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I Eve had long worried about that tree with pink white flowers in the spring and deep red fruits late summer. She thought the fruits might be wonderful with the balsamic she was trying to make. She sat near, peeling peas, wondering what was wrong with it while Adam was out picking olives. “Curious?” Eve brushed peas from her lap and looked at him. The Serpent leaned against the tree, arms crossed, his snakeskin gleaming, his elegant yellow and siena tail wrapped around the trunk. Eve thought him the closest thing to clever in The Garden. “Forbidden fruit,” Eve said, running her hand through her hair and smiling. “Who said?” asked the serpent. “Adam says.” ”Ah,” said the Serpent, “Who’s the cook around here?” The Serpent was bored, and thought if Eve and Adam ate the fruit, their conversation would perk, and the cooking, and dinner might be a diversion. He wondered if knowledge really grew on trees.. Eve did not trust the serpent, he was charming but there was something. “Maybe it’s poison,” she said. “Maybe,” the Serpent said He took a low-hanging fruit, bit into it, closed his eyes. Tthe moisture gleamed on his forked red tongue. “mmmmm.” “He’s never said a word to you about this. Maybe it’s only bad for men. We don’t understand much about sex differences. Why doesn’t He ever talk to you?” The Serpent had hit a nerve. But she wasn’t really sure she would like talking to the Old One. Adam even sometimes said He could be a little heavy handed, and, as she knew from the ‘go forth and…(whatever)’ problem, a little obscure in His meaning “He’s busy,” Adam said, coming to them, not pleased to see the serpent chatting intimately with Eve. Adam had promised to speak to the Lord about communications issues. But he did not want to seem to be a whiner. After all, where would they be without Creation, which he suspected was a bigger job than he imagined. “He’s not so accessible. And not chatty.” “What does He do?” Eve asked, “when He’s not looking after this place?’’ Adam shrugged. Eve glowered. Adam shrugged. . “And what do you think is the problem? asked the serpent, his narrow tongue fluttering in his flexible mouth. “It’s bad,” said Adam. “Why bad?” the Serpent asked. “Yes, Adam, why bad?” “It will confuse us,” was the best Adam could do.
2 At the edge of the forest a chimpanzee swung, screaming, across a tree. Eve and the Serpent looked at Adam. Adam made a decision. “It’s the Tree of Knowledge.” Adam said. “So?” asked the serpent, “it would hurt to know more about pruning olives?” Adam looked at the basket. He suspected something more might be done with the horticulture, but had not come to a specific idea. “We take what The Lord gives,” he said and went off to the vats wondering why the Lord made the serpent “So,“ the Serpent picked off a bright fruit, polished it, and offered it to Eve. “Did He make you equal or didn’t he?” asked the Serpent. “Well,” Eve said, “He says different things at different times. There’s this whole rib story He likes with the equal story.” She looked at the fruit, she looked around at the Garden, at the bamboo hut in which they lived, and the thick primeval malodorous vines And she took the fruit and bit into it and knew she and Adam were different in an enormously interesting way and what the Lord had meant by ‘multiply’. Also she knew it was the peas and not the pods she should be saving. “Adam,” she called, “come here.” Adam came back and saw the bitten apple and the smiling serpent. “That’s really a mistake,” he said. “Don’t be a dummy,” Eve said, “have a bite.” The serpent slunk off, looking forward to long evenings of interesting conversation and perhaps a really good duck a l’orange. II The Ancient looked to the olives and the red poppies and to cedars that ran across the peaks. "I should come more," He said, “this is nice.” A lion and a lamb came together and nuzzled his hands. Adam came, carrying fat green olives. He kneeled, the Old One motioned him upwards. “Can we talk?” Adam asked. "You have time? The sheep are in?" "She's doing the sheep." Adam sat at His feet. "There are things one might do here,” he said, his eyes avoiding his Lord, “a mall on the hilltop, with a view of the valley.” "Adam, this is my garden." "First Press Unfiltered Virgin Oil. Sell it all over the world." "Adam, to you, this is the world." Eve came to them, the sheep wandered behind her. She curtsied, she seemed a little nervous. She wore a covering made of leaves and branches. "You've covered yourself?" "It's chilly at night." "You just noticed it was chilly?"
3 "No, I just didn't know what to do about it." There was rosemary in the garden, and roses without thorns, which The Ancient had Himself developed. There were apricots and almonds and walnuts. "You've eaten it," His voice had a quiet sadness. The couple held hands. They had the charm and evasiveness of children. ‘And, if they knew something?,’ He thought, ‘invented some pruning tools? Some shampoo for her long hair? Maybe a nice dress. What was the harm? Why should He invent everything? But what other surprises might be now with these two?’ "You know where is the Tree of Life?" They looked at the ground and at each other. He sighed the deepest sigh of His Creation. "I am sending you out, children. I am sorry." III The evening air was heavy with jasmine and honeysuckle. Finches and redwings fluttered and sang in pomegranate trees where young fruits hung like golden orbs. Bees buzzed earnestly around the hives. Except for the birds and the bees, all was still. . Eve looked into the pinkening sky above the tops of young cedars. Adam, disconsolate, frozen in regret, sat under an acantha tree. “Why, he asked her “why?” She did not answer because it was the 100th time he had asked. She fashioned more leaves for herself. She worried now about styling and the thickness of the bough. She considered her breasts but decided they would do as they were until fashions seriously changed. She fashioned a bough for him. “Didn’t he tell us not to?” Adam asked. “Told you, not me.” There was a petulance in this question that annoyed her. She stared down at her husband with sharp eyes and he remembered who had been told what by Whom. She sat near and took his hand. “Adam, this place. The angels are driving me crazy,” she said, “they come every night, no conversation and they sing, ’hallelujah’, over and over.” Adam liked the singing, sometimes sang along, ‘Praise to the Lord…etc.,’ and felt the angels broke up long silences between them. “Where will we go? Adam asked her. “Out to do big things, Adam.” The heavy beat of a Seraphim’s wings sounded above them, the mighty Gabriel, not singing, descended, his shadow all about them. He made an awesome hissing sound and they ran from him toward what they now understood was the edge of the Garden. The animals watched them departing, the lion looking hungrily at the lamb. The serpent, without his feet, slithered by, “Talk about anti-intellectual,” he said, “this One’d burn books if we had any.” They came to the Great Wall. Gabriel motioned open the gate, and they were outside in a broad and vast green meadow, with a trickling stream.
4 “Oh” said Eve, “this is not at all bad.” “What will we eat?” Adam asked. Eve showed him a handful of seed she had carried from the garden. She smiled at him and stroked his hair and said, “We’ll build cities and have art and cotton and silk and ossa boca. “That’ll take a lot of work,” Adam said. “The children,” Eve said, smiling even more widely, “will help us.” “The children?” “Yes, Adam, the children.” And she began to hum a little tune that she had never heard from the angels.
With thanks to:
Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1538) Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex (1529); Hugo Grotius, (1583-1645) Adamus Exul (1601) Ralph Townley (1922-1999) Madam, I’m Adam (1983)
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