“It’s true then?” An’s questioning statement dared Zem to contradict her.
“Yes, it is true,” Zem resignedly admitted.
“You must’ve known another visit was due… after the last one…” An was exasperated and lost for words. Her accusing tone of voice, not for the first time, left Zem feeling very small.
“…I just didn’t think it would be this soon. Honest An. I know we’re still way behind. But we have a plan… sort of. We would have been back on schedule in two or three inundations. Nobody would’ve known. And it doesn’t help when staff member’s sexual exertions bring about their demise.” Zem felt by raising his voice and sounding managerial, he would at least gain the moral high ground.
“I know, I know” admitted An, “But pharaoh won’t swallow that. What was it he said to you last time? – ““Your whole gifted village are extremely talented, but extremely lazy. I must keep an eye on you.””. HE then spent a great deal of time working out a manageable timetable for you. HE then said HE’d be back at some point to check up on you,” pointed out An.
“He wasn’t actually specific regarding a timescale for his return.” Meekly replied Zem.
“HE is coming back tomorrow. HE won’ be happy.” An was feeling herself getting a bit hysterical. “And HE is going to take retribution…” By now An’s voice had risen considerably, and could almost be heard in the next village.
Zem instinctively hugged his wife to placate her. “Now, now, calm down love. We’ll sort something out.” Zem gently stroked An’s shoulders, Zem could feel the beating of her heart as he held her close in an effort to sooth the situation. He didn’t realize that he was stirring long dormant feelings in An.
“What about an early night then, eh Zemy?” whispered An in Zem’s ear as she held on tight, pressing her groin into his, seemingly trying to provoke a swelling of some sort. “You never know, it might be our last. You haven’t given me a good seeing to for an awfully long time.”
Zem violently pulled away from An. “Ah… Oh….” Zem stuttered, as he suddenly realized what was expected of him.
Zem loved his wife very much but didn’t know how to say it. He was past all that noisy, squelchy, smelly stuff,
Anyway, hadn’t they all just been made aware of how bad it can be for one’s health?
“The goats. Yes. I need to bring the goats in.” This was a lie. “And the geese need feeding.” Zem was warming to his theme. “Then after I’ve stabled the horses, there’s those frescoes that need to be finished for pharaoh’s ante-chamber. Got to show willing…” Zem shouted over his shoulder as he flew out the door.
“…I’ll have an early night then eh,” said An, rhetorically, “I’ll go to bed with a good papyrus, again.” An announced to an empty kitchen.
It didn’t take Zem long to decide that the barn would be a good place to lie low for a while, and have a bit of a rest. Zem was a little surprised, however, to bump into his eldest daughter coming out of the barn, straightening her hair and clothes.
“You were seeing to the animals Aby?” Zem inquired.
“In a manner of speaking. But just the one.” grinned Aby cryptically. Aby’s obvious chemically altered state was self-self-induced.
Zem was in no doubt about this. He saw Aby’s waywardness, and that of one of his twins, as being just other area of his life where he had completely lost control. Zem decided not to question Aby further on the matter. The truth was, he suspected what she was really doing in the barn but just didn’t want to hear any details. “You heard the news I take it,” said Zem by of opening the conversation.
“Is there any point in burying our heads in the sand?” Aby slightly slurred.
“Listen Aby, we’ve got to face it. Pharaoh is visiting us tomorrow lunchtime, and pharaoh may not be too happy about the situation.”
“I’m not too happy about the situation.” Aby vented her frustration, whilst at the same time exhibiting her inability to stand still without swaying.
“And you think I am?” Zem didn’t like the way everybody seemed to think he was to blame.
“We haven’t exactly kept to the schedule, have we?” Aby felt she was entitled to point out the reality of the situation.
“That’s not my fault, is it?” Zem said gesturing wildly with his hands.
“Yes, it is. You’re the chosen leader of this community.” Aby calmly informed her father. “You’re the one who is supposed to set a precedent. If you could be bothered to get up off your fat butt once in a while, and set a proper example, we wouldn’t all be facing imminent execution.” Aby had by now worked herself up into state of venomous honesty. This was quite a feat considering the amount she had no doubt imbibed.
“Eh. Eh. This no time to start running with scissors in your hand.” Zem couldn’t bring himself to admit that his daughter was of course quite right. “I must have missed you jumping out of bed at dawn every day to do pharaoh’s bidding. After the previous night’s obligatory exertions, of course,” Zem added sarcastically.
“My private life is nobody else’s business but mine.”
“You couldn’t be more wrong, girl. You couldn’t be more wrong. The whole village follows your exertions. Hory, who owns our local hostelry, is running a book on how many men you’ll corrupt before the next inundation,” Zem informed his horrified daughter.
“What a nerve.”
“You don’t exactly discourage wagging tongues, do you…?”
“Doesn’t matter who’s to blame. Doesn’t matter what’s gone before. We’ve got to find a way out of this situation,” Zem said trying to assert a little authority which he didn’t feel.
“How?” inquired Aby.
“I’ll let you know when I’ve thought of something,” said Zem.