The Tower

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From the back cover:

Noah was a patriarch and a great man of God. His faithfulness and obedience save the human race from the Great Flood.  So only a few years after that historical voyage, how did Noah end up lying outside his tent drunk, naked, and ashamed?

Nimrod was the first on earth to be a mighty man.  His great-grandfather was Noah, his uncle, the rebellious Canaan.  When Nimrod decides that his kingdom should include The Tower, what will Noah, the elderly patriarch do?

In their first aware winning novel The Rain, authors Skates and Tankersley took readers on a captivating, year-long voyage about the ark.  In this sequel, you will be swept along on a non-stop adventure that begins with Noah and his family, and continues to the time when Nimrod ruled the Valley of Shinar and built The Tower.  Along the way, expect intrigue, romance, suspense, and the sometimes violent, never-ending struggle between good and evil.

Excerpt from Chapter One:

I have learned to hate grapes. My life these days seems to be lived for grapes or grapevines or one of our other crops. We are constantly working in the vineyard, the orchard or in the fields. Dressing vines, pruning trees, planting, harvesting…the chores never seem to stop. In the old world my father Noah dabbled in some carpentry, we tended a few sheep for wool, and of course he preached. Then once my Dad convinced us to begin, we spent several years working feverishly on the ark. At least in the old world there had been more variety to our labors. And with the ark there had been a goal to attain.

Ever since the ark landed here however and God made His covenant with us, all our father has wanted to do was farm. He wants to till the soil, plant, tend and harvest. I understand how he feels. Farming gives him a sense of peace. He has grown to love working the soil in his hands. And the soil of our new home is rich and fertile. But I do not share his passion for tilling the earth.

In fairness I must acknowledge that God has blessed our farming efforts with what seems like perfect conditions and our harvests have been abundant. In addition to grapes, we grow and press olives and have also established an orchard and a large vegetable garden. The pairs of animals we brought on the ark apparently heard God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. Our herds have grown to the point where we allow them to roam freely in the valley. So far they have not ventured far.

Our productivity also expanded greatly, along with the growth of our families. Shem and Prisca have four strapping sons and three daughters in their teens.  They have a set of twins: a boy and girl ten years old. Three years ago, Prisca gave birth to a second set of twins, two sisters. Ham and Adina have been the most prolific of all having a child every other year since we have arrived. Since one year they were blessed with twins, they now have four sons and six daughters. Tamara and I had difficulty having children for a few years but then the Lord seemed to bless us in bunches. We had two sets of triplets and one set of twins. All together we have seven sons and four daughters of our own.

Yes, we have been blessed and well provided for in the eighteen years since we stepped outside the ark for the first time. We have been so busy since then. All of us (except our Dad, Noah) have built houses to replace our tents. We have also established this farm and our orchards. In fact, we have been so busy that the day we walked out of the ark now seems a lifetime ago. Still, after having spent over a year on board and with all that we went through, the experience has forever changed each one of us.

Despite the fact that God has blessed our farming efforts, farming isn’t my calling. I feel I have been obedient and dutiful and essentially put my life on hold in order to serve on the ark. I have been very grateful to God and I praise him literally every day for saving us through that divinely inspired vessel. But I am ready to move on. In fact, I am ready to move period.

The valley we settled in at the base of the mountain on which the ark now rested was beautiful and filled with plants and flowers we had never seen before. Yet, I wanted to know what was beyond this valley, to spend at least a year, perhaps two, simply seeing this new world God had brought us to. I wanted to explore, but my dad always encouraged me to stay nearby. So far I had taken his advice. But as I looked off in the distance, I could faintly see the glistening water of a gigantic lake. Early on my brothers and I had climbed to the top of the mountain. We could see from that vantage point that the section of shoreline which entered our valley was only a small fraction of a much larger body of water. I yearned to see what was on the other side of that lake. I wanted to take my family and establish a new community in an area all our own.

With the thought of family, and the sudden giggling of my daughter, I was quickly reminded of another reason I had not ventured far. My twins were too small to take on such an adventure.

“Mareyea, what have you done?” I asked in frustration, barely concealing my amusement.

“Me hab gwapes too daadee,” came her sticky reply.

