Fugitives and Vagabonds

The following piece, along with the previous entry in my blog, were written in the Spring of 2011. I was going through a fascination with the simplistic yet elegant writing style of the Bible. I am not religious, nor have I ever been. However, adapting biblical stories into modern narratives can be a fun and secular exercise . The following is based upon the biblical story of Cain and Able, from the book of Genesis. 

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Eve thought she had done her best.

She and Adam were married a long time before Cain was born. There were some complications

When he was finally in her arms, Eve wept. Adam stood firmly by her side and rubbed his thumb against the smooth valleys of her knuckles. They swaddled him in a plush blue blanket and strapped him in a second hand car seat they bought at the Goodwill on South street. Cain cried when Adam revved the engine of the Ford pickup truck. Cain cried the entire half-hour car ride. Cain cried when Adam pulled the truck into the gravel driveway in front of their new farmhouse. Eve spent her days rocking the baby while she prepared wool to sell at the local farmers market. The sounds of the wool pressing through the carders made Cain cry. The lull of the spindle made Cain cry.

Adam said unto Eve ‘we’ve got to do something about the god damn crying.’

Eve said unto Adam ‘what do you propose?’

Adam proposed to spend longer hours outside, milking the goats and pulling the crops. He took their small yield to the farmer’s market more often, and networked with local organic groceries to stock their strawberries and raw wool. They didn’t make very much money, even with the doubled efforts. Adam’s angry muttering made Cain cry.

When Cain was two Eve became pregnant again. It was a miracle; that’s what the doctors said. Adam grumbled and took up smoking. Cigarette butts littered the strawberry field. Abel was born two weeks early. He was a strawberry blonde with a button nose. His cheeks were ruddy and his lips were lush red. Abel was silent when he was delivered. Abel was silent when he was buckled into the urine soaked car seat that Cain had bruised to pieces. They couldn’t afford a new one so Cain sat on Eve’s lap. Abel made Cain cry.

Cain grew into a sturdy child with thick shoulders and thighs. His lips were permafrost into a scowl, and his dark bangs slid in front of his chestnut eyes. He gorged himself on the fruits and meats of the farm. He was quick to hunt, sharpshooting his first turtledove at the age of five. Eve was distraught, but Adam said they shouldn’t let the gift of food go to waste. They no longer could afford to fuel the truck, and town was so far away. Abel asked for little. He wept for a moment when Cain thrust the dead dove onto the kitchen table, but only for a moment. Then Able bowed his head and laid his fingers on the bloody dove and had peace.

When Cain was nine he started to help with the farm chores. First he helped by force but soon he took to it, and ran to the field to help tend the crops rather than sit inside and read alongside Eve and Abel. The boy was gifted, and the yield increased. Cain felt the land, by instinct, deep within his soul. Soon they planted apple orchards and, for the first time, were able to reap grapes from their tangled grove. Eve gave up on wool and started to press the grapes and age them into wine. They used the cellar of the barn and experimented with fermentation. They sampled the wine themselves and thought it was the finest they had ever tasted. When his parents weren’t looking, Cain filled his thermos with the wine and took it up to the tree house. Abel begged him to return the wine, but Cain drank it down in a single gulp. He was sick for a week. The ladies of the farmer’s market loved the wine. A local bottling company offered to bottle and sell the wine. They asked what they should call it. When Adam bought the farm from an old milkmaid’s daughter there had been a sign on the barn door that read ‘Little Eden’. It was faded now, and caked with mud, so Adam dug it out from the pig’s slop and painted it new.

Little Eden vineyards started to make money.

When Abel was nine he begged to help like his older brother Cain. Only, Abel wasn’t very good with picking fruit from trees or vines. He was a skinny, frail thing and barely big enough to pick up a watering can. Cain made the daily chores into an excuse to push his brother into whatever thorny bramble or slimy puddle he could find, so Abel often ran off and spent his mornings sprawled out on his back in the sheep’s paddock, making shapes out of the clouds. He wasn’t scolded for his sloth because Adam and Cain knew that Abel was her favorite. She knit him hats constantly to manage the unruly swath of orange hair that carpeted his scalp, and made him overalls out of taffeta and gingham.

