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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Eek! (02/25/10)

TITLE: Benji's Tale
By Joan Campbell
~3rd Place


Let your Uncle Benji tell you how I came by my name. It’s quite a tale, or should I say ‘tail’, so listen closely.

We are not common rats. I, Benji, am a fifth generation Palace Rat. My very first name was “Eek”, but, given that humans usually threw something at me as they said it, it brings back rather painful memories. Even in the magnificent Palace of Sesostris II, respect is sorely lacking.

I received my real name when I moved to the dungeon. Several poisoned kin in the kitchen proved that I needed to head for safer territory. Although there was less food, the dungeon was the perfect hideout for a rat on the run. My companions here were stinking, swearing men. Unlike rats, the lack of light drove them crazy. I watched as they prayed to their gods. Over time they stopped praying, and started crying. Eventually they were cursing the very gods they had prayed too. It happened every time.

Except once.

The guard slammed the gate closed behind the new man with a laugh: “Not Potiphar’s mansion anymore, is it?”

The man sat silently in the dark for some time before he started to murmur in an unfamiliar, flowing language. The word I kept hearing, which sent a shiver through my body, sounded like “Yahweh.”

Over the months I watched as he sang or spoke to Yahweh, his god. One day he turned and looked at me. I was ready to run at the first shout of “Eek”, but he was smiling. He held out a piece of stale bread and, strangely unafraid, I scurried over and took it from his hand.

That is how our unusual friendship began. This man, Joseph, gave me the name Benji and told me his ill-fated story of betrayal and false blame, as if I were a real human. I thought his Yahweh must be the weakest god of them all. But Joseph spoke about him with reverence: “Benji, what they intended for evil, Yahweh intends for good. He has sent me here for a purpose.”

Not once did Joseph curse Yahweh.

Things changed in that dark dungeon after Joseph’s arrival. The warden put him in charge of the prisoners and slowly the sounds of crying and cursing were replaced by those of singing and laughing.

I grew old with those men, surprisingly contented. But one day guards came to lead Joseph away, claiming that Pharaoh himself had summoned him.

Frantic with worry, I hatched a daring plan. I would scurry up to the kitchen, through the Women’s Quarters and on to the most dangerous room of all - the Throne Room, where armed men could kill a rat in the swish of a tail.

Executing it wasn’t easy. In the passage outside the kitchen my whiskers trembled with impending danger. Instinctively I leapt into a small opening just as a large cat pounced. Who could possibly think these savages were gods?

It took a while for the cat to leave, and for my shaking to subside enough to continue. I feared for what had become of Joseph in that time.

When I reached the Throne Room, I darted forward between a throng of feet, feeling sandals brush my tail. Finally, squeezed up against a wall, I could see Pharaoh on his throne. Before him stood a man who I did not recognise, for he wore fresh robes and his neat hair framed a cleanly shaven face. Yet, as he smiled, I realised that it was Joseph.

Something extraordinary was happening for the crowd suddenly grew silent. Pharaoh was rising to his feet and taking off his ring. He stepped towards Joseph and as he slipped the ring on his finger, he spoke.

“This man, Joseph, will be second only to Pharaoh in Egypt.”

He flicked his fingers and a man appeared with a dark blue robe, which Pharaoh himself threw over Joseph’s shoulders, and a gold chain, which was placed around my friend’s neck. Joseph turned to face the crowd as a large cheer went up.

“Hail Pharaoh! Hail Joseph! Triumph to Egypt!”

I could again hear Joseph’s voice in the dungeon: “Yahweh has sent me here for a purpose,” and in that moment I knew that there was no god more powerful than Yahweh.

Over the crowd’s applause, a shrill “Eek!” broke through my reverie. Not again! Dashing for safety, I wondered if the second most important man in Egypt could pass a law protecting Palace Rats.

Author’s Note:
The full biblical account of Joseph’s rise from prisoner to vizier of Egypt, is found in Genesis 39 to 41.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/04/10
This is a delightful rendition of Joseph's story. I enjoyed every word. You are quite creative, as well as a great writer.
Genia Gilbert03/04/10
Very creative, well written and with much truth and fun.
Allen Stark03/05/10
One of my very, very favorites this week. With your permission I will use it when telling the children about Joseph and how God uses our trials for our benefit.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/08/10
This is even better the second read through. You have such talent, every week I'm more and more impressed.
Virgil Youngblood 03/08/10
A very enjoyable retelling of a familar story from a different viewpoint.
Adrie Zandbergen03/08/10
I hadn't realised the meaning of the name,(until I read the hint) which makes the story even more 'endearing'. Naming the rat after his youngest brother!!! Hope the judges are not as dumb as me!
Ruth Stromquist03/08/10
I loved Benji's viewpoint and adventures, linked in with Joseph's life. Really excellent -- both in the writing and in the creativity angle.
Beth LaBuff 03/09/10
I enjoyed this story from Benji's point of view. :) and with Benji's close acquaintance with Joseph, it will come in handy when Joseph begins to store all that grain. :)
Patricia Turner03/11/10
What a clever, creative, well paced and well told story of this great tale from a unique point of view. Congratulations on a well deserved 1st place!
Bryan Rudolph03/11/10
Joan, Joan, Joan . . . what a talented writer you are! How marvelously creative to weave childlike fiction with real-life biblical drama, founded on a timeless message.

Congratulations Joan, on your 1st Place Win; thank you, for entering such pleasurable reading.

Robyn Burke03/11/10
Very well done! Congratulations of your well deserved win.

This would make such a delightful childrens book but adults can learn much from it as well.

Great job!
Beth LaBuff 03/11/10
Hey Joan, Super congrats on your ribbon and Editor's Choice!
Sarah Elisabeth 03/11/10
Wow, this was incredibly creative, loved it from beginning to end! So deserving of first place and your EC, congrats!
Donna Wolther03/12/10
I somehow missed this one the first time around. I'm glad I got to read it now. It was such an enjoyable story.