Who Owns It

Adam Fisher

About Adam Fisher

I am a retired rabbi. I served as a Navy chaplain, and congregational rabbi for 35 years and continue to lead a study group that has been meeting for 32 years. I have been writing poetry, short stories and scholarly articles for 50 years. I also have designed and built furniture and more recently, have become a potter. Most of my pottery is donated to the poor. I have also been politically active.

About Who Owns It

This very brief short story deals with the question of what are our obligations to the natural world. Do we own it or is it ultimately God’s. Shmitta asserts that the world ultimately belongs to God.

Adam D. Fisher                                                                                                            Fiction  530 words

1006 Constance Ln

Port Jefferson Station , NY 11776

If anyone had a camera they surely would have taken a picture of the boy holding out his line with the perch flopping and wiggling, the tree lined lake Ronkonkoma behind him, the bright sunlight on his blond crew cut. He was 11, wore a Mets tee shirt and tan shorts, freckles dotted his nose and cheeks. The boy stood ankle deep in the water with a big smile for the man who had just pulled his canoe up on the narrow beach. “Hey mister, look what I just caught!” The boy stood tall, his chest out holding the fish on the line the way deep sea fishermen who catch giant tunas stand next to their catch. “Good for you,” said the slightly built man with thinning gray hair as he took off his life jacket. The boy stepped up onto the beach, frowned, raised his eyes expectantly, opened his mouth hesitated and then said, “I wonder though…I don’t know,” he looked hopeful and asked, “He’s big enough to keep,” he paused uncertainly, “isn’t he?” holding the fish higher as if that would make it look bigger. The man, holding a tangle of rope from the canoe, shook his head from side to side, “I don’t think there’s much to eat there—if you don’t eat him, throw him back.”

The boy looked sorrowfully at the fish. The fish wiggled. The man fiddled trying to untangle the rope so he could to tie his canoe to a tree. Another boy came by, “Hi Pete!” called the blond boy who brightening at a new prospect, “Look what I caught!” “He’s a nice one. Gonna’ eat him?”  “Yeh, sure but I, I don’t know if he’s big enough,” he glanced at the man.  Pete who wore his Yankee cap backwards walked closer and looked at the fish. “Sure looks big enough to me. Doesn’t matter. You caught him. He’s yours. You can do what you want with him.” Two crows took off cawing loudly.

The man who had untangled the line and was tying his canoe to a tree, wondered how he could get the blond boy to throw the fish back. He thought it wasn’t his place to say anything more and, besides, suppose the boy’s father was like Pete who was so cavalier about killing—suppose he  got really nasty. He bent down to get the paddle, thinking he wanted to say, “It’s God’s creature like you and me. If you need to eat him you can kill him. Otherwise, you’ve got to throw him back,” but he was afraid of sounding preachy and self-righteous. He stood there for a moment holding the paddle looking out at the lake, then turned to the boy, “Nice going, but I really think he’s a bit small. If you throw him back, he can grow up to be big and then you’ll really have yourself a fish! The real fishermen I know, don’t keep anything they can’t eat.” The blond boy sagged in disappointment, then looked back and forth between his friend and the man, not knowing what to do. In the mean time, the fish stopped moving.