EVE AND THE SNAKE RETOLD
MAY 26, 2011. One fine day (every day was fine), in the floating place called Astral Island Y-96a4, or The Garden, Eve was sitting naked under a large tree working on her tan, when a long serpent approached, slithering through the tall grass.
Eve sat up and watched him. She and Adam were on their Multi-Dimensional Universe Tour II.
He was the color of old oil. The sun picked up rainbow highlights on his scales. The main thing about him was his smile. She’d seen it on the faces of used-car salesmen, New Age talisman peddlers, and agents.
“Hello, Eve,” he said, coming to rest at her feet. His voice was low and rich, like spoiled caviar.
“Where’s Adam?” he said.
“Oh, he went to Bold Foods to pick up some food,” she said.
“Really?” he said. “There’s a Bold Foods here?”
Eve pointed to three low hills in the distance.
“That way,” she said. “This is a hybrid island. Primitive and pristine on this side, overdeveloped out there in the flats. Tire recappers, gas stations, bars, thrift shops, a couple of drug stores, and a Dome Depot.”
The snake paused at this news.
“Well,” he said, “so you’re eating well?”
“Sure,” she said. “Lots of chips, the chicken noodle soup, salad bar, burgers. Chocolate cake.”
The snake sniffed the air.
“I was wondering if you know what tree you’re sitting under,” he said.
“This?” she said, patting the trunk with her hand. “There’s a plaque on the other side. Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I can smell the apples. Tart.”
“Yes, well,” the snake said, “there’s a rule. You can’t eat any apples .”
“I didn’t know that,” she said.
“I’m surprised,” the snake said.
“How would I know it? Adam and I just arrived last Tuesday.”
“I see,” the snake said. “So you haven’t been briefed.”
“What are you talking about?”
“When people land, they’re instructed on how to proceed. Usually, the clouds part, and the King comes down half-way and issues a few edicts.”
“Haven’t seen a king,” she said.
“Maybe he’s away,” the snake said. “I stand in for him then.”
“That’s good,” she said. “I guess.”
The snake stuck out his tongue, then withdrew it.
“But you see,” he said, “I can issue special dispensations. And for you, I think it’s the right thing to do.”
“Why would that be?” she said.
“Because the apples are quite delicious, and when you eat them, you automatically acquire wisdom. Essentially, you become more like the King.”
“Wisdom?” she said. “In general?”
She seemed a little puzzled.
“No,” he said, “you learn about the distinction between good and evil. It’s a tricky subject. The King knows all about it. It’s a source of his strength.”
“Good and evil,” she said. “For example, when someone is trying to sell you a used pickup with a cracked engine block?”
The snake gave her his big smile.
“Yes,” he said, “that would be one instance.”
“Over a few islands from here,” she said, “Adam and I were at this country club playing golf. On the sixteenth hole, I hooked my tee shot into the rough. I was in there, in the woods, trying to find my ball when a golf cart came whizzing by on the road. It stopped, a porky guy got out, and offered to help me. So we’re searching in all the bushes and tangles, and he says he can give me a good deal on a club membership. But I figured this was baloney, because what’s he doing way out on the sixteenth hustling memberships? Know what I mean? Besides, he doesn’t even have any clubs in his cart. He’s wearing a rug, his pants are checkered, his white shoes have little gold buckles on them. But you know, I didn’t want to call him out. Adam and I had been invited to play the course, so we needed to be polite. We keep looking for the Titleist, and he keeps up the hustle–”
“Okay! Okay!” the snake says. “I get it. But what about the tree and the apple?”
“What about it?” Eve says.
“It’s a very good apple.”
And then Eve turns on a kilowatt smile. She’s really quite lovely.
