Like all sons of his village, Enuki was born to a fisherman.

This prompt is going up late because I became wrapped up in writing it. It began as a simple prompt about a boy and fish.

Prompt: A boy who couldn’t catch fish.

In a fishing village you’ve known your entire life, in a place that never existed, lived a child called Enuki.

Like all sons of his village, Enuki was born to a fisherman. And like all sons of his village, on the morning of his tenth year, Enuki was gifted with his first fishing pole, and taken to the sea shore to fish.

“Your village is fish,” Enki’s father said before Enuki dropped his bait in the water for the first time. “Now you will see.”

But Enuki did not see that day. He did not see for many days. Every morning and evening for a month, Enuki’s father dragged his son to the beach and watched him drop his line. Enuki did precisely as his father instructed, he rigged and baited and cast, but Enuki caught no fish.

After some time, Enuki’s father began to worry. “What will I tell the other villagers?” He thought. “They will turn on my child because he cannot provide fish. It was fine when he was a boy, but as he grows, he will demand more resources from the village, and they will resent him for this curse.”

One night, Enuki awoke to his father’s sobs. He crept to the doorway and spied on him. His father rocked on his knees and his fingers turned white around a wooden figure. “Help me God,” he said. “Save my family from this difficulty. Do not without the gifts from my son that you have indiscriminately given to all your children here. Fix my child, God.”

That night, Enuki gathered three changes of clothes, a ball of fish bait, his pole, wrapped them all together with a torn shirt, and dove into the night.

Enuki could not risk the dangers of the jungle in the dark, so he followed the shoreline until the sun rolled up over the Eastern blue mountains. He slept on the sand. He awoke hours later and decided to venture into the jungle to collect berries to eat.

The thick over leaves and interlocking palms made the jungle floor almost as dark as the beach at night, and Enuki had found nothing but Gausen berries. But Gausen berries were sour, and made your stomach twist, and too many can kill you. So Enuki found no food.

Enuki finally gave up his search for food in favor of rest. “I will not learn to fish,” he said, “foraging in the foliage.”

Then came a sharp, explosive laugh from a voice behind Enuki. “Foraging in the foliage?” It said. “What a pretty turn of phrase!”

Enuki spun to meet the man who spoke, but found instead a wooden silhouette of a boy, shaped from palm wood and fixed into the earth with a stake.

“Who’s that?” Enuki said.

“I am you,” the wooden boy said. He laughed. “But I cannot say things as pretty as you.”

“If I speak in a way you favor,” Enuki said. “It is not my intention.”

“Oh? Then what is your intention?”

Enuki displayed his fishing pole and tangled string. “To catch fish. My people catch fish. I am a fish.”

“You are a fish?” The wooden boy said.


“Then I am a fish!”

“No,” Enuki said. “I am a fish, because my people grow by eating the fish.”

“If your people grow by eating fish, then why are you picking poison berries in the jungle, and why are you so small?”

Enuki held out his elbows to each side and straightened his back. “I’m not done grown,” he said. “And anyway, I can’t catch fish, that’s why I’m out here.”

“You can’t catch fish?” The wooden boy said. “And you are a fisherman? This is a big problem.”

“Yes,” Enuki said.

“Luckily there is a simple solution.”

“Is there?”

“Of course, just do exactly as I say, and you will catch more fish than you ever imagined.

“Tell me,” Enuki said. He fell to his knees and gripped his pole in both hands. “Please spirit, I cannot return home until I can offer something to my people.”

“Fine,” the wooden boy said. “Then all you need to do is wait until the moon light is swimming in the sea and sing. Sing, that the fish may hear and gather round to hear it better. But don’t sing too loud, or too soft, or you risk that the fish do not hear, or become scared.”

“Can fish hear?” Enuki said. “I never thought to ask my father.”

“Fish can hear. If you will sing.”

“This is strange,” Enuki said. “But I have tried everything my father has taught.” So Enuki returned to his camp on the beach and baited his pole. When the moon was up and its light fragmented on the water’s surface, Enuki began to sing.

He didn’t know what he would sing at first, but after thinking on it while the sun set, Enuki finally settled on a tune that his mother had sung to him in the crib. Enuki dropped his line and sang for hours. He sang until the next morning and his throat stuck together when he swallowed and made him shudder. But no fish bit the bait.

“Did you sing?” The wooden boy said when Enuki returned to the spot by the jungle’s edge.

“I did,” Enuki said. “My voice is proof I sang. But there were no fish.”

“No fish yet,” it said. “First you must convince the fish that you mean no harm. You must speak to them, so they come to the conclusion that they must be caught, and there is no other reasonable course of action.”

“Convince fish to be caught?” Enuki said. “I cannot do that. I cannot sing to fish, and I cannot convince them.”

“Trust me,” the wooden boy said, “speak to the fish like you spoke to me. Wait until the moon dances on the water, then start your talk.”

Enuki returned to the beach. He waited for the moon to be right in the sky, and the light to be bright on the waves; he baited his hook and cast his line.

“Fish,” Enuki said. “It seems to me that the water is too cold tonight. It is much more pleasant here on the sand, where the heat of the day is still trapped in its grains.” And so like this the boy talked. He talked for hours. He talked until the sun rose in the sky and it was clear to him that the plan had not worked.

“I will starve,” Enuki said. He threw his pole and bait to the ground before the wooden boy before the jungle.

“You won’t,” the wooden boy said.

“Then tell me something that will help me catch fish,” he said.

