Noah was just about ready with the Ark. He and his sons had filled it with the provisions they would need for themselves and the animals. They had strapped big barrels of water onto the interior vertical beams, which was in addition to the water runoff system that Shem had installed (he being the inventive one of Noah’s sons) from the top of the ark and down pathways cut into the wood inside, with the overflow diverted outside again. He had advised his father to have both fresh water and the runoff system.
“you never can tell what will be in the water that falls,” he had pointed out. “I mean, water has never come down out of the sky before, and it may bring down some undesirable particulate matter.”
“Undesirable what?” Noah had echoed. “Mind telling me, Shem, what particu—particu—”
“Particulate matter,” Shem finished for him. “It’s a phrase that I made up to describe stuff in the air that blows around, or in the water. I’ve seen it in our streams, too, and in the lake over there.” He pointed off in the direction of the great lake just north of their house and the Ark—which sat in the wide plain at the foot of Mt. Ararat.
“Whatever,” Noah replied, still with a confused look on his face. He had grown accustomed to not paying too much attention to what Shem said. “I’m sure he’ll be a scientist some day, if we get that far,” he muttered to himself, before stopping to wonder why he had said that.
Noah was up on the roof when Leah came out carrying a large bowl of fruit on her head. “Mother says to bring this to you now,” she called up cheerfully.
“Just give it to Ham,” Noah called down.
“He is not anywhere around,” Leah replied. “We have not seen him for the last hour or so.”
Noah scratched his chin. “Now where can that boy be?” he mused to himself. Ham was always disappearing when there was work to do. Usually he was playing with some animal in the forest. He loved animals and there were so many coming to him these days.
“Give it to Japheth then,” Noah shouted. “He’s just inside.” Yes, it was all coming together for Noah, and he was proud of how his family had pulled in the same direction to get it done (even though it had taken one-hundred-twenty years or so). All except for Ham. Oh, he really had done a lot of work, but he always seemed to be somewhere else when Noah needed four men to lift something heavy. And he seemed to be very… “young in spirit.” That was the only way that Noah could express Ham’s usual demeanor and his strange hobby. He especially liked to play with the giant lizards that came around, usually, in the spring. They would chase a few of the villagers—for some reason, they never bothered Noah—until they tired of that game and went elsewhere or grabbed some smaller animal. Noah reckoned that some of them were almost as tall as the ark, and he had no explanation for why God had made them. They did not seem to serve a useful purpose in the “cycle of nature” (that was another phrase that Shem had made up, but it was a good one, so Noah occasionally used it). Noah scanned the forest, could not locate Ham, and so went back to his work.
Meanwhile, not too far away, Ham was playing with a baby of the giant lizards. It was only two feet tall to its shoulders.
“Stop! Stop, Grandfather,” Alan shouted.
“Yeah,” said Ally.
“Why, what is the matter?” Angus asked.
“You are not telling the story right,” Alan pointed out.
“And who is telling the story? Sure, I am telling the story.”
“There were no dinosaurs then.” Ally corrected him first, since she always liked to be first.
“And if there were, Noah did not take them on the Ark!” Alan said firmly.
“Did I say that the dinosaur got on the ark?” Grandfather’s expression was wounded.
“You were going to.” Alan thought that he knew his grandfather’s stories pretty well by now.
“Well, supposing you just listen and I tell the story,” Grandfather tried.” And you don’t know everything about it. It was a long time ago.”
“Yeah, I know. That is how you started,” Alan replied.
“And that is how every child’s story starts: A long time ago. Now, am I going to tell the story, or am I not?
The children sighed. Grandfather did tell good stories, and he did know a lot more than they did. “Yes, you are,” they both replied.
“Good, now where was I?”
“Ham was playing with the dinosaur—or giant lizard,” Ally said.
“Right. So, here goes.”
The dinosaur was only two feet tall to the shoulders, but he was smart. Every time that Ham threw a stick, the dinosaur would run and fetch it. Ham loved this game. “I bet I could teach him all kinds of neat tricks,” he said to himself. “If only I had the time. God is going to make it rain real soon. If I could get him on the ark…” Ham knew the chances of that, since Noah had already said that no big lizards were going. Father had not discouraged his hobby when he had started working with animals and training them. He had already had quite a few, but nothing like this one. And that was the problem.
