The Arks of Noah and Uta
A play in one act with four scenes
By Alfred de Grazia
Copyright © 2001 by Alfred de Grazia
Place: deck of Ark, large hatch door open at rear, not far from Mt. Ararat. Several large film shots will be played on a prepared part of the wall, which, otherwise, is the superstructure of the barge.
Personae: Noah, Goddo's favorite man
Ham, a son
Shem, a son
Japheth, a son
Belela, wife of Japheth
Uta-Napishtim, Godea's favorite man
Dolphin called "Smiles"
The unimpressive family ("best there is," says Goddo) is comfortably afloat in its box-like barge, while all the species are drowning and blowing away.
Offstage avantgarde distressful music. On backdrop, flash film shots of Bangladesh flood disaster and Hurricane Andrew hitting Florida. Messages of distress (other people's doves) alight and depart. One spots bodies and live people floating by, but can't take anyone aboard -- Goddo wouldn't like it.
Noah: Calls roll. Three are on stage looking at the dismal scene, pointing and exclaiming. Another three call from inside and beyond. (Belela is at extreme end of stage gesturing and apparently talking to the open sea over the gunwale. She scuttles over tardily and flushed with embarassment. Noah looks at her as if to ask a question, but refrains.)
At least all eight of us are still survivors.
Shem: Goddo's really merciless, isn't he Pappy, when he has his mind set upon doing something. All the world lifeless. Downpouring rain, stinging hail, cyclones..
Noah: Yes, son, it's a great virtue, that obsessiveness, of the Lord. It keeps the world going on a narrow track, and mankind in line. Along with his terror tactics, his grim determination keeps us all on our toes.
Shem: The ways of the Lord are incomprehensible, aren't they, Pappy?
Noah: You can take him three ways, my boy.
Goddo is inscrutable, so simply resign yourself to ignorance.
Goddo is wilful, so obey without further thought.
Goddo has his back turned, so do what's best for yourself.
Goddo also combines all three and is inscrutable, wilful, and distractable.
Shem: What about Goddo is Good, Pappy?
Noah: Big question. But see how he's saving us here, while everyone else is fishfood.
Ham: I guess you'd call him your personal Goddo.
Noah: Oh, yes, we've had such pleasant walks together, him talking about what he'll do next to the world.
Belela: Well, let's see how this comes out. We're not yet on dry land, not to mention out of the woods.
Japheth: Woman of small faith.
Belela: Up your ass, brother.
Noah: Enough! What's this I hear, Belela, that you're stirring up the females about making space for sea animals that can't stand the roiling seas? We're very crowded as it is. You wouldn't be wanting to dump my wine barrels overboard, would you, to make space?
Belela: Well, that's a thought.
Ham: Dad, I just checked the rodents. The Norway rats have far exceeded their quota of two.
Noah: I had a feeling that rats were aboard before we finished the hull. All rats go overboard, except the couple.
Ham: Same problem with the rabbits, except it happened before our very eyes.
Noah: (smacking his lips) Rabbit stews, with a delicious white wine, Jordan Valley, 4004 B.C..
Belela: You'd better save some wine for your friends.
Noah: What do you mean by that?
Belela: How can we be sure that there are no other survivors in the world?
Noah: Goddo said so.
The sons: Right!!
Belela: Well, I'm not so certain. Seems to me I smelled Chinese cooking when we were rushing nowhere in the flood a week ago. And last night, the 121st night of our all-expenses-paid tour, I snared a corked bottle on the flood marked 'whiskey' and in it a note saying: "whooppee, we are surviving in style," signed by "Cecil O'G".
Noah: Nonsense. The world's currents are rushing about; but all the way from Hibernia? Hardly likely.
Belela: Well, then, if it's an eye-witness testimonial you want - oh, well, let it go.
Japheth: Goddo is our Witness.
(Commotion from back stage: snorts, cracks of horn against horn, bumping bodies. Ham looks out behind and reports.)
Ham: They're playing soccer. It's the odd-toed ungulates against the even-toed ungulates.
Japheth: Pa, can't we take aboard a couple of floaters to shovel shit? It's getting worse by the day. We can't keep up with it.
Ham: The wives are threatening to start dumping animals. What's all these species for, they're asking. Chickens, sheep, and cows and that's enough, they're saying. They're talking about lunatic conservationists, and they could only be meaning You-dassn't-say-His-Name.
