Cain knelt beside the tomato patch, pulling away all the grass and other weeds. Years ago Eve had given him the task of making sure the plants grew well, and he was still doing it diligently. All plants seemed to grow better when there were no others close by. Perhaps their roots strangled each other. Whatever the cause, plants grew best with plenty of space, so he uprooted those that he did not want.
This tomato patch was the last place he knew of where there were food-bearing plants, and he had tended them all. The sun was low in the sky, and soon it would begin to grow dark, and it would be time for him to return home for supper. Brushing the soil from his hands, he rose, looked around to be certain he was alone, and then headed for his secret place. His secret place was where he was trying his experiment.
His mother had told him about her experiments, both the ones which had helped her to discover all the tools they used every day he tried to imagine living without them, but could not see any way of surviving and the ones she had tried out of boredom in the Garden. Both Adam and Eve had told him about the Garden many times. Adam would tell him and Abel that it was a paradise, where they had never had to work, they had never been hungry or cold, and they had been exiled from it for the treachery of a serpent and here he would glare at Eve for the weakness of a woman.
"Didn't you bring tragedy and shame upon us all?" he would prompt her. She would look at him expressionlessly before breaking the silence she usually kept in his presence.
"I caused the exile from the Garden," she would say calmly, and Adam would grin, seeming satisfied.
When Adam left, Eve would tell Cain privately that it had been true that there was no work or pain in the Garden, but that there hadn't been anything to do, either. Anything they wanted fruit to eat, clean water to bathe in, animals to play with had been there, simply waiting to be taken. She strove to impress on him that there had been nothing to try at, nothing to look forward to and work toward. She would remind him how proud he had been at the achievements she had taught him, like the making of tools and weapons, and explained that in the Garden, there had been no opportunity to feel proud. She had wished for things to find out about, but knowledge had been scarce in the Garden. There were no secrets to be found or reasons to discover, only endless, unchanging comfort.
The serpent had been her friend, she would confide, her eyes suddenly shining with tears. When he had told her about the fruit, he had been freeing her from the prison of boredom the Garden was. Then she described how Adam had taken the fruit from her and later blamed her for it.
Cain believed Eve. He was like her and he understood her, but Adam was different. Cain understood why the Garden had been boring, and the physical ease it offered did not seem worth what he would have to give up. Throughout his young life, he had been elated at every new accomplishment, at climbing a tree or lifting a heavier rock, at making his own tools or swimming all the way across the river. It would be nice to have more abundant good food and not to have to be afraid of animals, but never to achieve that elation again!
Abel, on the other hand, was his father's son. He believed everything Adam said, no matter how absurd it sounded. He seemed, when Cain ridiculed him for this, to regard it as a virtue. Eve never took Abel aside to confide in him, as she so often did with Cain.
Cain's secret nook was on top of the cliff the cave was in, because the others rarely had a reason to go there. The climb was very difficult, so they never attempted it without a very good reason. Cain had found a reason to climb the steep slope every day. Looking around once more, he began the ascent.
He reached the top rather quickly; climbing it so many times had made it easier. There was the short wall of sticks he had built to keep the animals out. Catching his breath, he went to it and looked down over the wall. Then he looked up at the sky, stretching his arms out in the air, laughing in triumph.
He had spent years watching plants grow, seeing what helped them and what harmed them, and he had learned things Eve had never imagined. One of the things he had learned about was seeds. Plants seemed to grow out of the tiny little things.
When he had been a child, he had asked Eve why the plants which bore their food didn't grow right next to the cave, as the animals did. She hadn't known, and she had said, "Maybe someday you'll discover why." She had said this often when she couldn't answer his questions, and she had always told him that if he thought of an experiment he should try it, and he had. While he was growing he had tried any number of experiments, and sooner or later he had succeeded in all of them, but none of them had been really important. Most of them had involved using his body as well as it could be used. A few had yielded minor improvements on his tools. But earlier this spring, he had conceived of a far greater experiment, one which, if it succeeded, would mean a true discovery for him. Now, he stood next to his little patch of land, smiling radiantly.
His experiment had worked. In the patch of carefully weeded, rich brown dirt, sprung from the seeds he had buried there, were dozens of tiny, pale green shoots. Kneeling, he looked at them closely. There were tiny leaves, not yet unfolded, on the top of each little plant. Grinning, he stood up and danced in excitement. He began to shout one of Eve's songs. He bounded into the air, laughing.
