By Chris Sharp
We Egyptian royals are ruthless gamblers, and we always have been. So there as little else going on in the palace conference rooms but odds-making talk once Pharaoh had challenged Prince Moses to a duel.
Let me go back a bit.
Prince Moses – that is, former Prince Moses before he became a new modern man of this new world – was driving Pharaoh to frenzy with his sudden agendas. For some reason, Moses now wanted to take the entire society of the local bricklayers out of Egypt and have them establish a new Jewish nation in the East.
To make everything more complicated, Moses announced he was Jewish himself to his cousin Pharaoh and added that he was also now a Zionist, even though Moses could hardly speak six words in Hebrew. His supposed older Jewish brother Aaron had to act as his translator to all the Hebrew people who were now caught between two heavy-handed royals.
I understand these developments are a tad difficult to appreciate in our court. They were very hard for Pharaoh to follow as well. In fact, Pharaoh was so baffled by all this drama that he overlooked killing Moses on the spot.
But we must consider that Moses almost to the very end was considered family among the Egyptian titular heads. Trying to cope with as much bad news possible in the poor little head of Pharaoh, the king just broke out into creating this duel instead of really thinking about it.
Typically, the proposed duel was full of Pharaoh’s characteristic indirectness.
Of course, in this particular court, it was more fashionable for Egyptian men to use passive-aggressiveness to gain objectives, and Pharaoh’s reaction to the bellicose Moses was indirect and passive aggressive to the hilt.
First, Pharaoh stipulated that the duel must be fought by proxy. Pharaoh’s magicians would fight the duel for him, so that there would be no chance of Pharaoh getting personally injured.
Thereupon Moses chose Aaron to be his proxy fighting the magicians.
But Pharaoh wasn’t the only one who wanted this duel done by proxy. The magicians insisted they wanted others to fight in their stead as well. They proposed the duel be fought by their pet snakes, and that of course came across as being so mean.
It led Aaron to assign his own pet snake to do his own fighting for him.
We found an old skinny handicapper named Shemar who would take our bets for us over this competition, but Shemar claimed the proxy conditions of the duel were so confusing he would need much more than his usual fee to unravel it all.
“You mean you want me to make odds on snakes that are really taking the place of magicians, who are in their turn taking the place of our Pharaoh?”
“It’s simply a third-party duel, that’s all,” I told Shemar, because I wanted just to simplify everything for the old man.
Still, Shemar demanded five times his usual fee before he went into his room and drew up odds.
He came out an hour later, creating 15-1 odds in favor of the magicians’ snakes. We demanded to know why he spent so little time on his odds after we paid him so much money.
“You paid me for my knowledge base,” Shemar explained. “I happen to know Pharaoh had 15 magicians in his court, and each magician has one magic snake. Aaron had only one Hebrew snake. That’s 15 to one right off the top.”
Since the snakes in the duel were so non-stop magical, they arrived at the great event in the form of canes carried by their masters. The canes carried by the magicians were immensely popular and received a roaring ovation on the palace grounds.
“The royal magicians are now going to throw their canes into the pit, and the canes will turn into snakes,” announced the court troubadour. The cheers of the crowd followed instantly.
The magicians in highly decorated robes brought their gold-inlaid and diamond-studded canes to the pit, where they dropped them and the canes turned into glittering pythons.
“Those pythons are hideous,” said Shemar. “I would make it 50 to one in favor of the magicians.”
“Too late now, Shemar,” I reminded him. “The battle is already starting.”
“Now Aaron will bring his Hebrew snake to the pit,” announced the troubadour.
The crowd roared laughing. Aaron responded to the laughter by bowing to Pharaoh and then to the Egyptian audience.
Then Aaron picked up a crooked pole. It wasn’t even a cane. It looked like it had been washed up on the beach, and it was about 10 feet high.
“This is my one snake,” said Aaron, when the troubadour stopped him on the way to the pit. “Very intelligent. He grew up in a Hebrew family.”
The crowd exploded into bigger laughs. Pharaoh motioned for the duel to continue. The crowd kept laughing even as Aaron dropped his pole into the pit. Immediately the pole turned into a snake that was ten times bigger than all the other snakes put together. In a few seconds, it had swallowed whole five of the magicians’ snakes.
“Shemar, this is hardly playing fair, using that monster for this bet,” I said. “We demand our bets back. For all the money we pay you, what are you giving us back?”
Shemar stretched out his hands as far as he could to show he didn’t have a coin on him to pay any bet back.
“You said yourself it was too late to change bets, because the competition had already begun. I have already invested my money.”
“The bet is over. See, everyone is leaving.”
“You gave us the wrong number.”
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Chris Sharp has numbers of flash-fiction short stories in Linguistic Erosion, Yesteryear Fiction, Weirdyear, and Daily Love as well as longer fiction listed by Google under “Chris Sharp short stories.” His book “Dangerous Learning” is being distributed by Barnes & Noble.
Labels: Chris Sharp