Satan and Yahweh stood at the altar on the ridge above the plain. The calf lay on top of brush wood.
"Ashes to ashes," said Yahweh.
"Dust to dust," said Satan.
Then Yahweh moved his hand and the wood burst into flame. Satan was startled.
"How did you do that?" he asked.
"Do what?" asked Yahweh innocently. "Oh, that. Just a little trick I picked up somewhere. It wows 'em in Vegas."
And despite himself, Satan laughed out loud as smoke rose high into the air.
"Now what?" asked Satan as the last embers died out.
"Now we return to the Garden," said Yahweh. "I think there's a surprise waiting for us."
He was right. A table with white linen was set up under the linden tree. It was covered with platters of food from the garden. Gaia stood at the far end. On either side stood the rest of the family: Nicholas and Erdmuth, Adam and Eve, Christian and Benigna, Cain and Abel. The chair at the end of the table closest to him was empty, as was the chair to its left. Standing behind the chair at Yahweh's right side was Christ. Satan hesitated on seeing him. So did Christ. It was Yahweh who took each by the hand and drew them together. Then he stepped back. Holding hands, Christ and Satan looked into each other's eyes. Blinking back tears, they smiled at each other, then embraced, holding each other tightly.
"My brother," said one.
"My brother," said the other.
Then they pulled apart and went to their respective chairs on either side of Yahweh, who took his place and motioned for all to sit. He smiled at Gaia at the other end of the table, then winked at her. She smiled and winked back.
He held out his hands to his sons. They took his and, one by one, all joined hands around the table.
"This is our first meal together in the Garden," said Yahweh. "Let us give thanks."
He looked at the food on the table and addressed it directly.
"Sweet brothers and sisters whose lives we've taken to continue our own, we ask forgiveness for your deaths. We do not take your lives lightly nor needlessly. We use you to continue our own and to do our holy work here in the Garden. So come, sweet children, come into us. Give us your bodies as well as your spirits. Come back to life though us. Live again through us. And we say thank you."
"Thank you," replied the others.
After a moment's pause, Gaia began singing, "Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free." One by one, the others joined in. The deep voice, the high voice. "Tis the gift to come round where we ought to be."
Around the table the voices joined in. The voices overlapped each other, each starting in its own time. Men's voices. Women's voices. Each adding to the whole. Counterpoint forming harmony.
"And when we find ourselves in the place just right, t'will be in the garden of love and delight."
Then, powerfully, they all joined together. "When . . . true . . . simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed. To turn, turn, will be our delight, till by turning, turning, we come round right." The hymn ended. Its resonance continued. They looked at each other, smiling and blissful in the silence. Then Yahweh said, "Let's eat! I'm famished."
So they did.
The next morning, after breakfast, Yahweh and Gaia were weeding in the garden. On his hands and feet, Yahweh was oblivious to the dirtiness of his once-clean linen robe. He carefully pulled weeds from around each bean plant and tomato stalk, each flower and herb. Some were difficult to pull out, with their long tap roots sunk deep into the hard, dry soil. Others had long tendrils with firmly rooted segments that popped apart when pulled, leaving much of the plant still in the ground. Yahweh cursed to himself.
"What was that?" Gaia asked sweetly.
"Nothing, my dear. Nothing at all," he said as he continued clawing at the roots.
Flies started buzzing around his head as it got warmer. He slapped one particularly loud, irritating one when it landed in his beard but it buzzed away unharmed.
"Why we invented those pesky things I'll never know," said Yahweh angrily.
Gaia just smiled to herself and continued working.
Gaia and Yahweh looked up to see all the children standing just outside the fence.
"Yes?" asked Yahweh as he struggled with Gaia's help to stand. He noticed that the other parents were also there, standing behind the children.
"It's time to go," said Christ.
Yahweh looked perplexed.
"We have a job to do," said Benigna, who stood beside him.
"We're going as well," said Abel, who stood with Christian and Cain.
"But why?" asked Yahweh.
"That's wonderful," said Gaia, as she slipped her hand around Yahweh's waist. "We wish you all the best."
"But Gaia," said Yahweh, still perplexed. "Why are they going?"
"Because they have to, my dear," she said.
He looked at her for a moment, then smiled and said, "Ah yes, of course." Then he turned to the children who were no longer children. "We do wish you the best in all your work. There is indeed much to do."
Satan came forward. "I'd like to stay and help out here if you don't mind."
"Not at all," said Yahweh, "I'd like that."
Each of the children hugged each of the parents, then turned and walked down the hill towards the road.
"I've got to feed the animals," said Satan as he went to the barn.
Nicholas, Erdmuth, Adam and Eve came through the fence gate and stood beside Yahweh and Gaia. They looked down the hill towards their children, who had reached the bend in the road. They turned and waved to their parents on the hill, who in turned waved back to them. Then the children turned the bend and walked out of sight.
"Will we see them again?" asked Erdmuth.
"Sometime. Someday." replied Adam. "For now, they are needed other places."
"I'm proud of them, you know," said Eve.
"Yes," said Nicholas. "We've left things in good hands."
"I'm glad of that," said Yahweh wearily, "Because these particular hands are tired of weeding and there's still a lot left to do. I swear these weeds come up faster than I can pull them."
"You're not hinting for help, are you?" asked Gaia.
"It would be greatly appreciated," he admitted. "My back and knees are not what they used to be."
So the six of them got down in the dirt and started weeding.
"You know," said Adam, "Those brothers are going to be pretty surprised when they return. How are we going to explain all this?"
"Perhaps the same way I can explain my pregnancy," said Gaia calmly.
Yahweh looked at her in amazement.
"You're pregnant?" he shouted.
"Now, now, dear, remember your blood pressure," she said soothingly.
"But how? When?"
"Just like last time," she replied archly. "It's a miracle!"
Yahweh glowered at her for a moment, then smiled, and everyone laughed and laughed.