"Just say it", you silently reminded yourself. You knew you'd regret it if you didn't. But you didn't, and you do. Your husband is stubborn in his insistence that you make the market trip to the village of Taz this morning; despite your lame objections you have no choice but to obey his commands. If you told him of the scoffing, the cruel jokes, as you so desperately want to do? The constant barrage of snide remarks? It would make no difference. He would just say he is doing the will of his God, and he doesn't care what the villagers say. It's difficult when your husband has gone mad.

Sighing, you pick up the last basket of produce and load it on the sturdy little donkey. He grumbles a bit, but quiets when you give him a bit of carrot from one that broke when it was pulled from the ground.

The crops were surprisingly good this year - better than last, and there was an abundance of wild vegetables and fruits that sprang up from nowhere in the rocky hills around the farm. Wild greens of all sorts, plump sweet cactus fruits and fragrant wild figs vied with cultivated edibles on your work table. Thank the God, you think, that my boys married such hard working young women. There were plenty of young men - and their families - who weren't so lucky. Right now, the daughters by marriage and your two by your own womb were working to get the best of the harvested food cleaned, cut up and laid out in the hot mountain sun to dry for the winter. And maybe to sell to the next caravan to come through the village. For once, your storerooms are full to overflowing.

You check the ropes binding the panniers and baskets for the final time. Your husband is sending several jars of wine to sell, as well as cheeses and vegetables. You are to buy salt, medicinal herbs, another bolt of linen and nails for his "project". What can you do? A woman can't refuse her husband what is, after all, a most reasonable request. It is your duty as wife and female head of the household. What sort of example will you set for the younger women if you shirk your own duties?

It's just...the knowing looks. The laughter that follows you through the village and down every path. The pitying looks from the other women and the mocking from the men. Not that they address you directly, of course. Such is not the way of these people, this culture. Women are to be only addressed obliquely, and only if a male family member is present. Thank the God, again, that your sons are working and cannot come to the market with you. Your eldest grandson, (hard to believe it's so, but he is already on the cusp of manhood) had offered to come, but his father bade him take his turn out with the goats and sheep. He looked as relieved as you felt, poor boy, not to have to go.

Would that you were still among your own people, you think, but sternly remind yourself to quit whining. You have been a lucky wife. Noa is, for the most part, a kind and generous husband. When your husband arrived from the mountains to your village by the sea to trade for salt, you were taken by his good looks, for sure, but mostly by the way he would look at you and get red. Like he did when he first saw you, carrying a basket of fish from the boat to the hut for processing. He gazed at you, with your wet dress clinging to your lithe body, and he was netted but good. He would come and buy fish from your father, but his eyes would be on you, rather than the dried fish. Your father, seeing an opportunity, agreed to allow Noa the privilege of coming for meals, and generally hanging around the family. Then he would address his comments to your brother, or father, or to his donkey on that one occasion that it was just you and your sister along the path to the shore. You both laughed, and you asked him, through the donkey, why he would not speak to you. Your sister laughed so hard she had to duck into the bushes - she was with child and had to constantly relieve herself. He had solemnly told the donkey that it was the custom of his people. You were surprised he hadn't asked the donkey for your hand in marriage. But he eventually got up his nerve and your father agreed. He liked the shy, quiet young man, but thought his outspoken daughter would ride roughshod over her young husband. But you were determined to be a good mate. You grin at the memory of your husband's shy smile when he first addressed you as "wife".

Ah, well.

The village is just ahead, and it looks like the usual drunken insanity spilling out of the wine rooms into the street. A group of drunken men are carrying an even more drunken whore through the streets in a half-wrecked sedan chair from the God only knows where. The gate guards are laughing and offering crude suggestions. You decide to detour around the walls to the quieter refuse gate - it's closer to the market place anyway. Streamers of colored fabric flutter from the walls - yet another feast day...no wonder everyone is drunk. One guard vomits from the parapet, another supports him so he doesn't topple over. You shake your head and continue to the market.

When you get there, most of the vendors and customers are fairly sober. These are servants and family people who will do what they need to do now and get drunk later.

The sun is high in the sky by the time you have sold out your goods. You are sorry you didn't bring more jars of wine. Your husband may be the laughingstock of the region, but he has a reputation for making excellent wine and you deliberately raise the asking price by half. People buy it eagerly, without the usual haggling. You regret not raising the price further. The rest of your wares sell briskly, even the produce bruised on the journey. You buy what your husband asked for, and a few trifles for the grandchildren and the daughters. You wonder if your eldest grandson is too old for a gaily painted wooden whistle. Regretfully, you decide he is.

A soft cough behind you turns you around to see Sashira. She used to be a good friend, but her husband is one of your husband's chief mockers - it has strained the relationship.

You chat briefly, and you find the reason for the festival. The Baal is to be placated with blood sacrifices, chosen by a lottery. The reservoir serving the village and surrounding farms has been drying up, so they are going to beg for more water to flow down the mountain and replenish it before it runs completely dry.

"Why not pray for rain?"

The question, so sensible to a woman from the coast is met with a startled stare.

"No, Mira, you don't understand..." You mentally chide yourself. After all these years, you still forget the mountain climate. She continues, oblivious. "It never rains here this time of year, and we get only a few inches during the winter. We're on the wrong side of the mountain for that. All the rain and snow fall on the west side, and on the peak. That's why the reservoir is so important to us. The gods must be withholding the usual snowmelt...look...you can see it up there, glistening. It's there, but not coming here." Sashira has another bout of coughing, and you note the feverish glitter in her eyes. You say something soothing, and pray silently that her family is spared from having to offer sacrifice...she will be dead herself soon enough.

