“We’re doing WHAT?” Obviously, I had misheard my husband.
“The whole family is going on a boat, a really big boat, and…”
“Good one dear, but it’s not April Fool’s Day.” I rolled my eyes in disdain and went back to chopping vegetables.
“I know this is somewhat of a shock for you—as it was for my mother—but Dad says we have no choice.”
“Then your dad’s delusional, ‘cause there’s no way I’m spending even one day, let alone—how long did you say we’d be on this boat?”
My husband warily eyed the chopping instrument in my hand before answering.
“A year—give or take a few days.”
“Now you’re delusional. As I was saying…there is no way I’m spending even one day, let alone an entire year on a boat with your mother.” I returned to the dinner preparations.
“I realize this is not what we had planned, sweetie, but Japheth’s wife is fine with it.”
“Of course she’s fine with it. She’s always been your mother’s favorite.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Ham. Maybe because the two of them go to market every week together and have never invited me.”
Not that I wanted to go with those two anyway, but it would be nice to be asked.
I dropped the vegetables into the pot, stirred the coals to ignite a larger fire, and turned to face my clueless husband.
“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”
Ham hesitantly nodded before becoming engrossed with his fingernails. He didn’t look up as I continued my diatribe.
“I’m guessing Shem’s wife isn’t too pleased with your Dad’s hair-brain scheme either. What does your mother have against her anyway? I know why she doesn’t like me—she thinks I’m controlling, which I’m not. But Shem’s wife is so quiet and sweet.
Avoiding eye contact with me, Ham began sharpening his hunting knife.
“She’s probably still upset because Shem was supposed to marry our cousin. You know, the one that we pray keeps the veil across her face ‘cause she’s so hideous to look at.”
“Oh Ham, she’s not that bad looking.”
“She looks like a horse. We used to whinny every time she walked by. My poor uncle will never get her married off—he doesn’t have enough to offer as a bargaining tool.”
I stirred the stew, gave Ham a quick taste, and sat down across the table from him.
“So, if I were to agree to this, what will we be doing on this really big boat for a year? And when will we be leaving? And where is the boat anchored?”
The thought of spending a year anywhere with my mother-in-law was dreadful, but there was something enticing about taking a cruise; I had never been to the sea before. Besides, if this boat were really that big, I would simply avoid my in-laws for most of the trip.
“Well, here’s the thing.” Ham set aside his knife and sharpening stone and gently took my hands in his. Uh-oh. This usually meant Ham was about to deliver unpleasant news. I suspected this cruise probably wasn’t going to be the vacation I was imagining.
“Dad is building the boat—it’s called an ark actually—and…” As my husband continued talking, I stared at him as if he’d grown another head. I saw his mouth moving, I heard the words, but the entire scene he was describing was nonsensical.
Eventually, he stopped talking and we sat in silence. Still holding both of my hands, Ham watched me intently, apparently waiting for my reaction—any reaction.
“So…your dad, you, and your brothers are building this really big boat—excuse me, ark—in the middle of the desert. When it’s finished, two of every kind of animal will magically appear, processing up the gangplank in parade formation. For a year, give or take a few days, your parents, your brothers and their wives, and you and I will take care of the animals—including keeping them from eating each other or us. For forty days it will rain nonstop—so we’ll all be sequestered inside this ark-thing. After a year, give or take a few days, we’ll march back out of the ark. Am I missing anything?”
Ham sheepishly shook his head while I released an exasperated breath.
“Why didn’t I listen to my mother when she told me I wasn’t just marrying you, but I was marrying your entire wacky family?”
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