by V G Kilgore
Date of Publication: April 22nd 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biblical fiction
Tagline: My father is a righteous man but I am just a man…who loves a woman
Ham is a man of passion and questions. He's adored his wife, Lita, since he first saw her draped in her father's fishing nets and threatened to leave with her if his father, Noah, didn't allow the marriage. She becomes his greatest comfort when Ham is at odds with his father and brothers.
When Noah claims their God has commanded him to build an Ark to escape a devastating flood, Ham worries about the construction stripping the land and the community's ridicule of the family. He and Lita draw closer together as outsiders. They're shocked when the rains come and the entire family is forced into the Ark, along with the animals that appeared.
Confinement and uncertainty of fate amongst the refugees exaggerate normal family tension, rivalries and forbidden love. On land, they reject efforts to reestablish traditions, feeling independent and invincible, as those chosen by their God to survive and thrive. But for Ham, there's tragedy and more doubt.
Noah warns him he must yield his will, lest there be even graver consequences. Ham can't imagine anything worse and careens down the path that forever links him with depravity and harsh judgment.
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Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/FrvZEI8TW2s
The small caravan wended its way from the site of the Ark and family home to the fishing village down the hill and to the shore.
Ham squinted into the early morning sunlight and noted again how barren the land was. This path used to cut through a large meadow, embroidered by great trees in the distance and a riot of color from the yellow and green grasses and its mixed bouquet of wildflowers. Now it was brown, rocky and rutted.
He walked beside the small, shaggy burro carrying his wife, Lita, ensuring the animal did not step in the ruts or holes in its path. Its burden was his joy.
He smiled up at her and she returned it, placing a hand on the side of his face. On previous jaunts that might have signaled to him that they should detour across the meadow for a tryst amongst the trees, but there were no more love nests on the stark plain, nor were they alone.
"Little Brother," Japheth called back to him, "if you can stop staring at your woman, we have plans to make." At the foot of the hill, the air carried a hint of the ocean and sound changed, volatile waves winning out over the chirping birds of the fields for dominance.
Lita felt the familiar surge throughout her body as she neared her natural habitat. The sea stretched before her like mother's arms, opened wide to welcome back a wandering child. She closed her eyes and licked her lips for the salty taste of home.
She felt Ham's calloused hands on her own as he passed her mount's tether to her and looked into his winking grin. "I will see you back at home," he said with the combination of promise and hope that made her feel so adored. She smiled in answer and continued riding straight with Namaah’s serving maid, Sar, whom Ham had insisted escort Lita, because the barren land was not as safe as a rich and fertile one had been. He knew the women were friends and it was not a trial for them to travel together. They both had knives and knew how to use them. He and Japheth diverged left to the village.
A frisky breeze traveling before them blew into the open tents and caused the tops to billow out, resembling mushroom caps, as they approached the market center.
"Let us stop in here for a moment," Japheth suggested, his eyes swaying uncontrollably to the wooden cottage on their right, from which came raucous laughter and the heady aroma of burning plants. From the open doorway could be seen men sitting in a circle, in the middle of which were small sticks and pebbles and piles of coins.
Ham shook his head and attempted to pull his brother away from the gamblers. "There is only trouble for you in that place. Remember last time?"
"Japheth!" called a feminine voice from the trouble house. He stopped and turned. A woman leaned against the doorway, her loose robe barely draping her shoulders or covering her feet. Rings sparkled on her toes and on the finger she crooked to beckon Noah's notorious son. He shrugged off Ham's hold on him and headed back to the den of sin.
"Japheth!" Ham shouted futilely. Their father's favorite and closest resemblance turned, walking backwards to the door where the woman and gamers awaited him.
"You know me, Little Brother," he sang out with his mischievous smile and tortoise shell eyes twinkling. "I can resist everything but temptation. I will meet you at the silver monger’s."
Ham threw up his arms in disgust and continued to the vendors' tents, following the smell of sweet spices and increasingly rare flowers, to choose some oils as a present for Lita.
In the home of her parents she made one more entreaty for them to join in the Ark project.
"Noah is a fool," her father, Eliakim, said laughing. "What does a farmer know of building a boat? I live on the water. There is no sign of the great rain that he predicts."
She looked out the narrow window of the small beach hut to view the greyness of the sea. The meager sun seemed to dull on its surface, like slate, rather than reflecting off of it, as she had always known, to make the water a dazzling jewel. Something was changing. Whether it was the prediction of her father-in-law or just nature reacting to the stripping of the land, as Ham suspected, things were different.
"Please, Father," she cajoled, helping her mother serve him his mid-day meal of fish and bread, "Come back with me. Help finish the boat. I cannot bear the thought of what might happen to you and Mother."
