They awoke the next day to someone screaming very loudly, as if the screamer had a megaphone. Marc sat up, and looked around in dismay. Across from the road was an old man yelling at a very large tree.
“Damned tree! Get off of my field. You think you own all of heaven. Allways popping up in a new place, always crushing my grass. If I were half the man I used to be, I’d poison your God damned roots.”
At hearing the definite, most unmistakable swear in the universe, the two angels hurried to the side of the old man and began to try to calm him.
“Old man,” said Marc, “you should be careful of the way you speak in heaven. God would find that very blasphemous.”
“Oh would He now? Have you ever met Him? Well I have. One day I was here all by myself, minding my own business, when along came God walking down my road. When He found that I had no one to talk to, He said He knew a tree who was in need of a good influence. Are you listening young man? This here tree thought he was to good for God’s birds, so God damned this tree to be my companion. Understand?” The old man put one hand on his hip, and was waving the other in Marc’s direction.
“I think we understand,” said Joel coming to stand by Marc. “But what did you do to deserve having the tree as a companion?”
The tree unable to take any more of the man’s chatter, said, “This puny man standing here before you, has a very bitter attitude. And when God saw this, He decided that we were perfect for one another.”
“Oh my! A tree that talks,” said Marc walking close to the tree to examine it.
“Oh my! A tree that talks,’ mocked the old man, “Anyway I’m sure that you now understand why I call this tree a God damned tree, because that is exactly what it is.”
“Joel walked closer to the tree and was about to say hello, when the old may shouted, “Hey you two, don’t go too close. I wouldn’t go along side of it, it would probably drop one of its damned stinking branches on your head. And then I’d have to go about picking up branches from my field.”
“Oh you stupid human!” yelled the tree. “Do you think you are the only being in heaven who counts for something?”
“God damned tree, why don’t you find something else to do with your time instead of blotting out the sun. Ugly old thing! Why God even gave you lips I’ll never understand. The only thing that ever comes out of them is complaints.” The old man stopped for a minute and picked up an axe made of rock. “Come here treesy weesy, I’ve got a surprise for you.”
“Oh no, not the axe again! Aren’t you ever going to learn? You’re just going to break the axe and get even madder,” warned the tree.
“I don’t get mad, dogs get mad. You just stand still and I’ll skin off that ugly bark.” The man swung the axe over his head.
“Now gentlemen, please don’t go and do something that you’ll regret,” pleaded Marc.
The tree and the old man in unison yelled, “Who asked you?”
“Marc,” said Joel, “I think we should leave now. These two obviously don’t want company.” Marc agreed, and so the two walked away. “So how did you sleep last night?”
“Before Marc could answer the question they heard a loud ‘Chluack’, followed by something crumbling and falling to the ground.
Marc and Joel turned around and they heard the old man yell, “God damned tree! That’s the fifth axe you broke this wee. If I had a match I’d burn you to the ground, except then your dirty damned ashes would be scattered all over my grass. God damned tree!”
Marc shook his head, bent down to tighten his sandal, then the two boys continued their walk.
“You know?” said Joel, “Those two really deserve one another.”
The two earth-angels continued to follow the dirt road, which began to sloped down for a few kilometres. Trees and shrubs appeared on both sides of the road. The desert appearance which they had come to expect was quickly disappearing, although they had still to see water.
“Joel? I know that we’re not suppose to feel thirst or even need water in heaven, but don’t you find that a tall, cool glass of water would feel good right now?” asked Marc wiping sweat from his brow and the back of his neck.
“I’d say! I think our friend, the sun, has changed some of the rules in heaven. We never perspired before either,” said Joel looking around. Then, as an afterthought, he added, “With all this greenery, we should find water pretty soon.”
“WATER! Water! Who said something about water?” came a voice from behind a bush, to their right.
Marc took in a deep breath and looked over at Joel, who lifted his shoulders in a shrug. With thoughts of their earlier meeting, the two boys walked hesitantly over to where the voice had come from.
On the other side of the bush there was an old man who was standing up in a canoe, which sat on dry land. The old man was holding a divining rod and was waving it all about him. He threw the rod into the boat , retrieved a pair of binoculars and began a clockwise search. Seeing no water, the man tossed the binoculars in the canoe and jumped to the ground, landing on his hands and knees. He then took a handful of sand and tossed it into his mouth.
Spitting and sputtering, the old man walked over to where Marc and Joel were standing. “There ain’t no water anywhere, and there ain’t no reason for tricking an old man.”
“Awfully sorry sir,” apologized Marc. “We didn’t mean that there was water about, only that we hoped there was.”
“Just mind ya don’t do it again,” said the man sizing up the two boys. “You’re new arrivals aren’t you? My mane is Noah. I’ve been waiting long before your first births for water. Why don’t you come on over and sit in my canoe, and we’ll have some biscuits.”
“You eat? We thought no one in heaven ate or drank,” said Joel looking anxiously at the canoe.
“Well no one drinks yet. That’s why I’m waiting for the water; I want to be the first man to see the water in heaven.” Noah started to walk toward his canoe. “Well, are you coming, or not?”
Marc and Joel went to the canoe and sat down in it. It was a rather large canoe, a metre and a half wide by ten metres long. Inside the canoe were food, clothing, a shovel, a pick, and several copies of National Geographic.
“How come the angels in Paradise don’t eat?” asked Marc.
