My father always gave his share of the catch to me to guard while he went to help another group. At first, I sat there, patiently and proudly guarding the growing pile of fish. But then a group of my friends came by, laughing and playing. They called to me and I left my post to play with them for a few minutes, but always with frequent glances at my pile of fish and with one eye on the figure of my father. If anyone came too near my fish or if my father turned in my direction, I hurried back to my post. But the morning was long and hot and I was only five years old. I became tired, hungry and thirsty. Food sellers went to and fro among the fishermen, with trays of tempting cakes, fruits and sweets upon their heads. I looked longingly at the food, but I had no money to buy things with.
Then, one day, I made a discovery which was to lead me into such a tangled web of deception that I was in the end unable to extract myself from it. I discovered that the food sellers would accept fish in payment for their wares. I began by exchanging the smallest fish in my charge for an orange, or piece of sugarcane. Then with a larger fish, I bought cakes and sweets and shared them with my friends. At last, the day came, when in a reckless burst of goodwill or bid for popularity, I exchanged my whole pile of fish for food and distributed it among all the children who came crowding round me.
During the next half hour, while I waited for my father. I was in agony. At last, I saw him coming.
“Where are my fish?” He asked at once.
“I sent them to grandmother.”
My father was content with this answer
He took my hand and we walked to my grandmother’s compound. Here he spoke for a few minutes with his mother and then asked her, “Where are my fish” my grandmother assumed that he was speaking about that part of the catch that was always put aside for him as a son of the house. She fetched a tray of fish and gave them to me to carry. My father assumed that the fish which I had bartered away were among those which his mother gave me. He was quite satisfied. He took my hand again and led me home. I could hardly believe my good fortune. I breathed easily again and I began to think I was rather clever.
The next Saturday, I did the same thing. I bartered away all my father’s fish. I told him that I had given them to my grandmother to be put with those which she had for us and I was not found out, I did it again the following Saturday and again and again. But my luck was too good to last….
This is a story by Francis Serlomey (The Narrow Path)