Short Story #290: The Fire and the Cloud by Zora Neale Hurston

Title:  The Fire and the Cloud

Author:  Zora Neale Hurston


Photo of Zora Neale Hurston.  Image source: is upon Mount Nebo, sitting upon his grave and looking upon his people who have traveled to Canaan.  A lizard strikes up a conversation with him.  It has been thirteen days since he has been buried.  The lizard is impressed with his "nest" and wonders what Moses' female will think of it but Moses explains he is alone.  The lizard doesn't entirely understand this, but when he goes to further inquire, Moses's head is in the clouds.  The lizard goes back to his home and sleeps.  He comes back and sees Moses returns, so he begins talking.  The lizard notes that Moses has some kind of power because he can summon flies for the lizard to eat when he is hungry.  The lizard asks where he comes from and he points to the plains of Moab.  He explains that he is alone because he has been chosen by God to lead but he has never been able to understand why he was called.  Upon hearing all that he has done, the lizard believes that his people's love for him must be great.  However, Moses explains that love doesn't come from such service but if he has done well by his people, they shall create monuments.  The lizard asks if none of them love him and Moses says that Joshua might and that he shall follow in Moses' footsteps.  The lizard asks if his service has brought him joy and Moses says that at times it did--he has led a great people, but much of his strength has been lost as his great people sought to undermine him repeatedly.  Moses head goes into the clouds again and the lizard goes asleep.  The lizard returns and says that his people will triumph beyond the river Jordan and he will be celebrated as a "king of kings."  This doesn't impress Moses.  He worries about his lasting impression and whether they will follow his commandments.  He finally decides to retire to his tomb and leave his rod for Joshua.


This was a curious tale and not one of my favorites of Hurston.  I think I need to know more of Moses experience to better understand this tale. There's clear reluctance and disappointment in Moses but it seems hard to determine if it is directed at his people or at his God.  

Short Story #290 out of 365
Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/1/2014
Source:  You can read the full short story at this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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