“…. and finally, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods,” read the Burning Bush. “Got them?”
“Yes, I think so,” said Moses.
“I suppose you’ll want me to explain what ‘covet’ means,” said the Burning Bush. “It means-”
“It means ‘yearn to possess’,” said Moses.
“Oh,” said the Burning Bush, a bit crestfallen. “You’d be surprised how few people know that.”
“You reckon?” said Moses. “Over the past few weeks I’ve had the sea open in front of me, had manna drop from the sky whenever I’m hungry, and I’m now talking to a flaming shrub. You’d be surprised how hard I am to surprise.”
“I see your point,” said the Burning Bush. “Well, anyway, what do you think?”
Moses looked at the list for a long time. “It’s a bit all over the place, isn’t it?” he said at last. “I mean, why is thou shalt not kill number five? I’d have thought it would be higher than ‘go to church on Sunday’ and ‘don’t forget Mother’sDay’, but it’s stuck down near the unimportant stuff like don’t fart in public. Which, not that I look at it,” he went on, “doesn’t seem to be on the list.”
The Burning Bush looked at the stone again. “You’re right,” it said. “We may have to do an addendum later.”
“Also, my neighbour seems to be coming out of this better than I am,” said Moses. “Which is ironic since we live in the desert at the moment, but in any case the nearest thing I do have to a neighbour is Aaron in the next tent, who’s about a hundred-and-seven, and whose wife looks like a donkey, and whose donkey looks like a clothes rack. I can’t see myself over-coveting there.”
“Yes,” said the Burning Bush, “but you have to remember that you are Aaron’s neighbour.”
Moses thought about this, and about the lovely Mrs Moses, and about the way Aaron sometimes looked at her. His eyes narrowed.
“The dirty git,” he muttered. The Burning Bush was so startled by the vehemence in his voice that its flame momentarily popped out, then back on again. The effect was rather like a sneezing firework.
“Anyway,” said the Burning Bush, “I want you to take them back to your people -”
“It’s you, isn’t it?” said Moses.
“Er, who?,” said the Burning Bush.
“God,” said Moses. “You’re just God in disguise. I mean, Zeus does it all the time, appearing as swans and stuff -”
The Burning Bush glowed white-hot, as if in fury. A single finger of flame snaked out and pointed at the First Commandment.
“Er, not of course that Zeus exists,” said Moses hastily. “I just thought that you were so amazing that you had to be him.”
“Well, he does like his messengers to make an impression,” said the Burning Bush. “He feels it helps re-inforce the message. After I’m done here, I’ve to go off and start practicing to be a Star in the East.”
“Really?” said Moses. “Well, I suppose I’d better get back to the others. Let me run through these one last time. ‘First, I am the Lord thy -‘”
“Oh, you don’t have to memorise them,” said the Burning Bush. “Take the tablet with you.”
“Tablet?” said Moses.
“A flat thing with information on it,” said the Burning Bush. “We’re expecting them to be very big one day.”
Moses put his two hands under the stone and lifted it. The top caught him under the chin, ramming his jaws against each other.
“Very big?” he snorted. “It’s smaller you should be making them.”
“We’ll keep that in mind,” said the Burning Bush.
Moses started down the hill, but had only gone a couple of yards before he caught his sandal in the hem of his robe. He stumbled, and the stone dropped onto his toe, then lay face upwards on the ground. Moses yelped and hopped in a circle, holding his foot.
“Ah-” he began, loudly, then quickly scanned the stone. “-bollocks!” he continued, almost triumphantly.
The Burning Bush sighed. “The list really does need work,” it said.