The old fisherman watched out his window as the young girl cast from the pier. His home was twenty steps from the pier by the sea. Every day for as long as he could remember he walked those twenty steps and he cast his line. Every day he caught fish. He had taught more young people to fish than he could remember. But for two seasons now he had not taught anyone to fish. He had not caught fish himself for one season. And now on this foggy morning he was watching a young girl catch fish from the sea that had forsaken him.
He walked the twenty steps again.
“How is the fishing this morning, child?”
“Not good. The fish are so small.”
He eyed the eight small fish in the girl’s pail. “Eight small fish are better than no large fish.”
The old man cast his line.
The girl looked up at the old man. “Will you teach me to fish?”
“Young child. It has been many mornings since I’ve taught anyone to fish. I am not sure the sea has any fish left for me. Why would you have me teach you?”
The girl said nothing. She pulled in her line. Removed the fish. Put it in her pail. Cast her line.
“Perhaps I will teach you. Tomorrow.”
He pulled in his line and walked back to his home. The girl pulled in her line and left with her fish.
Many days passed. The girl continued to catch fish while the old man did not. The sea favored her and mocked the old man. He stopped taking those twenty steps altogether one day. Why bother?
The next day, the girl finished her fishing and walked up the path to the old fisherman’s home. “I want to catch bigger fish. Will you teach me?”
He stood and walked to his porch. Looking up and down the shore, he could see other children fishing. Other old men were in their old homes not fishing.
“Very well, child. I shall do my best.”
Again, many mornings passed. This time, though, the old man took the twenty steps every morning to meet the girl. He showed her how to properly tie her line to the caster. He watched her cast and showed her the places to cast. The old places where he used to catch fish. She continued to catch fish as before. Only now she began to learn how many small fish were better than no large fish. She was excited.
Something inside the old fisherman was beginning to stir.
One morning the old man rose early and walked the twenty steps. He cast his line and waited.
A gentle voice behind him. “How much longer do you wish to catch no fish?”
He turned and saw the girl holding a large fish. “Where did you catch that?”
“Follow me,” she said.
He followed her. Twenty steps to the next pier. She cast. He cast in the same place. His line was not in the water five minutes when…
He pulled in his line and with it a large fish. He was stunned. “The sea, it…”
“The sea loves you. It has always loved you. It will always love you.”
The fisherman took his fish home and cooked it for lunch. The girl shared it with him. They talked all afternoon.
The next day, the old man walked the twenty steps but instead of casting his line he just sat on the pier and breathed with the sea. He breathed and he sang and he listened. He smelled and he felt and he heard the sea as he had not in many mornings.
The girl had taught him to love the sea again.
He looked to his left and saw the girl with another child, teaching her to fish. And there was another old fisherman with the two children. And he was catching fish.
For many mornings after that, the fisherman walked the twenty steps to the sea. He caught fish and he taught others to catch fish. And many mornings the girl would return with a friend from the village. Together they would teach fishing.
The two never stopped learning about fishing. And they never stopped teaching others to fish.
The student had become the teacher. And the teacher had fallen back in love with the sea.
The fishergirl looked lovingly at the fisherman. “How many is that?”
The fisherman grinned. “That’s 9.”
“How many more until it’s a habit?”