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Rooting Around
by Marvin Pinkis

"Where are you going, Eda?" asked Menash. The old man gazed longingly at the trim silhouette of his shapely spouse, a deep-hued, spirited woman half his age. Menash spared himself the torment of asking again when Eda would share the connubial blanket, the connubial cave or anything connubial. Behind the rocks was acceptable if not already occupied by others seeking privacy in that God-forsaken wilderness.

Eyes fixed to the ground, Eda replied, "Just to the edge of the camp, to forage."

Menash said, "Not much chance of finding anything the others missed. But in case you do, save a few berries for me. Not the real tart ones, my stomach you know."

"Sure thing," muttered Eda.

Eda wended her way through the dusty camp, the howling infants, the children and yapping dogs underfoot. Eyes followed her, the eyes of women who bitterly resented Eda's disdain for wearing veils to sublimate the men's fancies. Other eyes were of the males who, in front of their women, feigned nonchalance at the passing of the camp vamp. She had swept every competition for "Siren Most Desirable to be Stranded With in a Remote Caravan."

One pair of eyes intended to more than ogle. That man followed Eda and scrambled behind boulders when she glanced coyly behind her.

Eda roamed farther than usual and spotted an area that promised succulent roots, at least as succulent as roots got. Foraging in the brush to no avail, she sat on the hot ground, overcome with the whole business - the incessant heat, the directionless meagre existence, eking out sustenance from a harsh, unsparing terrain with jackals boldly entering the camp and vultures circling closer each day. Back in the place of exile she had been a hairdresser and led a life of abandon. Marriage to Menash had been arranged by parents eager to wean Eda from that life of dissipation and apostasy. They intended that Eda would be spoken for on the long trek to a new land and thusly less of a target for lechers. Menash had been a widowed neighbor with rental property near the pyramids and who repaired sandals, always good for a living.

Eda mused upon her life when her reverie was interrupted by a husky inquiry, "Hey, cutie, what's a looker like you doing in a dump like this? You from around here?"

Eda looked up to observe an average man, of average build, with average looks and a below-average line. "No," she snapped smartly, "I'm from Cleveland."

"Cleveland, huh. Is that near Ur?"

"No, it's near Im. Listen, can't a girl forage in peace?"

"I've had my eye on you since I joined this band at the last oasis, but I was too shy to approach you."

"I see that the bulge behind your loincloth hasn't been shy."

"What do you expect? You're such a fine figure of a woman in your low-cut hide and shapely lower torso. A guy's loincloth is bound to stand out. But I don't think you're offended as much as you say."

Eda retorted, "In this miserable horde of what passes for humanity I get propositioned all the time. Dumb me, I should have taken the turn in the road that read 'To Babylon - the Scenic Route. See the Hanging Gardens.' "

"And I've noticed that you've dallied in the desert with them all. Don't you ever bring back any roots and berries?"

"I don't have to," said Eda, "my admirers provide them for me. A girl has to look after herself."

The man answered, "Ah, it's a hard life. How long have we been wandering?"

"I lost track. I figure it's been at least eight years since we crossed the Red Sea."

"I was at the back of the bunch and just made it across. Eight years? Gee, it seems longer. I don't know how I'll keep from going nuts in this wretched wilderness. Wander and forage. Wander and forage. If I see another root or berry..."

"I suggest that you seek diversions. There's something about you and I don't mean just your loincloth. I've never asked names before, but what's your handle?"

"I'm called Kevin."

"Catchy. If we hit it off I'll call you my little Kevie."

"Anything you say. Can we start foreplay now?"

"No. Tomorrow. Same time. And bring roots and berries."