The serpent twisted through the remaining fruit for a better look. From his lofty vantage point in the Tree of Good and Evil, he watched Eden's former occupants flee the garden and disappear into the musty sunset. His eyes glittered with excitement as the fiery sword at the eastern edge of the garden plunged into the earth and opened a jagged chasm which spanned the entire distance between north and south. The voices of cherubim filled the night as they gathered at the edge of the blazing abyss and sang a tearful hymn of despair.
All in all, it had been a good day.
* * * * *
The next morning, the serpent awakened to a strange rhythmic pounding. As he parted the leaves with his tail and peered downward, a large white placard nailed to the trunk of the tree caught his eye:
GARDEN of EDEN
The snake blinked his beady eyes. Then blinked again. "What the...?"
All around the base of the tree, cherubs dressed in white overalls and gleaming hardhats rushed about their mysterious business. A few carried scrolls of rolled parchment tucked under one arm, but most were holding various types of potted plants in white-gloved hands. Every once in a while, one of the cherubs with the scrolls would whisper something to one of the plant carriers, who would then scurry off in a different direction. The whole scene resembled an albino anthill gone mad.
"Hey, you'd better get down from there!"
"Huh?" The serpent twisted around to discover a husky cherub standing at the base of the tree with a lethal-looking axe slung over his shoulder. "Pardon, but were you talking to me?" he inquired without taking his eyes off the axe.
"Yeah, you," replied the cherub. "This tree has gotta come down. Either come down on your own or with the tree, it really doesn't matter to me."
The serpent slithered down the trunk and coiled himself neatly at the cherub's feet. "I don't quite understand what this is all about," he said politely. "Can you enlighten me?"
The cherub hoisted the axe off his shoulder and took a few practice swings. "Look, all I know is what they tell me," he puffed. "We're supposed to clear out some of this old stuff and plant a few seedlings. This here tree is on my removal list."
"Oh, dear," sighed the snake. "I have a particular fondness for this tree. Must you cut it down?"
"Yup." The cherub reached into a hidden pocket, pulled out a small scroll and unrolled it. "See? It says right here this tree has been designated an obstruction."
"Obstruction? To what?"
"To the new garden, that's what."
The serpent flicked his tongue nervously. "What new garden?"
"It's gonna be beautiful." The cherub leaned on his axe, a dreamy smile playing across his lips. "Right about where we're standing, there's gonna be a grove of gentlefruit trees, surrounded by a lovely bed of joyberries. The faithmelons will go over there, and the love apples-"
"Wait a minute," snapped the serpent. "Just who in the world is going to eat all this fruit?"
"Oh, they tell me the place is gonna fill up real quick," answered the cherub. "Especially after the Boss finishes building His bridge over the chasm. He's quite a carpenter, you know. You'll be surprised what He can do with some crossbeams and a handful of nails."
The serpent looked around at the bustling activity. "So what am I supposed to do?" he seethed. "This was supposed to be my garden."
"Well, you're welcome to stay for now," said the cherub. "But once the place fills up, you're gonna have to leave." He nodded towards the chasm, which chose that very moment to release a sulfurous belch. "But if you'll excuse me, I really have to cut down this tree."
The serpent removed himself to one side and watched as his beloved Tree of Good and Evil was hacked to the ground. After casting a final loving gaze around the garden, he lowered his chin into the dust and slithered into the underbrush.
"I really hate progress," he grumbled.
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