Noah: Sons, you must control your womenfolk. As for me, I'll be down at my office.
Ham: Score one for Tipper, old Tippler. (Laughs, but the others frown.)
Japheth: You know, Ham, it's not going to be over when it's over over here.
Shem: It's a dilemma, if I may coin a term. We want the rain to stop so we can disembark, let the animals out, except for the edibles, and get about our mission of repopulating the sodden Earth. Not one of our three wives is pregnant, think of that.
On the other hand, if it were to stop raining, we would be up to our waists in shit in jig time.
Noah: (anxiously scanning the sky) Be quiet. I am trying to hear what Goddo is saying! Though, thank Goddo, he seems to say the same thing every day. I suppose that's how liturgy is born. I wish that I could put it to music, but I'm tone deaf.
Ham: (snickering) Pa, yer gitting a little deaf, for sure.
Goddo: (Goddo speaks from above stage in a booming but sometimes electrically static --it is a highly electrified age -- voice that cannot be understood, wavering, vague voice, interference from other peoples' Goddos.) It is blasphemy to say you cannot hear Goddo: Goddo can always be heard by those who listen. It is a contradiction in terms for Goddo to raise his Voice.
Noah: What was it you said, dear Adonai?
Goddo: Oh, shut up, you old fart. Wait till the wind dies down.
Shem: Can Goddo interfere with his own reception? There must be another Goddo. Maybe an electrical Goddo, you know, static and all of that, lightning. How many gods there are equals how many problems we have. That's it! Our human problems are endless. Goddo must want the smoothest-working world possible, and therefore must have an endless supply of specialist gods for tackling all these problems. The number of gods must be infinite.
Noah: Shut up, fool. If Goddo could hear you say that you'd be fried to a crisp in an instant.
Ham (More practical.) Why must there be so many species of birds? They shit all over the deck. I almost broke my neck slipping on it this morning. The rain can't get rid of it all fast enough.
Shem: That must be where the hills and dales and prairies came from, they're nothing but garbage dumps of long ago.
Belela: Why destroy all the animals except the couple on board - Goddo help us if one of the thousands happens to be infertile. I couldn't check all the females for eggs, they were coming aboard too fast. You've seen the pictures, clumpity, clump,clumpity clump, the silly giraffe up front like a lens louse.
Japheth: What's a lens louse?
Belela: I don't know. They have them in Babylon on their telescopes. They have everything in Babylon.
Shem: Ha, is that so? Where is their official divinely-supervised Diluvian Expedition?
Belela: Well, as I was saying before, on the word of a reliable informant, ... oh, let it go.
Ham: Why were the fish of the sea left untouched in their infinite kinds and numbers ?
There is the typical thunder and lightning introducing the tunnel-echoing voice of Goddo.
Goddo: You are wrong. The fish are finito, unless you have some pairs aboard. Remember that this Deluge is proclaimed to destroy all living things.
Noah: But Dear Goddo, we skipped many species. It was a hurry-up job, you well know. You allowed only seven days to round up myriads of species. And there were in the end animals straggling in from the strangest parts of the globe, places no man has ever visited - I think.
Shem: Even if we could recognize them, we had no time to bring in kangaroos, alligators, and wanabys, not to mention two duck-billed platypussies. We've got a lot of singles we don't know what to do with, too.
Ham: What's Himself got against animals, not to mention plants? Aside from a mean dog and a poisonous snake, that sort of thing, animals cannot be wicked. They have no idea of how to misbehave and very little imagination on the rare occasions when they deliberately frustrate a person.
Shem: And there are some animals with teats swimming around out there masquerading as fish. Remember the whale that we tried our best to bring aboard?
Noah: Many miracles have happened but not that one, not yet.
Shem: No matter. Look there. Take a look at that titty dolphin showing off thirty degrees to starboard, dressed to the nibs.
Ham: I suppose he wants to be taken aboard. Fat chance. A world class swimmer like him must stick with the fish.
Belela: Isn't he cute. He's smiling, hey smiley! Whatscha got on for tonight?
Belela: I don't take for granted even what Goddo wants us to believe. I went on the Web and did a Sherlock Holmes on Flood Survivors. And sure enough. All over the world they were. Hundreds of sites, each with a different story to tell. It was fascinating. I discovered that they are carrying different assortments of animals.
