By Baker Street
The village was located amidst clumps of palm trees, next to the seashore. It was a small village with only twenty inhabitants. They lived off the land and the sea, in perfect harmony with nature, far from the evils and perils of civilization.
There were five men, seven woman, and eight children of varying ages. They lived in their reed huts grouped closely together in a circle among a clearing in the growth of the bush and the trees. The women and two of the men ran a small farm of vegetables and maize, for consumption by the village. The remaining three men fished in a small boat owned by the elder of the village. An old man named Zacharia. He was also one of the three men who fished daily with the boat.
The other two men were in their middle twenties and were named Cole and Zeb. It was their job to cast out the net and haul in the catch, under the watchful eye of old Zacharia. Their daily catch was brought back to the village. If the day's catch was good, the larger part thereof was taken to the nearby market to be sold; the remainder went as food for their small village.
The children were employed in various tasks during the day, such as mending the nets, or helping with the cultivation of the crop. Life passed blissfully and tranquilly under the hot yellow sun, in the small fishing village, among the green tropical forest. The air was crisp and clear to taste, and in the heat of the day, they were cooled by the breeze blowing in off the sea.
At night the heavens shone with a cascade of light in the darkness, as the stars were strewn out across the black sky. And early in the morning the village would awake to the day's tasks. The women would go out with the children to tend the fields, and the three fishermen would set out in their small boat, to catch fish.
On a day like any other, they set out once more to sea. Early in the morning they pushed the boat out beyond the shallow breaking waves, hoisted the sail, and ventured into the deeper sea. The little boat was sturdy and well schooled to the task. She was only fifteen feet long, with one main mast. She glided out swiftly on the current to the deep water.
The old man was at the rudder as always, steering the boat gently to where the prospect of a catch lay. He was old; the two young men did not know exactly how old he was. No one in the village did. He liked it that way, and kept it that way. But they knew he was one of the original founders of the village, and the oldest one now alive in it. He was very old, and very wise.
Now he had the rudder of the small boat in his strong old hands, and guided her firmly over the dark blue water to where he hoped the fish lay. He and the boat had repeated this performance for countless years, and they were both well schooled in their ways. Other men had operated the nets before these young ones came, but they had long since passed on. But the old man was still here, at the helm, where he had always been. Now he was teaching these two young boys of the village his trade. Perhaps one day they would have to take over from him.
But for now, he was still steering the boat. And he would take them to where the fish lay. And they would pull it out. As long as he could work, he would still be in command of the fishing, and they would work for him. For as long as he could endure, he would be at his task. He would keep on fishing.
The two young men were working on the nets in the middle of the boat. The old man sailed the boat deeper out into the sea. He surveyed the waters around him, he knew them well. He knew the currents and the winds of these parts. He knew the weather as well as anyone could. He looked out over the waves as he sailed and was filled with great contentment and happiness at being out at sea.
The sun shone brightly on the waves in the early morning, and the little boat sailed on smoothly on the light sea breeze. The wind tugged gently on the sail, and pulled her swiftly over the blue water.
And the sea was beautiful beyond measure. She was dark blue to black at places. Sometimes she was tinged with a dark green. And always she stirred with life. She stirred with power and majesty. And she carried them forward on her waves.
She carried the small boat smoothly over her mighty waters. And above the sun shone in glory. It burned down on them, as it did each day, and turned their skins dark brown. It would have been unbearably hot, had it not been for the soothing effect of the cool sea breeze on their bodies and faces.
High above in the clear blue sky white clouds floated on the wind. The clouds were scattered, and those that there were, were small. There was no immediate threat of a storm. The birds flew above, circling the sea, in search of food. They were mostly seagulls, and other smaller sea birds. Occasionally one would dive from on high, plummeting into the sea, after a catch. Momentarily it would surface again, with or without a fish, and fly off again.
The wind filled the sail of their boat and carried them on, over the dark blue sea. At times the wind would blow stronger and the two young men would tend to the sail, while the old man steered the boat through the current.
The small fishing boat sailed on over the sea. High above the sun shone, and the clouds drifted lazily about in the sky. The men did not talk much, but each was occupied with his own thoughts as he worked. The old man at the rudder thought of his life, fishing on the sea. His young days with his father on the boat. All the years spent out on the water, always chasing the day's catch. He was growing old now, and he knew it, but still he loved it out on the sea. He knew no other life.
