A Dinner Full of Hope

The calm waters sparkled as jewels when caressed by the gentle breeze that blew serenely across the wide expanse of the lake. That was until the young boy dipped his toes into the water that caused a ripple to multiply across the surface to end he didn’t know where. The dilapidated pier on which he sat had seen many a better day, but it served its purpose once more as it held the boy secure as his thoughts bounced across the surface of the water to end he didn’t know where.

The breeze touched a gentle embrace on his furrowed brow as he looked through his reflection into the water’s depths. The sun seemed to have made an aura around his hairless-head that he thought was passing strange. If there was one thing he really hated about his condition, it was that it had made his hair fall out. He could cope with most of the other stuff, but having no hair didn’t seem fair.

Mind you, it was hard for his ten-year-old brain to work out exactly what was happening to him. What, with the doctor’s babble about a genetic condition that was incurable – now that didn’t seem right – his parents were fine. Then there was his mother who was constantly swooning over him with kisses and expressions of how much she loved him. Even his father was a little strange. He didn’t say much, but every time he had to take me to the hospital he would go to the little chapel to pray. It just didn’t seem fair that a little boy should be told that he only had a short time to live. He knew in his heart that he wanted to grow old and that he should never give up. The superheroes in his comics never did – even when things were looking pretty bad.

As these thoughts were weaving themselves through the four-corners of his mind, he noticed something on the edge of the horizon across the vast expanse of water. It seemed to be getting closer the longer he looked. Moments passed and time stood still as the specked turned to form. It was a row-boat and its glide across the water was leading straight towards him. On closer inspection the man in the boat was alone, but he seemed awfully strong. The muscles of his huge shoulders seemed to move with power and grace as they maneuvered the oars through the water with ease.

The boat was now clear to his sight and the man in the boat raised a hand in greeting along with a smile that could not deny its friendship. It made they lad raise his own hand in greeting, even though he was sure he did not recognize the man.

Hello,” said the man as he stowed the oars and glided the boat alongside the rickety pier.

Hello,” replied the boy with a furrowed brow as he examined the man and his boat. It wasn’t so much the man that made him curious, it was more his size. He was a monolith and the white chemise he wore seemed to glisten across the rays of the noonday sun.

I’m glad you are here,” said the man with a smile, “Would you like to go fishing.”

This seemed like a strange thing to ask, as the boy looked in the boat but didn’t see any rods or hooks, or anything that resembled what you would catch a fish with. Perhaps it was more of the adult world he really didn’t understand, he thought. But the thought of a ride in the boat seemed pretty cool, and he felt certain of his safety.

Okay, I’d like that,” he replied with a sense of the eager as he jumped on board to sit astride one of the benches. The man immediately reversed the oars to start rowing back out towards the centre of the lake.

After a few quiet moments, the boy asked, “How are we going to catch some fish? You haven’t any gear.”

We don’t need any gear. We’ve got everything we need. We just need to catch some hope,” said the man as he looked at the boy serenely and his shoulders flexed in cadence with his rowing. This, too, seemed a strange thing to say, but the boy shrugged an innocent shrug and let the man continue his travails.

After a few more quiet moments the boy’s eager enthusiasm fell over his level of patience, “How do we catch some hope?”

The man’s rowing didn’t even miss a beat as he answered, “Oh, that’s easy.”

Huh? Easy, I don’t understand,” replied the boy with a furrowed brow.

It was then, all of a sudden, the man stopped rowing and let the boat drift silently upon the still water.

What have we stopped for?” asked the lad.

Shh,” said the man as he raised his finger to his lips, “We’re just got to wait. Hope is on its way.”

This, again, seemed passing strange to the lad, but he was content to let the adult know best. They waited and waited some more, almost to the edge of the young boy’s understanding and patience. The man even started a gentle humming. It was deep from the centre of his being and it resonated across the water like a gentle thunder. It sounded a bit like the group of monks praying he had seen on television documentary once.

Then, to the boy’s surprise, a fish jumped into the boat. It was a rather large species and its colours shone like a rainbow.

Oh, my goodness,” exclaimed the man, “you are the lucky one, aren’t you?” as the lad watched the fish wriggle and dance in the prow of the boat with eyes wide in wonder.

This, again, seemed a passing strange thing to say, so the boy asked, “What do you mean? How am I the lucky one?” in an effort to understand.

Well,” replied the man, “this is no ordinary fish. This is King Salmon and he is offering himself to you.”

To me?” replied the boy in astonishment. “Why is he doing that?”

Well,” said the man with a beaming smile, “King Salmon knows that after you eat him you will take over all of his powers.

Huh?” replied the confused young man.

Don’t you see? Great kings are strong and they are fearless.”

The boy’s forehead creased even deeper despite his tender years. “Do you mean to say that when I eat this great salmon, I will take on all of the qualities of a great king?”

Yes, of course,” replied the man with certainty.

Now, the lad had read many stories about kings and heroes, but he had never heard of anything like this. Even his ten-year-old imagination could not firmly grasp the possibilities.

So,” he said after a few moments of reflection, “after I eat him, what then?”

Well,” replied the man as he resumed his rowing and back towards the direction of the pier. “You have to make a choice. You have to choose to be hope-full, rather than hope-less.”

Huh?” was again the boy’s disturbed response.

Don’t you see?” answered the man. “When hope is full, you will be strong and courageous, just like the king salmon. You will believe that everything will be fine. You will know that you are capable of overcoming any adversity and defeating your enemies when you are beset upon. You will have all the power and strength you need to overcome even the most difficult of challenges. BUT, if you think everything is hope-less, then of course, these things will not be so.”

The boy thought about this a lot as the boat made its way back and glided silently up to the pier. Then, as soon as the man tied the rope to fix the boat to berth, the young lad seemed to have what can only be called, 'epiphany'. His eyes shone like the jewels upon the lake. The man handed the young lad the king salmon as he leaped from the boat and made haste up to the pathway towards his house. As he ran, the large fish threatened to outweigh his strength, but he persisted with purpose until he saw his mother standing in the doorway waving at him.

Quick, mum, quick,” yelled the boy, “you have to cook this fish. I have to eat it. I have to catch some hope,” he said in eager enthusiasm between panted breath.

What? What are you talking about?” asked his mother curiously, but happy at her son’s renewed joy.

I, I, was just … I mean, this man took me fishing and we caught this fish … and when I eat it my hope will be full,” said the lad in agog, almost so that his words tumbled over themselves.

The boy’s mother didn’t really understand the source of her son’s eagerness, yet she was content to follow his strength of purpose. She took the fish from her son and proceeded towards the kitchen to prepare his urgent repast. Just before the boy followed his mother, he turned back towards the lake. He was fairly sure that the speck on the edge of the horizon was the man and his boat. He smiled to himself and gave a wave in the boat’s direction, then hastened towards the kitchen to help his mother cook his dinner full of hope.