And there are also sites for vegetarian survivors, 63 members on one discussion group. And they have plants of all species aboard. Who has the yeasts, the spices, the bacteria of yoghurt? We should have two microbes of each -- or one will suffice, come to think of it.
Ham: Don't concern yourself. Our animals are carrying plenty of germs.
Belela: I am planning menus combining vegetables and meats.
But now there are the usual noises of the approach of the Lord.
Goddo: Let me repeat. You must refrain from all contact with gentiles. You might as well know: the reason why all of your tribe are being killed off, except for your miserable family, is in order to exterminate the much greater numbers of gentiles.
Belela: (Ironically) Goodie, goodie! I always say that there is no logic like divine logic.
Shem: Life, in this new Kingdom that we have to breed, may be a great bore. No this, no that. Social isolation from the rest of the human race, if such still exists, although, by the looks of it from your few moments on the Web, there are lots of so-called lone survivors.
Goddo: That may be so, unfortunately. Still, you're my select, my favorite tribe, my chosen people.
Shem: I don't think we're so great. Did you see Ham with the ewe last night?
Goddo: Ham was not with me last night, not that idiot.
Shem: No, I don't mean with you, Lord, I meant with the ewe, the female sheep. Isn't bestiality like that forbidden somewhere?
Goddo: Ham needs a jolt of lightning, but there are too few survivors, only eight and there would be seven without him. Otherwise, and mark this down in your book: He who couples with a beast will be put to death by stoning.
And I should warn you and your brother.
Shem: I'm sorry I brought up the matter. (Aside: I wonder, does he know I'm masturbating.) Lord Almighty, pardon me if I ask a trivial question, if only for the sake of consistency. What's the penalty for onanism, if we were on dry land and amid the splendid new population that we are about to create if this accursed barge ever lands anywhere?
Goddo: Death, of course.
(And with that his peculiar static ceases, and everyone gives a big sigh of relief.)
Ham's attention is drawn to below deck: Pappy, there's word from Ma at the stern kitchen.
Noah: What's eating her?
Ham: It's not her. It's the schmoos. Somebody has eaten the last of the delicious clever little critters.
All: horrified. The last schmoo?!
Ham: Yessiree. The very last of the species.
Noah: Christ Almighty!- No, let's not get ahead of ourselves - Jumping Jehosophat! What will Goddo say? What's the penalty for gourmandizing? For gluttony? Violating the order of Goddo to preserve all critters? Dereliction of duty?
Lord, Adonai, Og, Yhwh, and all other gods whose real name is a secret, believe me when I pray you to believe that the extinction of this species on the brink of extinction ( your doing, not mine) was caused by sheer stupidity, in this case that of my wife Hannah, who has always been pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen and so knows not the glories of the Lord as portrayed in the magnificent Temple of Solomon that is coming down the line. I shall beat her until she learns the ways of the Lord Goddo. Any other suggestions from you would be most welcome.
But the divine static resumes and everybody shrinks, for it's Goddo again.
Goddo: You know, Noah, Goddos are Goddos, and men are men, and never the twain shall meet. I know that you are trying to please me by forcing your bright young woman to accept your stupid view of my imperfect religion, saying things like Goddo will strike you dead, but have you ever stopped to consider that gods such as I are stupid and keep repeating themselves and you repeating them ad infinitum ad nauseam, saying Goddo will strike you dead, or, you will be blinded for approaching the altar from the rear, etc. Belela here has more brains than the whole lot of you, and I am sorry that I am such a woebegotten mysogynist .
Belela: O Lord, I wish you would say that more often and in a louder voice and plant it in everybody's ears. You must know what frightful miseries we deviants have to suffer from our look-alikes.
Goddo: Just between us, Belela, I'm merely a minor deity to whom is conceded a minor solar system by the boss gods who govern domains of 13.6481520 billion light-years. I'm in practice for promotion to squeeze another fraction of one of those light years into my domain .
I make a great many mistakes, which you humans are suckered into believing must be absolutely right decisions, and punish yourselves for making a better decision yourself and offering up sacrifices to me to take my mind off the matter under the influence of steaks and beer.
Still, as I live and learn, I grow into the next level of divinities and get a few more solar systems added to my domain. Like Boy Scout merit badges.
(To the others.)However, something must be done, for the law is the law. But I will not strike her with a thunderbolt for your sake. Hell no! I shall exile her from the human race. Huh, tough luck, sister, you won't be missing much.
