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A Dark and Stormy Night

by Tim O'Hearn

With apologies to Bulwer-Lytton and to Snoopy.

It was a dark and stormy night. Perhaps the fishing boat shouldn't have been out on the lake. When they had started out before sunset everything had seemed promising for a quick trip. They hadn't even expected it to be a three hour tour. But things had gone wrong from the beginning. The wind had come up against them. Now it was midnight and they were maybe half way across.

Simon, the boat's owner, was livid. His orders and complaints could be clearly heard by other captains at even a great distance. Of course they had heard it all before. They were just a little surprised that Simon was back on the lake. Hadn't he gone off and left the family business to join a yeshiva run by some no-name rabbi? Now here he was, back on the water and as loud and obstreperous as ever.

Simon's companions in the boat were less angry, perhaps, at their slow progress. They were also less vocal. His brother, Andy, had long ago adopted a policy of silence. After all, he needn't say anything; Simon said it all for him. Their partners, Jake and John, were known for their outbursts, but even they sat silent in the face of Simon's outbursts.

As midnight approached even Simon got suddenly quiet. Something was approaching the boat. They were struggling to make any headway, and yet something, or someone, was coming steadily, inexorably closer. Soon it was close enough that it looked like a man standing in a boat. No sails, no oars. After a few minutes they even saw that he was approaching with no boat. He was walking toward them!

These were fishermen, raised on the water. They had no doubt spent hours some nights trying to relieve the boredom with ghost stories. Now here was a real ghost coming for them! They bent their backs to the oars to help the sails, but the ghost came ever closer. Now, Simon may have been as superstitious as the rest; he may have been as afraid as the rest; but he was also more curious than the rest. Instead of helping speed the craft along he was in the stern, peering at the visitor on the water. As it began to pass the boat it was close enough that Simon could make out a face. Not just any face. This was the face of his rabbi, Joshua. (Some called him Josh behind his back, perhaps, but Simon always used his given name.)

Simon's companions said, "It is his ghost. He went into the wild to pray. Maybe he met up with a bear or a lion and was killed."

But Simon said, "No. It is him. It is really him." Then turning to his teacher he shouted, "Master, if that is really you, ask me to come to you on the water."

Andy was surprised to hear Joshua reply, "Come on, then." Jake and John tried to hold Simon back, still thinking this was some ghost's trick to kill Simon, too. But Simon climbed over the gunwales and actually walked toward the teacher. If John and Jake had been afraid of their cousin's "ghost" they were now terrified at what Simon was doing.

Simon was almost to his rabbi when his fisherman's instincts overrode his trust. Maybe he felt some sea spray blown in his face. Perhaps it was just the smell of the wind. Whatever it was, he looked up and saw big, black clouds scudding across the sky, and his weather sense said there was a nasty storm coming. Then he felt the waster up to his knees and he knew he was sinking.

His sudden cry for help was answered as Joshua reached down and took his hand. Simon didn't remember getting back to the boat. Suddenly he was just there, with his rabbi saying "Oh, what small faith you have!" He had walked on water, and yet he was being chided for not having much faith. He wanted to ask, "then what could I do with a lot of faith?" But he knew it wasn't the right time to ask that. It was time to get the boat to the Gennesaret coast, even though the wind had suddenly died down.

He didn't get to ask his question then. But maybe Joshua had heard it in his mind, because some time later he told his students, "If you have a little faith, even a mustard seed's worth, you can tell a mountain to move out of your way and it will. Imagine what you could do with a lot of faith. You might even move the world."

This account may have been slightly embellished. The original telling of the story can be found in Matthew 14:22-34 and Mark 6:45-54.