Ask Avigail – Part 2 What’s Gnu?

Okay — let’s flash forward to present time. It must have been about fifty years or so, since that day we left Egypt. I felt funny because I still had my Egyptian neighbor, Bulima’s, dental floss. The gold plated covering had long since flossayed*, and I usually ate my food from a grinder set on Witless.

I was sure that any rancor had died down between our two rival nations. Now, there were new rival nations to be wary of, but never mind that…

I mounted a donkey, laden with many useful gifts (like a left-handed can opener), and I hummed tunes to my favorite Yul Brynner Classics.

It took me seven days to arrive to what was formerly the slave quarters of Pharaoh’s Palace. I made great time because I didn’t hit any lights. I took the back roads, but upon entry, I had to pay a hefty entrance fee- 70 shekels a saddlebag! (not counting my thighs).The kid collecting the fee looked familiar.

“Hey, I’m no stranger; I used to live here about 50 years ago.”

“OK. I’m not charging you for your luggage. But, what about the emotional baggage?”

I really did not recognize my neighborhood, or my neighbor, Bulima. We ran over to each other and embraced, though that “hernia” had morphed into an Olympic size mutation. On its own, it had “stage presence.”

Bulima: “Darling Abigail, you look great, thanks G-d…I’ve been thinking of you all this time, wondering about my little Avigail… I swear, you are the sister my mother promised me, when Hell freezes over. But, as a kid, I was smart. In Egypt, it just didn’t get that cold…I wanted to show you the changes I made, since the Egyptian Empire fell into ruin…all that was left was Algebra and Geometry…and of course, most people avoided them, like a plague, unless they wanted to renovate something. But, the Pyramids are still standing, thanks to you kids…no skimping on the mortar and charosis” (she winked).

Avigail: “Speaking of kids, that young, entry fee hustler seemed familiar, but I can’t seem to place him.”

Bulima: “Remember Shimon, caretaker of the Sperm Bank?”

Avigail:”Sure do. The only bank with no penalty for early withdrawal…”

Bulima:”Well, one month, the bank went dry. There were just no donors. He stayed after the Exile. Shimon was a very responsible worker. He was tireless. Even the calves started looking like him… As a result, a whole dynasty was sired, and all the Father’s Day Cards were delivered to him.”

Avigail: “That reminds me of a very funny story. Before we moved, there was a young Hebrew who fancied himself more of a stud than a student. He charmed so many young maidens, Hebrews, Egyptians and visiting tribal adolescents that he had somewhat of a scurrilous reputation. Before we were called for the Exodus, the Knights of Malta had put out a call for a Talent Show, with a big prize to the winner. I knew Kip (that was this kid’s name) was chiseling out multiple stone love letters, leaving the recipients’ name blank, but he did play a mean lute. So did I. We decided to enter and sing the duet: I GOT YOU BABE. Well, we brought the house down, and for effect, we ended the song with a big kiss. However, the first prize went to a blind beggar. Figures. I SHOULD have feigned a low blood sugar attack…

When we went back to the dressing room, he kissed me again. I felt something hard in his pants. He took out one of his stone hieroglyphic love letters, but out of sincerity, he managed to carve out my initials. The Exodus horns blew. We got separated in all the tumult.”

Bulima and Avigail laughed at their shared flashback.

Bulima: ” I wonder what happened to Kip?”

Avigail: “I married him.”

Bulima: “At first, after the Exodus, I realized there was not much worth in seeing a lot of dead Egyptian soldiers and horses. Those Chinese artisans that worked in Terra Cotta, just used paper mache and limestone over dead warriors. Now, it’s a big tourist site. Who did their PR? Who made their 3D glasses? What could I do with Pyramids??? Wait! The same brick bins you slaves labored over, would now become an indoor roller-coaster; but, instead of bricks, there would hold loads of Dramamine-challenged tourists.”


I went a little crazy with a Las Vegas theme, with actors in gold lame and feathers-for the late night crowd.

A six-story obelisk motel replaced the site where both our hovels used to be. When you entered the reception room, your animals were taken to their own stalls, pampered, de-crittered and made comfortable. Understandably, there was a faint stench of feces and urine, but it added to the excitement of “sleeping out.” As a matter of fact, we have managed to capture that essence in toilet water spray, so you can bring the lure of the Mummies and Pharaohs home with you! I wasn’t even a marketing major! I just let my creativity flow right “out of the funeral pyre.” Hey, you can’t imagine this place, during a sacrificial pilgrimage. The foyer flew with every type of species of fur and feather.

