Where’s Ernie? Noah to be Seen

By Ernie Witham   |   April 4, 2023

It finally arrived! Freighter delays, they said. Lack of experienced labor. Cost overruns. Sound familiar?

But a giant truck pulled up in front of our condo today and delivered my IKEA easy-to-assemble, all-parts-included, fully-illustrated-plans-provided… ark. That’s right! I’m going to save the world from the great flood! Or, at least a few hundred people from Santa Barbara and their ark-broken pets.

I opened the box closest to me. It contained pre-addressed return labels, which I tossed to one side. Then I found the READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS FIRST! tome, which was written in Hebrew with some terms translated into English, Spanish, and Japanese. I skipped that part, of course. 

The second section advising MAKE SURE ALL 2,000,081 PARTS, VATS OF WATERPROOFING, BRUSH AND HEX KEY ARE INCLUDED BEFORE STARTING was also quite long, so I skipped that too. 

I was in a hurry because I wanted to get started right away before the association dug up some kind of arcane rule against building nautical structures in the common area. 

So, I turned to Illustration 1A-Hull Construction. “It showed a crew of men carrying Cypress Planks 0001 and 0002 to a designated “shipyard building area.” Crew? Shipyard? I felt that familiar “uh-oh” sweat forming on the back of my neck. But it was way too early to be deterred. I needed astute advice. I called my wife, who was in her French class.

“Where are you?” she asked. In the background I heard several women shout out “Ou es-tu?” 

Desolé,” she shouted back to them. “Ou es-tu, Ernest?” She said into the phone, then she whispered. “The neighbor just called and said she can’t get out of the driveway. Matter of fact, she said she can’t even find her car.” 

Ou est sa voiture?” the women from the French class yelled out.

“I, ah, I’m starting on that secret project I was telling you about. Only I have run into a slight snag.”

Pat groaned, in French, I think. “I’m afraid to ask, but what’s the snag?”

C’est le hic?” the French class yelled.”

C’est le hic, Ernest? Est-ce petit?

Non petit,” I said, exercising my own mastery of French. “Muy grande!

Au revoir et bonne chance,” Pat said. Which I think translates to goodbye, good luck, and call the relatives.

“Hey, what are you and the fam doing for the next oh, say, month or so? See I’m building this ark…”

“Ark! As in ark, ark?”

“Yup! And anyone that helps is guaranteed a seat. Hello? How about a window seat? Free cheese snacks? Hello?”

Several unsuccessful phone calls to family later… “Sorry, my back is out.” “Sorry, I’m going to be out of town for a long, long time.” “Sorry, I’m allergic to wood.” … I decided to post it on social media. “Ark builders wanted. Must have strong back, own tools, and ability to read Hebrew. Please bring your own lunch.”

Though I didn’t get any actual commitments, I did receive a lot of encouragement and “thumbs-ups.” I even received a TikTok video of three teenagers doing an elaborate ark dance through a sprinkler.

My wife returned from her class. “Bonjour,” I said. 

“I thought of something on the drive home.”

“Yeah? Great!”

If, I mean when, you get the ark built, and if, I mean when, we get the kinds of rains that will lift it off the ground and hopefully begin to float, who is going to pilot the thing?”

I looked at her in disbelief. “I always pilot my own arks.”

“Un-huh. Like the pontoon boat on Lake Winnipesaukee?”

“Hey, getting under the Weir’s Bridge was challenging for everyone that day.”


“Any anyone could have gotten a little sideways in the channel with that current.”


“And I didn’t hit that other boat very hard. Besides, this will be different. We’ll just float around for 40 days and 40 nights. I have already ordered an 85-inch high-def television, a thousand frozen burritos, 80 cases of beer, and some guacamole,” I beamed with pride. 

“You might need a few other things,” Pat said. “Like generators, refrigerators, microwaves, portable lights, oars, life jackets, foul weather gear…” I held up my hand. “I’m not quite done,” she said. 

“I am,” I said. Then I started looking for those return labels.  


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