Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Man of Red Clay: A Novel of Adam" by Jonathan Hooper, Chapter 14

Chapter Fourteen

"That is Cain's story," Adam concluded, gazing across to the fire, where his sons slept, as if seeking old faces in the flames. "And those were the first years of our exile. We never saw Cain again. Occasionally, shepherds' tales find their way from the east, telling how his land flourishes, how he makes sacrifices to idols. I do not know. We simply took the yoke of the farm on our shoulders, and made offerings to Yahweh every spring, or waited patiently through the winter when the harvests were poor. Some of our children left to farm new lands, others stayed behind. My people are scattered by the winds. Some wander, others plant. I am satisfied to let them follow their own path, if they remember their origins, and do not turn away from God."

"You seem sad when you think about it. Surely it is God's will that your kin multiplies."

"The tribes are so many. I worry that they will forget who their father was, and that their tongue will become strange to us. Perhaps the common things will disappear. When I am gone, go out to the furthest places where our kin have settled, and remind them that they belong to one tribe. God made you a sower, Seth. Make this the land of one people, under a common belief and a common law, the law of Adam and of Yahweh. If you unite the people under one law, they will not be divided; the winds will scatter them no further. Tell them the story I told you, so that they will know what came before, and what makes them brothers. This is my last wish, before I face the final consequence of our Fall."

"You are our first father," Seth said with pain in his voice. "We will remember you in the way we live and toil. Even the offspring of Cain trace their line back to Adam. Your story will be grain for every generation to reap. It will sustain us in arid times. You seem to think that I can be a leader of the people. I can tell your story, but I am no patriarch. I have not known visions and miracles. Still, if you want me to speak to them about God's law, I will do so. If I succeed, all will call themselves the sons of Adam."

"It will be hard to lead such people, so I want you to be patient, and ask God's help, even if you have not done so before. Look at Yered there, who pines for his sheep and never thinks about the communal life; or Enosh, who grows so impatient for a sign that, before long, he will demand God's intervention. This is the ground you have to furrow. If you do not have God's breath to incite them, and to turn your words into spirit, they will never be one tribe."

"This is the thing I doubt most of all. I am a tiller of the soil. What makes you think I can be a vessel of God's will?"

"You are my favourite son. Your heart is more resilient than these others. But God will decide. On Horeb, we will see if I have judged correctly."

Together, they returned to the fire and slept until dawn crept over the valley; then Yered went to gather his goats whilst the others shared a little water and refreshed themselves. Enosh, stripped to the waist despite the searing heat, watched his brother go.

"He's up with the dawn, always. Doesn't want to sleep too long when the flocks need tending. Every morning he climbs into the hills to check on his flock and his ram, Mahalalel. He cares more for that old sheep than for any one of us. I swear that he's woolly on the inside, that if you peeled back his skin, you'd find an old ram, just like Mahalalel, underneath."

When Yered returned, they set off again quickly, the shepherd going on in front. After two days, they discerned, like a second sun glinting in the desert haze, the god-trodden peak of Horeb.

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