“Oh, those angels refuse to be anything like their mortal brothers. Instead, they try to make us more like them. That’s why my family, friends, and I left Paradise,” said Noah, almost reliving his decision. “That’s right about the time God told me that there would, some day, be water here.”
“So you’ve been here all alone, without anyone to talk to? Sitting here for centuries waiting to see water?” Joel was upset with Noah’s waste of time.
“Now you listen here boy. I wasn’t just waiting for a glass of water. Did you know that water is the lifebringer to all things in the universe? And in my day, it also brought death.” Noah closed his eyes, and began to envision his words. “Water is God’s greatest creation, and when at last it comes to heaven, it will be a gift to Paradise’s outcasts. All those who couldn’t take the angels’ overpowering arms will finally be rewarded for their independence. Imagine being immortal, but having all the comforts we had on earth. Everything except meat, you know how God feels about His animals.”
Noah passed some biscuits around, and the three of them began to eat. Marc and Joel had not eaten since their arrival, but they found that their taste buds still worked.
“These are the best tasting biscuits I have ever eaten,” Joel said.
“My wife walks from the house about once every year, to bring them to me. She uses clouds in her recipe to keep them together. Although, because of the lack of water, they are a little dry, they still are the best in heaven.”
“You know, I wish we had some water to drink with these biscuits,” said Joel, trying to swallow his last bite.
Marc nodded in agreement and Noah said, “That would suit me just fine.”
Marc looked at Joel and wondered if he was thinking the same thing. In answer to Marc’s thought, Joel smiled and winked.
“Why don’t you just fly over to where your wife is and get the food?” asked Joel.
“Fly! Fly! I renounced my wings long ago. Most unnatural things I ever had; wings growing from my back like horns through the head of a cow. I ain’t no cow and I sure ain’t no angel,” shouted Noah, turning his back on the two boys. “Do you see any wings on my back? Men don’t need wings. Does God have wings? And let me tell you something; you had better get rid of yours if you know what’s good from you.”
Joel apologized for the insult, saying he did not know better. He then changed the topic back to the biscuits, asking how his wife captured the cloud within the other ingredients.
While Noah explained the process to Joel, Marc leaned over the canoe and looked in the direction from which the two boys had walked. A faint rumbling sound grew closer, and along the path there appeared another path. The second path turned blue and started to come towards the boat.
Marc turned back toward Noah and Joel. “Excuse me gentlemen, but I think we’re about to make history. I see water!”
“Noah and Joel turned to where Marc was pointing just before the water reached the boat. The river ran right along the path, but at no point did the water touch the path. The ground would disappear seconds before the river reached that place, making an instant riverbed.
The head of the newborn river was already out of sight, but the current had begun to move the large birch bark canoe at a fast pace.
As the canoe gained speed, the three companions could see the changes that the river brought to the land. They passed ducks, frogs, a beaver, fish, a deer, and a swan. The sand about them turned to rock, moss, and mud. And Noah, Marc and Joel saw that this was good.
The day wore on into evening, and the three companions talked of their lives. Noah and his family had never been reborn. One rainy afternoon God came calling on them and brought them to heaven.
“That was right before God left Paradise. We came with him right up to where you found me,” said Noah guiding the boat. “Kind of glad I was never reborn. Dying is such a nasty bother. Friends and family crying over your dead body. Ah!” But that’s not all of your problems; you come up here and find out you lived a dozen other lives and that you have sixteen wives. And there are ten of them who have been waiting to see you for over fifty years. Which one would you pick, if any? You start trying to figure out which one you loved more. And when you remember who it was, she tells you she already has a mate for all eternity. Yup, kinda glad I was never reborn.”
“I never had a wife in any of my six lives,” reminisced Marc. “I guess I was too busy with my careers. Even then, I don’t know which set of parents I should see first. If they still are couples in Heaven, and if they even came here first. Dying is very complicated.”
“As for me,” began Joel, “I’ve had three wives, two in my first life and one in my second. Parents… Now there’s a concept I never pondered before. But I think I would treat them more like siblings here, and maybe with a little gratitude and reverence.”
“Oh well, don’t worry about those bridges till you get there,” advised Noah.
Noah and the two boys continued down the river silently, listening to the sounds of nature. Joel had fallen asleep and Noah was steering the canoe in silent thought. Marc kept his eyes on the graying sky, letting his imagination give meaning to the shapes of passing clouds. His cloud game would be interrupted once in a while by overhanging, moss covered trees, carrying a faint marshy smell to his nostrils.
At one of these passings, Marc looked down at the water and thought aloud, “And to think, I was the first person to see water…”
Hearing those words, Noah shook his head clean of his slumber-like thoughts, looked over at Joel, and said, “What…What’s that? The first to see water? Why you ungrateful…I let you come along with me in my canoe and you have the nerve…no the tenacity to steal my claim.”
Noah took his paddle from the water and swung it over to where Marc sat, hitting him into the river. He then grabbed Joel’s sleeping body and threw it alongside Marc. Marc and a choking Joel swam to the nearest shore.
While pulling themselves up out of the water, the two boys could here Noah screaming in anger, “Thousands of years waiting for just the right moment. Ruined by a snotty little punk. First indeed…”.
The two boys were exhausted after their experience and fell asleep on a patch of moss. Marc and Joel saw that this was not so good.