“Oh, woe is me. God hates us. He’s going to kill us any minute now!” Adam lay back against the cave wall and pressed a dirty palm against his face.
Eve glared at him, from deeper in the small cave. “He won’t have to if you don’t get off your ass, and help me gather some food. Otherwise, I’m going to kill you first. Or let you die of starvation” The words remained unsaid, but strained against her throat for exit. Instead she kicked the empty baskets; all of them empty because he had eaten the contents. “I’m going out to look for food,” she said.
Adam picked up one of the baskets that had bounced against his outstretched legs. He looked randomly into it, picked out a sliver of food caught in the weave, and then flipped the basket away. “What is the point? We are doomed.” He sighed heavily. He lay against the cave opening, his legs stretched across the entrance, scratching absently at the rash he seemed to have developed where Eve had bound fig leaves with a stringy vine.
“If God had wanted us dead, Archangel Michael would have skewered us back in the garden,” she said. “I don’t think God particularly cares what happens to us now.” She gathered the six baskets and stepped over him into the rising sun. In the mornings it shone under the rocky outcropping that shielded the cave entrance. She paused to add wood to a fire ring where she’d left clay pots baking. They held water better than a mud lined basket.
Adam wasn’t done yet. “It’s all a joke to him. Dominion over all that lives on the earth under water and flies in the sky,” he mimicked in a deep and sonorous voice. “Remember when we tried to eat those eggs. That bird nearly pecked my eyes out. He’s going to kill us in the most painful way.” Adam leaned his head against the cave wall. “Well I am finished, let him do his worst.”
Eve looked up at the sky. Clouds were beginning to gather. Already portions of the sky looked heavy and gray. She still had several hours of gathering time before the skywater made the grains too mushy to gather, or sent the rabbits into their burrows rather into her line of snares. She had gotten the idea for snares from watching the spiders. There had been many failures, but now she knew the taste of meat and she liked it.
The baskets under one arm, she picked up a long shaft of wood, she had ground one end to a point and hardened it in the fire. Lazy or not, Adam was right about the animals. They were no longer docile. She absently looked at the small scar on her hand where she had tried to pet a ring tail. It had bitten her. She made the pointy stick the next day. The day after that she cooked that ringtail over the fire.
If she could only get Adam to hunt, with his broader shoulders and larger muscles, he could bring home better meat.
She used her stick to shift the wood on the fire. She needed to keep the coal bed hot. “You aren’t too fearful of the wrath of God to eat what I put in front of you,” she muttered as she blinked away the tears brought on by the irritating smoke.
“Could you look for some of those sweet red berries?” Adam said plaintively from the cave entrance.
Eve turned, her pointed stick in her hand. “You know,” she said, “you could take the advice he gave us.” She flipped a small basket towards him. “Get a little sweat on that brow. There’re some berries ripening down by the stream. Maybe even get a fish?” She gestured toward the stream with the pointy stick.
Adam settled against the wall. His eyes still closed. The asshole was taking another nap!
He didn’t open his eyes, but a smile crossed his lips.
“He also commanded us to be fruitful and multiply?” His fig leaf began to quiver.
Eve turned away in disgust and picked up her remaining baskets.
“A man needs more than food.”
She ignored him and stalked away. Soon she was away from the rocky outcropping and walking through stalks of tall grasses with heavy seeds growing on long stalks. She carefully shook them off, slowly covering the bottom of the basket. It took a lot to keep Adam fed. She might have given up on God, but she wasn’t done worrying about Adam. He didn’t want to do anything, not even tend the blessed fire that kept them warm and cooked their food.
Past the grasses, low bushes marked the entry into the trees. A berry bush beckoned her. She sampled one fat red berry. “Sweet!” A double handful went into the basket. She gathered them despite Adam, not for him. The wild almond tree tasted just as bitter as it had yesterday. But, next to it, another tree with nuts very like the almond tasted sweet. They looked the same but one would feed her, the other would make her sick.
Quickly she plaited together long strands of grass that had already given her their heads of grain. When she had a strand long enough, she tied it loosely around the trunk of the good tree to mark it.
Onward she trekked, throwing grains and nuts and berries into separate baskets. Then she stopped by a dry creek and used a stick to pry up some meaty roots. They went into yet another basket.