I was harvesting late grapes for our tables. These would be used for food as opposed to juice. I had wrongly assumed that the basket I was laying the clusters in was too tall for my little girl to get into. As I often did, I underestimated the ingenuity of a determined two-year old. Mareyea had drug the nearly empty basket over to a cypress log, climbed on the log and landed in the basket with the grapes. She now had mashed grapes in her hair, all over her face, and especially in her mouth. I untied the kerchief from around my neck as I approached her.

“What am I going to tell Mommy when you wind up with the tummy ache?” I asked, not expecting an answer.

“Look at all this sticky in your hair,” I went on, smiling despite myself. “Oh boy,” I sighed. “I am gonna be in big trouble with Mommy.”

“Why Dadee?”She asked as she tilted the palms of her chubby hands skyward and shrugged her shoulders dramatically.

“Because you have made a mess. How many grapes did you eat while I wasn’t paying attention?”

“Dis many,” she said, struggling to hold up three fingers.

“I have a feeling you need to work on your counting skills,” I said as I wrinkled my nose and held her little face up to mine so I could kiss away some of the grape juice. “I’ll tell you what. Here is a small cluster for you. You seem to be having fun in that basket so you just sit right there with your grapes. I’ll lay the rest nearby while I harvest, then you can help me put them in the basket when we get ready to go.”

“Ooohkayy Dadee.” She wrinkled up her little nose and smiled mischievously back at me. I had a feeling that she already knew how to diffuse any potential punishment from her Daddy.

I wedged the basket safely against a cypress log. There were hundreds of these logs lying around the valley. They were apparently left from trees blown over in the flood. The time they spent in the flood waters almost seemed to preserve and temper them. They provided ideal timber, and all our homes, out buildings, and furnishings had been built from them. Only my Dad, Noah, still lived in a tent. Since we landed, he had refused to build anything from wood. Maybe this was because he was weary of woodwork after years of constructing the ark. I sometimes wondered if there was a deeper reason.

After I secured the basket with Mareyea inside, I heard a distinct grunting sound, like the sound of a very lazy old man. I looked over toward the grape vine and saw the paws of my dog, Rowdy, sticking out from underneath.

“Some watchdog you are,” I said, smiling. “You should have barked or something when you saw her eating all those grapes.” Rowdy opened one eye briefly and thumped his thick furry tail on the ground. He had been my constant companion since before the flood and had survived a year long journey on the ark. Now he was too old and lazy to get excited about anything.

I returned to my work. As I continued to harvest, I saw my nephew, Canaan, approaching. I felt the usual sense of dread and my jaw began to clench. Canaan was the youngest boy of Ham’s children, and was by far the worst brat of any young person I had ever known. Ham had always been a bit of a bully and malcontent when we were boys, but compared to Canaan, he had been the perfect son.

Now Canaan walked slowly up the hillside towards me, the usual scowl of disapproval on his face. His normal facial expression was to look at you as if you had just said something really stupid and that you deserved of the utmost scorn. His gait was always slow and shuffling, as if he really didn’t want to get to wherever he was going. He stepped up to face me on the opposite side of the vine I was working on.

“Aren’t you done yet?” he challenged. “You’ve been up here all morning.  How long does it take to pick a few grapes?”

Canaan was the only person I had ever known whose hair was completely white. This included the hair on his head, eyelashes and what little body hair he had on his reddish skin. He sneered at me with disdain.

I put up with way too much from this boy and I knew it, but I did it to avoid conflict within the family. Almost everyone in the family, except my father, had scolded or even spanked Canaan at one time or another. No one, except Ham, had a problem with the discipline of the children being done by extended family if that is who was present when the bad behavior took place. So I stood here, a grown man, and let this twelve year old disrespect me.

“Tell ya what,” I shot back. “If you think you can do it that much faster, maybe you can come up here and help next time instead of lying around your house, or whatever it is you do all day.”

Canaan merely went on as if I had not spoken.

“You need to help my Dad down at the olive press,” he said.

“I need to help? Where are your brothers? Why can’t Cush and Phut help him?”

“I don’t know,” Canaan answered abruptly. “I guess they are out riding or messing around or something.”

“Oh, I have no doubt they are messing around, wherever they are. I can assure you they aren’t doing anything constructive,” I replied.

Actually, Cush and the other boys weren’t bad kids. They were nothing like their baby brother, Canaan–they were just a little slow to volunteer for work.

“All I am telling you is, whenever you do get finished here, my Dad says you need to get your butt down the hill and help him finish the olive press.”

