Some of you may know our frisky, playful house mascot, Flat Friar, from our Facebook page.  He has a reputation for being adventurous and a bit mischievous.  He is our version of Flat Stanley, the title character from a series of children’s books by Jeff Brown, who, because he is flat, can go places and do things that are harder for three-dimensional beings like you and me.  Flat Friar also has a bit of Waldo (of “Where’s Waldo?” fame) in him, often hiding in places just waiting for someone to find him.

Well, last week, JustBob mentioned at lunch the Mystery of the Disappearing Donkey.  It seems that Donkey, one of the inhabitants of our outdoor nativity set, had disappeared.  JustBob knew he put Donkey downstairs in the garden room early this year when he brought the stable and all its inhabitants back inside after the Christmas season was over.  But when he went to retrieve them to set them out this year, Donkey was missing.

We all pondered the mystery:  Who would take a donkey?  None of the staff knew anything, or at least did not admit to knowing anything, about the disappearance.  Most of the strange happenings the last few months have been attributed to the spirit of Fr. Bob, but even he has no use for a donkey.

A few days later, the subject of Donkey came up again, this time because the lost donkey had been found.  Seems Donkey grew tired of waiting in the garden room all these months and meandered up to the second floor (Donkey probably took advantage of the elevator now being operational) and fell asleep in the bed of one of the guest rooms.  Jackie H. found him while doing some housecleaning.  Donkey was fast asleep, tucked safely under a towel to stay warm.  We knew the room had not been used for guests since March, and we knew Donkey was not there during Volunteer Week because he would have been found when all the bed covers were removed.  But that still left more than four months for Donkey to have found his way to the guest room.

What was JustBob’s response when he heard all this?  “Where is Flat Friar?”

Now, it is probably unfair to put all the blame on Flat Friar.  He can be mischievous, but because he is flat, he would need some three-dimensional being to help him play a prank such as this.  And while Donkey is indeed three-dimensional, he is likely no more than a co-conspirator, given his limited mobility issues.  Suspicious glances were directed toward several possible suspects among the staff and residents, but no one was confessing at lunch.  We also have some guests and volunteers who might just be capable of such a conspiracy, too, and they have been here since Volunteer Week so they could not be ruled out.

But the saga does not end there.  After being awakened from his long-winter’s nap, Donkey again meandered off.  (This would indeed seem to be the handiwork of Flat Friar, who has a penchant for playing Hide-and-Seek.)  A few hours later, as Tracy was working feverishly on a project for school, he glanced out the window at the bird buffet and spotted what he thought was a crow grazing on the ground.  When he looked again, the “crow” was still in the same spot.  Tracy grabbed the binoculars, only to discover the “crow” was Donkey, grazing in the spot just below where someone had placed a “Free Bird Seed” sign not too long ago.  About the same time, Marge was walking outside and stumbled upon the wayward Donkey and escorted him back to the stable where she took the picture of Donkey, Flat Friar and the rest of the stable’s inhabitants.

Although Donkey has been returned to his proper place, the unsolved mystery is the identity of Donkey and Flat Friar’s three-dimensional accomplice(s) in all these adventures.  What is not as mysterious is the days of joy and laughter that such a harmless prank can bring.  And in this stranger-than-anything-we’ve-known-before year, a little joy and laughter is always welcome.

For mischievous friends, harmless pranks, and the joy and laughter they bring, we say Deo Gratias!