When he was calmer, he sat down and composed himself. He would never be able to look unhappy tonight, but he had to conceal his glee. He wanted his garden to be a surprise for the others when it was ready. He breathed deeply until his heart stopped rushing. Then, rising, he went to make the climb back down the cliff, laughing at the scratches of the bushes and thorns.
When he reached the bottom, Abel was ambling into the cave, but stopped when he saw Cain. Cain approached him with a bouncing step, smiling. In his happiness and pride, he loved even his brother. He felt he could love anyone with such a triumph in his mind. "How are you, Abel?" he asked warmly, for the first time in months not minding that Abel still smelled like the cattle he cared for. This happiness would have been impossible in the Garden! Now he had a garden of his own!
Abel looked at him dully. "What were you doing up there?" he asked, without much curiosity.
"Just looking for some more fruit," Cain said. He grinned suddenly, thinking how surprised they were all going to be to find out that he could make plants grow right beside the cave.
Abel squinted at him suspiciously. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing, Abel. I'm just happy."
"I just am."
Abel looked at him warily, then began to turn back to the cave. Before he finished the turn, however, he swung around and raised his fist to Cain's face. Though startled, Cain was able to knock the fist aside before it reached him. This made Abel even angrier. He began swinging at Cain wildly, recklessly, without even really paying attention to Cain's defense. It was as if he had no mind to guide his attempt, only the wish to try it. Cain batted his hands out of the way easily, and finally seized his wrists, holding him back. Abel started to curse him in frustration.
Adam and Eve came running, Adam from the herd, Eve from the cave. Adam put a defensive arm around Abel, giving Cain an offended look, and led Abel away. Eve quickly came to Cain's side.
"What made you attack my son?" Adam demanded, stroking Abel's back as if he were a cow.
"I didn't! He attacked me!"
Adam shook his head reprovingly. "How many times have you lied to us thus, Cain, after all the beatings you have given your gentle brother? Have you not learned that when you raise your fists against your brother, God frowns? Abel could never compete with you in your vile way. He is truly the chosen of God." Adam held Abel tighter for a moment, smiling at him tenderly. Then he released him. "Cain, have you no remorse?"
Remorse when he had just found a secret which would ease the work which made him and his mother too sore to sleep? When he could control plants and make them do his bidding, he was supposed to worry about who was the chosen of God? He merely lowered his head, trying not to smile, remembering his secret. Adam and Abel went into the cave for their supper. Eve put a comforting arm around her son.
"I know you never started this," she whispered. "And Abel could never beat you. Would you rather be weak and afraid and be the chosen of God?" she asked, looking anxiously into his face. At the question, Abel burst out laughing.
"Why would I want that?" he asked.
She looked relieved. "They want it," she answered with a shrug, nodding her head at the cave.
"Why? Mother, today I I did something that neither of them will ever do. Why does God choose them? And why don't they try to do something new?"
She smiled at him, and he saw her love and pride for him in her eyes. He hugged her close before she answered. "They're afraid of work," she told him.
"If you don't work, how can you survive?"
"You can't. Unless you want to be bored and stupid in the Garden."
"But ." He hesitated. "They don't work. Not really, not often. But they live."
She looked sad and tired for a moment. "Because I cannot escape them," she whispered. Cain embraced his mother again, wishing that he could take her far, far away from his father and his brother. Then he grinned at her.
"It's all right," he whispered, beaming. "I made a great discovery today. The whole world is wonderful."
The next day Cain watched his brother at work. Abel's job was to watch the sheep, cattle and goats, because they were stupid animals who would wander off a cliff or into a wolf's den if no one stopped them. They smelled awful, but Abel didn't seem to mind. He must be used to it. He sat leaning against a tree, looking drowsy. His hands toyed with a blade of grass, twisting it and finally tearing it apart, then reaching for another blade. He sat idly as his eyes surveyed the field again and again. Once he rose and changed the direction of a sheep who was about to eat her way into the forest, where she would get lost and eaten by some wild animal. Then he settled down again in the shade of his tree, making himself comfortable; he probably wouldn't have another reason to get up for a long time. He watched his flock and didn't have to move anything except his eyes.
