Even on a sunny day the sea challenged Japheth’s movements on the deck by tilting the ark back and forth. The sea whispered to him. A leathery lizard scrambled across the roughhewn wood of the deck, leaving a pile of straw tubes behind it.
“Ham, you exhaust me!” Japheth grabbed another one of his fishing contraptions and held it by its rope over the side of the ark.
“It’s useless dropping that cage into the water,” said Ham.
“Line’s too short; it’ll never touch bottom.”
“Well, this is a new idea of mine,” said Japheth. “It’s called ‘top fishing’ but then dad would say I’m foolish with my inventions.”
“Whatever eases the pain,” said Ham.
“Pain?” Japheth frowned. “You, myself, Shem – we’ve all had our share of pain.”
“Yeah!” Ham’s face reddened. “Bruises, slivers, knocks to the head by stray tools, shin splints, lack of sleep – all part of the job; goes with the territory!”
“Are we going there again, Ham? Really. There’s pain in life; even just knowing you’re alive carries pain with it. But we’re part of a great work here.”
“Yes, the great work of Noah. God needs me to keep this ark running and populate the new country, hence I live. Might’ve just gone down with the rest of em.
“Phaw!” Japheth dropped the cage into the water, letting the rope slide through his thick callused hands slowly. “Phaw phaw phaw! We all share in this, Ham. Stop it with the martyrdom.”
“But for one hundred years I have breathed, ate, drank, even bled the will of God. I’m tired, lonely, hurt. I’ve waited in faith, but have nothing to show for my actions.”
“Maybe being alive isn’t that great a thing.”
“I feel like we’re stuck in this little world God made for us, swimming around in circles. Every day repeats itself. We’re trapped in a prison, no way out. It’s monotonous, same thing day in day out, no freedom, like the piglet on its tiny wheel spinning faster and faster until its little legs and brain can’t take it anymore. All I can see from here, my brother, is the earth of God, the world of Noah.”
“Aw, you’re making my head pound Ham.” Japheth struggled to pull up the heavy cage by coiling the rope on the deck and straining. “Word is, Ham that you’re trying to start up something with Makah. You should not covet your brother’s wife. Shem is a good man. What you are doing could be construed as being evil.”
“I don’t even know where I am anymore, Japheth.” Ham closed his eyes and sighed. “Just a bunch of baying, barking, screaming, complaining animals on a boat.”
“Ham,” said Japheth. “God will remember us when these floodwaters recede and we build for ourselves a new world.” He placed his dripping sea cage on the deck, the muscles of his forearms bulging.
“Then you ignore the rumors, brother?” Ham stumbled over some coiled rope to Japheth. “It’s Shem who will receive all the blessings; we will never break free.
“Please, Ham, stay away from Shem’s wife.”
That night Japheth awoke with a start. “It’s his eyes! Shem’s eyes! I will, my Shem; I will!”
“Japheth, you’re dreaming!” Ada gripped his huge arm with her tiny fingers.
“I was talking to Ham on deck and all of a sudden…empty dead eyes!”
“If it was Ham you saw then why did you shout ‘Shem’s eyes; Yes, I will!”
Japheth shivered. “I saw Ham in many reflected images looking up at me from the sea. Each picture pointed to an outcome of a bad decision Ham had made. There was a dark tunnel. Then the final pictures rose up and strangled the pictures that caused them. All of Ham’s horrible choices, and Ham became just a tangled mess immersed in a bluish gel.”
“But why did you scream out “Shem’s eyes?”
“Shem.” Japheth ground his teeth. “Ham was this horrid stringy mess of tissue in water, and I panicked. Shem’s face appeared as through a magnifying glass, his eyes…his eyes…”
“I had to cover Ham from Shem and those judgmental eyes. Shem loomed above. I stretched like rubber to cover Ham’s vulnerability, but Shem boomed out if I wouldn’t give him Ham then I must…”
“I must ...Shem asked me to kill his own son.”
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