The sun rose high above the horizon, warming the land and her back through the thickening clouds. She sniffed the air. Instead of the usual dry scent of baking plants and drying manure—good for fuel when dead branches grew scarce—from the grazing beasts in the distance, she smelled the coming of sky water. Their first encounter with bad weather had frightened both of them to their core. It had been after many days of their long trek from the garden that the skies had exploded with sheets of light and the crashing of clouds that brought a deluge of water from the sky. They had sought refuge in the small cave.
Eve had decided then and there that she was done wandering. God had shown them the cave. She accepted the gift and would not insult God by abandoning it. Now she wasn’t so sure it was a gift from God. She didn’t think He was in much of a giving mood these days.
Adam hadn’t cared. Or even notice for that matter. From the day Michael and banished them, all Adam did was moan and groan in despair. And eat. He was as good at eating as he was complaining.
She had consoled herself with the thought that God created her to take care of him when he couldn’t—or wouldn’t—take care of himself. But she did wish he’d stop moaning and do something, anything.
She moved on, watching the clouds thicken and feeling the air grow heavy. Sweat dripped from her brow and down her back. Now and again she paused to stretch and scan the landscape. From the carcasses she had found she knew there were animals that would kill in these lands. But not today. She had the plains of tall grasses all to herself.
On the horizon, the sky flashed and a dull rumble rolled across the land, she knew she’d stayed too long. A sudden gust of wind tore at her hair. The baskets, heavy with the fruit of her labor, strained against her arms and shoulders. With regret, she left the heaviest of the baskets, the big one with the mud lining. She couldn’t deal with the storm and hope to get to the cave with all of her foraging. She tucked the baskets more firmly beneath her arms and began to run. Lightning cracked above her. A wisp of smoke taunted her nose. The bolt of light had sparked a fire.
She hoped the sky water would douse it before it spread.
She needed shelter fast.
The cave was too far, an hour’s slow walk or half that if she ran. She couldn’t run fast burdened with her baskets but she needed the food, Adam needed the food.
At the next slash of lightning, the water began to fall. First it came in heavy pellets that quickly turned into sheets of falling water. She crawled under a bush. She knew the sizzling light would seek the taller trees over the lower bushes. She hoped the broad leaves would shelter her until the storm passed.
In time, the sky grew lighter and the falling water slackened to a drizzle. The rumbling skies and flashes of light moved on. On the horizon, the clouds thinned and scattered bursts of sunlight streamed through. She shivered in her wet rabbit skin clothing. Water still dripped from her hair, but she gathered her soggy baskets and trudged through wetness, back to the cave.
“You’re late,” Adam said almost before Eve dragged herself across the threshold of the cave. At least he’d stirred himself enough to stoke the fire.
Eve set her baskets down and crouched in front of the hot flames. He said nothing as she wrung extra water from her hair, then used a twig to straighten the tangles. She noted that the sun had begun to bleach and straighten the strands while Adam’s hair and beard remained dark and curly.
“I said, ‘you’re late’,” Adam repeated.
“I got caught in the storm.”
“That was careless,” he said and rolled onto one hip to reach for one of the baskets. He pulled the basket of the sweet berries into his lap and began to eat them by the handful.
She stood up, fists clenched. Red swam before her eyes. She wanted to kick him, knock some sense into him.
But God had said she needed to take care of him.
But then again, she’d broken more than one of God’s silly rules.
Ruthlessly she turned her back on him and began sorting the food, spreading it on a rock slab to dry.
“Aren’t you going to cook those?”
“Why should I?”
“Because I like it when you toast those nuts.”
“Then toast them.” She thrust a basket of acorns at him, and kept her eyes focused on the cave floor. If she faced him for even a moment she’d kick him.
“Ah, Eve don’t be like that,” Adam cajoled.
Her shoulders relaxed for a brief moment as memories of the garden came back. When he used that charming and winsome tone of voice, soothing like warm honey, she remembered all the good times they’d had together. Before. Before God had cast them out to fend for themselves.
She stiffened again.
“Eve, sweetheart, I was worried about you.” He gestured toward the puddles of water outside the cave entrance. “That’s why I snapped at you.” He crouched down and rested his berry stained hands on her shoulders. “Forgive me, sweetheart. It was only the worry that made me angry.” He began to massage the tension from her muscles, warming her through and through.
“Show me how to roast the nuts?” He whispered into her ear.
