Kimo stood at the sea’s edge and watched the waves gently toss the little boats moored in the cove. He turned to his yellow dog, Paka, and scoffed, “The sea is not such a scary thing.”
With curious brown eyes, Paka looked at his master.
Kimo continued, his voice full of scorn, “Because I am only nine, my parents and brothers say that I am too young to go out in a boat by myself and catch a fish. They say that the sea will swallow me. Well, they are wrong!”
Paka whimpered sympathetically.
“I’m almost a man, Paka, but they treat me as though I were a baby.”
Kimo dug his toes into the warm ground and watched a sand crab scuttle to its hole. “If I could just go out in the boat all by myself and catch a fish, the biggest fish my family has ever seen, then they would treat me like a grown-up!”
He imagined the faces of his parents and five older brothers when he showed them the gigantic fish he would catch. At first they would be surprised; then they would be proud of him. They would visit all the neighbors and say, “Come see the large fish Kimo caught by himself. No one in our town has seen such a large fish!”
He smiled at the pleasant picture in his mind. “I’ll show them,” he told Paka.
That night, Kimo waited until the others had gone to sleep. Quietly he crept outside. The moon overhead was full, casting a creamy light everywhere. “Paka,” he called softly.
Sleepily the dog padded toward him.
In moments, boy and dog were at the seashore. Kimo went to the small grove of trees where he had hidden the things he would need: a rope, a knife, his father’s best pole, and bait. As he handled each item, his stomach knotted into a small, tight fist. For a moment he paused. Maybe his father was right. Maybe the sea was no place for an inexperienced nine-year-old boy. Kimo looked at the cove. The boats bobbed lightly on the water’s surface.
He lifted his chin. He’d been thinking like a baby. He picked up his provisions and whistled to Paka. Together they ran across the beach and waded into the shallow water to the family boat. It was small, like other family boats, but it suddenly seemed very large to Kimo when he placed his gear inside.
Untying the rope that held the boat to the mooring pole, he reached for Paka, who was shivering patiently, then crawled into the boat. “Good boy, Paka,” soothed the boy as he placed the dog on the boat’s bottom. “Everything is going to be just fine.” He began to row away from the shore.
Before long the shoreline was just a distant white sliver gleaming in the moonlight. Out on the water, Kimo felt powerful. He pulled the oars inside the boat and reached for the long fishing pole. He baited the hook just as his father had taught him to, then cast the line far out into the silvery water.
The gentle waves had nearly lulled him to sleep, when Paka began to pace back and forth. Suddenly Kimo heard a drumroll of thunder and saw lightning shatter the sky. He couldn’t believe it—it was going to storm! “Oh, Paka,” he cried, “we can’t go yet. I must return with a fish!” He squinted, impatiently looking for the slightest tug on his line. He saw none.
Thunder rumbled again, closer this time. Kimo grew uneasy. He knew that he should begin rowing toward the shore before the storm got closer. But I can’t leave yet, he thought. Not without a fish.
Suddenly the boat was tossed and lifted higher and higher. As he struggled to maintain his balance, big wet drops pelted his head. Paka whined loudly. Another giant wave crashed over the boat, and his father’s fishing pole was ripped from his hands. He grabbed at it, but it was too late. The wave had snatched the pole, held it triumphantly out of reach, then swallowed it.
Kimo struggled inch by inch to row the small boat back to the cove. It seemed like hours before he finally made it. After securely tying the boat’s rope to the mooring pole, he trudged home, wondering what he would tell his father.
Then he heaved a sigh of relief. Of course! No one would think to ask him where the pole was. If he didn’t say anything, no one would ever know what he’d done. He ran the rest of the way home and quietly went to bed.
The morning sun finally awakened him. He could smell breakfast and hear the chatter of his family in the kitchen. A sick lump formed in his stomach. He knew that if the feeling was ever to go away, he would have to tell them everything. He rolled out of bed and, with his heart hammering, walked into the kitchen.
“Sleepyhead!” one of his brothers teased.
“Good morning, Kimo,” his father greeted him.
Kimo barely mumbled a reply.
“Hey, what’s wrong with baby brother?” another brother asked.
Kimo stared miserably at the ground. He gulped hard. “I must tell you something,” he finally said.
Seeing Kimo’s worried expression, his father nodded.
“Last night, I—” It was hard for him to tell them while they were staring at him.
“Yes,” his father gently prodded.
Kimo’s words finally broke loose. “I was tired of being the family baby. I wanted you to treat me like a man. So I decided to prove myself by going out in the boat alone and catching a big fish.”
Kimo saw his father’s face grow very grave, but he continued. “Paka and I took the boat while you were asleep. I rowed far from the cove. Then it started storming, and I lost the pole. I … I was very frightened.”
There was a long silence. Finally Kimo’s father spoke. “It is a wise thing to be frightened of a stormy sea. I would have been frightened myself.”
Kimo looked up wonderingly at his father.
“What you did last night, Kimo, was a very dangerous and childish thing.” Kimo bowed his head in shame. “However, it takes a man to accept the responsibility for his mistakes. I thank you for telling us. I am happy that I have an honest son. Now go and do your chores, and later we will decide together how you shall make amends.”
Kimo left the kitchen and went outside. Paka ran up to greet him. “I did it,” Kimo told the little dog. “Not in the way I expected to, but at least in one way I have become a man in the eyes of my father.”
And he did all his chores that day with a glad heart.