Brothers In Cahoots

Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Ford Madox Brown - The Coat of Many Colours courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Ford Madox Brown - The Coat of Many Colours brought to Jacob
courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The year was sometime about four thousand years ago, in Ancient Palestine. Three young men, shepherds, were on a lunch break waiting for their youngest brother who was bringing them their lunch from home, miles and miles away.

The names of the shepherds were Judah, Reuben, and Simon. The name of the youngest brother was Joseph.

The three elder brothers did not care for Joseph because he was not shy to let them know he thought he was a better person than all of them. At one time he was quite obnoxious about it when he told them he had dreamt all of them would one day be his servants.

What made matters worse was that their father insisted on Joseph carrying food to his brothers in the field, every day.

Joseph himself and all his brothers had failed more than once to persuade their father to allow the three to carry their own food when they left with the herds at dawn.

Their father insisted that it was necessary for Joseph to carry the food every day in order for him to learn how to be a shepherd.

What made the situation even worse, was that Joseph was late arriving with the food, just about every day. This was not entirely his fault because, as was the normal necessary custom with sheepherding, new grazing fields had to be found every day. Joseph kept getting lost.

The brothers tried paying a young farm maid to have a love affair with Joseph in order to improve his sense of direction. Their and her good intentions failed after a few weeks because, the maid averred, Joseph demanded she be his love servant.

She unilaterally broke up the affair, and demanded she be paid in full, anyway. After she was paid, she took the time to observe that, as a matter of fact, she preferred farmers to shepherds. With farmers, fresh fruit were guaranteed.

This time, Joseph was later than he had ever been. The tempers of the three began to simmer dangerously.

Reuben, perspiring, lounging on the grass under a tree, chewing on a plucked blade of grass, in the excessive heat of a summer sun, complained unashamedly,

"Is anyone else as hungry as I am?" Judah promptly responded, "Me, too. But I didn't want to say anything."

Simon sulked, "What's the use complaining. From tomorrow, I am bringing my slingshot to go bird hunting on our breaks." "Excellent idea," congratulated Reuben, "and not just on breaks. Why not one of us goes hunting the whole time while the other two take care of the sheep?" Simon offered, "We can bring utensils and fire, and cook up a feast." "Yes! And Joseph can get lost as much as he chooses."

They were excited about the possibilities, and laughed awhile. One of them brought the laughter and excitement to an abrupt stop with the observation, "What if he snitches to Dad?" "Why wouldn't he? He does it all the time." "Yeah. How else could Dad know we take turns going off to visit locals?"

There was a grim silence. "We have to do something. Waiting this long for food just about every day is giving me ulcers. My stomach is turning cannibal. It is eating up itself." "I'm going out to meet him. Hurry him up." "Which way will you start off?" "Yeah, if a wild animal got him, you would not know where to look."

"He always wears that ugly many-coloured coat of his. I'll be able to see him miles away."

"He is so obnoxious to us at the best of times, if a wild animal got him, my hunger would be more than satisfied by vindictive joy."

The three remained silent as they thought about ways a wild animal could free them from their troublesome brother.

Quietly and hesitantly, "Mom says he resents it that his mother died." "He blames us? He should blame his little brother who killed her by his birth." Another awkward unbrotherly silence.

"I have an idea." "We are not killing him." "Hah, so, the idea occurred to you." "While I am open to that idea, that is not my idea, Reuben." "What is your idea, Simon? We can always come back later to Reuben's idea of murdering our brother."

"Judah! It is not my idea." "Okay, okay. I don't mind running with it, if Simon's idea will not work. Go, Simon."

"Sell him."

A silence for a short while. "Say again." "Simon says, sell him." "To whom, Simon?"

"Caravan travelling sales companies. They pass through this area twice a year. Right now, I have heard that one of them has set up their annual Carnival sales fairground on the outskirts of the town of Shechem. "I like the idea, brother. But when he tells them who his father is, they won't touch him." "Yeah. Dad is feared in three Counties in every direction."

"We tell the traders the truth, and tell them we will give him to them free, because with him out of the way, we stand to inherit his share. And we will be their lucrative customers every time they pass this way."

Silence, as the brilliantly practical suggestion works on the other two.

"When is the next Caravan due to pass this way?" "When we left home with the sheep, Dad said he and Mom were heading out to attend the Caravan market in Shechem, and would be back home on the third day." "Which means the Caravan will be moving out and coming this way tomorrow. Simon, you are a genius!"

"More than you know, brothers. This Caravan happens to be from Egypt. The first ever from Egypt. Caravans have always been from the opposite direction."

"Mesopotamia." "Yes. Which means after the sale, they will be out of our territory within hours. By the time we report to Dad our obnoxious brother is missing, it will be impossible to find anyone who will know anything."

"Good for you, Simon. An excellent plan. You have thought of all the details." "Yes. Congratulations." "Thank you. Thank you."

"Dad and Mom will not miss him for days."

"By then, the Caravan will be untraceable in Egypt." "Each one of us will have to prepare for the eventuality that Dad will not give up searching." "All we need to say is that Joseph just never showed up with our food." "And that we will never stop searching wherever we herd the sheep." "And, we must keep repeating the probability that wild animals got him."

A tense silence. Softly, "What about reinforcing the wild animal probability with soaking that offensive many-coloured coat in sheep blood and showing it to Dad as proof?" "Will blood show on all those colours?" "Ruining that evil many-coloured coat as well will be healthy delightful twice-as-much revenge."

Seconds of silence. Slowly and quietly, "It is such a well-made coat. A poem in wool and cotton." "Yes. Must have cost the price of a hundred sheep." More silent moments.

Softly, "We must come up with a way to help his little brother, Benji, cope."

"Yes. Poor fella. He is expecting to get the coat when Joseph grows out of it."

"We will buy him another one. More colours."

"This one is one-of-kind, Judah." "Yes. Dad made it." "That's what Dad likes us to believe." "Dad's lying?" "According to my source." "Judah? Who is your source?"

"Sewing is woman's work. Dad, like all three of us here, has never learnt to sew. Besides, that garment is complicated. Wherever it was made would have permanent evidence of the work in plain sight. Evidence of everything Mom and our sisters sew is everywhere. We have never seen Dad sew anything."

Simon, laughing, "Now that you bring it up, I have never seen any man sew anything." "If Mom sewed the coat, why let Dad claim the honour?" "You got an answer for that, Judah?"

"Dad did not sew the coat. Mom did not sew the coat. Mom told me that Dad bought the coat at a passing Caravan market. The coat was made in a factory somewhere in Mesopotamia. By slaves."

Seconds of silence. All of them broke out into laughter.

"Slaves? Hah! Most fitting, then, that the likes of our obnoxious brother wear it." "Now, I do not feel guilty about polluting it with sheep blood." "Why insult a healthy sheep? Let's use wild rats." Uproarious laughter. "And rip it apart here and there. Wild rats do that."

While laughing, "We are being too cruel." "Yeah. And enjoying it too much." Continued laughter. "Let's do it all over again." Explosion of laughter by all three.

"By the way, Judah, you were talking to that passing traveler for a long time the other day." "Yes, Judah. And you were so engaged with him that you did not notice four sheep went astray." "Lucky for you we found them for you before a wolf did."

"Took us half a day searching." "And let me remind the both of you, it was I who found the four eventually, far away from where you two were searching."

They stand and stretch, and peer in the distance to, perhaps, see their brother approaching.

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