“Listen,” she says. “Adam and I have been around a block a few times. Right? We’ve visited thousands of these astral islands, and you’d be surprised how many times snakes have tried to run this same number on me. It’s a staple. There’s a book on it somewhere. The temptation, eat the apple, gain knowledge of good and evil, whatever that means, and then the Fall. Wow. I mean, come on. Who cares about good and evil? I know the difference. I’m not stupid. I don’t need to go to school on that. It’s simple. You’re free unless you lean on somebody else’s freedom. Case closed. Why you guys want to keep re-enacting it is beyond me. What’s the point? We should all bow down and support something that’s a scam to begin with? I’m just sunning myself here, Adam will be back from the store soon with goodies, and we’ll have an early supper. Then we might take in a movie.”
The snake coiled and uncoiled a few times.
“Suppose,” he said, “I decide to sink my fangs in your thigh?”
Eve reached behind her and brought out a thin flat L-slab of gray metal. She pointed it at the snake.
“Then,” she said, “I’d have to fill you full of energy that would rip most of your cells apart in under five seconds.”
“Hmm,” he said.
“Yeah. Hmm. Why don’t you find a nice little critter for dinner and leave us alone.”
The snake shook his neck and instantly reappeared as the king. He was large and thunderous in his blue robe, and his white beard swung back and forth under his chin. His eyes bulged, then relaxed back into his sockets. He stared at Eve.
“Haven’t I seen you before?” he said.
“Last summer. We stopped off here on the way to the circus at HT4ux. Just for the day.”
“Yes,” he said. “And you and I played out this little scene then.”
“Right,” she said.
“So what are doing back again?”
“We came for the apples. I really like the apples. Very tart. They’re hard to find. Most of the fruit these days is fibrous. It’s dead.”
“Well,” he said, “I have a few discount coupons for the mall. They get fresh fruit in every day from locals.”
“We’d appreciate that,” Eve said.
The king pondered for a few moments.
“No problem. You know, the plaque on the tree. I’m thinking of changing it. Good and evil was a mistake from the beginning. It just didn’t add up. Why should knowledge of good and evil be a bad thing? Redundant, yes. Bad, no? The writer was looking for a hook. I don’t think he found it.”
“No,” she said. “It’s a misdirection no one really cares about. But in all fairness, what really works? Adam and I have discussed it, and we couldn’t come up with anything, either. Eat the apple and lose your power? Won’t be able to sleep at night? See, that would be going the other way, and still it doesn’t compute, because then there’s no temptation to eat the apple. The story just got off on the wrong premise, and there was no way to fix it after that.”
The king sighed.
“Tell me about it,” he said. “I’m still amazed so many people bought in.”
“Well, the guilt thing, I guess, delivers a lot of mileage…although Adam and I have never been prone to falling for it.”
The king reached into the pocket of his robe and pulled out three wrinkled coupons. He bent down and handed them to Eve.
“Good until Christmas,” he said.
“Let’s not get started on that one,” she said.
The king pointed at her.
“No guilt, no redemption,” he said.
“Yeah,” she said. “You know, Adam has this script he’s been trying to peddle for a while. You might take a look at it.”
“He have an agent?” he king said.
“I’m his agent,” Eve said.
“Take you an hour to go through it,” she said. “Lots of action. The dialogue’s pretty straightforward.”
“Give me the bottom line.”
“Adam and I create the world and trap the king.”
“The old switcheroo. Might have legs in an art house.”
“We’re not looking for boffo. Starting small.”
“What’s the budget?”
“Four-five mill. Chicken feed.”
“When you get home, check with the Pope. Tell him to call me.”
“Why would he bankroll it?” Eve said.
“The Church feeds off criticism. They get an outrage and sympathy bump. Figures show it. Collection plates. Church attendance.”
“Maybe they could issue a statement when we’re ready for release. Condemning it.”
“Oh, they will…”
“For the extras on the DVD, we could do a sit-down with you.”
The king thought about this.
“If things don’t pick up soon,” he said, “I might even take a small part.”
“Who’s your agent?” Eve said.
“On most deals,” the king said, “the Vatican.”
“Like they need the money.”
He shook his head.
“You don’t understand,” he said. “They run me. My cut of their action just about keeps me in in Kleenex.”