Welcome to Part II of "The Pomegranate Tree," post-dated for the sake of tidiness. Copyright 1994, 2005. Here is the link to Part I.
The serpent squeezed its body tightly around the woman’s neck. The serpent said, “Now, you will die.”
The woman did not know what “die” meant, but as the serpent began to choke her, she knew the pain was connected to the word it had uttered. With all of her strength, the woman grasped the serpent and pulled his lashing body from around her neck. As she gripped the serpent, it spat venom at her eyes. Although the liquid seared her face, the woman did not let go.
Finally, the serpent ceased to struggle. With great weariness, it asked, “What do you want of me?”
“The truth,” the woman replied.
“As you like,” the serpent said. “I will answer any three questions you ask. I will also grant you a blessing if you will release me.”
“I want to know why you pretended to be kind to me, and then turned on me in malice,” the woman demanded as she clenched the limp animal.
“Oh woman,” the serpent replied, “I never pretended kindness, although I intended no cruelty either. I told you in the beginning that my name was Knowledge. I am not noted for my gentleness, as I will teach you and your descendents many times more.”
“Why are you not kind?” the woman asked. She wanted to kill the serpent, but as long as the serpent continued to answer her, she would refrain.
“I am not kind because it is not in my nature to be kind,” the serpent said. “When El created me, El filled me with the Knowledge of the world. I learned all of the possible consequences of every action. If I knew only half of what I know, then I could believe that everyone would make good choices with proper happy endings for all. But that is not so. You do not know everything, so you can be kind. I cannot.”
The woman began to pity the serpent. She loosened her hold slightly. The serpent expanded its throat muscles, as they had become cramped by the woman’s fingers. The serpent said, “I will give you my blessing, which is this: Your children will seek me to study under me. Those who find me and who do not die when I bite them will learn from me all they wish to know.”
“Thank you,” the woman said, “but I have not yet asked you my third question.”
The serpent smiled. “Ask me another time," it said. The serpent wriggled free from the woman’s hands, dropped to the grass and disappeared into a hole beneath the tree.
Then, the woman heard footsteps against the ground. She turned around to see the man. He had just woken up.
“Love, I have slept a long time, and now I am hungry,” the man said.
The woman picked up the pomegranate that had fallen from her hand into the grass. “Eat with me” she said, handing him some seeds of the fruit.
After they ate, the woman and the man fashioned themselves cloaks of eucalyptus leaves, for the garden had become a bit chilly. They waited for El. When El appeared, accompanied by the morning star, the woman greeted El and said, “I don’t think we should stay in this garden any longer.”
“Yes,” El said. “This garden is beautiful, but I created it alone. Now that you are older, you may create gardens as well. On the other side of the river there is land for you to plant and tend. I will send water and sun for your gardens, but you shall nurture the land and eat that which you harvest.”