Belela: Lordy, we need a law of divorce and we should bring aboard other survivors. I need a man, an unrelated man, this inbreeding with brothers and fathers is so unromantic. And it's more propathical than propadeutical. Also the incidence of impotence is unhealthy. I cannot be taken to task for refusing to cooperate.
Noah: Goddo, who speaks to me, says that's enough out of you. The thunderbolt is still a possibility.
Belela: I'll be honest with you Noahites. If I disappeared when you boys were chasing me around in your incestuous lust, it was to be with my boy friend from quite another life-style.
I'm proud to introduce him: "O Smiles!"
Dolphin comes on stage carrying his temporary (plastic) tub, dripping water: "Ready? " He speaks with a cheerful, though whistling, accent.
Belela: I've been waiting, Smiles. She climbs into the tub beside him or in back
Smiles: Then here we go. They trip offstage, their four feet showing. If there is a big spash sounding, we know that they have gone overboard.
Noah, dazed drunk, looks on: Who let that grinning fat boy on board? Belela, come back!"
Japheth: The penalty for adultery is death by popular stoning.
Belela, voice heard from a distance: You'll have to catch me first.
Noah: Can't do it, no stones collected, and, with just seven servants of Goddo, how do we make up a crowd of envious furies.
Ham: Shet ep, Pappy, do you have somebody better out there for her to shack up with? They're all dead, and if they weren't dead they'd all be gentiles. It's also against the law of Goddo to fuck with gentiles, you know.
Noah: And people wonder why I'm an alcoholic.
Lights go out
It is dawn. As lights begin to go on, there is a big thump as if the Ark were being grounded. The lights then begin to illuminate the backdrop and at the same time a film projector shows first a long boat Greek-Viking style, then an Egyptian boat, then a Chinese junk, then a Polynesian catamaran, then a raft. What all of these have in common is a large burdensome box-like construction of deck, suited to convey large numbers of animals. If possible, combine all of these in a computerized motion picture film so that finally the whole scene is filled with boats and people and animals are going in and out of them. Then, there is a sudden brilliant illumination of the backdrop and, superimposed upon several of the prior arks, there is landed a huge barge carrying a tall ziggurat, from which come the sounds of many bells. It occpies partically the whole of the screen.
As this scene is revealed to the men of Noah's Ark, we hear cries of wonder and dismay: What in the world?.. Look! O my Goddo! It's impossible, it can't be!
Ham: Is this what Goddo promised? A fleet of survivors? What a dirty trick. What piss, shit, and damnation!
Japheth: Are they our people or are they gentiles?
Shem: Gentiles, you jerk. Can't you tell where they come from?
Japheth: Of course not, I ain't never been nowhere.
Noah: What the hell is this, a Florida marina? This is not our Goddo's doing.
These trespassers must depart in order to make future history truly correct. We'll call on the Lord.
Shem: Let them be. They're just like us, maybe a little better. All this inbreeding is going to make us sick, I tell you. I'll take on a zaftig gentile any day in preference to old Ma or my sister-in-laws or any animal substitutes therefor.
Ham: Listen, you. Your wife ain't so great. There's a certain ewe (spelled E-W-E) that has a hell of a lot more je ne sais quoi and savoir faire, if you must know.
Shem: All the races of the world have made it. And will let everyone know in song and fable, don't you think? My top priority once I have humped off a few kids will be to write the kind of history of this Ark experience that will get more readers than the Bible tablets such as are peddled around.
Let them live! Let's join them! Set up a big get-acquainted party on the mountain top where the electricity flows all the time and our juices, too. What a grand roast: all the surplus turkeys and surplus pups of the fecund species, and maybe someone from another barge can add on a couple of human infants as a tasty sacrifice.
Suddenly a stranger's voice. Another human! He could pass for Belela, except that he is dressed like a spaceman. He strides through the doorway into the astonished presence of the others.
Uta: Now you're in the right ball park! My name is Uta Napishtim, your humble servant and the favorite of Godea, who is called Ea, pronounced Yah!
Noah: Not Elohim, or Adonai, or something like that? Not even just plain Goddo?
Uta: No. N-O! Godea is the name, Ea for short. And I could say that only Ea has saved the human race, but I won't, because I don't want to hurt your feelings.
