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Ancient Love
 
          My story starts in Egypt. I was deciphering the hieroglyphs on the walls on a 5000-year-old tomb just off the Valley of the Kings. I was having trouble with women. One woman, a minor wife of a scribe, either had ten other husbands, was running a house of ill repute or worked as a temple maiden. The painters had her as a dark skinned, sloe-eyed beauty with long golden earrings. Her sarcophagus was in the next room with a twelve-hundred pound granite lid. Needless to say, I haven’t removed the lid.
     My other trouble was Nancy, a sun tanned, dark-eyed unattractive woman with cheap Egyptian scarab earrings made in China. She thought they were thousands of years old from the Ramses dynasties. She is on loan to me from another dig. I’m sure they wanted to get rid of her. She can’t tell a cartouche of Cleopatra from graffiti. I was on my hands and knees cleaning a cartouche. It was either husband or patron, I wasn’t sure which, when Nancy leaned close to me.
     "Who is she? Do you think she is still in her sarcophagus? What’s her husband’s name? What’s that bird mean? What’s in those vases?”
        She used her whiskbroom to flick 5000-year-old dust my way. I coughed slightly hoping there were no ancient viruses lying around. “I don’t know her name. She may not have been married.” I saw no need to answer all her questions. “We’ll find everything out in due time.” She is driving me insane. She is leaning on me so hard I have to lean against her to keep from falling over.
        “Does she love her husband?” She pointed at a row of cartouches. “Are these love words?”
      I glanced at the cartouches. I had deciphered them last week. “No, not love words. They are either her husbands or patrons who enjoyed her favors.”
      “What do you mean? Enjoyed her favors?”
       What is wrong with this woman? Why is she so close? “What I mean is that this woman may have entertained the high priests of the temple.” Will she understand that?
        “Entertain? She was a singer or dancer?”
        She is both dense and bad looking. No wonder the dig loaned her out. I kept working on the line of cartouches. A high priest was describing how irresistible she was. Her eyes were like the moon. Her lips like the sun at sunset. Her body was like a young gazelle. Her odor drove him crazy from ten feet away. “She was a temple maiden.” I hesitated a moment to see if she understood. She didn’t. “In other words, she was the temple prostitute. Her job was to keep the priests happy.” She stood and moved a few meters away from me. I think I finally got through to her.
        “A prostitute. I don’t believe it.” She walked to another row of cartouches. “How did she do it?” She paused a moment. “I mean how did she keep the men happy?”
       I think she understands now. I stood to give my knees a break. I pointed to a line of cartouches I finished before she arrived. “Those cartouches describe how she prepared herself. The different oils she used, the facial rouges, eye shadows and the like. She used a full range of cosmetics and drugs to enhance her beauty.” I stretched and walked a bit to restore my circulation. She walked to the wall where I had pointed.
       “What drugs? I didn’t know they had drugs back then. What do these cartouches say?”
       I walked over to the wall. I may as well humor her and take a break. I’ve been working too hard. “These three describe the body oils she used. The next describe where the oils came from and how they were mixed. This one is how her eye shadow was made. Here is her hair oil. All are mixtures of animal and plant oils with some solid matter mixed in.” That should satisfy her. She should have had at least five college courses on reading ancient Egyptians hieroglyphs before she was allowed to participate in a dig. Why is she touching that cartouche?
       “What does this one say? It seems to be shaped like a vase.”
       I wonder if she will understand. “It and the next two describe the aphrodisiacs she used to entice the men. The first is for older men. The second is for younger men and the third is for the hard to entice men. The main ingredients are ground beetles, crocodile skin and various oils. The stuff is in the three vases at the foot of her sarcophagus.” That ought to keep her feeble mind busy for a while. It’s getting late. I’ve got to finish this cartouche.
      There, I’m finished for today. Where is she? It’s time to leave. There she is. She’s dirty looking. What has she smeared on her body? She must have fallen in a dust pile. Let me stand up and look at her better.
         Nancy walked toward him and held out her hand.
         Her eyes are so beautiful. She smells like the roses from the pharaoh’s private garden. She is so intelligent. How could I ever survive without her? “Darling, I love you so. Don’t ever leave me.”