by Bill Weiss
And as the boy grew to be a man, so did his dream, a dream not dreamed for himself but for his people. He would build a vessel upon which he would sail to bring to his people things needed to live, not lives of great spender but in modest comfort. And so he began to build.
His people watched the young shipwright, and as time passed they joined in his effort.
“What will you do with your vessel?” the village carpenter asked.
“I will bring my people the things we need to live,” the young man replied.
And the carpenter smiled nodded approval and returned to their labor.
Each day as the young man sweated over his vessel, the people who came to help became more numerous and each day asked what he intended for such a sturdy craft. The young man’s reply never changed: “I will bring you the things you need to live.” And each time the people would smile and nod.
Bye and bye the craft was completed. It was a mighty craft, a vessel that appeared capable of weathering any storm, but when it came time to launch the craft he told the people the vessel was not his alone; it was theirs, too, for they had built it together. So he asked each in their own turn to place a hand against the vessels hull and say a prayer, or make a wish or thing a though, each unto their own way. And so the vessel was launched.
Across the far shore of the sea, the young captain made the rounds of all the markets and brought all the things his people would need to the pier for loading. Among the stores stood not a single item that sparkled or glittered or would invite the interest of pirates.
When his manifest was completed, the captain gave the order to load, but a hand from amongst a crowd of tall hats was raided to countermand his order.
“By what right do you interrupt this business,” the young captain inquired.
“Curiosity,” my young friend, “nothing more,” the man replied. “I simply wish to know your intent with this great cargo? Seems a waste of such a fine vessel to carry such as this.”
The young captain’s hand arched with pride toward his cargo and replied, “These meager good may not be fine, but they are those things which my people need to live.”
“Why can’t your people do for themselves?” asked his inquisitor?
“My people are a proud people,” the captain replied. “And although we exist well enough scratching our existence from the earth, these things I bring will sustain those labors and help us grow to be a greater people.”
“I will strike you a bargain, my good captain,” said the questioner who moved closer to whisper. “Carry instead my gold to your land, so that my great wealth might aid your people in their quest for greatness, for I will surely see to it that my wealth becomes theirs. Do this for me and I shall tithe you your due.”
“My people have little use for gold,” replied the young captain. “Mine are a proud people who will build themselves up with this seed of good I bring.” The young man reached to shake hands in parting with the other, but his questioner turned and walked toward his company.
“You shall regret your decision,” said the questioner boldly amidst his fellows. “For without my generosity your journey bodes ill.”
“That is a chance I am willing to take,” the captain replied. “For I have made this long journey for the good of my people, and for the good of my people I shall chance the voyage home.”
He was but moments into his return when the water first appeared near the bow of the vessel. And after bailing a while he noticed a small hole which he patched with tar and hemp. As evening came, a second hole appeared at the bow and another at the stern, and the vessel began to fill. As the days passed the young captain worked feverishly, bailing and protecting his cargo, but the more he bailed the deeper the water became as more and more holes appeared in the hull.
As he neared his homeland and heard the voices of his people shouting his triumph from the shore, his vessel was nearly swamped with sea water. It was then that he saw the bits of augers chewing ever more holes into his hull.
“You should have listened,” called a voice from the water near the stern. “You should have accepted the bargain, for now you are surely lost.” The voice belonged to a man joined by many others who had clung to the underside of his ship all that way.
“But my people!” the young captain cried. “What of my people and their hopes for a better future for their children.”
“Their future lies with us, not with you or even with them,” the voice replied as the drillsmen swam away. “It lies with us, and your people will see that when they witness the shame of your great failure.”
With that, all the drillsmen were gone, and as the vessel gave way to the swallowing sea, the shouts of his people gave way to murmurs and the pointing of fingers.
“What of your promise of those things we need to live?” the carpenter called.
“What of all the work we endured for your great endeavor?” cried another?
But try as he might to explain his misfortune, the more turned away until no one remained but he on the shore. For they had not seen the inquisitor or the drillsmen or even the simple treasure that he had worked a lifetime to deliver. They saw only a promise broken. They saw only their disappointment.
2011 – © Bill Weiss