The Journey West
❧ in which Moe completes his epic and shows it to his uncle Abe ❧
Imaginary Forebears - The Lost Tablets of Ramses II - Honest Abe
Moe soon realized that he couldn’t get anything coherent about his family history from his grandfather. What the poor old guy said was in many ways poetic, yet his story was clearly the incoherent ravings of a senile man who was about to meet his Under Taker.
As a result, Moe figured that he’d pretty much have to make most of it up.
So he got out his old clay map, chipped on the sides and deeply grooved around the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates. He chiseled more lines this way and that, till his imaginary forebears pretty much covered all the main thoroughfares of the civilized world. The centre of this world was of course Babylon, a point he stressed by chiseling family names around Babylon and its famous Tower -- that ambitious yet doomed United Nations building located downtown next to the river.
Within the Tower were the Wise Men of the Northeast, speaking to each other in Assyrian, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Hittite, Demotic, and two or three dozen other minor languages like Aramaic, Persian, and Greek. The men wrote on thin silky paper from China, elephant bark from India, lined papyrus from Egypt, and of course the clay tablets that would never fail to transmit knowledge as long as humans continued to breathe.
In the highest floors and at the end of the most secret corridors of the Tower mysterious Wise Men whispered to each other in the magical code that started it all: the sacred incantations of Sumerian. They whispered something about the coming of a Great Soul, the son of God Himself.
As Moe chiseled away, he heard in the background the fantastic names Adima mumbled in his sleep -- and then shouted at the moments of his most intense senility. Moe took these words, that flew out from the old man's frenzied brain, and chiseled them between the familiar names on the map. He thus dotted the countryside with words he'd never heard, yet which sounded strange and powerful. Mixed into the Akkadian and Assyrian names that everyone knew so well, these names started to take on a sort of reality, a sort of historicity that Moe felt was the hallmark of all good fiction.
The Lost Tablets of Ramses II
Moe gave his beloved, delusional grandpa some opium from the highlands and tried to settle him in his bed. This calmed Adima somewhat, yet he still tried, more softly than before, to give his grandchild some final advice:
Round up the kinsmen and strike out for a new frontier! I'm sick and tired of being treated like a slave in this whorehouse of an Assyrian Empire! To hell with that punk, Tiglath-Pilesar!
But don't go back to Egypt -- no! Go west instead, as far as possible from the cursed Elamites, who you should exterminate if ever God so pleases to give you the chance. Didn't our cousin David say that God would thank them for wiping such a race of idolaters from the face of the earth?
Go West, young man! Find a patch of land to the west of the despicable Moabites! Destroy all traces of those who might pretend it was theirs -- such as the filthy Edomites and the barbarous Philistines!
Adima then let out a long string of curses and blood-lust pledges against every known people of the earth. These were so violent and cruel that Moe wrote an executive commandment forbidding any family member to set into writing any such bullying and militant carnage. Moe underscored this point by using Adima's ethnocentric rant as a cautionary tale. First he summarized, in the most diplomatic of terms, Adima’s advice:
Be sure to slaughter every people along the way, for who knows what nefarious claims they might make afterwards to the land they once stood on. If they can no longer stand, toward what court of justice can they walk to make their case?
Then Moe wrote a lengthy chapter, The Late Great Ozymandias, Ramses II, in which he meticulously disassembled every possible claim to religious exclusivity. He wanted to make sure that people would condemn the reasoning of his grandfather and that they they would never accept the notion that God desired to smite, bludgeon, demolish or otherwise annihilate innocent populations for any reason whatsoever. He wanted to make it absolutely clear that those who promoted such a wrathful understanding of Deity would themselves be subject to His wrath.
Unfortunately, centuries later (sometime around 666 BC), the road from Babylon to Jerusalem was not only long and winding, but also quite bumpy. The tablets -- which were now so numerous that six legions of full-time scribes could scarcely keep track of them -- were not as securely fastened as they should have been. Several tablets, now referred to as The Lost Tablets of Ramses II, bounced onto the hard pavement on the outskirts of the prosperous garden city of Gomorrah.
Moe gave his tablets to his uncle Abe to read. Initially there were just ten tablets, but these had expanded into several dozen, what with revisions, redactions, burning bushes, smitten idolators, parting seas, Egyptian escapades, the ravings of Adima, and yet more tablets falling from the sky onto his crowded writing desk. He needed a bin big as an ark just to hold them all.
Abe was disgruntled at the thought of reading so many tablets. But Moe was his favourite nephew. Hadn’t the boy kept it a secret when he caught Abe with the milkmaid Lakshmi, who he had kept as a mistress ever since the family fled from Uruk in disgrace? And hadn't Moe kept it secret when he found his brother Noach sprawled all over his daughter's bedroom, almost drowning in an ocean of booze? Oy veh, such a family!
Moe was also his oldest and most devoted customer, and Abe didn't want to give him any reason to take his business to the Indian or Persian traders under the pretext of having been ignored. So Abe agreed to read the tablets, even though there were so many of them. He'd keep an open mind.
What Abe read was one of the most bizarre series of tablets ever to be written in the two thousand years that man had been chiselling cuneiform into clay. Their tribe’s god was the Only True God from Heliopolis to Elam? Babylon was a den of prostitutes and thieves? A divine commandment to close the shop one day a week? What dangerous nonsense was this?
Only yesterday Abe had signed a deal with a cartel of Indian traders. The deal gave their family a 30% option and a 20% discount on all of their merchandise crossing the Zagros Mountains.