Strolling along the riverside one summer’s day, I happened upon a fisherman looking mighty pleased with himself.
“I’m fixed up now, I am,” he announced.
“Oh? How’s that?” I said.
“Well, I’ve got one of them ‘lures’, haven’t I?”
“You’ve lost me, mate”
“Not a fisherman, I see. No matter. Here, look at this.”
He showed me this lure of his. A shiny, wobbly sort of a thing that, as its name suggests, ‘lures’ fish into biting.
“Very fancy,” I said. “Good luck catching those fish.” And, bidding him goodbye, I went on my way.
A few days later I passed the same spot again. The fisherman was there, too. Only this time he was was not nearly as cheerful as before. In fact, he was shouting abuse in the direction of the river.
“You no good lazy fish! Coming over here, taking all my bait!” he yelled, as he removed a fish from his line and tossed it into a bucket.
“Calm down, man,” I said. “What’s up with you? Is that lure of yours not working or something?”
“Lure? Lure? I’ve got bigger fish to fry than lures! Who’s got time to be thinking of lures in this hour of crisis?”
I decided to overlook the pun as the fisherman was clearly in some distress.
“This sounds very serious,” I said. “But what exactly is the problem?”
“It’s these hordes of freeloading fish. Look at them all! Go back to where you came from! We’re full! There’s no more room!” And he threw another fish into his bucket, then cast his line once more.
“No more room?” said I. “That lure of yours must be working like a charm.”
“I told you a minute ago! Don’t keep going on about lures. I’ve bigger..”
“Bigger fish to fry, yes, yes,” I swiftly cut him short.
He pointed at the bucket. Now, though I am no fisherman it looked to me (and I’m sure studies would confirm this) as though there was actually plenty of room in the bucket: roughly nine-tenths of it was empty.
“See? Full to bursting,” and he dropped yet another fish in, and cast his line again. There seemed to be little chance of my convincing him when his own eyes could not, so I thought it best to let it lie.
“What are you going to do? Any plans?” I asked.
“Oh, I’ll think of something. Something that’ll keep those lazy fish from taking my bait.”
“But this is a huge problem,” he continued. “Whatever solution I come up with, it’ll have to be expensive and time-consuming.”
“Couldn’t you just stop using the lure?” I ventured. “Surely that would be enough.”
“You just don’t understand fishing at all!” he snapped, and threw another fish in his bucket.
“I guess not,” I said, and walked away.
About a month or so later I happened upon the fisherman again.
“Any luck with the fish?” I enquired.
“Errr… Well… All things considered, this is the best possible solution”. He took the line out of the water. “Have a look.”
On the end of the line was the lure, a baited hook (with a fish hanging off it), and something else. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Surrounding the lure was a fence covered in miniature barbed wire! Looking closer, I could see a tiny sign, with writing on it far, far too small to be read by human eyes. “It says ‘Fish not welcome!'” said the fisherman, and he threw the fish in his bucket, swearing at it under his breath.
“Wow! This can’t have come cheap,” I said.
“Of course not! Took a long time, too. Yes, I had to give up a lot to accomplish this.”
“And does it work?”
“No, not really,” he shrugged, and once more he cast his line with its lure and its tiny barbed wire fence into the river.
“But… Couldn’t you just stop using the lure?” I asked again.
“Oh dear,” he sighed and shook his head. “You just don’t understand fishing at all, do you?”
I left him to it. And as I walked away, I wondered if I would ever understand fishing.
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