right.” Maury got up. “C’mon, Jesus. We’re in the wrong place. Let’s get you back in your trailer.” He put Jesus’ halter back on and picked up his suitcase. “I’m really sorry about this, man,” he told Brent.
“Accidents will happen. Good luck with the Lions, the camel, and your dyslexia.”
Brent saw them out and fiddled with the lock while Jesus was secured in the small horse trailer behind Maury’s pickup. Maury finally drove off for Ed’s home, two blocks away. Brent closed the door, giving it a last wary look before returning to bed.
“Well?” asked a sleepy Nina.
“Jesus the Llama and his keeper are gone. And we need new locks for the doors.”
A moment of quiet slipped by before Nina sat straight up in bed.
“Jesus the Llama? Was that Maury out there?”
Brent turned on his lamp and regarded his wife. “How do you know Maury and Jesus?”
“I don’t. Ed at the office mentioned his friend Maury was bringing in a llama for the Lions Club petting zoo, one that was apparently born of a virgin. I was just too tired to make the connection earlier.” She sighed. “Now I’m sorry I didn’t meet Maury.”
Brent turned off the light. “Next time there’s a llama in the bedroom, don’t recuse yourself. Your Honor.”