We all know the story: Eve plucks the apple from the Tree and God shows her and hubby Adam where to find the time clock. Of course, every tradition has a twist to the story, but it all leads back to the same talking point. So my question is—do I expect to be lounging around in my flannel pj’s sipping Bloody Marys in ten years? You bet your red wool socks I do; it’s called retirement, a subject on which I’ve been known to expound, especially on any given Monday morning.
Like I said, we all know the story. After Adam and Eve got expelled from the garden, there was no more low-hanging fruit. In fact, there was no fruit at all. Work had moved from an abstract concept to a reality. Fast forward to Cain and Abel, which meant even more work for the young couple.
Did Adam and Eve have any role models here? Just look at the facts. The Bible isn’t exactly a handbook for new parents. There was nothing pretty about that picture. Abel keeps sheep, Cain tills the soil until he goes East of Eden, and A & E earn their daily bread with a lot of ritual sacrifice to fill up the down time.
So finally one day Eve sits down on a rock near their three-bedroom, no bathhouse, and looks at her reflection in a pool of sweet water. “Uggh!” She traces her finger across the wrinkles of her brow, cups her breasts with her hands and lets them parachute back down to her midriff. She feels a mess, plus there’s that pain in her right finger joint that might be arthritis and there’s no Tylenol in the medicine cabinet. “Adam,” she yodels. “Where are you? We need to talk.”
Adam hobbles out of the house and hitches up his pants. He was enjoying a nice siesta and isn’t pleased that Eve has awakened him; he’s reached the ripe old age where he likes to take his time. Maybe he wouldn’t have been so quick to eat the Apple. But after thirty years, that’s water under the big rock, which is where Eve is standing and motioning to him.
“Old man, what took you so long?”
He bends down and splashes water in his face from the pool. “I was sleeping. What’s so important? Don’t tell me you have another Apple for me to eat?”
Eve doesn’t appreciate the joke. She motions for him to sit down on the rock. “I’m tired, Adam. Look at me. Once my face was smooth like marble. Now it’s filled with so many wrinkles, I could plant seeds there and grow corn.”
The thought of his wife’s face filled with green corn plants amuses him, but he tries not to laugh. “You will always be beautiful to me, Eve.”
“Don’t be foolish,” she says, brushing away his hand from her shoulder. “What I’m trying to say is that I’m tired. I can’t keep going like this. And look at you.” She motions to the body that could once hold its own on any Muscle Beach without taking steroids. “You cough more during the night than you sleep. And you’re always falling asleep during the day.”
It was true. “So what are you saying?”
“I think we should stop working and retire.”
“Stop working? Retire?” Who ever heard of such a thing? Adam looks around and lowers his voice. “You know we can’t.”
“Give me one good reason why not.”
“Don’t you remember…the Apple?”
Eve is the materialist. With three babies and no help, she’s had to be. “My fingers hurt all the time from weaving and baking. We’ve saved up in our storeroom, pickled onions, herring…enough already!”
“I’m not so sure,” says Adam who since that first bite, now considers Eve’s ideas cautiously. Even so, he warms to the thought. He’s creaky and tired also.
“I can’t keep living like this.” Eve is excited, splashing both feet in the water. “After Cain and Abel and then Seth, I need a break.” And then she says something truly amazing. “Plus, we deserve it.”
A sense of entitlement? What a novel idea. Adam hitches up his pants. “Let’s talk about it in the morning,” he says. “I need to sleep on it.”
He lies back down in the house and falls asleep. Then he dreams that awful dream of Eve offering the Apple and his saying, “Why the heck not?” But everything caves in and God starts to hurl thunderbolts and chase them away saying a bunch of mean things just because they were covered up with that year’s pick of banana leaves. Sure, it was a long time ago, but Adam was having a flashback. He never could understand why the Big Guy had gotten so angry. Sure, He had made it clear that sections of the Garden were off limits, but that only made them feel like poor relations, wanting to know how the other half lived. Anyhow since that had happened, A & E had played by the rules. They didn’t have much of a choice. At least they didn’t think that they did.
Eve’s idea did have merit. Stop working. Get up every morning and listen to the birds singing without digging in the potato patch. He remembered how Eve had figured out a way to dry their food by leaving it in the sun for a few days on the big rock. He had stored away strips of meat in the smokehouse on several threads of sinew. Adam thought about it some more. They’d eat through their provisions within six months flat.
On the other hand, she wasn’t the only one who was tired of doing the same thing every day, and he longed to travel. G-d had never actually put a ban on broadening horizons, and He hadn’t said anything about their visiting rights. Just a bunch of messy stuff about sweat and toil and pain.
Adam woke up refreshed, throws water on his face, says a few ritual prayers, and seeks out Eve’s whereabouts.
She’s is sitting outside the kitchen running her fingers through her hair. It used to be long and black; now it is long and gray like his. “I need a comb,” she says. “Since I lost my fish bone, it’s always knotty.”
He sits down on the ground next to her and takes her hand. “You’re right.
“After forty years, you’re agreeing with me?”
“Not about your hair,” he says realizing his faux pas. We need a break. Maybe we can’t stop working because it’s been decreed by you-know-who, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with us slowing down. Maybe for three or four months,” he calculated, thinking they had just about enough food stored up for that amount of time. “Then let’s see what happens.”
Eve is overwhelmed, and throws her arms around Adam, which embarrasses him. Not by the hugging alone, but by the way she starts to cry, shivering and heaving great sobs. “My girl,” he strokes her gray hair. “Why are you crying?” This is their Fiddler on the Roof moment. Eve asks him if he really loves her, since there is no one else around to speak of.
“Of course, I love you.”
“I was afraid you would hold the Apple against me for the rest of our lives. And here you are ready to risk everything with me again. I don’t know what to say except that I love you very much.”
A & E return from their four-month sojourn traveling throughout the countryside. By this time, they feel like they need another vacation. The weather had been okay, but they had to clear a lot of paths. When they got tired, they hung out at the edge of a stream and listened to crickets.
“I smell something like a rotting gazelle,” said Eve as they approach their home.
The animals of the field had moved into their abode. Huge turds litter the lawn covered with five times as many flies. There were assorted corpses in various states of decay. Vultures size up the two intruders.
“Have we been gone for that long?” says Eve.
It was a rhetorical question. Adam looks down at his walking stick. “I started to mark each day,” he says, counting notches, “but then I lost track of time.”
Eve kicks a corpse and hurts her bare foot. “Ouch!” Then she waves her hands and runs off the vultures from their property. “We’ve got to get rid of this stuff before the lions come back,” she said. And so the two of them begin to do yard work, hauling bones down to a ravine and drop them from a cliff. The turds would have to wait until the following day. The two are exhausted and fall asleep not far from the rock where Eve first spoke of her desire to take a vacation. A & E have returned without a pension plan, 401K, or benefit package to call their own, nothing but a smelly hovel.
When they awake, Eve discusses the possibility with Adam of going into show business as a second career.
“We’re getting too old for stuff like that,” says Adam.
“What else do we have to do?”
Adam is not immediately certain, but tells Eve that he will sleep on it. He doesn’t like this new idea.
- Review of my poetry collection “Two Places” by Nina Serrano of Estuary Press.