The Carriage Driver³ - Mesopotamia Blue
Professor Lloyd Steele’s, History of Philosophy in Early Antiquity, classes always filled. He had had two presidents pass through his classes in his time at Cambridge. He had to be reminded by the second President himself, of that fact, when the two men met again while at a commencement ceremony years later.
Steele’s life, though rich in experience was meager as measured in worldly goods. He spent the summers of his adult life in the desert on organized archeology digs in the Tigris-Euphrates river system. In the fall and winter, he watched the bored faces of his many students and was amused at their Pavlovian responses to the words ‘midterm’ and “final.”
His small apartment had clay artifacts from the deserts of Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey. Amongst the books were those of the famous Egyptologists Hartleben, Habachi, Hassan, and Hess. The works of Behnam Nasser Nuaman Abu alsouf were there also. Thomas Edward Lawrence’s works were represented by Seven Pillars of Wisdom and Revolt in the Desert. As were the works that applied to the desert explorations of Sir Richard Francis Burton, the English, geographer, translator, orientalist, cartographer, linguist, and spy.
Thirty years ago, Professor Steele published, Chariots Racing the Storm, a small volume with little economic success and few readers. The setting was the cradle of civilization and the story portrayed the clash of the Gods for supremacy. His present, unpublished work was in its twenty-second year and reached nine hundred pages. Every editor that saw the manuscript declined the opportunity. The title, Tablets of Destiny.
He could close his eyes and open them to the vision of the City of Larsa, on the shatt-en-nil canal a tributary of the Euphrates River and near the Persian Gulf. The land was fertile. The fig orchards that grew right down to the banks perfumed the air. Some mornings the sky was six shades of blue. In the marketplace, there were stalls selling dates and figs, and all manner of grapes. There were dyes to use on the cotton for the local looms. There were pieces of bronze to hammer into tools, making the labor of the fields an easier task.
At faculty gatherings, once he had had two glasses of wine, he would entertain his friends with stories ‘from a previous life.’
He spoke of one such story often. “When the local areas grains were harvested, my wife, Banafrit and I worked at the brewing of beer. Of course, in those days they called me Raia. Our casks were fired during the winter in our kilns. The heat warmed our home and hardened the clay. We mixed the ingredients, with previously boiled water, in large simmering vats. My wife and I would sample the goods through the moonlit summer nights and play music and laugh together. Our beer, carried by merchants, would be taken to the Persian Gulf. From there the beer tended to the thirst of many all the way to Arabia. Both our casks and our beer were in demand.” He would pause, this oft-told story, allowing the new members of the faculty to smile.
“Often chariots carried cool air from the Persian Gulf and it would spill out over our home. This made sleeping outside under the canopy of God’s glittering sky feel like a wonder of the world. Our world provided the bounty of our labors,” he would pause and sip his wine. Then he would wink at whoever was still listening. “Did I tell you my wife was the granddaughter of the Goddess Ninkasi? She carried the genes of the patroness of writing, grains, literacy and wisdom in her. She was her own treasure and she was my treasure.” The young professors of English and History would smile at Lloyd and make their excuses and wander off. No one ever seemed to notice the tears in his eyes when he finished that story.
During lectures, his mind would often wander off. During those times he would tell one of the stories in Tablets of Destiny. One such story relayed, as if he witnessed it himself, as it unfolded, told of the God Mamitu who was a God of Oaths, Prophesy and foretelling the future when she clashed with Adad, Storm God of Thundery Weather, a God of Divination, and rigging dice to convey future info to the wise.
He told of a pitched battle in the skies above, as two conflicting prophecies were told to the same rich man, and the howling of the man disturbed the peace of the other Gods. This brought doubt into the minds of men as to the wisdom and infallibility of the Gods.
Or he would tell of the parchments telling the story of Qābīl and Hābīl that came into his hands with instructions to smuggle them to the North through the Mediterranean. Raia took two empty casks and pushed the parchments inside and sealed the tops. The casks were loaded on camels and made their way to Abraham on his journey. The story of Qābīl and Hābīl made it into the Western Bibles as Cain and Abel.
In the eighty-seventh year of this incarnation, sitting at his desk in his small apartment Banafrit came to him with outstretched arms. He could always get lost in her smile. Her auburn hair draped over her shoulders and her linen robe revealed her shape. His work on the translation of a tablet brought to him at the request of the National Museum of Iraq would have to wait for another life.
Captain Griffin Chaffey had prepared his carriage. He smiled to himself, hoping that Professor Lloyd Steele was not expecting a chariot to arrive for this transition. Nuelle was brushed, and her coat shined with the care it was given. He climbed aboard and made his way across town to Cambridge. He kept one eye on the sky, on the lookout for Adad or Mamitu.
When he reached his destination, he climbed down and shared the customary apple with Nuelle. He saw a young man approaching. He was dressed in khaki-colored clothing, well-made hiking boots, and hat suitable for the most intriguing of journeys. At his side was a woman of grace and stature, her olive skin and dark eyes would mesmerize any man. Her smile was befitting one with a beautiful soul.
It was obvious to Griffin, as they approached, that the couple was in love and had traveled together, perhaps through many centuries. He whispered to Nuelle, “This is a journey that we are going to enjoy.”
Lloyd and Banafrit stopped. He whispered to Banafrit, “Wait here a moment.” He walked over to a young lady, a student of his that was holding her phone in her hand. He took it from her hand and pitched it as far as he could, to the amazement of the student. “Live,” he shouted.
He walked back over to Banafrit took her arm and approached the carriage. “Have you been sent for us?”
“I will take you anywhere you want to go,” he held out his hand. First Banafrit stepped up and took a seat. Then Lloyd followed.
Banafrit leaned near Griffin. “Your horse is a beautiful beast.”
Her natural warmth comforted Griffin. “She and I have been together for a long time.”
Lloyd smiled, “My wife and I have been together a long time as well. It is a wonderful feeling isn’t it?” He paused. “We are interested in a long journey. Are the two of you up for it?”
Nuelle stepped away from the curb, spread her wings and took flight into a sky that was seven shades of blue.
Arabian Nights Instrumental
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