The following play — a precious relic from ancient Israel — tells the untold story of motherhood in Exodus. It was published in Mockingbird’s latest book, Unmappeda memoir duet about spirituality, family, and finding home in unexpected exile. This is Act I of IV:

Char and Steph Wander the Desert

A Play by Charlotte Getz and Stephanie Phillips

ACT I

CHAR and STEPH, two young-ish Hebrew women, work side-by-side in a field making bricks out of clay and straw. They are just two women amongst thousands, and the sun beats down on them all without a trace of shade in sight.

CHAR (wipes her forehead): Damn it’s hot.

STEPH: I’m so thirsty.

CHAR: What are the symptoms of dehydration again?

STEPH (yells to no one in particular): Can we get some water over here?!

CHAR: This day literally could not get any worse.

A deranged looking man—seeming terrified—runs onto the scene.

HEBREW #1: THE RIVER TURNED TO BLOOD!

STEPH: What did he say?

HEBREW #1: ALL THE FISH ARE DEAD!

CHAR: It’s just Herm.

STEPH: Oh Herm…

CHAR (to STEPH): I spent two hours last night meal-planning for the week and FISH IS ON THE MENU, PAL.

STEPH (snapping her fingers like a diva): Ain’t nobody gonna poopoo on my meal plan.

THE NEXT DAY…the girls are side-by-side making more bricks.

CHAR: So, do you want to talk about the whole river thing?

STEPH: That was weird.

CHAR: Super weird.

STEPH: Herm is almost never right.

CHAR: Literally, never.

STEPH: Who’s with your kids today?

CHAR: Not sure. Last I saw, they were just running around.

STEPH: Yeah, me too. Told them to meet me when the sun starts to go down.

CHAR: Not a bad set up.

STEPH: Not bad at all.

The girls slap a high-five.

STEPH (cont’d): Just spitballing here, but are you worried at all that somebody will take them, or maybe they’ll fall in the river and get diphtheria or something?

CHAR (casually): Not really…

STEPH: Yeah, me neither. I LOVE getting away from them, even if it’s to make bricks all day.

CHAR: Okay, honestly, I’m terrified.

STEPH: I’ve literally cut holes in their pockets and filled them with matzo crumbs—just so I can follow them and see what they’re up to.

SEVEN DAYS after the water of the Nile turned to blood, STEPH and CHAR sweep up a host of dead frogs from around their brick-making site. The stench is overpowering, and they both gag as they work.

STEPH: If I have to scrape another dead amphibian from the bottom of my shoe, I’m taking it up with the big guy himself.

CHAR: Pharaoh?

STEPH: No, Fat Albert. YES PHARAOH.

CHAR: PHA-WHOA, buddy. Chill out. It’s not like we have any options. Moses said this would happen, so let’s just push through and trust him. He’s convinced God is going to come through for us.

STEPH: Dang, I can usually trust you to be more suspicious…

CHAR (looks around to make sure nobody is listening): Don’t tell Alex, but I think Mo’s stutter is kind of cute…

STEPH: Total dreamboat.

MANY DAYS LATER, after the gnats, the flies, the livestock, the boils, the hail, and the locusts, CHAR and STEPH sit in the field in the middle of the day, but in total darkness. They continue to make bricks and their expressions are flat and hopeless.

STEPH: Seriously, dude?

CHAR: There is literally no God.

SEVERAL DAYS LATER, the girls stand side-by-side over a wobbly table in a small shanty, together with their four children. They are preparing a meal (if you could even call it that).

CHAR (chewing some bread while STEPH does a majority of the cooking): Where’s Jason?

STEPH: Off looking for a lamb. He keeps talking about how (in a half-hearted impression of JASON’s voice) “it has to be without blemish and that’ll make the search take longer,” but I think he’s just looking for excuses to have some alone time while I make another dinner the kids won’t eat.

CHAR: Tell me about it. So far Alex has come home with three different lambs that he later returned to the field because once he got home, he realized they either had defects or were too old. He’s out right now. I keep telling him to get a new pair of glasses, but noooooo.

STEPH: Why are our husbands so concerned with this whole sheep thing?

CHAR: Lamb.

STEPH: What?

CHAR: It has to be a lamb.

STEPH: Right, a lamb. I mean, God’s not actually going to kill anybody…will he?

CHAR: Literally, no chance.

THE NEXT DAY, the girls sit solemnly caressing their eldest boys (who are more than a little confused, but also kind of enjoying the attention).

