Once upon a time, in a small fishing village located on an island off the coast of West Africa, there lived a boy named “Parese”—the lazy—and his family. The family lived on the leeward side of the island, in a small thatched hut, underneath a large palm tree.
The family was very poor, for the father could not fish. His legs and been mangled two years ago, when he was viciously mauled by “Asasen Reken”—the killer shark. Since that awful day, the family had struggled to survive. Some days, the only food they had were the coconuts from the towering palm.
Parese was now of the age when most boys in his village, had begun learning the fishing trade from their fathers or serving an apprenticeship with some other master fisherman, but not Parese.
That he had been too young at the time of his father’s tragedy, compounded with the fact that he was prone to laziness, day-dreaming, and fits of contemptuous behavior, especially when being told to do anything, had resulted in the boy not having fished a day in his life.
He despised instruction and adults in general and so, wiled away most of his days beneath the old coconut tree doing nothing in particular.
On the other end of the village lived a man known simply as “Granmoon”—the old one. He was, by all accounts, the oldest and most experienced fisherman in the village. He lived alone, and preferred it that way. He had never been married and had no children.
Ornery, cantankerous and mean, were just a few of the words other villagers used to describe him. But, no-one could argue that he was the best fisherman in the village and despite his ill reputation, any young boy, hoping to become a great fisherman, would have given his right arm for an apprenticeship with him.
One day, after much agonizing thought and trepidation, the boy’s parents decided that if their son was to make anything of his life, he would have to learn to fish, for if he did not learn to support himself and his family, the “Granpeche”—Old Fisherman’s Council—would expel him from the village, forcing him into “Suspann” or exile.
Upon hearing the decision of his parents, the boy bucked, moaned and groaned; putting on one of his worse displays of contempt and obstinance ever, but finally, he submitted to his parent’s wishes, and chose to allow them to seek a willing master fisherman, with whom the boy could apprentice.
The boy’s mother, being the typical mother and wanting the best for her son, sought out Granmoon and begged him to allow her son to serve as his apprentice.
Granmoon stood tall, silent, and completely still, as was his habit whenever considering or focusing on something of importance. His body, long and lean, like the old palm tree on the other side of the island, seemed to sway in the breeze as he considered the proposal. His tough, wrinkled, golden-hued skin, glistened with sweat, as if he was engaged in some monumental but invisible task. His tightly coiled, bushy, brown hair fluttered, ever so slightly, with the cool ocean breeze.
He had been known to stand this way for hours at a time, some say even days, and if he ever tired from standing he would squat on his haunches, like an old red-bone hound and continue his meditation for hours more; his gray eyes gazing at nothing and everything.
This went on for hours as the sun, realizing the futility of trying to wait Granmoon out, sank beneath the ocean waves and the mother went home to feed her family. She would return tomorrow. Maybe then, Granmoon would have an answer, she hoped.
Parese’s mother returned early the next morning to find the old man still squatting in exactly the same spot and position, in which she’d left him. She asked him for his answer. He cleared his throat, hocked up phlegm and blew a thick stream of mucous from his nose. Most villagers knew that this was Granmoon’s way of saying “yes”.
If he had simply scratched himself and turned away, the answer would have been a definite “no”.
Reluctantly, the boy began his apprenticeship the next day. The old man drilled the boy on the art of catching fish with nets, pole and spear.
He growled, screeched and barked orders at his young apprentice relentlessly. The boy suffered in silence but inwardly he seethed. He was not accustomed to this pressure. He felt that Granmoon, his parents and the very ocean itself, conspired against him.
He completed the tasks, and suffered the instruction with much pushing and prodding from Granmoon. But despite it all, there came a day when the old man felt it was time for the boy to go on his first real fishing trip.
Granmoon and the boy shoved off in the fishing boat. They rowed far out into the ocean; to the Old One’s sweet spot. There, Granmoon knew they would catch fish. He knew that it was important that the boy’s first fishing venture be a success, anything less would have discouraged the boy.
All through the day, they fished and Granmoon, true to his nature, screamed and yelled at the boy the whole time.
Eventually, the boy felt that he had the knack of it and as was his nature began to rebel against the man’s commands. On the next cast of his net—using poor technique of course—and while ignoring the instruction of the man, the boy slipped and fell into the ocean.
The current quickly snatched him away from the boat. He struggled to paddle himself back, but he hadn’t paid attention during his swimming lessons either. Granmoon, however, was nonplussed, for he had been through this many times, with many, hard-headed, young “fishermen”.
He threw a rope to within reach of Parese and shouted for the boy to grab the rope. The boy, not willing to be yelled at anymore, refused the rope and turned, in a vain attempt to paddle his way back to the island. But soon he tired and sank beneath the waves like the setting sun, but unlike the sun, he never rose again.
Pran enstrikson mak pajan, epik konesans olyeke chosy lò, poubon konprann sepibon pasebèl pyè koute chèaak tou baga dezirab paka konpare akli.Toutmounak tout baga gen yon baga yo moutr nou. Aprann ki sa ouka soti nan lipi li deplase soul Nan leson an kapkap an~Granmoon
Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold, for wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with it. Everyone and everything has something to teach you. Learn what you can from it and move on to the next lesson.
By Ron Brown ©2016