The apple thief
By

    About 6000 years ago, in an oft-disputed location, there lived a humble snake. He may have been small and lithe, but his immense capability for trickery compensated for his slight physique. The snake lived in the humblest of all abodes, the grass. It provided shelter, but often not even that. Nevertheless, the snake did not complain, for he had a perpetual supply of fine vegetables, from the slenderest carrot to the crunchiest lettuce. The snake was content living in the garden. Every animal knew their place and was comfortable in their role. That is, until something drastically changed, as satisfied things are wont to do. Two intruders, by definition uninvited, entered the garden.

    The garden housed a menagerie of animals. Small mammals, insects, birds, reptiles, fish and the ever-confused amphibians roamed its grounds and waterways. The main reason they could cohabitate is that they all saw eye-to-eye. Literally. Four-legged animals or short creatures with compensating wings were on a level playing field. But not these rude trespassers. They strode with only two feet on the ground and their other limbs uselessly hanging by their sides. Therefore, before proper introductions could even be made, the soon-to-be neighbors did not anticipate a cordial living situation.

    The newcomers were known as humans. Unlike the animals, who went by simple names like toad and rabbit, the humans felt they had the need, even a right, to be called by made-up titles. The taller one went by Eve, while the other demanded to be addressed as Adam. Their two-legged nature allowed them to take the food off taller trees with ease, making the other animals jealous. Before long, the animals viewed the humans with disdain, but none more so than the snake.

    At this point in history, the snake had four short legs, but calling them useless would be an understatement. They resembled vestigial appendages at a point in evolution where everything should have served a purpose. Day after day, the snake looked up at Adam and Eve’s slender limbs, hissing with envy. However, many of the other animals had begun to warm up to the humans. The couple treated the creatures with respect, even feeding them and caring for them when they became ill. Even better, albeit more strangely, the humans collected and moved the animals’ excrement – something to do with making plants grow. The animals of the garden saw Adam and Eve as tidy and resourceful, real beneficial companions.

    Despite the animals’ lauding of the humans’ virtues, the snake would have none of it. Instead of communing with the pair of people, the snake planned for jealous revenge. Before Adam and Eve had been residents of the garden for a fortnight, the snake was ready to enact his scheme.

    The snake always viewed the fruit trees with envy. He was not tall enough to grab the out-of-reach food, and the other animals would not supply him with the sugary treats, as they had always viewed the snake with suspicion. However, using the naïve Eve, the snake planned to get a taste of fruit while simultaneously ruining the woman’s reputation.

    One morning, when most of the animals were still in varying states of lethargy, the snake slithered up to Eve, who was gently combing her hair in the shade of an apple tree. This was no ordinary apple tree. It was the mother of all the other fruit trees, and as such was viewed as sacred. Taking its plump fruit was an act of treason against the garden itself and could only be dealt with immediate banishment.

    “Eve,” hissed the snake. “Would you care to pick a ripe apple for me?”

    “But snake, that’s the forbidden tree. How about an orange from the tree over yonder?”

    “You’re mistaken. The mother fruit tree is across the garden. It’s surrounded by kumquats, not citrus.”

    “Oh, pardon my mistake. I always get so turned around in this garden. Everything just looks green to me.”

    “Ah, I see. The trick is to distinguish each hue of green. There are thousands. It could take a lifetime cataloguing each. Though some of us may not last that long.”

    “Whatever do you mean by that, snake?” inquired Eve curiously.

    “Just waxing poetic. So how about that apple?”

    “Of course!” Without a second thought, Eve snatched the nearest fruit off a low-hanging branch.

    “Why don’t you take the first bite?” offered the snake with false generosity. Eve smiled kindly at the reptile and opened her mouth wide. With a loud crunch, her teeth broke through the red apple’s skin and into its sugary flesh. She grinned as the fruit’s fructose-filled juice dribbled down her chin. Eve finally noticed the snake staring intently at her. Apologetically, she offered it the apple. But just as she was stretching out her arm, a flock of sparrows flew straight at her.

    “Apple thief! Apple thief!” the birds cried.

    “What?” Eve said in alarm. “This fruit is free to everyone.”

    “Not the mother apple tree,” spoke a lion, stealthily approaching her. “Even you should know that.”

    “But the snake...” Eve searched for the scaly animal, but he was out of sight.

    In the commotion, Eve had dropped the apple, which the snake promptly seized and scurried off with. As soon as he had reached the cover of the tree line, the snake took a deep bite into the fruit. His plan had definitely been worth it, even for this single taste. Little did he know that this was all it would get.

    Adam was strolling by, on the lookout for his companion. He saw the snake but, as usual, paid him little attention. He exited the tree line and saw Eve surrounded by flapping birds and rapidly-gathering animals, murmuring something about banishment.

    “Eve! What’s going on?” asked Adam.

    “I mistakenly ate an apple from the forbidden tree,” said Eve apologetically.

    A little alarm went off in Adam’s brain. “Did you eat the whole thing?”

    “No, just a single bite.”

    “Then I know who took the others.”

    Adam sprinted back to the snake and grabbed him by his tail just as he was about to sink its teeth back into the apple for a second go. He immediately returned to the crime scene, dropping the snake at Eve’s feet.

    “The snake tricked me,” exclaimed Eve to the crowd of creatures. “Banish him instead of me.”

    “We shall see,” stated the lion, the obvious animal to make such decisions.

    “If you outlaw Eve, I will go with her,” said Adam, in an attempt to dissuade the lion.

    “Very well,” said the lion, not dissuaded. “For Eve’s foolish mistake, both of you must leave the garden. We cannot feel safe with apple thieves about.”

    “And we no longer feel safe with tricksters like the snake here,” said Adam.

    Without another word, Adam and Eve exited their short-lived home. They knew arguing would be pointless with a sharp-toothed carnivore. While the humans were departing, the snake tried to slither away.

    “Not so fast, snake,” growled the lion. “You also ate the apple, so you must leave. But because you tricked our dear human friend, you must pay more.” The lion nodded at the waiting colony of mice, who immediately swarmed the snake. They ripped off its scrawny legs and carried them away. “Now you must wander the world, slithering along without legs to support you.”

    “Fine,” hissed the snake. “But in return for the mice taking my limbs, I refuse to eat another vegetable or fruit again. Instead, I will only hunt mice.”

    The mice looked at each other in bewilderment. This certainly had not been part of the deal. They looked up at the lion, who simply shrugged.

    “Very well,” said the lion. “Such is the circle of life, I suppose.”

    Legless and hungry for cute rodents, the snake slithered off, never to eat another apple again.

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