Jeremiah and the Lustful She-Camel
When I was 12 years old, before my bar mitzvah, even, the God of my Fathers spoke to me telling me I was chosen to spread a warning about how unhappy he was with the behavior of the people of Judah. I was hesitant to be a prophet. The pay isn’t great and generally no one much listens to you until it’s too late. Then you’re forbidden by the deity from saying “I told you so,” which would be somewhat rewarding. In fact, I told him I was just a kid and I didn’t want to do it. He insisted. I refused to listen.
Boy, should I ever have listened. This is what happened.
“Jeremiah!” yelled my mother. “Have you finished your chores yet?” For some reason she sounded exasperated.
“All except for milking Susannah,” I replied. I always put off the camel milking for last. I knew it made Susannah more cranky, but even when she’s in a good mood a lactating camel is no barrel of monkeys.
This time it was Susannah from whom we got the milk. That was somewhat better than when the Lilith, our other female camel, was the target of the evening milking. Whenever I had to deal with Lilith I’d hide for extra hours to avoid her. I would always hope that my brother would be assigned to deal with her, or even one of the girls. Lilith was, I swear, possessed by demons.
They say there’s a lot in a name. Lilith was already named when my father bought her from Adam, who claimed to be a wandering Edenite. Riiiiight. Old Adam said he had a new camel and keeping up with two was just too much work in his wanderings. I think he had trouble finding fodder for them both. I could have told him that wandering in the desert was no way to feed a lactating camel, but I was just a kid and he wouldn’t have listened to me.
My mother was pleased because we had to rely on goat’s milk when Susannah wasn’t producing, and she thought the strength and endurance of a camel was preferable to that of a goat. She said that children raised on camel’s milk would be strong and able to withstand the life of a Bedouin better. Since we lived in a city, I found that somewhat difficult to reconcile, but I was told to honor my father and mother or suffer the wrath of a nasty, vindictive god, so I did. It didn’t make milking time any better, though.
Lilith is the name of the first demon mentioned in our holy book. She was a bitch, that Lilith. She didn’t want to be with her husband, interestingly enough also named Adam, and refused to return to the Garden of Eden when Adam’s god (also my family’s god), sent some angels after her. That pissed the god off, so he made her eat her own children or something. I forget exactly how the story goes, but I know that if any woman doesn’t want to be married to you, you might as well put her aside because she’ll make your life hell on earth otherwise. And bad things will happen to your kids.
I don’t think the camel Lilith wanted to be a member of our family. On this particular day I recall that I trudged grudgingly to the barn to milk Susannah and the first thing that happened was Lilith spat upon me. I hate camel spit. It’s slimy and it stinks. I wiped my neck and shoulder off and glared at Lilith. I swear that camel-bitch was laughing at me.
I brought the bucket and milking stool into Susannah’s stall and set myself up for a twenty-minute session. I had to keep Isaiah, Susannah’s new baby, away from me while I milked his mother, so I opened Lilith’s stall door to put him in with her for the time being.
As soon as the stall door was open Lilith pushed out to make a break for freedom. I cursed under my breath and headed after her. I grabbed a rope to attach to her halter as soon as I could catch her. She was out in the barn yard and the first thing she did was antagonize the billy goat. She was nosing around him like she might eat him alive, and he was butting her for all he was worth. Even with those sharp horns on his head, Lilith didn’t seem to care. She just kept tormenting him.
I finally managed to insinuate myself between Lilith and the fence and slip the rope through the loop hanging from her halter, but tug as I might she wasn’t coming with me.
“Jeremiah!” my mother yelled again. “I need that milk now!”
I didn’t answer. It was talking all my energy and breath to try to tug Lilith away from the goat. The last thing I wanted was to have to dress Lilith’s wounds if those nasty horns penetrated her skin. Lilith was oblivious to me, though. Of course, a twelve year old boy, and I was a small twelve year old boy, is no match for a full-grown she-bitch camel.
Herod, the king of the yardbirds, decided that was the prime moment to dive at my face. I threw up my arms to protect myself and Lilith took that opportunity to pull completely away from me and gallop to the other side of the barn yard. Slapping Herod and kicking his harem of pullets away from my path, I decided to go milk Susannah and leave Lilith for later, after I had taken my mother the milk.
Of course, when I got back to the barn Susannah had kicked over the stool and had one of her big nasty dung-covered feet in the milk bucket. Cursing again, I growled and took the milk bucket over to the well. The well was to one side of the barnyard. Unfortunately, it was the side of the barnyard where Lilith was placidly chewing her cud. She stared at me as I groused my way over toward the well, muttering under my breath about camel demons and buckets of shit. I glared at her for good measure. I could have sworn she was laughing at me the way she curled her lip. I hoped she wouldn’t spit on me again.
It was taking several minutes of rinsing and scrubbing to get the camel-foot shit stain off the inside bottom of the bucket. I had to a good job because if I didn’t, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stomach drinking the milk with my supper and Mama would want to know why, and when I told her she’d accuse me of trying to poison the little ones. I could lie and say I wasn’t feeling well, but then she’d just send me to bed early and I wouldn’t get to go play with my friends afterward, and she’d probably want to stuff me full of foul-tasting potions until I really did feel sick. Mothers.
