The Nut and the Fisherman
by William Michaelian

The young tree was magnificent. It had started from a nut. The nut had fallen, like its sisters and brothers, beneath its wise, ancient mother. But then something miraculous happened. A bird saw the nut, found it more appealing than the others, and carried it off in its beak. Quite by accident, the bird dropped the nut while it was flying over a lake. And, quite by accident, the nut landed not in the water, but in a small boat in which there sat a lone fisherman.

When the nut landed in the bottom of the boat, the fisherman looked at the nut and then up at the sky. He saw the bird flying away. The fisherman looked at the nut again, then forgot all about it. He also forgot about the bird. He had seen many nuts and many birds in his lifetime, and wasn't about to worry himself over them now.

The nut enjoyed the ride. It was a new experience for him, as anything would have been, but this he knew was extraordinary. The fisherman was an amazing being with strong arms and hands. He wore a grim expression on his sunburned face as he fiddled with his bait and tackle. There were no fish in the boat, but the nut wouldn't have known what a fish was anyway, or what the fisherman was failing to accomplish with his small assemblage of gear. When after a long interval of silence the fisherman finally exclaimed, "Bah! What's the use?" and threw his gear overboard, the nut sensed the fisherman's despair.

The fisherman grabbed his oars and rowed the boat ashore. Feeling angry and sorry for himself, he picked up the nut and walked home, where he found his wife waiting for him to bring some fish to cook for their supper. He gave her the nut and said bitterly, "This is the sum total of my efforts. Everything else I threw into the lake."

The nut felt himself leave the rough hand of the fisherman and enter the rough but gentle hand of the fisherman's wife. As the warmth of her hand penetrated his shell, the nut gradually became aware of a change taking place deep inside him. The woman said, "Well, no matter. We still have a handful of flour and three potatoes. We won't starve." As she spoke, she caressed the nut in her toil-worn hand. "What is this you have brought me?" she asked in a kind, rhetorical voice. "It's beautiful."

She opened her hand and together husband and wife looked at the nut.

"I don't know," the fisherman said. "It looks like some kind of nut."

His wife smiled. "It is much more than a nut," she said.

"Here. Look carefully."

The fisherman studied the nut. "More than a nut?" he said. "I don't know what you mean." He took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly on the nut. Again, the nut felt something stir within him.

"It is a sign of good luck," the fisherman's wife said. "Take it outside and plant it."

The fisherman laughed. "You're as crazy as I am," he said. "What good will planting a nut do? Even if it sprouts, it will take years to turn into a real tree. We'll both be dead of hunger long before then."

His wife didn't answer. Instead, she closed her hand around the nut and with a great sense of resolve carried it outside. Her husband followed. He watched as his wife planted the nut, and then moistened the earth around it.

After that, they went back inside and the fisherman's wife prepared their very last morsels of food. The next morning, they had nothing to eat. The fisherman sat dumbly, staring at the fire. Seeing this, his wife said, "Why are you sitting here? Aren't you going fishing today?" When the fisherman reminded her that he had thrown his gear into the lake, she said, "I still think you should go fishing. Remember the nut? Today you will have good luck."

To make his wife happy, and because he didn't know what else to do, the fisherman put on his shoes and walked to the lake. Along the way, he stopped at the place where the nut had been planted. "Before long I will join you," he said to the ground. Then he continued on.

He came to the boat. Much to his surprise, it was full of fish. While he was trying to understand this miracle, a shiny fish jumped out of the water and landed in the boat. This was followed by another, and then another.

The fisherman called to his wife. She came running. It took them several hours to carry all the fish home. From that day on, they were never hungry. The fisherman rowed his boat out onto the lake and fish jumped into the boat. Some days there were only a few, and some days there were none. But they never ran out of fish.

One day the following spring, when they were visiting the place where the nut was planted, they saw something green poking up out of the ground. Together, the three rejoiced.

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