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The Last Testament


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straightforward serpent‑rod‑swallowing contest; it betokeneth no sub‑ text.”

(Sorry; i mean not to wander forty years in the desert of this digression; but as thy Creator it is something that has long been on my mind. truly, it almost surpasseth my understanding how it took thee 5,000 years to notice the similarity between the cylindrical and the phallic; and that even Freud, the man who first “discovered” this self‑evidency, felt obliged to apologize for his finding by noting, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” No. No. a cigar is always a penis.)




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he ten Plagues were an exciting time. i remember the initial wingstorming session i held with my top four angels. “boys,” i said unto them, “let us create a drumroll‑worthy list of the ten most superior methods of afflicting the egyptians; one that not only unleashes a catalog of despair upon them, but does so in a mirth‑ ful way that keeps the pace up. and let us earnestly endeavor to nail this: for if it goes well, i may have another list‑of‑ten writing gig lined up for thee in the near future.” the ideas percolated; the energy overflowed; Gabriel would put forward a possible plague, which would trigger a pestilential suggestion from ra‑ phael, which in turn would spark the basis of a new unutterable horror from uriel; thou couldst feel the creativity. all five of us had the same initial instinct: animals. herds of elephants; packs of wolves; unkindnesses of ravens; killer pup‑ pies; millions of land‑lobsters scuttling across the desert like unto a giant terror‑bisque—believeth me, if it was a living organism characterized by voluntary movement, someone suggested killing egyptians with it.




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t h e l a s t t esta m ent

verily, we could have made all ten plagues animal‑related, and it would have made for a grievously amusing spectacle; but in the end we limited ourselves to four: frogs (icky), gnats (bitey), wild beasts (really bitey), and locusts (faminey). then raphael had the notion of killing their preexisting livestock with disease; a cute twist on the animal concept, i thought; we went with it. then Gabriel said, “this would i bounce off thee: after killing the live‑ stock, what if we sicken their owners with visible signs of their own corruption?” and that moment right there, ladies and gentlemen, was the inspiration . . . for boils. we placed it right after cattle disease; in the center slots, five and six; the cows got dead, then the people got scaly; a great one‑two punch. Needless to say, many potential atmospheric and meteorological cata‑ clysms came to our minds, but in the end we chose only two, hail and darkness; For we felt the egyptians would regard a blizzard as more of a treat than a curse; and as for a deluge of rain, well, i was certainly not going down that road again. and no Decalogue of Despair would be complete without a little of the red stuff; it was uriel who had the idea of turning all the water into blood, including the Nile; which we ended up using as our opener. it was somewhat engaging, but to be truthful it did not kill; for it did not kill. this made nine plagues, each and every one a worthy addition to the pantheon of woe; yet none seemed to us a worthy “ender.” then, late one evening, when we were all exhausted; after we had each thrown a myriad of ideas against the wall, to find them sticking not; suddenly michael, who had heretofore contributed little to the plague‑ writing process, arose and said:













“Calleth me crazy; but what if we killed every firstborn son in egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, to the firstborn son of the female slave who is at her hand mill; and all the firstborn of the cattle as well?” at which point, the rest of us all thought, “well, verily, that’s it. that’s number ten, right there.”

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ut i did not want the Chosen People to feel left out; for i knew that if they played only a passive part in all the death and destruction, they would feel no sense of ownership. So we conceived a plan whereby the night before the slay‑ ing of the egyptians’ firstborn, the head of each Jewish household would slaughter a baby lamb, and daub its blood on the lintels of their houses, as a sign for me to “pass over” them. this ritual of course became the basis of the sacred eight‑day Jewish fes‑ tival celebrated unto this day, “Lamb‑blood Doorframe rub‑a‑palooza.” (we later changed the name to “Passover,” on the advice of marketing.) So the planning was finished; the preparations were put in place; and be‑ fore we knew it, it was P‑Day. For the most part our strategy was to hew to a basic pattern: moses would threaten Pharaoh, incoherently; then aaron would threaten him, coherently; Pharaoh would scoff; aaron or moses would stretch forth his hand over egypt; horror would ensue; thousands would suffer; Pha‑ raoh would relent; moses would call it off; i would harden Pharaoh’s heart; and on to the next horror. it proved a winning formula; for Pharaoh and his advisers were so daz‑ zled by the array of scourges, they never caught on to the underlying predictability of the threat/scoff/horror/heart‑hardening template; and so we were not obliged to vary the rhythm by switching to Plan b, three plagues at once; or Plan C, a nuclear bomb. i was glad we never got to Plan C; it might have felt contrived.



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