Part I

Perhaps you know this story. Perhaps it is your father’s, your friend’s. Perhaps it is the original man’s. Whoever it may belong to, it is also yours and mine. We are the heirs and custodians of life. The seekers of light who wander sightless into the lonely night. Let every story be ours, so that we may remember, compassionately, how to be.

It’s a usual day at the dock and the sun is high in the clear blue sky, shimmering onto the languorous ripples of a calm sea. A dapper businessman sips a cappuccino on the patio of a quaint café. The pier is quiet. Two young boys chase each other in the sand below while their fathers lay fish on metal sheets to dry in the blinding rays of the tropical sun. The gentleman’s tailored trim and perfectly leisurely poise transform the dull village docks into a dreamy 1950s film set. Curious sideways glances grace his unfazed posh façade. He does not sport the usual scruffy gear seen on transient backpackers who come here to dip in the clear ocean water and, if they’re daring enough, to venture into the thick jungle. Perhaps he’s passing through, as many do.

The aristocrat looks up from his newspaper, slim cigarette resting aimlessly on his crisp lower lip. He watches a fisherman slowly paddle his little wooden boat to shore. The fisherman tethers a rope to the dock and reveals two large yellow tuna from the belly of the boat. The fish are fat and the catcher looks peacefully appeased by his humble haul. The businessman slowly rises from his perch and strides toward the fisherman and his little boat.

“That’s quite a beautiful catch you’ve got there, sir.” The businessman speaks boldly as he saunters toward the edge of the pier.

The fisherman nods his head in thanks and smiles.

“It’s only mid-day. How long did it take you to catch these prize fish?” He eyes the shimmering tunas. “Did you have to travel very far out into the deep seas?”

“I was only gone for a little while. The bay is rich with splendid life.”

“How much will you sell them for?”

“I will exchange one to the old woman down the road for fresh bread and butter. The other will feed my family for a week, maybe longer.”

“You know,” the gentleman offers, “you could sell these fish for a pretty penny at the market. Why don’t you catch some more?”

“Our village is small and we need very little. The ocean generously provides. In turn, we take only what is needed and leave the rest to thrive.”

“Hm.” The businessman takes a long drag from his skinny cigarette. “Well, if you only fish for an hour or two, what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep well and wake naturally with the rising sun. My family shares breakfast together in the garden under the mango trees. I fish a little, play with my children and stroll along the beach every evening to watch the sunset with my wife. Sometimes I like to read poetry or teach my son how to hunt for mushrooms in the mountains. I have a full and busy life, good sir.” The fisherman grins with soft eyes full of gratitude.

The city man scoffs. Squinted eyes inspect the rickety little boat and the fisherman’s filthy rags. “I can help you.” He steps in line with the fisherman and wraps slender fingers around a damp shoulder. “You may not know me, but you should listen to me. I have accolades from the finest universities. Over the years, I have grown many businesses into powerful enterprises. Lucky for you, I want to help you.” He leans in closer to the fisherman, dripping prideful words into patient ears. “Here’s what you should do: Spend more time fishing and sell these magnificent tunas at the city market. Then you can use the proceeds to invest in a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you can buy several boats. In no time, you will be the captain of a fleet of fishing ships. Instead of selling your catch at the market, you can open your own cannery and export your goods. Soon you’ll have an expanding enterprise in the palm of your hand.” The business man releases the fisherman’s shoulder and enthusiastically throws his hands into the air. “The potential is boundless!”

The fisherman asks, “But sir, how long will this all take?”

The businessman flicks his cigarette and replies, “A decade or two.”

The fisherman pauses to notice the young boys playing on the beach. They carelessly zig-zag in and out of the low tide, kicking up water with their heels. Are they playing tag? Is it a race? Or are they simply propelled by the joy of sun and sky and sea and brotherly love?

He smiles and turns to the taller, richer man beside him. “But, what then?”

The business man laughs and says, “That’s the best part! When the time is right, you will sell your company stock to the public market and become very rich. You will make millions!”

“Millions, sir?”

“Yes, millions! I guarantee it.”

“Then what?”

The businessman says, “Then you will retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you can sleep late, fish a little, play with your children and live as you please.”

The fisherman, still smiling, looks up and says, “But sir, isn’t that what I’m doing already?”

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