“Alright,” it said. “You have sung to the fish, and talked with the fish, but now you must be with the fish. This will be easy, because you have told me already that your people are fish.”

“We are, but I cannot ‘be’ with the fish if you mean in the water.”

“Why not?”

“Because I am a boy and I will drown,” Enuki said.

“You will not,” the wooden boy said. “But you must enter the water and dance with the fish. Then they will be ready to be caught.”

“This is a joke,” Enuki said. “This is all a test from the other boys of my village. It is cruel, and does not help.”

“I am not cruel,” the wooden boy said, “and I am not of your village.”

“Than what are you?” Enuki said.

“I am, what I am. I am you. And I am telling you how to catch fish.”

“I will do this one last thing,” Enuki said.

“Fine,” the wooden boy said.

And that night, when the moon rose and lit the blanket, ocean, Enuki stripped off his clothes and wadded into the sea. Enuki did not move his limbs much when he first entered the black water, but as time went on, he grew more confidant in his strokes and soon he was swimming like he had in the warm shallows near home.

The sun rose. There were no fish.

Enuki returned once-again to the jungle’s edge, but found the spot where the wooden boy once stood empty. Enuki let out a deep breath and crossed his arms. “What did I expect to learn from a wooden boy?” He said. “I cannot catch fish. I can only imagine ways to better not catch fish. I can never go home.”

“You can always go home,” a man said.

Enuki saw the man a few feet in front of him. He word garments similar to Enuki’s and his speech was full of the salt sea. “Do you come from my village?” Enuki said.

“No,” the man said. “But I am a fisherman.”

Enuki smiled, but looked to his sandals. “I am not.”

“I see you have a fishing pole,” the man said.

“Yes, but it has never caught me a fish. I did all the things the wooden boy told me to do, but no fish.”

“You spoke with a wooden boy?” The man said.

“I did,” Enuki said. “He was where you are standing, and he told me three things to do in order to catch fish.”

“Did he?”

“Yes. First, he had me sing to them, to gather them near. Then he had me speak to them, to convince them to stay, and finally, to strip away the warmth of my clothes and swim among the fish.”

The man laughed. “I know this little wooden boy,” the man said. “He is very wise. I would not doubt him.”

“But I haven’t caught a single fish,” Enuki said.

“Have you tried?”

“Of course, I’ve tried every night for three nights like I said.”

“But have you tried to fish since then?” The man said.

“No,” Enuki said. “Because the tricks didn’t work.”

“I think you should try one more time,” the man said. “I’m just an old man, but I know these beaches well. Try again.”

“I will try again tonight,” Enuki said. “But after that, I am finished.”

“Fine,” the man said. And Enuki started away. “But take this.” The man produced a spool of brown waxy cord. “Use this for your line.”

“What is it?” Enuki said.

“It is for the fish,” the man said. “Use it.”

So Enuki took the spool and his pole by the water. As the sun set, he rigged them together and baited his line. The moon set in the sky and Enuki stood and balanced the instrument in his hands, that barely touched tips around it. “Now,” Enuki said, and he cast in the bait and it sunk into the dark water.

But it was only a moment, then the line jerked tight, and the pole lurched to escape Enuki’s hands. “Wait!” Enuki cried. He propped the pole between his knees and wrapped his elbows around it. The line pulled, then slackened, then pulled for a longer time, then slackened again. Enuki watch the wood bend, but the new fishing line the man gave him worked. The line held. And after Enuki realized this, he let himself focus on the fish.

They fought for minutes before Enuki could drag the massive beast on land. It was like the fish Enuki knew from his village, but at least twice the weight. Its scales were silver or gold in the moonlight. Enuki removed the bard from the fish’s mouth and rebated the line. He cast.

For hours Enuki fished. He fished and fished and fished until morning came again, and as the sun of the fourth day peaked, the beach where Enuki stood, gleamed with the scales of a thousand fish, and when the boy stopped at the day’s light and saw his work, he wept. He wept, then danced, then counted his catch. “This will feed the village for years!” Enuki said. “But how will I bring them all to town?”

Each fish was nearly the size of Enuki himself and although he attempted to heave the fish in one by one on his back, the slippery scales of the fish and the unusual shape, made them impossible to carry. Enuki felt a twist in his gut like Gausen berries and he gripped at it. As he did, he felt something in his pocket. He pulled out the spool that the old man had given him. Enuki’s line never broke, not for twelve hours, and he had all of it left.

So Enuki started to tie all the fish together through their gills. With each fish added, Enuki gave the line a pull. Each time, the line held. When the fourth moon was above Enuki, he had strung all the fish together in a mile long train. The boy put the fish to his back and line over his shoulder. At first nothing happened, but as the boy pulled, the fish came with him. Little by little, inch by inch, Enuki pulled his fish. When he was just outside his village, he had attached dozens of openmouthed onlookers, eager to make out what mythical serpent lurked in the moon light. They found Enuki.

Enuki entered his village to cheers and much noise making. All was very satisfying to Enuki. But when the villagers had lowered him from their shoulders and busied themselves with collecting the fish, Enuki’s father emerged from the crowd.

The man put his hand against Enuki’s cheek and held his eyes in his and nodded. “Your village is a fish, son, but you are the ocean.” And so Enuki and his village prospered for many years, and fish are still caught in this same fashion, in this village you’ve known all your life, in a place that never existed.






2 responses to “Like all sons of his village, Enuki was born to a fisherman.”

  1. George Robinson Avatar

    The Tao of Fishing. A beautiful allegory.

    1. admin Avatar

      Thank you George, I’m glad you enjoyed it!



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