An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony
HOG’S Breath Café. A petite, charming bar and grill on a lazy Friday afternoon. The customers almost blending into its furnishings, pleasant music and a welcoming air.
An hour ago, Nathan Kali had just completed his Year 12 exams and had been invited by his uncle, De Salvo Posuweh, a lawyer, to the café for a few cold ones; thus signifying his manhood and freedom.
Both men sat on the café balcony, their eyes intrigued by the passing parade of shoppers moving to and fro.
“Empty?” A young waitress asked, nodding at the six empty blue ice cans on the table in front of them.
“Yes,” De Salvo replied in a Manusian drawl, retrieving a K50 note from his pocket and placing it alongside the empty cans. “Four glasses of whiskey dry, please.”
The afternoon was perfect and without a cloud. The waitress returned with their order and then attended to an adjacent table.
Nathan’s stare shifted from the shoppers to the waitress, noticing every detail of her, even the way she was wiping the table clean, slowly, with deliberation, exuding an air of confidence nothing to do with waitressing.
Nathan’s glanced at his cell phone, as it played a thin mechanical version of Beethoven’s fifth.
“That must be your dad,” said De Salvo.
“Hello,” Nathan answered. He frowned, his eyes fixed on his uncle. “Okay, I’m with Uncle De Salvo at Hog’s Breath. Yeah, okay, straight after we’re done here. Okay, bye.”
Nathan slid his cell phone into his trouser pocket and told his uncle it was his mum checking on him and reminding him to be home before his dad arrived from work.
“You know the kind of person dad is,” Nathan said. “He doesn’t understand I’m not a child anymore.” His father’s strict discipline was a memento of an old wound.
His uncle acknowledged it was every parent’s way to want the best for their children. “You should take it as reverse motion empathy,” he said.
“What’s reverse motion empathy?”
“Indirect encouragement,” De Salvo answered. “His words may sting and hurt, but actually he’s trying to encourage you. Train your mind to see the good in his advice. Be at peace with him and yourself.”
One thing in these words of wisdom, Nathan thought, was that they demanded a low threshold for bullshit.
“I’ll tell you a tale of peace,” uncle said.
“There was once a publisher who offered a prize to the writer who would create the best mental picture of peace. Many writers tried and submitted their work. The publisher looked at all the offerings and there were only two he really liked. He had to choose between them….”
“Is that a made up story or did you read it somewhere?”
“Just listen. The first contribution described a calm lake, perfectly mirroring the surrounding mountains and the blue sky overhead. It was the favorite of all who read it. Truly, they thought, it created the perfect mental picture of peace.”
“What’s the moral?” Nathan demanded, as he held his glass upright, the whiskey gushing into his mouth and over his chin.
“I’m not finished yet,” his uncle smiled. “Okay, the other contribution also described mountains, but these were rugged and bare. It described the sky as black and angry with heavy rain and bolts of lightning….”
“Sounds like dad!” a dark look crossed Nathan’s face and he leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms at his chest, doing his best to look indifferent.
“Down the side of one mountain,” his uncle continued, “tumbled a foaming waterfall. A less peaceful scene would be difficult to imagine.
“But, as the publisher read on, he noticed the writer had described, beside the waterfall, a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. And in the bush, a mother bird had built a nest, and in the midst of the maelstrom, the mother bird sat peacefully on her nest.”
“I don’t get it.”
“You’re not following me? Okay, to conclude, “the publisher chose the second story. Can you guess why?”
“Still in the trenches,” replied Nathan.
“The publisher,” De Salvo explained, “reasoned that peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no uproar, trouble or difficulty. Peace means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart. This is the real meaning of peace.
“It’s something for you to think about,” uncle remarked, smiling and handed a serviette to him on which he had scribbled: ‘Blue ice, whiskey and whispers: a tale of peace’.
“And when we drink, only one percent of our brain is drunk. The rest is completely sober, so I expect that you will go home quietly and peacefully,” De Salvo offered some final advice to his nephew.