The woman of the house was muttering and slamming the door to the storage room again, which meant that, if Naomi and Ruth didn’t get out of there while her back was turned, they’d be subject to another fit, so they sped out of the house before anything got thrown at them.
“This isn’t working anymore,” Naomi said. “If it ever did.”
“There’s one more day of harvesting wheat,” Ruth said. “I’ll glean as much as I can.”
Naomi gave an irritated huff. “It isn’t really that we’re eating too much food. It’s that you’re too young and beautiful and I’m the previous woman of this house and my husband’s family and the elders are dragging their feet about deciding on a permanent solution for us.”
Ruth agreed with her mother-in-law, but there wasn’t much point to following those complaints with more of her own. Whining wouldn’t make people stop giving her sidelong glances and edging away when she came near. Sure, they loved to publicly praise her loyalty to Naomi, but that didn’t mean they were glad to have her around. At least, the women weren’t. And certainly not the woman of the house where they were staying. Ruth headed towards the dung pile in the back of the property. Maybe a fresh pile of fuel patties would help.
“Is Boaz still, ah, watching over you?”
“I’m still gleaning in his fields and eating with his workers.” Ruth tossed a forkful of dried grasses to the edge of the dung pile. “Just like you and he told me to.”
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”
Ruth gave Naomi a sly grin and then crouched to mix the grass and aged dung.
Naomi snorted and sat next to Ruth, although she faced away from the work. “Good.”
“At least he was still giving me the eye the last time he came to the wheat fields. He hasn’t been there in a couple of days.”
“That’s because the barley is dry and they started winnowing,” Naomi said. “What we need is a way to light a fire under Boaz’s feet.” Her loud hand clap startled Ruth. “That’s it!”
“Do you trust me?”
Ruth tossed one formed patty to the side and faced her mother-in-law. “You got me out of Moab and your pregnancy ruse found us so much help, we didn’t even use up our food. Of course I trust you.”
That got a chuckle out of Naomi. “Then here’s the plan. Boaz has his own threshing floor. A flat bit on the hill to the west of his wheat field.”
“With an oak tree to the east. I know.”
“Good. When you come back from your work today, take a bath, oil your skin and hair, put on a little scent and your softest robes. Then go to the floor, so you can see where he goes to sleep, but stay hidden. Nobody can see you or know you’re there.”
Ruth folded her hands in her lap, gripping her fingers so hard that her knuckles turned pale. What did Naomi expect her to do? Did she really go through that entire journey only to wind up doing what her friends in Moab had warned her about?
“When everyone’s asleep, go to him and,” Naomi leaned close and spoke in an undertone, “uncover his feet.”
That wasn’t what Ruth expected Naomi to say. She frowned. “His feet?”
Naomi wiped her fingertips across Ruth’s forehead. “Don’t make wrinkles. We don’t want Boaz to suspect your real age.”
Ruth made her face as smooth and placid as she could. “So, his feet.”
“Yes. Uncover his feet and make him choose whether to be honorable or dishonorable. So far, everything he’s done has been above board, and everything I’ve been told about him makes me think he’ll do the right thing. He just needs a little push.”
Wouldn’t his feet already be uncovered from tossing and turning in his sleep? It was the beginning of summer; nobody slept swaddled up. Maybe her mother-in-law meant something else. “Should I wash his feet while I’m there?”
Naomi recoiled. “You will under no circumstance touch his feet. He’ll think you’re a veiled woman and then all will be lost.”
“I’m lost now.”
“What? It’s a perfectly simple plan.”
Ruth shook her head slowly. “Feet have way more significance in your culture.”
Naomi blinked at her a moment before dissolving into giggles. By the time she finished, she had to wipe her eyes. “‘Feet’ here is a euphemism for the male member.”
“That makes much more sense.” Ruth managed to say this primly, but she couldn’t stop a smirk from forming. “So you don’t expect me and him to…”
“Certainly not,” Naomi snapped.
“But I’m to expose him to the breeze and curl up with him as if we were married and then await his instructions?”
“Exactly.” Naomi’s voice turned tender. “He won’t take advantage of you and leave you with the consequences. He’s in his forties. If he were like that, the women here would know by now. His wife died in childbirth four months ago. He just needs a little reminder of how nice it is to have a soft, sweet woman by his side.”
It had been a long time since anyone had been tender with Ruth, and it was so out of character for Naomi. Tears burned in the back of Ruth’s eyes. She blinked and went back to forming another patty. “What’s the thing you called him when I first gleaned in his fields?”
“Kinsman redeemer,” Ruth repeated so she’d get the pronunciation right.
“So you’ll do it?”
“Everything you said.” Like she said, it was time to light a fire under someone, and Boaz was acting like tinder.
Naomi squeezed Ruth’s hand. “I’ll finish these up. Get down to the wheat fields so our gracious host doesn’t have more to complain about.”