13. Fishy Freedom

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Once upon a tide there lived a poor ferryman who was good and kind to everyone. When he was young, his mother had said to him, "Be good and kind to everyone, my son, and God shall reward you." The poor ferryman had vowed to do as she said, and patiently waited for God's reward. But now, twelve years later, his brothers, who were complete assholes, had made lots of money and were living happy ever after, while he, for some reason, was still as miserably poor as twelve years ago.

Maybe God had sent the reward to the wrong address?

While the poor ferryman was pondering these important questions, God was watching the ferryman's two brothers, and God saw that it wasn't good. Oh no, it wasn't good at all.

The two had once been poor, God-fearing ferrymen just like their brother. But then, some little devil had explained the word "success" to them, and they'd started a profitable import-export business that soon made more money in a week than the poor ferryman did in a year. They had grown proud and were spending their wealth on frivolous worldly matters like comfortable homes, presents for their wives and children, and family holidays, instead of giving thanks to God, which God did not like at all.

"If they would only grovel and pray for forgiveness now and again, or praise my name," he grumbled into his beard. "But oh no! They actually think they've achieved everything they've done on their own. You would think I had expressed myself clearly enough! I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God—that's what I said! I told them, clear as day! But do they listen? Do they stay poor? No, of course not. Ha! I'll show them!"

But how?

Should he smite them?

No. Smiting had gone out of fashion after Sodom and Gomorrah. Besides, if he smote them, they wouldn't be around to appreciate his greatness anymore.

"What to do," he murmured, marching up and down on a cumulus cloud. "What to do, what to do...? Ah, I've got it!"

Shoving aside a few clouds, he cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed, "Hey you, down there!"

The ferryman was just sitting outside his cottage thinking about how poor and good and kind he was, and about how long it would still take for his divine reward to arrive—when he heard the voice of God calling to him from above.

And God said, "Hey you, down there!"

"Oh Lord!" Overcome with joy, the ferryman bowed before the Lord. "You bless me with your presence! I am unworthy! I thank you for your gracious gift of—"

And the Lord said, "Yes, yes, we all know I'm fantastic. Now get up off the floor, will you? My neck hurts from staring at you down there."

And the fisherman heard the command of the Lord, and rose and said, "Yes, oh Lord. Your wish is my command."

And the Lord said, "Harken unto my words! Because thou art kind and good and poor, and I really want to teach a lesson to those arrogant idiot brothers of yours who had the audacity to get rich without praying to me, I shall bless thee with a divine gift."

"Oh thank you, oh Lord! Thank you! I prostrate myself before thy glorious self and—"

"Will you shut up already? I'm trying to issue divine commandments here!"

And the ferryman almost peed in his pants and said, "I'm sorry, oh Lord! So sorry. Forgive your unworthy servant, I beg of you."

"Just shut up and take your gift."

And a divine wind rose up and thrust something into the ferryman's hands. He glanced down and saw that it was a most wondrous fishing-tackle: a diamond hook, a silver line, and a golden rod.

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