I looked out the window. He was cleaning up the work site.
“Looks like he is finished. He’s putting away all his tools,” I called to my wife. She came to the window to look.
“What will he do next?” she asked, then turned to go back to the fire to finish cooking our meal.
He had been building this “box” for my entire life. His son, Shem, and I were the same age, and we used to play together around the tools and the gopher wood planks. I liked to watch the old man build, and I would ask questions.
“What is this you are building?”
“How do you know how to do this?”
“God tells me.”
“What’s it for?”
“There will be a flood. No one listens to God any more.”
I would watch from my house when he would put “sacrifices” on the altar he had built. I enjoyed watching the fire carry the smoke up to the sky. He would talk to the sky.
When we were older, Shem began to help his father in the construction. His father would hand me a hammer and teach me to drive nails. So I helped, too, for a while.
But, I had began to help my father in his camel raising business, and Shem and I just grew apart.
A few years later, Shem took my sister to be his wife. Shem’s other two brothers also took wives. The whole family worked on the box.
They became a joke to the community.
“He says it’s gonna come a flood. Hahahaha, been saying it for years. Crazy old man.”
I would laugh, too. He was a bit strange. I kept watching, though. The box got bigger and bigger and bigger.
The camel business was doing well. Men came from all over to buy camels. We had good camels, and we got a good price.
They would all comment on the neighboring building project. “Still at it, I see. Crazy old man!” I would laugh along with them.
After many years, I got used to the spectacle, as did everyone else, and I didn’t pay much attention anymore. Business was good, and we were making good money.
The day the old man finished the box, I saw him walking toward me.
“I need a couple of young camels, a male and a female. How much would that be?”
We had the best camels, so I told him my price.
“Oh,” he replied, “ I didn’t know they were that much.” He turned back toward the box, “ God will provide.”
“What are you going to do now that you are finished?” I called after him.
“In seven days the flood will begin.”
I laughed out loud, muttering, “Crazy old man. A hundred years, and nothing has happened. Crazy old man.”
The family went into the box.
The next morning, my wife said, “Two young camels got out of the pen. You need to go put them back.”
What I saw took my breath away. My camels walked straight into the box followed by myriads of other animals, some two at a time, some seven at a time, birds, oxen, even wild animals. I didn’t dare to get close. But I watched. I couldn’t look away.
Then the strangest thing happened. The door slammed shut, as if by an invisible hand. I ran to the door, and with all my strength, banged on it.
“Two of my camels are in there,” I yelled. “You never paid me!”
There was no answer. The door remained shut.
A few days later, the rain began to fall. A lot of rain. It wasn’t long before the water began to rise and come into the house. The roof was breaking apart, and we couldn’t escape the drenching.
I looked outside.
The box was gone.