Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part Two
Staying up in the tree once he knew that I was up there seemed silly to me. I climbed down. The Monk had moved back to his spot – my spot – by the riverbank. He didn’t pay any attention to me. I stayed by the tree trunk not knowing what to do next. He told me.
“Come and sit down. It’s a beautiful riverbank you have here.”
I went and sat down next to him by the water’s edge. He ignored me.
“You’re a Monk aren’t you?” As soon as I said that I knew it was a silly question.
“Yes, I am. Are you a farm boy?”
“Yes, I am,” I said, but being here in the middle of all the farms around here and with me looking like I do, his was a silly question too.
“What does a Monk do, Sir?”
“There is no need to call me ‘Sir.’ And as to what a Monk does it is really very simple – we pray.”
“What do you pray for?” I thought that was a reasonable question.
“We pray to understand.”
“To understand what?”
“To understand why we are here and what we should do to be worthy of this life, this river, this conversation we are having.”
“You must pray a lot,” I said to him.
He began to fiddle with his red sash. He took out the twine and the fishing hook.
“Yes, I pray all the time.”
“You don’t look like you’re praying now. You look like you’re going to try to catch a fish.”
He tied the hook to the frayed end of the twine.
“Fishing calls for a lot of praying, my young friend.”
He dipped the hook into the water and sat quietly. At least he got that part right. After a few minutes I had to say something.
“You really are going to need to pray. You don’t have any bait on that hook. You won’t catch any fish that way.” For a man who looked so smart he seemed pretty dumb when it came to fishing.
He looked at me and smiled.
“I’m not trying to catch a fish. I am waiting for the fish to put himself on my hook. It has to be his decision. It is his life and I cannot take it. He must offer it up.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“That’s asking a lot of a fish, Mr. Monk.”
“Very true. I have a life and so does the fish. Our lives are of equal value. They both came from the same place – from The Creator. I want to eat to stay alive and so does the fish. My hook has no bait because that would be cheating, tricking the fish.
“The fish and I must negotiate and debate about whose need is more important today. If we agree that the fish is more important today – who knows what lies just downstream for him, then I will go hungry today. If what lies down this path is more important for me, then the fish will take the hook and I will eat. Do you understand?”
He turned back to focus on his empty fish hook and I looked at him and then down into the water. There was a fish looking at the hook, but he didn’t look convinced.
“That must be why my father says you Monks are always begging for food. You can’t talk a fish into biting on an empty hook.”
“Your father is a wise man,”
We sat there, silently, for quite awhile. It was a nice day and I was enjoying my time with the Monk even though I really didn’t understand him a lot. Before he came down the path I was just sitting here daydreaming. Now I am, thinking. I’m not used to that. He had me thinking and climbing a tree.
“I saw you coming down the path for a long time. Where are you going?
“What does that mean?”
To Be Continued…