So there I was, scrubbing away at the bucket, when Delilah, the barn cat, decided to chase a rat under my feet. Why Delilah chose that moment to become a mouser I will never know. Why the damn rat chose the safety of my feet I will surely never know. I hate rats. I yelped and jumped. I jumped in a direction intended to take me out of the path of the rat. That means I jumped closer to the well. Since I was already leaning up against the well, there wasn’t far for me to go. I sort of landed across the well.
I was unbalanced, half into the well which was pretty deep – we were in the desert after all and water doesn’t exactly grow on trees near the surface. I had a bucket in one hand and a rag in the other and had to drop one of them in order to hold on and not contaminate the well water with my corpse. Unfortunately, I couldn’t decide which to let go of in that split second, and I ended up with the bucket still in one hand and my rag-covered fist against the opposite side of the well. I couldn’t see the bottom. I looked, and it was nowhere in sight. At this point, if I dropped the bucket I’d be bringing milk to the supper table in my cupped hands. IF I could get out of the well intact, that is. And IF Mama would let me even darken the door of the house.
I did the only thing I could think to do. I started yelling for help. Of course, my head was pretty much down in the well so my yells weren’t doing me much good. They were sort of echoing and reverberating off the well and not going much of anyplace at all.
That is when Lilith decided to be helpful.
At least, I hope that’s what she was doing. Frankly, I doubt it, but I still, to this day, do not allow myself to dwell overly much on what her thought processes must have been. I’ll share with you my deepest fears, though.
I think my yells, echoing and reverberating as they were off the walls of that deep well, bouncing off the water at the bottom and bouncing their way of the walls back to the top, must have sounded like a male camel in must. You know, horny.
Lilith was drawn to me by those yells, I think, and started licking at my backside.
Now, it was during the hot months of summer, and I wasn’t exactly wearing a lot of clothing. I mean, I had ditched my normal Bedouin-style robe for the loincloth I wore while tending to dirty chores, especially those dirty chores that had me mucking out camel stalls and such. Robes drag in the dirt and get, well, dirty. And if there is camel shit for them to drag through, they’ll drag through that. Did I mention that camel shit really stinks? It stinks worse than camel spit, I’m here to tell you.
So I’m naked except for a loincloth, stretched across the opening of the well, my nearly bare ass poking out, and my yells making me sound like a bull camel ready for action. My voice was changing in those days and sometimes the higher-pitched yells came out as a lovely basso. Lilith, naturally, was curious. She started licking my backside, as I mentioned.
Did I mention that camel spit is sticky? She was bathing all my parts in sticky, stinky camel spit and of course, my reaction was to yell harder. Lilith’s reaction was to lick harder. I thought she was going to remove my parts entirely with her stinky, sticky camel spit and her really long, nasty camel tongue.
Have you ever tried to suck your manly parts completely inside your body while a camel is licking them? By the time Mama sent my little brother Solomon out to see what was taking me so long, I thought my parents were going to have to change my name to Jemima and hold a bat mitzvah for me the next year.
Solly poked his head in the well where I was yelling. “Hang on, Jerry,” he said. Right. Like I had much choice. Solly was eight, and realized he wasn’t strong enough to get me out of the well by himself. He got my dad.
My dad, Hilkiah, busied himself with scholarly pursuits for the most part and left the running of the barnyard to his kids and the hired help. Dad saw me there, spread-eagle over the well, that she-devil Lilith licking me between the legs for all she was worth, me yelling for all I was worth, and apparently he thought I was enjoying myself.
He found the rope I had dropped earlier when I was trying to catch Lilith and put her back in the barn and started whacking me with it. That had the fortunate side effect of making Lilith’s demon tongue stop slobbering my privates with stinky camel spit, but did nothing to help me get out of my precarious position over the well.
Fortunately our neighbor, Zedediah, happened by at that moment and helped Dad haul me out of the well. Both of them were laughing. I failed to see any of the humor and told them so. I was rewarded with another whack with the rope, but fortunately it wasn’t a very hard whack. Dad was laughing too much to haul back and hit me really hard. Solly was looking a me pretty wide-eyed.
I’m not sure who milked Susannah that night. I know it wasn’t me. I went into the house and Solly brought me bucket after bucket of water and I spent about two hours scrubbing camel spit off my manly parts. The next day they bred Lilith to Zedediah’s bull camel, Rocky. It seems that she was in heat.
A few days later I meditated on my experience. Sort of simultaneously I was looking for the deadliest insult I could muster for the sinning people of Judah, just to make sure they listened to me. Yes, I decided I really had no choice but to take up the staff of a Prophet of God. To be effective, I knew I had to get my point across in the most graphic way possible to let my people know that this shit they were doing was not going to be tolerated any longer.
Naturally, given my experience, I came up with the notion of using the words “Lustful She-Camel.” There is nothing worse. I included it in the first sermon I gave. It’s immortalized in Jeremiah 2:23-25.
Believe me, if God gets a Lustful She-Camel to fellate you, not only will you listen, you will do anything he asks just so it doesn’t happen again.
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