I distinctly remember this woman coming to the reception desk holding her sneezing kid, and after being here for a week, demands her money back! Why? We hadn’t told her that our motel also housed animals, and her boy is allergic…When you go to a cemetery, don’t you assume everyone is dead? When you go to the Dionysian Singles Festival, don’t you assume that everyone is single, well almost everyone? She is angry because the key we left her, to unlock her room, doesn’t open. This is strange because tent rooms have flaps, not doors…”

Avigail: “Bulima…I can’t believe you built all this up, by yourself. You must have a million great stories.”

Bulima: “I can shoot the breeze, but why waste the arrow: but,if I must say so myself — I did have a major problem with dirt and the guests. The two were inextricable. Towels were no problem. After all, Egypt was noted for its cotton. We already monogrammed the guests’ initials on them, so there was no need to chain them; we expected them to take them. Plus, what were we going to do with a towel that said “Happy Retirement Uncle Harry”. But, when the tourists came back from touring, they brought in sand, and then they complained the bathrooms were filthy and smelled of residue plague. My youngest son got an idea. If we hunt down all the alligators and crocs in the Nile, our help can do the laundry any time of the day, or night, frequently, and less fearfully. The towel supply will be clean and plentiful, the bathrooms will get washed, and we can make alligator flip flops for each guest!!! Yes, it did take a small investment, but it takes money to make money!”

Avigail: “That’s fantastic…you’ve got a great business mind, Bulima, and so does your son, Hagus…I remember, in those last few moments, asking you to get something in writing about protecting our home. Now I see you have turned it into a SunRaResort Industry! It’s rated four horses — this is unbelievable-sightseeing, tours, sheets turned down with a piece of halvah placed on your pillow, canopied beds with nets protecting you from halvah-eating scorpions and locusts — wow, so did you have a chance to write down our verbal agreement?”

Bulima: “Yes, I remembered, and I did. But, no sooner did I write it down, but a huge dust storm, a hamsin*, blew every word away, not even a semi-colon was spared.”

Avigail: “Well, we certainly had an honest, verbal agreement, no doubt about it. We even had a hearty henna handshake, heh heh. You have run a lucrative business for almost fifty years, albeit, expenses, slow seasons, guests who have been blacklisted from other sleeping establishments, due to chronic nudnikitis*, etc. but still, you have done considerably well. So, let’s deem what you feel should be my rightful share…Bulima…Bulima, my friend…”

Bulima: “Oh no, we don’t have enough fingers and toes between us to honestly come to an agreement…and you have come all this way…Why don’t we break for lunch, you are my guest. In the meantime, we will talk about your stay in the Wilderness. You haven’t changed a bit in 40 years. So, what was it like, with all that wandering?”

Avigail: “Aside from the embalming fluid night caps, it was torture. On the whole road there were signs, NO OUTLET. So why bring the plastic? Clearly, G-d frowned upon buying retail, as much as He abhorred idol worship. And there was a lot of down time — nothing to do, but watch the Elders age and die off. In the middle of the night, you would hear the funeral guy stop at your tent: “Any dead, impractical mechanical appliances or garbage to toss? You’d have to wait till the next lunar cycle before Mr. Gutbaum came around again. He was always so cheerful, that one. Trust me, if you missed Gutbaum’s collection and had to wait, you couldn’t tell the difference between Old Zalman Popkin and week-old manna, left out in the desert sun. Both were white, pasty and smelled bad; neither one you would serve on a cracker.

Anyway, before we do lunch, let me do a fast mental calculation to figure out my share of the property value… hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm So, this is off the top of my head — half of bubkus* is WHAT?


*Hamsin: sudden, blinding dust storm in which everything comes to a halt.
*Nudnikitis: chronic, perhaps congenital disease manifesting in its only symptom — complaining.
*Bubkus: A universal denomination indicating zero; nothing.

About the Author
Shashi Ishai is a former stand-up/cartoonist from Teaneck, N.J. She resides in Netanya with her husband, Yacov; daughter, Zehava; son Zaki and dog, Stanley .Shashi is the author of ASK AVIGAIL: Advice from a Biblical Era Sagette, available on Amazon.
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