She ended up doing all the cooking herself as he proved too clumsy to do anything but make a mess. They laughed at his crude attempts to mash the acorns with the remaining berries into a paste for frying. As the sun set, they fed each other tender morsels. But in the end they went to their separate pallets. Adam had grumbled but Eve still carried her pointy stick.
The next morning repeated the pattern as the previous day. Eve took her now dry baskets to the east where she knew some bees kept a hive. Adam had reminded her they’d had no honey since leaving the garden. She smeared her arms and legs and face with mud—plenty of that from the rains—and a noxious smelling weed to protect herself from the angry bees and their stingers.
She hastened back to the cave with her prize.
Adam looked at her with disdain, as he took the basket containing the dripping honeycombs.
“I hope you’re going to wash that mud off,” he said. He wrinkled his nose. “And you smell bad.” That was when she took her pointy stick and left.
Eve sat beside the river and watched the water split endlessly around a rock that jutted above the rushing water.
“Why do you make me put up with him!” she demanded of the sky. “Why did you make him so helpless?”
No answer. God never answered her anymore. Even in the garden, he seldom actually spoke with her, it was always Adam this and Adam that. Did she get to name the animals? Nooo. She just got to sit and smile at the stupid names. Kangaroo? What in the world had inspired that?
“Well see if I care about you and your commandments. See if I take care of your precious Adam anymore. See if I gather the food and cook it for him when he does nothing but moan about how you deserted us. And as for that ‘be fruitful and multiply’ thing, you can both forget about that.
That night she assumed Adam went hungry. She built her own small fire an hour’s walk from the cave where she cooked and ate her own diner. Two small fish wrapped in a leaves with some brown grains cooked soft. She ate it all.
“But… but…” Adam spluttered in bewilderment when she returned to the cave that night, empty handed. “But I’m hungry!”
“Then go look for food.” She stomped over to her pallet of fresh grasses and lay down with her back to him.
“But… but… It’s dark out. How am I supposed to find food without the blessing of the sun that God makes rise every day?”
Eve wasn’t so sure that God made the sun rise and set, or that he sent the storm as one of his temper tantrums. She closed her eyes but only feigned sleep. Let him suffer a bit she thought. She ignored the grumblings as Adam scrounged for stale mouthfuls in the baskets she had left behind.
Her rebellious thoughts kept her awake long after the moon had set and the wheel of stars in the sky faded toward dawn.
When a bird chirped the first greeting of the new day, Eve crept out of the cave with her gathering baskets.
Adam stirred at her leaving. He muttered something in his sleep and rolled over to put his back to the cooling embers.
Eve spent the day wondering how to evict him. He wouldn’t leave willingly. But what they had, couldn’t continue. “God,” she said, if only to the plants and the birds, “it’s not fair that I do all the work and all he does is moan and complain. If you mean to kill us then just do it. I’m tired. You created me. If you wanted me docile and compliant you should have done a better job on Adam.”
But I created both of you in my own image.
It was a small voice in her mind. Where did that come from? Was it God? When had he stopped booming out his words from the sky?
She wandered on, thinking about God and his relationship to his creations. Created in his own image and therefore curious, and resilient, and smart enough to figure out ways to survive and thrive on their own.
A smile crept across her face. Maybe… just maybe Adam would come to a similar conclusion after a night and a day of hunger gnawing at his belly. No, Adam might need more time. He was stubborn.
As stubborn as God?
She paused in her thoughts and looked around. “I was standing right about here when the storm hit,” she said aloud, just to hear the sound of her voice in the quiet. She began to look around.
Baskets required a great deal of work to make them large and tight. She didn’t want to lose this one. And, there it was. The basket sat upright on the ground, only a little worse for wear after the beating the rain had given it.
“What’s this?” She stared at the golden sludge of sprouted grain inside the basket. Water sat atop the soggy mass that had matted together to seal the bottom and sides of the basket against leakage.
She’d never seen anything like it before. “I’m supposed to keep the grain dry so it doesn’t invite the demon of mold and mildew. But this… this looks like new grain growing from the old. And the water…? I looked cloudy, but still that marvelous golden color, like ripening grain. Tiny bubbles rose to the top from the mass of sprouted grains and burst when they reached the surface.
They sent out an enticing fragrance.
As with everything she gathered or discarded, Eve stuck her finger into the water and tasted. “Not bad.” The flavor burned a bit then blossomed into a backwash of raw grain flavored with… something exotic she couldn’t place.
