The Second-Oldest Profession

by Terry Burlison


“Sit! Sit!” The Word-Man motioned to a spot across the campfire. His elderly visitor tucked his white robes under him and sat, crosslegged. “Okay, I’ve gone over your manuscript, Mr., uh . . .”

“Moses.”

“Moses. You kinda threw me off, since you didn’t use a byline. Sure you don’t wanna use a byline?”

The elderly man shook his head gravely. “The words are God’s, not mine.”

“Uh, yeah. Okay, well it’s a decent story, requires a ton of suspension-of-disbelief, but I think it’ll sell. A bit wordy . . .”

Moses raised his bushy eyebrows.

“Don’t worry about it,” the Word-Man said, waving his hand. “That’s what you got me for, am I right? Lessee…it starts kinda weak, too. ‘Some fourteen billion years ago, God created the universe in a gigantic explosion–’ Say, what’s a ‘billion’? Never heard the word.”

“A thousand thousand thousands.”

“Um, that’s three thousand.”

“No, a thousand thousands, a thousand times.”

“Whoa! Okay, people aren’t gonna get that. What say we shorten this to something they can grasp–maybe six days. A–whaddyacallit–metaphor. Now, all this ‘inflation’ and ‘fundamental particle’ stuff. Nuh-unh. K‑I-S-S.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Keep It Simple, Shlemiel. Remember, your average Israelite reads at a twelve-year-old level.”

“But this is what the Creator told me! In the beginning–”

“There! That’s great! ‘In the beginning.’ Brief, succinct, to-the-point. Killer hook!”

Moses shifted uncomfortably.

“Let’s see, expansion, cooling, coalescing–it’s all out.”

“No! The Creator said . . .”

“Yeah, well, the Creator ain’t paying a quarter-shekel a page. Six days. Now where were we? We got your light, we got your land, your sea, your animals, yada yada yada. Hmm, gonna need a protagonist. Something simple. ‘Adam.’ ”

“But God guided Man’s evolution gradually, until he developed intellect and reason–”

“Man from animal? Try selling that to the Levites! Nope, he’s gotta be created. Maybe from mud or dirt or something. We’re gonna need some conflict, some kind of antagonist. Hmm . . . fantasy’s hot right now–maybe we go with some kind of talking animal. And we gotta have a love interest. Let’s see . . . ‘Eve.’ Yeah, ‘Adam and Eve.’ It sings, it’s got legs.” His eyes lit. “Brainstorm! They haven’t invented clothes! They’re naked, but with a purity slant so as not to offend the Fundies. Besides: leave it to the imagination–’world’s greatest aphrodisiac,’ am I right?”

Moses stood, robes a-flutter and eyes glinting. “ENOUGH! You dare despoil the true word of God? Infidel!” He turned and stomped off through the dust.

The Word-Man sighed. He started to toss the papyrus manuscript in the fire, then stopped and turned back to the first page. “Hmm, no byline. No legal copyright notice. Hey, if he doesn’t want the royalties . . .” Grinning, he slipped the manuscript into his robes.

And the rest is History.


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