There was nothing more warming than a good pot made with love. That was what kept Farah going. He loved growing his own vegetables, picking them with care when they ripened to perfection, enjoying their raw crunch and mashing them together in the cook pot each evening to share with his sons.
Now, they had guests and Farah would be the good host and serve the battered quartet a hearty feast to settle their stomachs. Food could cure the strongest ills and soothe the most feverish brow, because a healthy body helped a healthy mind.
Madison watched the big man chop and slice the multicoloured plants, tossing them into the stove with unusual tenderness. It was rare for an alien child to take such an interest in the natural produce of the islands, thought Farah, but perhaps not all aliens were as lost as he once thought.
Farah decided to tell the angelic little girl the story of the alien and the fisherman. “Your people often come to give advice to us here chile,” he said. “But they not so good at listening to their own. There was a fishing man I knew called Petri who lived a simple life. Each day he took his little boat out into the deep blue and brought back just enough to provide for his kin. He loved being on the water, often spending a full day floating even when he wasn’t drawing the line.”
Madison watched the big man with eager eyes, hanging on his words and fascinated by the dexterity of his hands dicing his dinner.
“The catch of the day was all he needed to feed his family, and buy what food they didn’t grow or pluck themselves. They only needed enough to be strong enough to go out on the boat the next day. A non-islander decided to help the fishing man, out of the generosity of his heart. He offered to give him money to buy a bigger boat, so he could catch even more fish.
“But why do I need a bigger boat, said Petri. The one I have provides all I need for me and my kin.
“Because with a bigger boat, you would catch more fish and then hire other fisher men to catch even more. The more fish you have to sell, the more money you will have and you can buy more boats and catch even more fish. Before long, with your fishing skills you would be rich and could live in a bigger house, and perhaps one day, not even need to go fishing each morning.
“But I love fishing each day, and my house is already comfortable enough for me and my kin, said Petri.
“The alien did not seem to understand this. But being rich enough to not have to work each day is what everyone aspires to in life, he said. It’s what I did, and look at me.
“But what will you do now you’re not working? said Petri.
“The alien laughed triumphantly. Why I’ll buy a boat and go fishing every day!”
Blake had heard the story before. Every country visited had its own variation on the simple moral fable. They had heard it so many times it entered into the realm of trite homily, another cliched Facebook meme. Yet, here on Crab Island the tale regained potent relevance. She stared into the fire and thought of Toby and the shallowness of their life together, believing that wealth existed in the realm of money and extravagance.
Was that Patek Philippe watch she had given him not a symbol of all that was meaningless in their lives? The cost of it could feed a family for a year, hell in Vanuatu maybe a lifetime. But were they ever happy? Their smug arrogance just a facade? A promotion of the ideal of happiness without any of the joy of being?
They would have had enough money to live anywhere in simple comfort, to raise Maddie well enough, yet Toby always wanted more. It was the weak braggard in him, in both of them. Building a resort in paradise he could lord over, for the soulless pride of being known as a lord? This mountain man was clearly happier than she ever felt and had already shown them more generosity than she could remember.
Farah’s generosity continued that night. He spooned the steaming vegetable stew into carved wooden bowls, and they sat on the ground outside his hut looking out over the island, spooning the grub into their mouths with their fingers.
For Blake and Madison it was the best meal they ever tasted. It was life. As the sun set, the trees become shadows beneath the glowing orb, the encroaching black night a hint of the furher darkness that was to come.