by Dan Grossman
YOUR HIGHNESS, six months ago you rose to power on a bold pledge: to build a tower to heaven. You told crowds that it would be “big” and “beautiful” and “create a million jobs,” and when you chanted “And who will pay for the tower?” we all screamed, “Heaven!” As you know, construction on the Tower of Babel has yet to begin. A leak from your royal circle indicated that my company, Babel Contractors, is to blame for the delay. Though I know this is probably the work of the fake news scribes, you must understand my fear that you might banish me, like the others, into The Pit of Death. Oh Nimrod, you whose orange face outshines the sun, you whose intelligence is so unbelievably tremendous, please allow this poor servant to outline the tower’s delay in a calm and honest manner without sending me to The Pit of Death.
First, before brick could meet mortar, there was the trouble with the project mission. Your command was for the tower to “pierce the heavens,” but you never defined “heaven.” At first the grammarians we hired took it literally: the tower would actually extend into God’s kingdom. But how can a physical entity cross into a spiritual domain? After much debate the grammarians decided that “heaven” was a metaphor for the sky, but then came your decree that the tower would “…not just pierce but crush heaven. For years heaven has been ripping us off. Toxic!” I know this is a delicate time for a request, but could you please, in all your glory, elaborate on how we will “crush” heaven? Or how, if crushed, heaven will repay us?
Second, rumors of corruption, spread by the fake news scribes (may they all be put to death!), have damaged our capacity to build. In particular, the rumor that your Highness received aid from Nineveh has undercut your slogan to “Make Mesopotamia Great Again.” That you have banished a half-dozen officials into The Pit of Death has not calmed fears of foreign influence, nor your peculiar praise for the hated leader of Nineveh, nor your own business deals with Nineveh, nor the contacts between your own son and emissaries of Nineveh, nor the much-discussed tablet that supposedly reveals in hieroglyphs how you paid several women of ill-repute to urinate on a bed in Nineveh where the former ruler of Babel once slept. If you just found some way to end this scandal, we could communicate to the populace what matters: that without a tower to heaven, our land will remain vulnerable to the foreign hand of God.
LASTLY, it goes without saying that resistance to the tower has been stronger than anticipated. Protestors blocked the paths to the quarry, and one saboteur spilled black ink on blueprints of the tower. Nor, I’m unhappy to report, have your most boisterous supporters, Sons of Cain, helped the process. Their brutal anti-heaven posture — really, an anti-anti-anti-heaven backlash— of beating up opponents and calling for a return to the days before Noah’s Ark makes it all the more difficult to mobilize popular support. Your recent decree that “Cain is our history too!” complicates matters even further. Your Highness, may I ask: Is the goal to build the tower or to crush those who defy it? And why, though we all speak the same language, do I feel that our tongues are splitting into two, into four, into fragments too numerous to count? And how, oh Nimrod of endless speech, do we repair this crazed blather, this non-talk that makes the dogs in the wadi sound like gifted orators?
To conclude, I want to emphasize that your concerns are being dealt with by professionals of the highest caliber. In spite of unrest and inertia, every day our operation grows stronger and every day we inch closer to building the Tower of Babel. I am confident that, barring an act of God, the tower will be finished before too long.
Dan Grossman lives and writes in New York. He last appeared here with an essay on Nathan Englander.