Her throat was dry and she was thirsty. She took a sip. And then a longer one.
Her body demanded more.
She drank nearly half the basket full. It was a big basket and there was plenty more. Her tummy bloated and felt a bit uncomfortable. But then she burped, and tasted the marvelous blend of flavors all over again. And she felt... good!
She raised the basket to her mouth again. Then paused before tipping the liquid into her mouth. “I need to share this. God gave me this wonderful stuff, I must share it with Adam.” She repressed the voice in her mind.
Then an idea struck her. She took one of the baskets of grain she’d gathered today and set it where the previous one had rested. It took two trips to gather enough water to fill it. She would be back in a few days to check.
“Adam!” she called the moment she could see the cave entrance. “Adam, where are you?”
“Here,” he said tromping through the undergrowth from the direction of the spring. Mud spattered his beard and hair. Scratches and more mud covered his hands and arms. Idly he scratched at the mat of hair on his chest where red welts marked insect bites.
“What have you been doing?” she backed away from the scent of rotting vegetation and male sweat. The clay pots beside the outside fire ring gave her an excuse to avoid him. Deftly she poured the precious liquid off from the sludge of sprouted grains, noting that the number of bubbles rising to the surface had increased. Mind abuzz with ideas she wondered if the sprouts would prove useful. A quick taste told her they were the source of the nutty under-taste in the liquid.
One bite and her tongue begged for another. Were the sprouts best raw or cooked? Perhaps roasted dry then ground up with nuts and berries before a second cooking?
“I’ve been digging roots in the swamp beside the spring,” Adam announced proudly.
Eve swallowed her surprise. “Find any?”
“Quite a few actually, but they don’t taste right raw.” He proudly thrust a handful of bulbs the size of her thumb toward her. Half of them were brown with over-ripeness and would have to be tossed. “Can you roast them?” Adam asked eagerly.
She fought the urge to tell him how useless his gathering had been, but she knew if she did, he would simply resume his seat at the cave entrance. “Very nice,” she said the held up a basket for his inspection.
She held out one of the small crocks of the cloudy liquid. Part of her wanted to keep the miracle to herself. Part of her needed to share her own triumphant discovery.
“Taste this while I cook.” She placed the crock in his hand, then, with a small sigh, picked up the small basket of roots. They would need to be scrubbed.
“What is it?” Adam asked skeptically.
“Just taste it. If you don’t like it, I’ll finish it.” Her mouth longed for more.
Adam’s face worked as he puzzled out the advantage of depriving her of what she clearly wanted and the disadvantage of trying something new.
Eve turned her back while she sorted through the roots and discovered only a little bruising from his rough handling and not much spoilage at all.
“Bah!” Adam spat out his first mouthful. “Tastes like spoiled piss.”
“Fine. I’ll drink it. I like it fine.”
“On second thought, it does leave a nice aftertaste.” Adam swallowed a large gulp. His eyes grew wide in wonder. “What is this?” He held the pot close to his chest possessively.
Eve shrugged. “I have no name for it.”
Adam belched, “Be…rr.”
She caught more than a hint of the fragrance of the brew.
“Beer?” She grabbed the pot and downed half of the remnants.
“As good a name as any.” Adam took back the pot and finished off the fine beer. “Needs something though. Where did it come from?”
Eve related losing the basket and coming back to find it filled with liquid treasure.
“Can we do it again?” Adam asked hopefully.
“I have another basket set out,” said Eve.
“Can we do it here?” Eve shrugged even as she transferred three handfuls of grain to her largest clay pot and took it to the spring to fill it with water. “Now we wait.”
“That first batch took three days.”
Adam’s face fell in disappointment, then brightened. “Then I suppose we’ll have to start a new batch every day. I can make more pots. Do you suppose God tricked the rain into turning grain into beer?”
“Probably.” Eve began preparing a meal, already longing for more beer.
“Maybe,” said Adam. “This is proof that He has forgiven us!”
“Yes.” She remembered the small voice in her head. “Yes indeed!”
“I’ll scrub off some of this mud while you cook. Then,” he stepped close and slid his arm around her, and she was pleased that she didn’t mind, “maybe we can raise a little cain?”
She laughed and tweaked him playfully, “Only if you’re able.”
This story originally appeared in Alternative Theologies.