CHAR (to FORD): I love you more than any mother ever loved any little boy ever.

STEPH (to JAMES): Me too.

CHAR (to STEPH): So, last night got real.

STEPH: I know, now I feel bad. Complaining about my kids while all the Egyptians have lost their (she covers JAMES’ ears and whispers) firstborn sons! Not that they don’t deserve it…I mean, they’ve been pretty awful to us.

CHAR: We literally don’t have fingernails.

STEPH: Girl, you KNOW I can hold a grudge. But it just seems so…wrathful of God, you know? I mean, just when you think he’s this grandfatherly figure in the sky, or your bro, he goes all Sodom and Gomorrah on an entire nation. And now we’ve got to hightail it out of here because everyone’s freaking out!

CHAR: You realize that’s a good thing, right?

STEPH: I know, I know, it’s just that this is our home. And moving is such a hassle. Jason is all consumed with packing his own stuff up which of course leaves me to take care of the boys and myself.

CHAR: I think Alex has had us packed since the whole bloody river thing. That guy does not like a to-do list.

STEPH: What do you even pack for an exodus? I mean, like, how long will this trip take?

CHAR: A few days?

The women shrug their shoulders, unconcerned.

LATER THAT DAY, STEPH and CHAR’s families walk side-by-side in a mass of thousands of other Israelites. They carry only their essentials, including loaves of unleavened bread.

CHAR (gesturing to her satchel of unleavened bread and beginning to lose her calm): I hate this stuff. I mean, we don’t even have a minute to bake some damn bread before we leave? I read somewhere that unleavened bread can breed salmonella. Did you read that? Can you imagine if we got salmonella out here?? Not to mention that all this extra salmonella-bread weight is only going to slow us down. Did anyone pack anything that’s actually edible? And where are we even going? Does anyone up there even have a map? WHAT IS THE PLAN, PEOPLE?!

STEPH: Maybe God is telling us to rely on Him for our provision?

The girls pause for a minute and then together, burst into laughter.

CHAR: No way he can pull this off without us.

STEPH: Not a chance.

SEVERAL HOURS LATER, the herd of Israelites comes to a halt. Chatter begins to filter back toward where CHAR and STEPH stand tired and confused.

HEBREW PERSON IN FRONT (passes back the news): God told Moses we should turn around, to go camp by the sea.

STEPH and CHAR and FAMILIES: WHAT?!

CHAR (enraged, taking HEBREW PERSON by the tunic): WHY AREN’T WE TAKING THE ROAD THROUGH THE PHILISTINE COUNTRY?!

People start to stare.

HEBREW PERSON (shrugging his shoulders): Jeez lady, I’m just passing on the info.

STEPH (embarrassed): Char, you’re making a scene. Remember what you said before… Trust Moses.

CHAR: TRUST MOSES?! Forget that! (To ALEX) Alex, this is absurd, can you please talk to someone up front? Make sure you tell them I said this doesn’t make any sense…WE’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY.

ALEX obliges and hurries toward the front.

CHAR (to herself): I mean what does Moses think we’re going to do? Swim across an entire sea?

STEPH: I believe in you!

CHAR (brushing her off ): Not now, Steph.

STEPH: But really, why is Moses the designated message-receiver? He can barely talk, and I heard he killed a dude back in Egypt. For reals.

ALEX returns, and the look on his face says it all: bad news.

ALEX (out of breath): God said.

CHAR: God said what?

ALEX: God said we have to go this way…

CHAR: Oh you talk to God now?

ALEX: No. Jeez. Padma said that Yaegar said that Aaron said that Moses said that… “God said.” As in, “Because he said so.” Moses isn’t budging on the route.

CHAR: Did you tell him what I told you to say?

ALEX: I did.

CHAR: Did you say it exACTLY how I said it?

STEPH: Just let it go.

CHAR: Maybe we should break away from the pack, go our own way…

STEPH: Now you’ve gone and lost your mind. Let’s just stick with the group and keep following that cloud-pillar up there.

A FEW DAYS LATER, as the Israelites camp alongside the sea, CHAR and STEPH lie awake whispering while their children sleep soundly on top of them.

STEPH: Can you believe who Abra is walking with??

CHAR: I know, Ujarak?! She can so do better than Ujarak.

STEPH: Desperate times.

CHAR: Indeed.

STEPH (pauses, noticing something over CHAR’s shoulder): What’s that in the distance?

CHAR: What?

STEPH (stands up and shrieks): I knew it. EGYPTIANS!!!

Unmapped is available now!