Nor will I bother to point out to you the obvious fact that my ark is four times as large as yours and holds three of every kind of animal including humans, two of which are female and one male, thus our brave new world will be populated twice as fast as yours. And all gentiles.
Noah: So I see. That's god-awful. How can it be? Would you like a glass of wine?
Uta: No, thanks. Not while I'm working.
But listen to me. Every god, it would appear, independently decided he or she had enough of us humans and wanted to wipe us out. Except for Ea. It was God-Enlil who brought down the waters and uprooted the ground and blew up countless waterspouts. He'll be sorry one day.
Just like your Goddo. Don't think I didn't overhear him talking to you a little while ago and producing that beautiful rainbow in the sky and promising never to commit a second Deluge.
Well, the rainbow belongs to everyone in the world, and my Godea says to your Goddo, as to God-Enlil, it's too late to be sorry.
My Ea screamed to Enlil, "How, how could you be so thoughtless to make cyclones like this? If a man is sinful, on him lay his sin. If a man transgresses, on him lay his transgressions. Be merciful or everything will be destroyed."
How's that for a decent fellow, notwithstanding his being Godea?
I say, I don't want any god who doesn't love all the people I have loved, besides my tiny allowance of family and friends -- we are only thirteen in number, out of a vast empire -- is that a good or bad luck number for your folk?
Noah: Thirteen is good luck.
Uta: No matter.
Shem: But we were only allowed eight.
Uta: There you are. The gods are not even-handed. In fact they are always fighting amongst themselves and the less we have to do with them the better.
Look, let's stop playing around before the gods get wise to us and wipe us out too. Let's get together. What we need is a world agreement.
Shem: Pa, I like that idea. It's a new world.
Ham: Yeah, Pa, it's the new world, after the flood.
Noah: I reckon it's the best thing, if you can keep me out of trouble with Goddo.
Uta: That's the risk you take. That's the risk we all take.
But I like the idea of a wonderful Survival Day Party of All the Nations, like you were saying as I came aboard, Shem.
Shem, Ham, Japheth: Great, fine, tonight's the night.
Noah: warming up to the idea. It's a good beginning. And if you bring the pork, I'll provide the vino.
(Turning to Ham) And Ham, I take back any curse I may be prone to lay upon you for the rest of my life.
Uta: It's a deal.
And therefore let me confide in you one more secret project. I think you will like it. And it will be the most important symbol in history.
Shem: Please tell us, Uta.
Uta: O.K. To celebrate the Accord of the Assembled Arks of the World, to preserve and foster the mutual friendship of all the peoples who are represented here on this Ark day, I propose a tower and new city on the great lush plain of the great Rivers. A friend there, who has a very rich foundation for good works, has promised me the necessary funding, a tower that we will all build together, brick upon brick, people from all nations. Until we complete it, and give it its proper name, we give it the project name of The Tower of Babel.
All: To the Tower of Babel and world fellowship! To the Tower of Babel!
Uta takes Noah aside and in a confidential tone: Look, my friend, I know that from time to time you may drink a little too much and then you may talk too much. Please be careful, in your walks with your Goddo. As you know he is a jealous Goddo; he says so himself. He might cause the Tower of Babel a lot of trouble.
Noah: Don't worry, Uta. Mum's the word. Goddo respects me for what I say, not for what I don't say.
They walk off stage, which darkens except for a luminous spot on a shrouded figure of inordinate size, from which comes the voice of Goddo.
Goddo: (A sardonic laugh) Ha, ha, ha. That's me who never laughs, but I look down now upon my work and am not satisfied, so I must laugh at myself and my ambitions for this tribe. At what great cost to the whole world have I given them Hebrews a golden opportunity. Then to discover that the other gods are no less opportunistic and partial to their own. I don't know. Goddo doubts.
Let history be my judge! Happily, my chosen people like to concoct, and conserve, history, with enough truth in it to be the most persuasive kind of propaganda.
As for that Tower of Babel they have in mind, I have my own ideas about the project.
You can quote me.
"I will go down to see the city and tower, which the children of men build, when they are one and have all one language. For, once they have built them, they will stop at nothing that they can imagine themselves doing.
"I will go down and there I will confound their language, so that they cannot understand one another's speech. I will scatter them abroad upon the face of the Earth, and cause them to stop building the city."
Oh, yes. I, Goddo, will so do.