“There once was a small village, poor in material wealth, but rich in spirit.” Master Cho began as we sat beside a small lake on the outskirts of our Holder’s property.
I had finished the demands of my day, and was rewarded by my Master with a relaxing hike, and now what promised to be a spiritual lesson. Sure, I was required to carry both of our hiking gear, but it was a small price to pay to hear these words of wisdom from him.
“Each day, the villagers would go about their assigned duties, much as you do now.” he smiled towards me with affection. “The village fisherman would rise before dawn, checking his gear, then pushing off into this very lake before us.” he continued, gesturing towards the body of water filling our view.
My eyes, wide with wonder, followed his hand, trying to visualize the history of this lake, the secrets it could tell.
“Some days the water was calm, and the fish were plentiful.” Master Cho said, and I nodded enthusiastically, wanting the tale to continue. “Other days, the winds were strong, coming in from over the mountains.” He adjusted his outstretched arm to point towards the majestic in the distance, on the far side of the now tranquil lake. “And the fish were few.”
“He worked tirelessly, a crew of one, knowing that the survival of his kinsfolk depended largely upon his efforts. Selflessly, each and every day, we would fish to the best of his ability, well beyond dusk, until he could no longer see the waters. Only then would he return with his boon.”
I nodded in understanding, acknowledging the generous spirit of the fisherman, his commitment to duty, his acceptance of his role within his society.
“Each night he would distribute his catch to the rest of his village, his community thankful, offering praise to their false gods, whether they had much, or whether they had little.” Master Cho said, though I thought I heard a hint of disgust in his voice as he mentioned the false gods of the villagers.
I nodded, again letting his wisdom wash over me. There was no sense of self amongst the villagers, only a greater sense of community, and of survival. It was a trait to be admired, something I would have to strive towards.
“His methods were flawed.” Master Cho said flatly, looking towards me, pausing in his tale, and I sensed I was supposed to offer my own insights before he would continue.
I hesitated, thinking on what he had said thus far, on what the moral of this story could be. Slowly, I began to understand, and that realization filled me with immense pride. My wisdom was growing.
Eagerly, I spat out my reply.
“He should have taught them how to fish. That way, he would have had help, and the village would have become self sufficient. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for life.”
I didn’t even see the backhand Master Cho dealt me. I only felt its biting sting, as his voice bellowed, his anger echoing throughout the valley and off the distant mountains.
“No, dog, no! Are you deaf? Have you heard nothing of the words I have said to you? Is my breath wasted yet again?” he screamed at me, his face turning red with rage.
I prostrated myself before him, submitting to his stronger will, begging for mercy with my action, pleading with him to forgive my ignorance, to share his wisdom with me.
He sat back, the colour in his visage returning to normal, a slow smile spreading across his face. I had appeased my Master. It was a good thing.
“The village should’ve been enslaved, the fish sold back to its people for a premium. Profit, dog, profit. That is the way of the universe. Generosity only results in dependency. Only a fool gives what others will come to expect, and take for free.”
I pondered his words, trying to accept them as truth, but something within me refused to agree. I kept that to myself, nodding to my Master for fear of suffering his further wrath.
“I understand, Master.” I said with as much sincerity as I could muster.
With great trepidation, I asked, “Master, what became of this village?”
His smile grew, though this time with obvious malice and disdain.
“I was sent by our Holder to convert this village. Sadly, the Brutor that were settled here refused to acknowledge the truth. The village was destroyed, as is demanded by God. Suffer not the heathens. Its people were enslaved, at least, those that survived. Our Holder found it in his generous heart to leave this piece of land untouched, as a reminder of his mercy and wisdom, in order that it’s lessons might be shared with dogs like you.”
He turned to me, smiling, his face with sincere generosity. It sickened me.
I’m so glad I killed that son of a bitch.
This reminds me of a similar short story, The God and His Man, by Gene Wolfe