Abel proved his worth one morning, when the pregnant goat in the pen next to the paddock began to bleat in pain. Adam and the now teenage Cain were off in the now sprawling vineyard. Abel stood fast while the goat began to deliver. He did not cry out for help. He felt a kindness with goat and knew instinctively how to help her deliver. Eve set out later that evening to call Abel in for supper, only to find her son in the pen covered with goat’s blood, grinning ear to ear. He named the baby goat Seth.

With Abel’s careful watch, the goats and sheep, a once overlooked herd of livestock, prospered. Eve once again began to card wool and knit beautiful handbags, which she sold in town. The goat’s milk was bottled and sold by the same grocery as the wine. Some residents of the town refused to drink any other milk- they said it tasted sweet like honey, and pooled cold in their mouths and spilled warm down the back of their throats. The goat’s meat was flayed and seasoned, and Adam and his sons ate well.

Cain was eighteen. Abel was fifteen. The rain dried up. The ground became desert, and the fertile soil that allowed the vineyard to sprawl turned into a crusty dust heap. The strawberries were ruined. Only the orchard remained, but the apples tasted bitter, for the soil was rough and the roots dried up. The family still did well, for there was still plenty of wine in the cellar to be sold, and the goat’s milk had never been so sweet. Abel had become a favorite son of the town. He was showered with praise and was very good looking. Girls often stood at the paddock’s gate to watch him tend the sheep. Abel was quiet and reserved, and did not speak very much. But he smiled, and that was enough.

There was nothing Cain could do about the yield, and in his boredom he started to shoot heroine. He would drive the truck into the city and shoot up behind the shadow of a brothel. There was not much left for him on the farm, and he had ignored his education for many years. He was often gone.

Abel was unassuming and greeted his brother warmly when he returned.

When Abel turned eighteen, his parents decided to throw him a lavish party in the shadow of the orchard trees. Cain was late, and arrived after everyone had gone home. Adam and Eve were asleep inside the farmhouse. Abel was cleaning up under the moonlight.

Cain stumbled over to his brother. The rays of moonlight splashed over Abel’s ardent curls and danced in his blue eyes. Abel rushed over to embrace his brother, but stopped mid-step when Cain began to vomit up blood. Afraid, Abel turned to the farmhouse.

‘Brother, I worry for you,’ were the last words to leave Abel’s lips. Cain, in an instant, pulled out his paring knife, which he had once used to cut red grapes from the vine, and gouged the blade through his brother’s chest. Abel was still small, and the blood that gushed out within a few moments was enough to black him out. Cain pulled out a cigarette and had a smoke over his brother’s body. He really wasn’t sure what had happened, but the fact that Abel seemed to no longer be present was a comfort.  He dragged his brother to the far reaches of the abandoned fields and drove back to the city, where he washed the blood from his palms and drove a needle into his arm.

Cain passed out at four and was visited by the Lord God. And God was not happy with Cain, for he had rid the earth of one of its purest shepherds. God punished Cain, and said he was a fugitive and vagabond from heaven.

Cain said, ‘What else is new.’

Adam called his son the next day and asked if he had seen Abel. Cain ignored the call and then texted back ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

Cain stayed away from Little Eden while the investigation mounted. Cain watched the news at the bar and saw the screen flicker with images of his mother and father crying over his brother’s bloody body. Cain stopped shooting heroine and turned to liquor. He married a stripper and had a son.

His son was named Enoch, and he came out brash and screaming and remained that way for many years. Cain was unaware of this, however, as he had drunkenly stumbled into the middle of the highway one night and was plowed over by an oil truck.

Eve always knew it was Cain who had slain Abel, but the case turned cold after Cain died.

Eve didn’t know where she had gone wrong.

Adam and Eve weren’t young, but she became pregnant again. Adam sorely missed his sons, and was glad to have another, though he was getting old and frail. They named the boy Seth, and he was good, and brought honeysuckle boughs to his brother’s grave every Sunday.

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