Eliakim smiled and placed his hand on the top of her head. "Nothing will happen to us, my dear daughter. When everyone sees how much they have given up to Noah, how little food they have from the land, they will all turn to me for my catch." The smile graduated to a self-satisfied chuckle. "Then we shall see which father allowed his child to marry beneath her house."
Ham lowered his head, thoughts of Lita bringing warmth to him, as the Ark became visible with the day's last light. As much as he had resented it over the years, its appearance represented home, family, wife. He hastened his step, eager to see her.
"Think of it," Japheth reminded him. "Your one act of defying our father's wishes gave you her. What might you have if you did it more often?"
Ham grinned. It was impossible to stay angry at his brother. He threw his arm around him to hurry them back to the Ark and the thatch cottage where their women waited.
Behind them, thieves lay in wait for victims...marketers prepared their wares for the next sale...carousers sinned and families settled in for the night. None knew they were doomed.
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GUEST POST FROM V G Kilgore
One thing that draws me to biblical fiction is all the inconsistencies and Huh? Moments in the stories. Not the overall idea of faith in miracles, just those reactions or situations that feel unnatural. As a trained journalist, I can best describe it as bad reporting.
Obedience attempts to address some of those, such as how forty days and nights might have been recorded and Noah’s misdirected curse. (Enraged at his son but damned his grandson.)
Chapter 40, That Leaves the Companion of Her Youth, reveals Ham’s great sin that leads to the curse and the rather silly story of how his brothers avoided seeing their father’s nakedness. I don’t want to give away an important plot point, so this will be, as the saying goes, and is appropriate for a reportorial rendition, “heavily redacted.”
The patriarch stood and headed with his wine cask to his inner tent and his bedroll, lighting more lamps. "Have Sar brought to me," he ordered his youngest son.
Ham rose also, the wine clouding his mind as he left to comply with his father's command. He turned back at the tent's entrance and saw the long, white and shriveled body facing away from him. Shaking his head, he went to find his mother's handmaid.
…"Staggering again, Little Brother?" Japheth asked, spotting Ham walking unsteadily across the dark camp, as he often had, since their father had harvested and pressed the first grapes.
"Not now," Ham said, shaking a finger in his brother's face. "I am on a m-mission for our father," he hiccupped, attempting to walk around the brother-shaped obstacle and nearly falling in the fire.
"What sort of mission?" asked Shem, walking up to the younger men.
"Ah," Ham sneered, "our father has decided that he should father a child with the only woman available to him."
Japheth and Shem jerked their heads toward each other. "Sar?" asked Shem.
Ham bobbed his head… “I left him," he leaned closer and his head fell heavily as he whispered to his brothers, "naked. Now, out of my way," he demanded, shoving Japheth out of his path. "I must hurry," he chuckled, "I do not think the old man can wait long."
…"Is he mad?" Shem asked. "Father will be furious."
Still grinning, Japheth turned away from the tent. "He needed this and Father could forget. He has been forgetting things, more so when he has wine."
"But Ham said he saw him unrobed," Shem reminded him. "When he awakens that way, he will remember why."
The smile fell from Japheth's face and it was his turn to bring his eyebrows together in a worrying frown. "That is true. No good can come of that for any of us."
The eldest brother nodded. "We should cover him."
… The chamber was brownish-dark, rather than black, with the flickering glow from several oil lamps next to where Noah lay prone, his long white beard resting on his flattened chest, curling around his pale nipples. Japheth winced at the view of his father's aged manhood that resembled blistered white grapes. He sent a quick plea to El that he would never look like that and picked up the robe from the ground. He and Shem silently draped it over the deeply slumbering body.
They could hear their father's snoring but the other noises from outside—the chirping, burping and murmurings—did not penetrate the inner sanctum. His separation from the others would help ensure the success of his sons' subterfuge.
…"If this does not work and we ever have to tell," Shem said, taking a knife to shorten his own graying beard, "we will say that we did not see him."
Japheth nodded in agreement. "We backed up to the inner tent, holding the robe between us," he choked out, "and laid it over him without seeing…anything."
Their story in sync, the brothers parted, retreating to their own tents. Shem lay on his stomach, vowing to always sleep in that position, for someone to see aged buttocks rather than…he shuddered. Japheth removed his robe and looked down on his body, flexing muscles he planned to always keep taut.
V. G. Kilgore's father suggested she write a bible story about family, though the finished product wasn't exactly what he had in mind. She consulted biblical and rabbinical texts and people of different religions about Ark legends and teachings, in writing a hopefully entertaining and thought-provoking story.
A former reporter and state bureaucrat, she spends her days at the pool, on her laptop or on the road, and as far away from a desk as possible.
She lives in an empty nest in Kentucky with her husband and pit bull and claims four children and three grands.
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