The young men were thinking about their wives and children back in the village. About the day's catch. They hoped it would be a good one, or at least fair. There was nothing as demoralizing as a poor catch after a hard day's work.
Sweat broke out under their white shirts, running down their brown muscled forearms, as they toiled on under the hot sun shining overhead in the sky. The wind blew over them, sometimes gently, and sometimes with strength. And the little boat was drawn on by the wind and the current.
When the old man arrived at a place he felt might be good to try and catch, he gave a signal, and the two younger men let down the sail. Then the two young men cast out their net and let it down in the water. Soon they would be pulling it up again and see what their efforts have delivered.
So the three men fished out on the open sea in their little boat, under the beautiful blue sky.
During the long day's fishing, they had little success. Their efforts as the day wore on, yielded only half a dozen medium sized fish. Not at all a good catch.
As the sun passed its zenith, and the day wore on into the afternoon, they kept casting in the net, in the hope of one good catch for the day. But as the afternoon passed slowly, their luck did not improve. They only added a handful of medium sized fish to the day's catch. Still, they kept on casting their net into the water, in the hope of better fortune.
A slight wind came up, and quickly built up into a small gale. The sea became more rough, and the little boat was dragged about in the turbulent water. The sail was kept down, and the old man manned the rudder, guiding the little vessel in the rough sea.
The small boat bobbed up and down in the tall waves, caused by the wind. Clouds built up overhead, and it looked as if it might rain soon. The sea remained rough for another hour, and then the wind abated. All the while the old man was at the helm. When the wind subsided, the sky also gradually cleared overhead, and the clouds drifted away elsewhere.
It was getting late in the afternoon and they would have to return soon. The sea temperature was already cooling down, and the late afternoon breeze was pleasant. They drifted about in the deep water, and prepared for a final cast of the net. Seagulls squawked above in the sky and circled them expectantly. The boat bobbed gently to and fro on the small swells.
"One more try boys, and then we call it a day, said old Zacharia.
The young men murmured their agreement and prepared for a last throw of the net. Each man took one end of the net, and with their strong brown arms they heaved it out over the side of the boat, into the waves. The net hit the surface of the water and covered a wide area, gently it sank below the surface. Each one of the two young men held on to their end of the net by means of a thick rope. Slowly and painstakingly they started to pull it in.
As they pulled they could feel the weight of many fish caught in the net. They struggled to pull it in, and they soon discovered that they could not pull it in on their own. The old man fastened down the rudder with its catch, and then came over to help them pull the net aboard.
As the sun was slowly setting in the west, the three men bent their backs on the small boat, in their struggle to haul up the catch. A seagull squawked above, and dived close by the boat.
The men heaved and pulled at the net, heavily laden with fish. The rope cut into their hands as they tugged at the weight. Slowly they managed to haul the net aboard bit by bit.
It was a struggle, and the strain was on their backs, legs and hands. Still they pulled, and with the three of them at the task, they eventually maneuvered the large net full of fish aboard. They were all in a joyous state at their large catch. The old man went to lean against the side of the boat, to recover from the exhaustion. The young men were congratulating themselves at the fine haul of fish.
That was when the seizure took the old man. He fell down in a fit on the bottom of the boat. His body convulsed severely for several minutes, and then he lay perfectly still. The young men examined him, and both soon realized that he was dead. They covered the body with a blanket that they kept on board. Then they packed the fish away in the large wooden tray in the center of the boat.
With Zeb at the helm, and Cole tending the sail, they set back for the village. The sun was setting in brilliant hues of rosy red on the further horizon, as they sailed over the calm sea. Among the reds of the fading sunrays, the clouds shone silver and pink.
The tiny boat sailed on, and as dusk fell, they entered the enclave to the village. The people were waiting for them on the beach, and the emotions were mixed when the tidings came. Everyone was happy at the huge catch, but everyone was equally saddened by the death of the old man. No catch, however large, can be a compensation for the loss of a valuable man.
The fish was cleaned and divided. Preparations were made for the burial of the old man. The village fell to silent sleep under the brilliant white stars, with the wind stirring the palm trees about them.
The two young men; Zeb and Cole, recruited a third man from the village to aid them in their fishing duties. His name was Andreas, and he was about ten years older than them.
Each morning, just after sunrise, the three men would push the small fishing boat out over the shallow breakers, into the sea. Then they would hoist the sail, and with Zeb at the rudder, they would venture out to sea.
The small boat would glide gently over the deep blue sea towards the horizon, where the fish lay waiting for them.