To my knowledge, no Egyptologists are aware of the following manuscript, said to have been discovered by an Arab shepherd-boy who had gone wandering after a lost lamb into the caves surrounding the Valley of the Kings in Abydos, Egypt, around the remains of the Temple of Ramesses I. It is still a mysteryhow it arrived in the shop of the Jerusalem artifact-merchant, Ploni ibn-Almoni, whence I was able to acquire it, and have its curious hieroglyphic code translated by a specialist in the Dept. of Archeology of the University of Erewhon.

I, Muwatallis, Royal Court Reporter and Recorder to Ramesses the First, called “Ra, the Sun-god has fashioned Him,” do hereby set down these secret lines, known only to myself, apart from the ImperialHistories which I pen daily for the greater glory of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms—here, I may be more candid, as one writing for my own amusement.

O Ra, Osiris, Ptah! Protect your servant, Muwatallis, his wife and children! For these are perilous times for Egypt—we are not what we were, and the shadow of Semites stretches over the land: Horites, Hivites, Girgashites, and such. We are polluted by this riffraff! No eyes save mine must see these clay tablets; if they were to fall into the hands of my enemies, I could be executed forthwith. But I must record my protest, O gods, for the sake of my king and nation. I will explain.

I have my friends at court—one needs one’s friends at court; I grapple them to my soul with hoops of steel—among them, Tusret, cup-bearer to the king, and Setnakhte, royal baker. The first, I need to keep me informed of Ramesses’s moods: when he reflects, and requires his thoughts to be set down; the second, for the state of the royal stomach, by which I mean his temper. Imagine my surprise, and my fear also, when I heard my friends arrested, placed in jail! I couldn’t imagine why—Tusret was freed, poor Setnakhte hanged—charges of attempted poisoning, I believe, poor fellow—probably just some moldy bread—

Even so, it was a greater still surprise when I witnessed the strangest event ever to be seen in an Egyptian royal court! For there I was, seated, cross-legged on the floor, stylus and soft clay plaque in hand, before the throne just yesterday, recording some dull legal protocol—a conquest, division of booty, exchange of prisoners, etc., etc.—

–when His Royal Majesty stands up, stretches, scratches, takes off his crown and ornamental beard!—I’d never seen him do that before in public—and places both his hands atop his eyes, and rubs them—well, you couldn’t think—

“Are you all right, Sire?” asks Tusret, being ranking major-domo there (not just a butler; he’s adviser, too; and closest to the Royal Ear is he).

“A headache—sleeping badly—dreams of cows,” mumbles Ramesses, and, yawning, collapses back onto his throne, tossing the crown aside (It’s heavy, I know; but still—adhere to protocol, you’d think! His father never would have acted thusly!)

“Yes, cows, I say—Tusret!” calls out His Royalness, “Can you find me an interpreter? I mean, of dreams.”

“I—I—without fail, Sire!” calls Tusret, snapping his fingers at one of the guards (which one never does in front of the king; he’s a god, you know), “Fetch Joseph, the prison-trusty’s boy!”

Well, fifteen minutes later, there’s a Hebrew standing there—some skinny shepherd-kid, with hay coming out of his ears—and smelly! Face full of tiny cuts—probably never shaved before–I can smell those Hebrews miles away, you know—and Ramesses bending over, listening hard, to every word—

And now, he’s made that scamp his Grand Vizier! I can’t abide it—no wonder Egypt’s going to the dogs. Protect us, O ye gods!

 David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

Enjoyed this archived service or article? Click here to donate $3 to OneShul (care of PunkTorah).

Support OneShul on GoFundMe

Leave a Reply