You depart as soon as is polite, inwardly shivering at the thought of the ceremony at dusk. Thank the God your husband's God was satisfied with grain and goats, and was very accommodating, all things considered. So what if He wants Noa to build a big boat in the middle of the desert on a mountain? Small enough sacrifice for all they had been blessed with over the years. You leave the frantic village behind you with relief.

You are halfway home when a chill gust of wind pulls you from your thoughts. It has suddenly gotten quite dark... surely you haven't taken that long to reach the final stretch of your journey home? Alarmed, you look up and feel your eyes go wide.

Streaming in from the west you see storm clouds. Big, dark, storm clouds absolutely sodden with moisture. A sudden rumble shakes your very bones. Thunder, you think, but it seems to last far too long for that. The donkey jerks at the harness, jumping and squealing with fright and you realize that the ground is shivering under your feet. You grip the lead and try to calm the panicking animal until a crack opens just a few cubits away and a jet of water spurts steaming into the air. You start to run, dragging the donkey. He soon out paces you and you have to drop the rope, but you are only a little way from home and he will be fine. His lead rope is short enough not to tangle and you need to hike up your long skirts to free your legs. The earth groans and shakes again. You see the village in the valley below as a disturbed nest of termites, tiny creatures running around and you realize in horror that the crest of the hill above the village is collapsing. You see more cracks open in the earth and water gushes forth, washing away the place of sacrifice in a tidal wave of hot mud and stones that sweeps through the village center on into the valley.

You feel a hand on your shoulder...it is your husband and you point helplessly at the carnage. Taz was not a big city, but there were over five hundred residents in and around it, plus traders travelling the valley roads and countless farms and settlements in the area. Your vision blurs as you watch, and you imagine you can hear the shrieks and wailing.

Your vision is blocked by a robe of woven goat hair, dyed green with stripes in the natural heathered black and beige. You recognize it. You should...you made it. Noa puts his arms around you and pulls you close and you snuggle up against the familiar garment and the broad chest inside of it. He smells of wood smoke, livestock and fresh cut cedar. He calls it gopher wood, but you know cedar when you smell it. You close your eyes and allow your husband to comfort you.

You are standing thus when the first drops of rain begin to fall. Noa says, "It's begun... we'd better start loading up now."

You are awed...by your husband, no less. Your husband. The man who has shared your bed and table for so many years. The father of your children. The same man who farts when he eats too many cucumbers, which he does every year as soon as they become ripe because he loves them so. This man. Who apparently really has spoken to a God and lived to tell about it.

You turn with him and walk toward the farm. The giant flat bottomed ark looms where the old wheat field was. The daughter of fisher folk rears her head for old times sake, yammering away in her bold, forward fashion.

"That thing is going to sink like a stone! And assuming it does float, how are you going to steer it? You should tell him - just say it". You silently remind yourself, "You know you'll regret it if you don't". But you keep your peace and tell your inner fishwife to be quiet. After all, who are you to argue with the man who is the trusted servant of a God?

June 22, 2020 02:38

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23:05 Jul 01, 2020

Hello from the critique circle! I very much enjoyed this! I was guessing about the setting until "Noa" was mentioned, and then I knew. Brilliant choice to have Noa's wife in the second person, to see things from her perspective. But I was a bit confused by the last paragraph. It almost sounds like she should have spoken to Noa, and she regrets not speaking. I wasn't quite sure what you were going for there


02:37 Jul 02, 2020

Well, she was going to second guess her husband again, as she did at the beginning of the story. Then she made a conscious effort to trust her husband's (and God's) judgement and keep her mouth shut because, after all, everything else she had had second thoughts and doubts about had turned out fine, and he had been right. She had finally learned after all those years of marriage that just because her husband was low key and didn't bother defending his opinions to others, didn't mean that he was wrong. She stopped listening to other people, a...


11:47 Jul 02, 2020

Yes, that clears it up. I was hoping that was the answer, but I wasn't sure. Thanks for taking the time to reply!


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Robert Wills
23:41 Jun 22, 2020

I liked your story. It was very creative.


03:37 Jun 27, 2020



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Batool Hussain
14:38 Jun 22, 2020

Good story! Also, I just noticed that you liked one of my stories so a big thank you for that:) Will you mind giving your view on my very recent story 'You and the train?' Thanks.


19:23 Jun 22, 2020

Thanks Batool! I will definitely check out "You and the Train".


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Emily Nghiem
16:35 Jun 22, 2020

I love the descriptions that create a realistic cultural feel. I would drop in Taz, the name of the Village much earlier on near the beginning to establish a firm sense of place and setting before filling in the details. I didn't follow why all the names of places or characters would be buried or near the end instead of revealed closer to the beginning and developed from there. On a minor note, I would edit out the ellipses as not necessary. Very nice descriptive writing! Keep writing and sharing your stories. Thanks for sharing your thought...


19:29 Jun 22, 2020

Thanks for your input Emily. The main reason I left a lot of the information to be revealed at the end was because the story is based on the familiar account of Noah and the Ark. I wanted to establish Mira as her own person, with her own perspective, before bringing in the facts of the Biblical account. Mira isn't even named, nor any name given to the community Noah was living near, but both would have been important to the people involved. Not sure what you mean by "ellipses", but I do appreciate your thoughts. Thanks again.


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03:04 Jun 29, 2020

Hi Emily! I did work in some of your suggestions when I edited "Didn't It Rain". It definitely tightens it up. Thanks.


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