Finally, Yahweh stood up and turned to face the dead calf.
"You know," he said to Gaia, "I should bring it back to life, but I can't."
"Well, I can but I won't," she said.
Yahweh looked at her. "You always were harder than me," he said.
"I had to be," she replied. "No one else would do it."
"It seems we either love them too much, or not enough."
"Maybe it's the wrong kind of love," she said. "They need to be on their own. You know that. They know that. But they need to hear it from you. Not from me."
"But how do I tell them?" he asked.
"You open your mouth and speak," she said. "In the beginning was the Word."
"And here at the end," he said, "The Word appears again."
"It just seems like the end," she replied. "We will all survive," she added with a smile.
He reached out for her. She came into his arms and he held her tight- ly.
"I love you very much," he said.
"I know," she replied, "I know."
He turned to the altar, picked up the calf and vanished.
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 laid down the calf then 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 embarrassment.
"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, terribly. 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 me 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." "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. "It's said 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 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?"
"Redeem you from what?" asked Satan, still puzzled.
"Redeem me from my own stupidity," said Yahweh. "From boneheadedness. From not knowing obedience isn't love."
Yahweh looked at Satan pleadingly. "Redeem me, my son," he said. "Redeem an old man who thought he knew everything and yet knows nothing. Forgive me, Satan," he said, "Forgive my foolishness."
He looked at Satan with such despair that Satan thought his own heart would break. He smiled and held out his arms to his father, who let himself be enfolded by them and pulled to Satan's body to be held tightly against him. Yahweh began crying. Satan held his father, then kissed his forehead and, finally, kissed his father on the lips, then held him in a long embrace.
"Forgive me, my son. Forgive your father."
"I love you, Father," said Satan. "And that is forgiveness enough."
They sat in the stable holding each other for the longest time.
The cow came over to her dead calf, smelled it, pawed it with a hoof and mooed softly. Then her other calf came over and continued suckling. The mother turned away from her dead calf and started chewing her cud.
Yahweh and Satan looked on.
"That's the way things are, isn't it, Father?"
"Yes, my son."
"And you can't change it, can you?"
"No, my son."
"So what happened?"
"I changed. Even immortals change. I can no longer do what I once did."
"And why is that?" asked Satan.
"Because even I am part of something else."
"But you are All in All."
"Yes, but as I said, this creature you call Father is part of something else, just as you are."
"And what is that, Father?"
"Existence itself. The going and coming. Being and non-being. Even I play my role and now my role is done. I retire from the stage. You know, they say timing is everything. They also say it's better to leave when the audience says, 'What, already?' instead of 'At last!'
"So while talk of my death is greatly exaggerated, it is true that it's time for me to leave."
"But where will you go, Father?" "Maybe we'll stay right here. With a little work it could be a pretty nice place." "Well," said Satan getting up, "I guess we'd better burn the calf seeing how you've failed its resurrection."
"Ouch," said Yahweh. "Now that hurt."
"It was meant to," said Satan. "I don't forget easily."
"That's my line," said Yahweh with a smile as he let Satan help him get up.
"My word," he said as he struggled to his feet, "I get rustier with every millennium!"