“He’s just too…unusual,” Noah had said. “Besides, God did not mention giant lizards.” Ham could tell that his father was trying not to hurt his feelings, but it did hurt, anyway. Japheth and Shem both had hobbies. Japheth was always gazing at the stars and making diagrams on clay tablets. He claimed that he knew how to get to any place on earth by using the stars—although how that was, Ham could not guess, since most of the time the sky was too cloudy to see many stars. No one but Japheth really knew what he meant. No one ever went anywhere. And Shem’s hobby was inventing things. They were almost always things that no one could use because part of what he needed to make them work was missing. And he always said that someone else would invent that part. It remained to be seen how his water system would work on the ark.
Ham sighed. His pet was so cute and so smart, he just knew that they could use him after the flood. If anyone tried to pick on him—wham! Dino—that was what he had named him—would smash them into the ground. Ham did not think that just because the flood would wipe out all the bad people, there would never be any more like them. They always seemed to keep coming. And Ham was aware that Dino would grow, and grow a lot, but big lizards grew slowly. Everyone knew that. It would all be over before he became a problem. Ham had to sneak Dino onto the ark. That was the solution. Once the rain started and they were floating, his father would not pitch him out. Ham would not let him. He had already arranged his speech if Noah tried: “If he goes, I go.”
“No, don’t interrupt!” Grandpa ordered, to forestall another round of protests from the kids. “This is where it gets interesting.”
That night, while everyone slept in the house, Ham crept out and into the forest. He had made a rope of vines and tied up Dino to a tree. He had also brought some nice green leaves because his giant lizard was a plant eater. He untied Dino and led him away.
The next day, he was ready for work when everyone else was ready.
Noah could hardly believe it. “Ham, what a surprise to see you here,” he said.
“Father, I’ve been thinking about my behavior,” Ham replied. “You were right, I have been to taken up with that hobby I had.”
“I’m going to stay here and make the ark my hobby from now on.”
“Why, I think that is a wonderful idea, son!"
From that moment, Ham did just what he said he would. He still occasionally slipped away, but not for very long. He would go down to the very bottom of the forward hold, to pet and feed Dino, and come back up. Noah assumed that he was engaged in those little details that a project like the ark always had so many of. And so, Noah no longer thought about it. As for Ham, he had not lied to his father, he told himself, because he did make the ark his hobby. He had a clear conscience. After all, he told himself again, all life is sacred. He had heard that all his life, and from Noah.
The rains eventually came, and all the animals were on the ark. They had come two by two, just as God had said they would. Noah and his family only had to stand back and gape at all the varieties of animals, many of which they had never dreamed existed. But there were no giant lizards coming their way, which was as it should be. At least, that was Noah’s attitude. Every animal on the ark was in its place and all had enough to eat and drink—especially, to drink, thanks to Shem’s invention, because animals will eat and drink almost anything. Everyone in the family had resolved not to actually get their water from that source unless the water in the barrels ran out.
It was not too long before Ham’s lizard had outgrown the little space in the hold where he had put him. He seemed to be growing faster now than he had before, or perhaps he had just reached some growth spurt that Ham knew nothing about. Ham moved things around, mostly the food containers, to make more room. One day he was obliged to move the gear out of the front hold and back a ways. Finally, Dino’s head began to approach the ceiling of the hold. Ham was desperate. What could he do? “I must tell father,” he decided. There was no other way, because he needed to cut away a section of the ceiling—which, of course, was the floor above. He went up and looked it over. Nothing much up there. A few stalls with animals that could be moved in with others. The jumping gazekas would be happy to be in with the slithering geckos, he was sure of it.
Timidly, he approached Noah. There was no easy way to say it. He spilled out the truth and then said his carefully rehearsed lines. “I brought my pet lizard onto the ark because I could not stand to leave him behind. You told me that all life is sacred, right? So that is why I did it.”
Noah shook his head, his other sons frowned, and his wife and daughters-in-law chuckled.
“This is no laughing matter!” Noah snapped. “What if he grows so large that we have to keep cutting holes in the floors?” Finally, he said, “Let’s go see this lizard of yours, Ham.”
They all traipsed down into the hold. “My God!” Noah gasped, and he was not taking the Lord’s name in vain, he really did mean, “My God.” He needed divine wisdom. Noah looked up, raised his arms, and stood that way for a long time. Everyone expected that because God always took a long time to give Noah his instructions.
