05 september 2020

Japheth's Diary


In the summer of 1979, a Kurdish goatherd tending his flock in the hills near Mount Ararat, took shelter from a sudden summer storm in a nearby cave. While in the cave he discovered an earthen pottery casket sealed into a niche in the cave wall.

He gave this casket to his employer. The employer, feeling that the casket might be a rare artifact, decided that rather than turn it over to the Turkish government, he would try to sell it for his own enrichment. Over the next few years the casket passed through a number of hands, before it finally came into the possession of the Department of Archaeology of the Smeaval University, at Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.

A careful examination of the casket showed that it contained an ancient scroll written in a heretofore unknown hieroglyphic language. By a studious use of the known symbols of the Rosetta Stone, and by the diligent labors of a world-famous team of scholars assembled to study the scroll, it was finally determined to be a record of the Biblical Flood, and of events leading up to the flood, as recorded by Noah's youngest son, Japheth. The following is the final authorized translation, as issued under the imprimatur of the Smeaval University of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.


ENTRY: My old man is a meshuggener. You know what this means? It means he's nuttier than a fruitcake, bereft of all reason, a lunatic, suffering from a paranoiac dementia. Meshugga is the only adjective that could be used to describe him.

Dad's no kid anymore either, he was over five hundred years old when I was born, and that was sixty years ago, but there are folks around who say he could still pass for three hundred and fifty, or at most four hundred.

Voices! he says. He keeps hearing voices. Someone is telling him to build this big ark. An ark? An ark is something like a boat, only bigger and shit, man he's talking about some really big numbers. He said it needed to be in the realm of five hundred or more cubits. There ain't enough cedars in all of Lebanon to build that sucker. Besides, there's nobody around here that has any idea of how to loft a craft that size.

ENTRY: Today, Ham, Shem, and me sit down with the old man and try to talk some sense into his old gray head, but it's no dice. He keeps telling us that the Lord has commanded that he build this ark because there is going to be one bitch of a flood in the near future. “But Dad,” Shem says. “Even if there is this hellacious downpour, why in the world do we need an ark that big.” “I don't know.” Dad replies. “All I know is that the Lord wants for us to build it, and I think we had better get our asses off the shekel and get started.” Well, there's no arguing with my old man. Once he gets one of those wild hairs up his ass, hell nor high water ain't going to change him one little bit. One way or the other, that Goddamn ark is going to be built.

ENTRY: You couldn't possibly conceive of the number of trees that we had to chop down, and then drag down to the building site. Hell's fire, here we are, the laughing stock of the entire neighborhood, constructing this big clumsy looking boat out in the middle of what's damn near desert, and there ain't a bit of water, other than from the well, it's within two or maybe three days walk from here, and then, it's just a large marshy Pond overgrown with reeds. You should have heard all those smart-asses from town, all those homeboys ragging us about how we're going to make that sucker sail on sand. . There's just the three of us working on the thing, Shem, Ham, and me. And we have really had to bust our ass to get those big timbers up there to the second and third decks. And then we had to fit them all together with pegs, which we had to cut, and then we had to tie the joints with ropes we make from the reeds and rushes that we gathered from that small pond two days away. By the time we had made twenty or thirty round trips hauling those reeds, my ass was dragging. It's coming right along though, and I'm beginning to feel a small sense of pride in the way things are shaping up.

ENTRY: Last night he sprung it on us. He said he had been talking to the Lord again, and the Lord assured him that he hadn't changed his mind, and that he was still planning on this big flood. He's talking about six weeks of steady rain, and the Lord also said the reason the ark had to be so big, was so we could take along two of every living thing on Earth. A male and a female of each species, because the Lord says he's pissed off at the way most folks have been screwing up the place, so he's just going to wipe it all clean and start all over again. He says all those people who have been chiding and ragging us are going to be some real sorry asses unless they enroll in a crash course to learn how to swim real good. It's either that, or they'll have to be able to hold their breath for about six weeks at a time.

I listen to all this, and I say “No way Pop! Two of everything? Shit, Pop, if what you say is true, we're going to need to enlarge this shit bucket by a bunch. You're talking elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, reindeer, and musk oxen, not to mention the lesser species. Think about what you're getting us into. All those carnivores are going to have to eat, and we'll have to take along extra animals just for their feeding, and you really think you can get enough hay and oats aboard this tub to feed all the herbivores for forty days or more? Hell, we're going to need a large size hold just to store the bird seed we will have to carry along.”

He thinks about what I have just told him, and just shrugs his shoulders. “Son, I'll leave the logistics up to you, I don't know, or even care about how many animals we load. Just make sure that when we get to wherever it is we're going, that you still have two of each, a male and a female, because if you don't, your ass is grass. I’d sure hate for you to be the one to cause the Lord to get more pissed than he already is. The word is, he can be a vindictive old cuss when he takes the notion.”

