The Mark of Cain

April 17, 2010

“Listen jerk!  I’m not gonna ask you again.  Settle down or I’ll toss your ass out onto the street,” Paul yelled.

Saddle Ranch, a western-themed bar in the middle of downtown Nashville, was always rocking on Thursday nights, but Paul really didn’t feel like getting into an altercation on his first day of work as the club’s bouncer.  The drunken man wore an older Nashville Predator’s jersey and had spilled the bulk of his Budweiser on it.  He was tall but not particularly threatening; it seemed strange to Paul that all the other patrons, especially some of the juiced-up frat boys, were steering clear.  The drunk spat on the floor right in front of Paul, a few flecks of frothy spittle landing on his boots.

“Take a walk you meat-head,” replied the drunk man.  “You can’t do shit to me.”

“The hell I can’t, you scrawny twerp,” Paul screamed back over “I’m Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks which was blasting in the background.  Someone had put a 50-dollar bill in the jukebox at the beginning of the night and they were apparently a big fan of Natalie Maines.  Anyone in the heart of Tennessee would be a little bit on edge after listening to that much Texas-centric country music.  Paul took a step forward and leaned in to grab the drunk man’s arm.

“Tssk.  Tssk.”  the drunk wagged his finger.  He raised his damp hockey jersey exposing his ribs, revealing to Paul a large triangular scar that covered the majority of his right side.  It looked as if the iron of a ruthless shepherd had branded him.  In the triangle there were seven circles, each equal in diameter.

“Whoever harms me, the Lord will take vengeance on them seven times over.”  Paul looked down at the triangle.  He had heard about this guy from a few of the employees who had worked at Saddle Ranch longer than him.  He was Cain, as in the Cain, Brother of Abel, and wanderer of the Earth.  He was trouble.  He was a drunk, a hothead, and a murderer, actually the first murderer.  Why he was in Tennessee, know one quite knew, but it was definitely him.  That mark was unmistakable.

“Shit…” the new bouncer muttered to himself.  That was why everyone was ignoring this guy, trying to pretend they didn’t want to punch him in the face; he was untouchable.  With that mark on his chest he could get away with anything.  And he did, frequently.

Paul actually heard about a cook over at Denny’s who almost stabbed the 4000 year old man a few weeks back.  Cain had been loudly complaining about the service and making extremely inappropriate racial jokes all night, finally the short order cook, Franklin, had had enough.  He ran out brandishing a small paring knife and pressed it to Cain’s neck.  The onlookers at the Denny’s weren’t surprised.  Many of them, having been infuriated or insulted by Cain previously, had hoped that Franklin would have the guts to finally shut him up for good.  Cain lifted his shirt and reminded Franklin of the curse.  Franklin backed down, sobbing.  That was as close as anyone had gotten.

“That’s right, you muscle-bound freak.  I can be an jackass all night long and you can’t do anything about it.” Cain tilted his beer bottle and poured it onto the bar, making direct eye contact with Paul as the glass emptied.  “Now find someone to clean that up, you scrub.”

Paul went over to grab a bar rag.  His face showed a sort of light-hearted apathy to Cain’s provocations.

“You look curious.  Would you like to know why I’m able to walk all over you?”

“I guess I don’t have a choice, do I?” answered Paul.

“You see a long, long time ago back in a land called Damascus -you know where that is, don’t you Einstein? – I killed my only brother, Abel.  God was disappointed and angry.  But with his infinite compassion, He decided not to punish me directly.  Instead, He only cast me out of my family’s land and told me that I’d never bear fruit from any soil I farmed.  No big deal.  So I’ve been bumming around for the last couple of millennia, drinking, starting trouble.  Because everyone knows who I am.  I’m Cain, I’m Kabil, I’m Qayen.  And everyone knows what will happen if they so much as lay a finger on me.  God will reign down upon them with a mighty fury, so it’s never been worth it for anyone to really put me in my place.

“That so?”  Paul asked finally.

“Yeah that’s so.”

“Well that’s where I think you’re a bit wrong.  You see, I’m a third year Doctoral Student in Theology over at Tennessee State,” said Paul.  “I know that may surprise you, what with me being a muscle-bound meathead and all.  Anyway my senior thesis is on the historical translation of religious texts, Genesis in particular.  Basically, the theory that I think I’ve proved is that people tend to adapt religious texts for own motives.  They use the false interpretations of the Bible to prove their point and obtain some sense of power.  Kind of like what you’re doing right now.”

Cain’s eyes fell from Paul’s and looked quickly around the room.

“But what those people don’t realize is that the word of God is not open to multiple interpretations.  And the piece of scripture that you just cited to stop me from beating your ass, Genesis 4:15?  You actually quoted it incorrectly.  I think it’s been a long time since you’ve heard it in its true form.  Luckily for you, I’ve got it memorized: ‘Then the Lord replied to him, Therefore, whosoever slayeth Cain vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.’  Slayeth.  That’s the key word.  Your mark only carries retribution for the person that kills you.”

The Dixie Chicks “There’s Your Trouble” played on with the clanking of bottles and the clatter of billiard balls.  Cain swallowed hard.

“In other words, I can beat the unholy hell out of you, and as long as I don’t kill you.  I’ll be just fine.”

“I don’t believe you,” Cain replied with a nervous smile.

“Try me.”

Cain shifted on his seat.

Paul continued.  “So what I want now is for you to take your lousy attitude somewhere else, maybe across the street to Dr. Bill’s Tap Room.  Saddle Ranch is supposed to be a fun and friendly atmosphere and you’re not making me feel fun and friendly.  So hit the road before I beat you literally within one inch of your life.”  Paul’s eyes stared intently into Cain’s and his arms flexed without him knowing it.

Cain paused, climbed off his bar stool, chugged the remaining liquid in his bottle of Bud and wiped his mouth.  He walked slowly out the door, perfectly content to wander the streets of downtown Nashville.

Paul turned to the Bartender.  “Jimmy, is there anyway we can knock it off with the Dixie Chicks?”

“What?” yelled Jimmy, who was hollering now over “Travelin’ Soldier.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

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