Cain could only endure watching for a short time. So much inactivity frustrated him. How could Abel stand wasting so much time, sitting there when he could be doing something? Cain was about to turn away from the sleepy picture when he saw his father approaching from the distance. He stayed a few more moments to see what his father would do.
Adam walked at a leisurely pace, as if he had forever to get where he was heading. He was holding some of the larger knives Eve had designed and made for him. As he came closer to Abel and the cave, he began stopping to look at the animals as he went, examining them, prodding their sides to see how much meat they had. At last, after much thoughtful prodding which Cain considered excessive, he chose a cow and put all the blades down except for one, the sharpest. He used this one to quickly puncture the cow's throat. The cow made a few loud calls before collapsing to the ground, but the other animals paid little attention, only shifting their positions a little and murmuring in answer. They ignored Adam as he skinned and butchered one of them. Cain shook his head in disgust at such stupidity. Even if it was useful to have such stupid animals, he couldn't see how Adam and Abel could stand to be around them all the time. If caring for the herd was left up to him, he would only come near the cattle when he needed to slaughter one of them. Did it really matter if a few of them wandered off and were lost?
He turned away and climbed up the rough slope to his secret place. He had spent most of his life taking care of plants, and he knew what they needed. Every day he felt the soil to see if it was too dry, made sure the roots were buried, and pulled up any weeds.
He watched what they did with careful attention. Some of them died before bearing any fruit; he looked and tried to see why. He wanted to know exactly how this should be done. It was the most important thing in the world to him. Often he delayed his meals, though his stomach ached and his limbs were weak from his hunger, to go see his garden after a day of gathering.
At last, near the end of summer, they bore fruit.
On the day when his garden was at its most bountiful, he bounded down the slope in glee, shouting to the others. They all came running to the bottom, thinking that he was in danger. They stared when he met them, smiling widely and gasping for breath. He panted for a moment, then launched into a confused explanation.
"On the top of the cliff I did an experiment and it worked!" He laughed. "It worked! Now I can make plants grow right beside the cave we'll never have to go without them again." He looked at them, and they looked back, not understanding. Adam and Abel looked completely nonplused. Eve looked excited and hopeful. He turned around and started to climb back up, gesturing to them. "Come on I'll show you."
Eve followed him at once. Adam and Abel glanced at each other, still confused. Then Adam shrugged, and they began the climb.
When he reached the top, Cain immediately ran to the garden and pointed proudly. "See? I made these grow here. I know how to make plants grow where I want any kind of plant I want. I can make them all grow right next to the cave all we need and we'll never have to worry about it again. We can have everything we need, right outside!" He stopped and looked around expectantly.
Eve embraced him. "I could not have been prouder of you, my son." Her eyes filled with tears that did not fall. He saw all her love and pride for him in those tears.
Abel looked at the garden as if he had been told to admire a leaf someone had picked off a tree. He didn't understand at all, Cain thought. But that didn't really matter. Maybe when he ate all he wanted every night, he'd understand!
Adam looked at the garden gravely, then looked down at Cain just as stiffly. "God has blessed you, Cain. Be grateful."
Cain felt confused. "How did he bless me?"
Adam looked shocked. "He gave you the secret of how to rule the plants! Isn't that a sign of God's favor?"
Cain began to feel strangely frustrated. "But he didn't tell me the secret. I found it out myself. No one told me. I just figured it out from watching."
Adam shook his head. "You are too young to understand. No one could learn something this important just from his own observation, my son. For this, one needs help from God. Perhaps you are not aware that he helped you, but he did."
Cain looked over Adam's shoulder at Eve, who was pursing her mouth the way she often did when Adam gave credit to God for her work. For the first time, Cain began to understand how she felt and why she acted so strangely when he did this. He tried to think of some way to explain to Adam that he had done this without any help, but he could already hear the answers Adam would give. Adam never tried to prove his own statements, but other people's proof was greeted with the explanation that, although they couldn't understand or perceive what he was telling them, he was still right.
Cain was becoming confused as well as frustrated, so at last he nodded his head at Adam and went to Eve's side to help her back down the cliff. He felt as if someone had taken his victory away from him. He felt as if someone had taken his life away.