Then Noah asked, “Where is that saw of mine? I laid it around here somewhere.” Now, Noah had had lots of saws while they were building the ark, but now not one could be found.
“Perhaps we could simply remove a few boards,” Shem suggested.
Noah threw his arms up. “Oh, yes, simply remove a few boards. What! Do you know what that would take?”
“Alternately, Ham could make his lizard lay down in the hold,” Japheth said.
This boy Japheth, Noah thought, really does have a grasp of things. “Yes, you make him lay down, Ham,” Noah ordered. “Just…” He motioned in disgust. “Just make him lay down.” He walked away, shaking his head. His wife, Naamah, walked after him.
This worked for a surprisingly long time, although Ham needed to be with his lizard most of the time. The little fellow—well, he was not too little anymore, a bit taller than a house—wanted to sit up and stretch his neck. And his neck was getting to be very long.
“I wonder what kind of lizard he will grow up to be?” Japheth wondered idly when he came down next. He looks like one of those water lizards I saw one time.”
“He’s doing fine out of water,” Ham observed.
“I wonder…” Japheth said as he walked away scratching his chin.
Ham resolved to keep a closer watch on his pet, because he had not liked the way Japheth had said the word, “water,” as if Dino might be better out of the ark.
There came a time when the waves got choppy and the ark seemed to be riding very low in the water. Noah liked to go up to the little door in the top and look out. He was worried. That night at dinner, he said, with a casual tone, “I hope that the weight in the bottom of the ark does not keep us from being high enough in the water.”
Ham did not say anything. What could he say? But he was ready with his killer line: “If he goes, I go,” but Noah said no more.
Then the really bad storm came and the ark began to list to the side terribly. “Get down there to the hold and see where your lizard is!” Noah ordered Ham. “He’s got to stay down in the center of the ark.” Noah’s face was red now, but he seemed to control himself.
“No, no, Grandpa!” Ally yelled this time. “You are not going to tell us that the ark—”
“No, of course not,” Grandpa cut her off. “The ark will be fine.”
“How about Dino?” Alan asked.
“He’s fine, too. Now, can I go on?”
Well, Ham slept with Dino from then on, and took his meals with Dino, and pretty much lived in the hold for the rest of the forty days. He had to keep the lizard still. He stopped feeding his pet at all after Dino threw up on him a few times. Apparently, he could not take the motion. If you have never smelled Dinosaur throw-up, just let me say that you really would not like it. Do you remember that prophet who got swallowed by a whale? He must have looked and smelled like Ham did. No wonder everybody repented, to get rid of him. And Ham’s family felt about the same way. But his hobby was greatly advanced, since he knew a lot more now about lizards.
One day the rains were over. Noah had sent out the dove and the raven, and he knew. After a time, the water began to abate. The problem was, they were supposed to end up on top of Mt. Ararat.
“You mean, they didn’t?” Alan asked.
“Oh, no,” Grandpa answered. “The water could not lift them that high because of Dino. He had grown rather…well, enough to say that they had found the saw and had cut a hole in the deck, after all. The ark settled down on the flanks of the mountain much lower. I will finish the story now.”
They all got out of the ark, but Dino was kind of trapped. He had grown way too big. Ham did not know what he was going to do, and Noah refused to take the ark apart. But Dino provided the solution. He was now very large and powerful and his neck was at least ten cubits long—that is about sixteen feet. He had been cooped up for far too long and when he sensed that they were on solid ground again, he simply bashed the walls apart and stepped out. Then he headed for the lake. Ham thought that his lizard could smell the water. But who knows? He might have kept going, all the way to Scotland—or what would become Scotland.
“Do you mean...?” both Alan and Ally asked at the same time.
“Aye, I do,” Grandpa replied. “Where do you think the Loch Ness monster came from?”
“But, Grandpa,” Alan said, “One dinosaur? Wouldn’t there have to be two, if…”
“Ah, yes. But if they were water dinosaurs…”
“Another one could have survived the flood!” Ally pitched in. “And what became of the ark?”
Grandpa shrugged. “By a strange happenstance, the ark ended up very close to where they had lived before. Of course the house was gone, and all the people, but Noah knew there would be more to come. They needed wood, did they not? They made houses with it. That would be my guess. And that is why not one adventurer who has gone to the top of Mt. Ararat looking for the ark has found it.”