So, we were sitting around having some couscous with our Hebrew friends when someone from the United Pyramid Workers came running through the neighborhood screaming about the Nile turning red.
We left our bowls in the hovel and got to the riverbank along with maybe ten thousand others. Fish were floating belly up and the stench of rot was percolating through the air. It was really disgusting.
My Yasmina and the kids were throwing up. Luckily, we had water in our cisterns when we got home, so they could have some mint tea to calm their stomachs.
We finally located our part-time neighborhood diviner asleep under a date palm. Times are tough even for wisemen in the new gig economy. He reassured us that there was nothing to worry about. He had a dream confirmed by examining a pigeon’s liver that Pharaoh had it under control. The Nile would be back to normal in a couple of months at most.
We went to bed confident that Rameses the infallible would live up to his word, although the Hebrews, who have their own diviners, weren’t so sure. It sounded like they blamed the problem on Pharaoh’s stupid decision not to let them take a week off from hewing stone in the quarries to play Mah Jong or some such.
When it rained Frogs the next day. We thought it must be some kind of cosmic joke and decided to have a town hall with all our neighbors, including the Hebrews. A messenger had just gotten back from Karnak where frogs were being swept into mounds for disposal. He reported that Rameses proclaimed that he took no responsibility for this frogstorm and that the Hebrews were to blame. Furthermore, it was the Hebrews who had poisoned the Nile fish and polluted the Nile by using it as a Mikvah. Those ingrates had lured the frog storm by magic incantations, which the court magicians were now working very bigly to reverse and would soon restore the water which was purer now, though smelly and red, than it had been under Thutmoses and any of the earlier kings.
The Hebrews argued that blaming them was utter nonsense. The crappy water and rotting fish, not to mention traif amphibians, hit them as hard as anyone. No one was immune.
The loudest mouths in the meeting still blamed the Hebrews and said that these foreigners had brought the plagues on and were just using the fact that they were hit as hard as everyone else as a way to disguise their culpability.
They gleefully produced an official-looking papyrus that said it was the Hebrews’ fault and it was ok to whip them. Some Hebrew named Moses was making outrageous demands and challenging the royal magicians to put up or shut up and let the Hebrews have a day off to go into the desert for some ritual. Mah Jong had been fake news that was planted to throw patriots off the scent.
This was the smoking branch to quench those malicious rumors that Pharaoh had been unprepared for the plagues. The Hebrew control of the fake news created misinformation as part of their failing plot. Their failing media was losing adherents. Pharaoh’s negotiating team and magicians were totally outfoxing them.
We were calmed by his assurance that life would get back to normal in the summer. Meanwhile, we were ordered to show up for work but to boil drinking water to prevent contagion from the still-bloody Nile and putrid fish.
Yasmina wanted us to wear Ankh necklaces to prove that we are Egyptians, not Hebrews, so the guardians from Make Egypt Great Again would realize that we were deserving of better treatment than the Hebrews who were lazy and sloppy by nature.
Lice, locusts, cattle disease, the plagues kept on coming. Pharaoh told us that the plagues were all over the world. The Hittites suffered even more plagues, and in Babylon the hanging gardens were shut down and the economy was frozen. We were protected, Rameses told us, because we were so lucky to have the best magicians in the world, and he repeated that his firing of Tutankhamun’s diviners was a cost-saving measure that had nothing to do with the sudden appearance of these plagues. All was foreseen. Everything possible had been done. Protective amulets had been sold to the Persians but the profit from those sales would help Egyptian manufacturers to resupply the upper and lower kingdoms in a matter of months. Also, anyone who received a “Hamsa” counterfeit amulet consisting of a raised middle finger should refrain from using them to ward off plague.
The same croaking chorus at the town hall made a convincing case that it was just as important, if not more important, to erase everything that had King Tut’s name on it as it was to cure the plagues. King Toot’s (or Tootsie, as he called him) programs, like monotheism, were even worse than the newer plagues. Also, it was not true that the Egyptian army was travelling all over the fertile crescent erasing Tut’s name from monuments. Those were mercenaries hired by border patrol.
The Pharaoh proclaimed that the Hebrews were intent on having too many babies and had revived their plan to grow so numerous that real Egyptians would be squeezed into the desert. Killing their first born males didn’t work a generation earlier. Now they would have to be driven out en masse.
We joined the torchlight parades chanting our new song: “Our blood. Our Land. The Hebrews will not replace us.” As we marched, our leaders noticed that the Hebrews were repainting their doorposts with, of all things, blood. Lamb’s blood, I think. I have no idea what they are up to. Yasmina wants to help them get out of town fast. She donated a pair of earrings to help the Hebrews speed their exodus.
The screams woke us up in the middle of the night. Our first born son was cold and still. Families around were facing the same situation. The damn Hebrews and their eye for an eye. Maybe this could have been foreseen if pharaoh had kept the historians and the diviners on the payroll. “I am not responsible” posters and stele went up at every crossroads and public building. “This is a foreign plague that the Hebrews brought us. It is all their fault.”
No one is quite sure of the facts, but we believe in our pharaoh. He showed such strength in denying exit visas to the Hebrews, and we had all the best magicians. Now we could clearly see Pharaoh’s genius plan. Let the Hebrews think they can escape and slaughter them on the banks of the sea. The whole population of Egypt marched to the bluffs above the sea,