The first-born calf was suckling its mother. Satan was sitting nearby, watching the two of them. The calf was dry now. Ever so often the mother would turn back to sniff the calf, as though reassuring herself that it, indeed, was hers. Satan put out his hand to touch the calf, which continued suckling, oblivious to the hand on its back.
"It's a beautiful sight, isn't it?" he heard his father ask. Satan withdrew his hand and turned around to see Yahweh holding the dead calf in his arms.
"New life is always beautiful," said Satan. "Death never is."
"No," agreed Yahweh, laying the dead calf down on the straw. "It never is."
"Then why is there so much of it?" asked Satan. "Why did you create it? And why do you allow it to continue?"
"So many questions," replied Yahweh wearily, as he sat beside his son on the straw. "You always wanted answers."
"And you always withheld them," replied Satan.
"Sometimes there are no answers," said Yahweh ruefully.
"That's a surprising comment from Mr. Know-It-All," said Satan.
"Why do you hate me so much?" asked Yahweh.
"Why do you reject me so much?" retorted Satan. The two of them glared at each other, then each looked away.
"Why - " "Why - " They asked each other simultaneously.
"You go first," said Satan.
"No," replied Yahweh, "You first."
Silence. Then, again at the same time: "You never - " "You never - "
They looked at each other angrily, then laughed.
"You know," said Satan, "We've never been able to talk."
"We never have talked," agreed Yahweh. "Not like this. I've never seen you this way before. Not as an adult. I've always laid down the rules and expected you to follow them."
"So whose rules did you follow when you were young?" asked Satan.
"Good point," agreed Yahweh. "I made my own rules."
"Then why can't I?" asked Satan.
"But you're my son!" exclaimed Yahweh. "Obedience. That's what I expected."
"Simply because you were bigger than me?" asked Satan. "Because you seemed so high and mighty?"
"Because I knew what was best for you," replied Yahweh. "I'm your father. I'm supposed to take care of you. That's my job."
"Then when do I start taking care of myself?" asked Satan.
Yahweh started to reply, then stopped.
"And when," continued Satan softly, "Do I start taking care of you?"
Yahweh looked at him, then turned away in embarrass- ment.
"It's no crime to need someone," said Satan. "The only sin is to deny that need."
Yahweh continued looking away.
"I needed you," said Satan. "I needed you desperately. I needed you to love me. To care for me. To hold me. Yet you always spurned me. You always turned me away. Be like your brother, you said. But I wasn't like him. You knew that and still you didn't help me. Still you didn't love me. Still you punished me and told me to be different from what I was. But how could I be anything else? You made me what I am yet you never forgave me for it. How could I help but hate you?"
The calf was resting on the straw now, its head against its mother's side. Both were together and contented.
"Look at them," said Satan. "That could have been us."
Yahweh looked and couldn't stop looking. He wanted to, but couldn't. Finally, he spoke:
"I loved you both and loved you equally. Both of you made me so very happy; made Gaia and I so very happy. But there came a time when you didn't stop needing me. You needed me and needed me, long after your brother grew up. And I didn't understand this. What was it you wanted that I wasn't giving? You seemed to breathe in life itself in an endless gasp for air. Nothing I gave was ever enough. I just couldn't figure out what you wanted. I gave you everything I could, but still you wanted more. Finally, I had to say Enough! No more! I've given all I can! Find what you need someplace else. But you were never contented. You were never satisfied. More. More. You always wanted more."
Silence, then Satan spoke.
"I wanted you to love me."
"But I did love you. I denied you nothing."
"You denied me yourself. Don't you understand?”
"No, I don't."
"Well, that's a step in the right direction," said Stan. "You've never said that to me before. You always seemed to know everything. There was never a place for me. My brother did everything you asked, and got your love in return. I got nothing but hatred. You were repulsed by me. You hated me. You denied and rejected me."
Satan looked at Yahweh until Yahweh turned away. Finally he spoke: "Twice you've said I denied you. Saying it again and again won't change anything."
"But it's true," stressed Stan. "You can't deny that."
"No, I can't," agreed Yahweh. "Because it's true. I denied you because you repulsed me. You disgusted me with your neediness. Why couldn't you be more like your brother?"
"Because I'm not my brother," replied Stan. "And you never forgave me for that."
"No," agreed Yahweh, "I never did . . . I never have . . ."
His words faded into the silence of the barn.
"According to the story, my brother was born in a stable like this," said Satan. "With animals all around and doting parents. And shepherds and wise men from afar bearing gifts. It's said the stars themselves sang that night in joy. So where was I? Where was my chance to shine? Where was my song?"
Yahweh looked at Satan calmly. "You brother had his role to play, just as you've had yours, just as all of us have."
"It's a role I didn't want."
"Who does?” asked Yahweh with surprising vehemence. “None of us asks for our role. Not even me. We are given the role to play. Do you think your brother wanted to die on a cross with his side pierced by a spear and nails hammered through his hands and feet?" asked Yahweh plaintively. "Do you think I wanted to watch him die?”
"Is that why you brought him back to life?" asked Satan. "Because you couldn't stand to see his loss? Or because you couldn't live with yourself for letting him die? And for what? So you could redeem him after killing him?”
Yahweh looked away.
"He's my brother!" cried Satan. "My twin. I love him. I didn't want to see him crucified either. I was relieved when you redeemed him. But what about me, Father? How can you redeem me?"
"That's the wrong question," said Yahweh softly. Satan looked puzzled. "The question is, How can you redeem me?"