ENTRY: Well, it's taken a while, but we finally got the ark finished, and just like Dad said, there are storm clouds looming on the horizon. This morning at breakfast he said to us: “Boys, I had another visit from the man last night, and he said it's time to get all those animals rounded up and onto the ark. He kind of implied to me that the time is getting real short, and he's just about ready to let her rip.” I don't know how it all happened, but we didn't even have to range out all over creation to locate the critters. Almost as if they were getting some sort of message the animals started to show up at the ark. Even those normally ferocious lions and tigers seemed docile as we led them aboard and bedded them down into their stalls. The damn birds were just a bit flighty, and didn't take too well to being caged, but after a while we pretty much had the situation under control. The thousands of rabbits, mice, doves, and chickens that we loaded as food for all the other critters weren't any too happy about the deal, but then, that's the way the matzo crumbles.

All the neighbors had gathered around, laughing, and carrying on as we were doing all this labor. Some had even brought their lunch, and were kind of making it a family picnic, as they watched all these crazy goings-on. Some of them said it was better than going to the zoo. Dad just faced them down and said “We'll see who's laughing here in a couple of days.” That just made them hoot and holler all the more.

ENTRY: It's just a few days since my last entry, and the rains have come. At first it was just a drizzle, and then it gradually started getting heavier, until finally it was though the heavens had opened up and the deluge was on. It took a couple of days of the very heavy rain, for the water to get deep enough for the ark to start to weave and rock a little. By that time, all those scoffing neighbors were pleading with Dad to make room for them on what they so recently called Noah's folly. Dad stood his ground, although I think there was a couple of times when he was beginning to weaken in his resolve. He later said: “The Lord puts a fast stop to my feeling that way.”

ENTRY: We are finally underway. This morning Dad assigned us our tasks for the journey. Shem was to be the rudder man. He was to try to keep us on some sort of course, while to Ham he assigned the care and feeding of the animals on the top deck. To me he said: “Japheth, you get yourself a bucket, a broom, and a shovel and get on down into them holds. I want you to keep it clean down there.” I just looked at him and then realized that what I had long suspected was true. Dad always did like Shem and Ham better than me.

ENTRY: Let me tell you, this is some bitchin journey. At times I wish I had been left behind with the scoffers. I have been sea sick every day of the trip, and the ark has now become a vessel of pestilence. The Goddamn rain Has gotten into everything. There are times when I am standing knee-deep in elephant shit, sick as a dog, puking up my guts due to the awful aroma, and the constant sea sickness. Can you imagine the smell of this place? The lions and tigers are the worst because there's nothing to equal the foul smell of cat shit, unless it's ape shit. Hey! “Ape shit!” That's got kind of a nice ring to it. I'll have to remember that line.

Then, there is the never ending chore of keeping clean papyrus in the bird cages, but what really chaps me, is the job of feeding all those live animals to the beasts and birds of prey. Yesterday, I came within a half cubit of screwing it up royally. I almost tossed the last female mouse into the cage of a pit viper. Just think! If I had done that, I would have wiped out the entire mouse species. It kind of made me wonder why the Lord wanted to continue on with things like mice, and the pit viper, or the armadillo and the possum. There's no earthly use for the viper, and nobody in their right mind would eat a possum or armadillo. Well, they say he moves in mysterious ways.

ENTRY: You're not going to believe this, but it has rained steady for forty days and forty nights. I'm so damn sick and tired of the constant rain that I think I would have jumped overboard, except for the fact that I would still have been wet. It's one of those lose-lose propositions I used to hear people talk about. So instead, I just keep feeding the hay and other foods into one end of these critters, and collecting the shit from the other, and trying to keep the old man happy. He's close to seven hundred and fifty years old now, and you know how crotchety people can get when they reach that age.

ENTRY: I woke up this morning, and I knew something was wrong. There was a different smell to the air and the incessant pounding of the rain had stopped. I stumbled out into the deck and saw the sun for the first time in over forty days. Dad, Sham, and Ham are already on deck, as were my mother, and our sisters and wives. Dad had his arms outstretched and was intoning some sort of prayer. When he saw me come out onto the deck, he said: “Quick Japheth, go down into the hold and bring me up a bird.” I didn't know what he wanted a bird for but I climbed down and brought him up a cage full of assorted birds. We had a flock of them left over that we hadn't yet fed to the hawks and falcons and other birds of prey. He reached into the cage, and brought out a raven, which he released into the firmament. As we watched the bird fly out of sight I heard him murmur: “Now we wait.” All day long we waited and searched the firmament for some sign of that Raven.

ENTRY: A couple of days have passed since Dad released the raven. This morning he released another bird only this time it was a dove, and again we can only wait.

ENTRY: I was down in the hold cleaning up after a sick gnu, when I heard the shout. I dropped everything, and scrambled up onto the deck. The dove had returned to the ark, and was now perched on the rail clutching an olive branch in its beak. The old man was chanting hallelujahs, and hosannas at the top of his hoary old voice. As for me, I just stood there, wondering what in the name of God, was going to happen next.

Translator's note: The text ends abruptly at this point.