(published 2009 in The Fob Bible)
The angel was having a hard time explaining the concept of a year to Adam & Eve. Having lived so long in a place with no time, the idea of things changing with the passage of what? What do you mean passage? was as foreign a concept as death or childbirth or burnt sacrifice, concepts the angel had tried to explain on earlier occasions. He sighed and looked heavenward, but he knew that they were his problem—at least for the moment.
“Okay, it’s like this: right now I’m saying lalala. Now I’m not. Time has passed.”
Adam & Eve looked at each other. “Uh-huh.”
“Do you understand?”
“Sure . . . .”
“Look, now I’m here with you. Soon I won’t be.”
The angel sighed. It had been much easier before they ate the fruit. Back then he’d only had to check up on them, make sure they weren’t choking on bark or anything. Easy. So far the only advantage to come of the fruit that he could see was that they could finally have a conversation without an accidental bump leading to a groping session. The modesty thing was wonderful.
“Okay,” said Adam, “so when you say lalala, that’s now; when you’re not here that’s soon. Got it. But when is a year again?”
Sort of have a conversation.
“No, no, no. ‘Now’ is whatever we’re doing right . . . now.”
“So now is just so long as you’re doing something? What’s when you’re not doing something?”
“That’s soon,” Eve reminded him.
The angle uttered a brief prayer. “Look. Now is what is happening while it is happening.”
“But it’s always now then, because things always happen when they happen.”
The angel wasn’t sure whether or not this meant she understood. He decided to be optimistic. “Right. It is always now.”
“So when you said what you said, that is now.”
“That was now.”
“But you did it when you were doing it!”
“Yes, but I’m not doing it now.”
“But it was now.”
“Right, it was, but it isn’t anymore.”
Eve looked to Adam for help, but he just shrugged.
“Let’s try year again,” offered the angel. “Now I’m here, later I won’t be, later yet I will be again.” He paused to let them consider that. “Either I’m here or I’m not. As I come and leave, time passes. After, say, a hundred times, that might be a year.”
“Hundred . . . ” said Adam.
“Ten tens,” said Eve.
Hundred had been hopeless until the angel had hit on the ten tens explanation, and once that clicked they were able to grasp the idea of larger numbers with ease. The angel had, however, given up on zero.
“So,” said Adam. “A year is a hundred times all together. A time is you coming and going. So, as you come and go, times pass. After a hundred, that’s a year.”
“And,” said Eve, “when you’re here is now and when you’re gone is later. So each time is made up of one now and one later.”
Adam & Eve looked very satisfied with themselves, and their construct could be useful in explaining the passage of time, and the counting of days and months and years, but it was still wrong. “Well,” he said, “not exactly, but close. We’ll fix it later. Now let’s talk about counting time.”
“Like the rocks?”
“Basically. We’ll use the same numbers, but, of course, you can’t see time.”
“Yes you can,” said Eve. “Either you’re here or you’re not. We can see that.”
“Right. You can . . . Okay, look. Let’s call now zer—one time.”
“But we know it’s now. You’re right there.”
“Just listen, all right? It’s one time. Then I leave.”
“Sure, later, whatever. Then I come back and that’s two times.”
Adam & Eve nodded, but the angel knew from experience that of itself, nodding meant nothing.
“So if at two times I say, ‘Look, at ten times it’ll stop raining for five times, so you need to gather water to drink,’ what would that mean?”
Eve raised a hand. “Why would you tell us at two times? Why not at nine times?”
“That might not give you enough time—times—to get all the water.”
“Well, just don’t come back till we have it. You can see us.”
Again, the angel wasn’t sure whether to call this progress.
“See, that’s the difference between me and real time. Real time goes on and on at the same speed no matter what I do or you do or anyone does.”
“I . . . don’t know.”
Eve looked smug.
“Anyway, take the sun. No, the moon! That’s better. You’ve noticed it’s getting larger?”
“Yes, ‘the lesser light to rule the night.’”
“Right. Well, after a while it gets smaller again. And it does that getting larger and smaller the same speed all the time. So! From the time it goes from big to small and then all the way back to big again, that’s a time. Er, a month. We call that . . . that kind of time a month.”
Eve nodded. “So when the moon’s getting big, that’s now, and when it’s getting small, that’s later?”
“Wait,” said Adam, “why did you go on and on about you coming and going if you aren’t time? What’s it called when you come and go then?”
“Me coming and going.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I do,” said Eve, “Now and later aren’t time at all, see? Now just means to be coming and later is what it is to be going.”
The angel sighed. How could they be so clever at figuring things out so wrong? “Please pay attention. You really need to understand what a year is, because in a few months it’s going to get cold.”
“Cold is . . . never mind about cold. Just know it’s something bad. And everything’s going to get it.”
Adam frowned. “Get what?”
“But if cold’s bad,” said Eve, “we just won’t let it happen. God put us in charge here.”
“No, no, no.” The angel pushed the heels of his hands into his eyes. “Cold’s not bad like sin, I just mean you won’t like it. Like when you dropped that rock on your hand, Adam. The rock wasn’t evil. Cold’s like that—it’s not evil, it just happens.”
“Not if I’d known to move my hand first.”
“You didn’t know,” consoled Eve. “But now we know about cold, so we don’t have to let it fall.” She turned back to the angel: “How do we keep it up?”
“Keep it up? The cold? You can’t!” He pointed at the sun. “You see that? You see that sun? It’s going to get farther away! You know what it’s like to sit in the sun? Well, when that feeling’s gone, that’s—”
“Later,” said Eve.
The angel nodded. “I’ll be back . . . soon.”
“Later,” corrected Eve.
“Right. Later. I’ll be back later. I just need to go . . . think for a while.”
Adam & Eve watched the angel ascend, then sat down next to their altar.
And wondered how long till two times.