art by Sandy DeLuca
"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
Paradisal Woman scratched her furry chest as she gazed longingly at Paradisal Man, legs akimbo on the ground, picking over a pile of nuts. She licked her lips, watching him sniff a nut, then crack it between his teeth, swallowing the morsels and spitting out the hulls.
Last night she had awakened in the glen next to him -- as usual -- but with a burning between her legs. The more she scratched it, the more it burned. A sensation both agonizing and pleasant. For the first time, she yearned for something other than food or water. Next to her, he was breathing heavily in slumber; she petted his chest, but he merely grunted, swiped her hand away, and rolled over. Unable to sleep, she had listened to the wind whisper through the jungle till dawn.
As he bent to taste the stream, she had crept up, reached between his legs and tickled, hoping he burned there as well. This only frightened or outraged him. He spun and slapped her to the ground, then for some reason abandoning the upright posture they had both adopted recently, he scampered off on all fours into the underbrush, leaving her on the ground dumbfounded and frustrated, massaging her hairy cheek.
Now, as she crouched watching him blandly eat nuts, these images flashed before her mind's eye, which had opened for the first time. She knew that she must somehow endear herself to him, lure him to squelch the burning between her legs. Surely, he also must burn between his legs or be capable of burning and he must touch his burning to hers. Unable to crack a shell with his teeth, he did something she found remarkable: he picked up a stone and crushed the nut. This act of his ingenuity -- heightened the burning between her legs.
Now that she could view the past with her mind's eye, she could envision the tree that held the sweet, juicy fruit he craved. The tree he feared, for when he last reached into it, the Snake, coiled in the limbs, struck him. She had dragged him away and he groaned for days near the stream, unable to eat or sleep, spitting up chunky water. Eventually he was better, but they both never approached the Forbidden Tree for fear of the Snake.
So off she went, soon finding herself emerging from the underbrush at the trunk of the Forbidden Tree ladened with bright red fruit. She peered cautiously into the limbs, and seeing no sign of Snake, reached to pluck a fruit. Snake, whose skin was the color of the leaves, suddenly struck at and barely missed her furry hand. She screamed and stumbled backwards. The inside of her chest was beating frantically. Snake's tongue flicked triumphantly as it watched her gasping, on the verge of running away.
But the burning between her legs transmuted her fear into rage. Biting her lip till blood trickled, she scanned her surroundings till she found a jagged, moss-covered rock, which she ripped from the ground. She darted to the tree, and as Snake struck at her again, she smashed it with the rock, knocking its head into the tree. She smashed again and again till its head was nothing but slime splattered on the limb. It slowly uncoiled and fell to the ground, where it curled and twitched and then didn't move.
Some time later, Paradisal Man looked up to see his companion holding forth the luscious fruit. Immediately, he snatched at it but she pulled it away and snorted, her lips curving upward slightly. He reached for it again and again to no avail, then roughly grabbed her arm. She bit into the fruit, tearing a piece of it off and dangling it from her mouth. Angered and wanting it all, he bent his head near and snapped at it with his teeth, then paused as he felt the warmth of her lips on his. He heard the fruit thump on the ground, and felt her hand touch his back, then pull him closer, so that their chests touched. There was something else, a burning sensation between his legs that intensified as he lowered atop her on the leaf-strewn ground.
Paradise was lost.