Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Concentration (07/24/08)
TITLE: Three ways to live
By David Johnston
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“Bring back some fish, darling,” she’d joked as he set off one morning. He lay down beside the beautiful river, can of lager to one side, his bare chest exposed to the sun cutting a hole in the wispy clouds. “Concentrate, concentrate...” he muttered to himself as he felt the fishing line tighten just at the time a pretty girl walked past, seemingly oblivious to his gaze. His eyes returned to the river, where somewhere beneath that apparent blueness a fish’s mouth had fastened itself to his line. He started to reel it in, each turn inching the fish a little closer. Concentrating hard on the tiny movements necessary, he succeeded in dragging the fish from the water to the land where he lay it out beside him. He laid back, the sun’s presence a backdrop to the fish’s dance getting slower and slower until it stretched out on the grass. The fisherman smiled with quiet satisfaction, finished his lager, threw it into the river and watched it slowly bob along the waves.
“Bring back some fish, darling,” she’d smiled as he set off for work. Boarding his fishing boat he made the necessary checks, the sun yet to rise, dawn a cold and domineering presence. He looked at the sky, feeling the wind on his face. The waves were beginning to rise, to swell around the boat as he launched it onto the ocean. Beneath him, the dark menacing glare of the water seemed to open up, creating a hole for the boat to sink into. “Concentrate, concentrate...” he muttered to himself as the machinery released the nets, starting to dredge the ocean. The boat was led by the nets, the nets by the fish; a primeval battle of the fittest taking place as he stood there, water washing over him. As the machinery started to turn, slowly reeling the fish in, he concentrated on the approaching nets, filled with fish struggling, gasping, being released onto the boat where a writhing mass of life approached death. The fisherman smiled, his job finished; an exhausted smile on his face as the sun started to rise.
“Bring back some fish, darling,” she’d gasped as he set out into the cold air. The home he left behind appeared to disappear into the expanding ice as the sun’s rays followed him like a tormenter’s spotlight. His wife was laying at home, no energy to move, the children huddled round her, his youngest daughter weeping silent tears that had seemed to last since their travel route had sunk into the water. He carefully knelt down by the hole in the ice, lowering his line, the outline of a polar bear on the horizon. “Concentrate, concentrate...” he muttered to himself as he focused on the deathly darkness of the water. At the movement of a bite, as the hook tore into the fish’s mouth, he swiftly lifted the struggling animal onto the ice. Using a rock, he hit the fish once then twice, each blow a move towards substituting the fish’s life for his family’s. Concentrating on the fish before him – enough flesh to feed them until tomorrow – he thought of the polar bear, of his route back home. Bowing his head before the sun, he struggled into the wilderness.
Concentrate, concentrate... . A fisherman whose catch is a leisure activity, a way to while away the time. A fisherman whose catch is a job, something to be focused on throughout the day. A fisherman whose catch is his family’s daily nutrition, the difference between life and death. Concentrate, concentrate on He who wants more than our Sundays, more than our weekdays, on He who calls us to live solely for Him, because His family – and ours - depend on our concentration... .
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