How to Catch a Fish

A man living in Northern Brazil sets his boat out to sail for the last time. Things happen.

A fisherman was unmooring his father’s jangada by the wharf. In the past, he and his father manned the boat together, but after his father’s death, the fisherman never found another man to take the other bench. These days he sailed alone.

On good days he went all the way out to a place with horizons on all sides and sat there. That was where he wanted to go today. He settled himself in and drifted out until he could no longer see the shore, and then drifted further. The fisherman did not like to fish. He thought his line disturbed the ocean, which he loved for the way it so sweetly kissed the sides of his boat, and he waited for hours before casting it. This was why the fisherman was poor. This was why he returned every night a little hungrier than before. This was why he lived off beans and lentils and rice. The fisherman squinted east and west of his boat, then stretched out on an extra piece of canvas that he had spread over the floor.

He slept under the sun first. Then as the hours wore on, he continued to sleep under the stars. He did this three times. When he awoke, the fisherman had slept for three days and he was hungrier than he’d felt his entire life. He heated a pot of instant coffee on a stove he had made out of a couple of empty aluminum cans and burning balsa, and drank it black. At last he gave in and cast his line. He continued to wait, sipping from his coffee cup, feeling guilty.

The End

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