“You need to”…as pushy as Ham often was I knew he didn’t tell Canaan to say it that way. The gall of this boy, this…child, made me grind my teeth in anger. Suddenly, I decided I had tolerated all I could stand. I stepped quickly through the grape arbor, grabbed Canaan by the arm, and spun him around to face me.

“Listen here, you disrespectful little boy. I am tired of your tone and even more tired of your attitude. Now, here is what you are going to do,” I went on as I poked a finger in the boy’s skinny chest. “You turn right around, go back down that hill and tell your Dad that I am still finishing up, so you are going to help him. Hopefully his heart won’t stop from the shock.”

Canaan glared at me. Though I certainly had no fear of him, the look in his eyes was unsettling to say the least. Sometimes I wondered what went on inside that head of his. His eyes locked with mine for a long moment.

“GO!” I pointed down the hill, my voice rising. It was all I could do to keep myself from giving him a swift kick to help him along.

Finally, he crossed the grape arbor and began to head in the general direction of the olive press. Along the way he took a detour to walk along the cypress log. I knew he was procrastinating to get a reaction from me, and that made me even angrier. Unwilling to give him the satisfaction, I turned my back to him and went back to my work. A few moments went by as I became lost in thoughts of how differently I would have raised Canaan. Suddenly, I heard Mareyea cry out.

I could tell by the sound of her cry that she was hurt. I ducked quickly beneath the grape arbor. She sat crying with her hands covering her forehead. She looked frightened. The basket lay on its side next to her.

“I was sure I had it wedged. How could it have…” I didn’t finish my thought. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Canaan strolling more quickly than usual back down the hill, acting as if he didn’t hear my little girl.

“CANAAN.” I shouted. “What did you do?”

He stopped and looked at the ground for a moment before turning part way around.

“What did I do with what?” He asked, wearing his usual “how stupid you are” expression.

“You know what I mean. What did you do to Mareyea?” I picked her up and gently pulled her hands away from her forehead. She had a nasty looking knot starting to pop up above her eye.

I wanted to run him down and pummel him. I knew he had done something to make that basket tip over.

“You had better believe we will talk about this some more!” I shouted at his back.

Canaan merely waved a hand back at me dismissively as he continued to walk away. I must confess, at that moment I wanted to run my nephew down and beat him, badly. But I didn’t have time to deal with him right now. I turned back toward my little girl and kissed her as gently as possible where the knot was beginning to form. I kissed her chubby little checks and felt the wetness of her tears. As I did so, her crying began to subside. Her tiny bottom lip curled out pitifully as she tried to regain her composure.

“Was Canaan mean to you?” I asked. “Did he push you?” Mareyea only shook her head “no” as she hooked the index finger of her right hand into the corner of her mouth. Then she buried her face into my shoulder and tucked her arms underneath her chest as she leaned against me.

I walked with her in my arms toward the top of the hill where the grape arbor was planted. It was a short walk to one of my favorite spots. I supposed the entire valley had been wooded before the flood, but some violent waters had surged through this area and leveled the forest. The result for us had been a ready- made clearing where succulent grasses had sprang up. The livestock kept it from becoming over grown, resulting in a breathtaking valley of rolling green hills.

I sat down on the hilltop with Mareyea across my lap. I came here often because it was the highest point in the valley. From here you could look to the South and see the rooftops of our houses off in the distance. Curls of smoke rose from all the chimneys as evening meals were being prepared. I could see some of the children playing in the swept dirt yard surrounding the houses. “Our little community,” I said aloud. Mareyea stopped pouting for a moment and started to smile, but then thought better of it and went back to pouting and basking in her Daddy’s comfort.

I hugged her close to me again as I looked Northeast. In that direction, I could see the shoreline of the lake. Mareyea’s downy brown hair tickled my chin as the warm breeze blew it against my face. At the far end of that shoreline my mistress would be hiding. I would go to her soon. If I had to stay here and dig in the dirt and put up with Ham’s sarcasm and his son’s lousy attitude…well, at least I could look forward to my time alone with her. I hadn’t seen her in over a week now. As I began to lose myself in thoughts about her, my fantasy was shattered by my daughter’s voice.

“Daddy?” she asked quietly with her head resting on my shoulder.

“What is it, honey?” I answered, tucking my chin tightly to my chest so I could look down at her.

“Daddy, why did Canaan kick da bas kit?”