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Akanna Okeke: Breaking the Rules but Obeying the Law

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There was a little fish named Azu.  He lived in a river with his parents.  As he was growing up, he began to swim with his mates, together as a school.

His parents always told him to make sure he swam along with the rest, and kept formation –stayed in line.  He obeyed his parents but he just found it boring, swimming with the same group and in the same pattern every single day.  He would do this back and forth every day, and return home to his parents in the evenings and they always welcomed him home with a smile.

One day, Azu was at the peak of his boredom and frustration from sticking to the rules without any understanding as to why he had to.  So, he decided to break formation.  He stepped out of line, out of school, and was swimming alone.

He felt so free and he did many flips and twirls, dives and glides.  He was regaining balance from one of his (freedom) twirls when he saw a very big fish approaching, with speed, from a distance.  It had a very mean look on its face, and its teeth were very sharp.  Azu instinctively knew that the big fish had decided to have him for lunch.  So, he started swimming frantically, and the big fish darted towards him with intensity.

Azu was very frantic.  He swam all over the place.  He discovered many different areas and locations within the river that he had never seen, but at this point, he was too busy to take in the scenery.

He saw that the big fish was not letting him go –it had a lot of determination in its eyes and there was no area that Azu entered that the big fish didn’t already know of, so the chances of escape were very much limited for Azu.

Instinctively, once again, Azu started swimming upwards.  He darted upwards and swam frantically, unsure of where it led.  The big fish followed after him with an unsure determination also.

Azu was caught in a flash of bright light and a gasp for air as he shot up into the sunlight and out of the river, landing on the riverbank.  He didn’t know where he was but all he could think about was his inability to breathe.  He flapped and flipped and gasped for air.  He could now see the river water, and he was some distance away from it so he tossed upwards and flipped some more, hoping to get close enough to some water and perhaps eventually enter back into the river.

This was looking very impossible and enervating for Azu.  Just as he was about to give up, a little boy picked him up in his hands and announced to his dad who was fishing: “Dad, look! I didn’t even need to use my hook and I got one already!”

“That’s good, son” his dad replied. “Now put it in the bucket and come do some real fishing with me over here”.

Azu was dropped into a bucket of water.  He was relieved to be finally able to breathe.  He took a deep one in, and finally settled in this strange territory.  He realized that there was another fish like him there, who had a pronounced injury –a hole in his lip area, with some blood seeping out of it.  Azu was relieved and delighted to see a familiar face and proceeded to converse with him:

Azu: Hi, I’m Azu. What’s your name?

Other fish: I’m Eja. What brings you here, Azu?

Azu: Long story.  I was chased by a big fish and I didn’t know where to swim to in order to escape, and it appears I swam out of the river and almost died until now.

Eja: Did you drop out of school?

Azu: How did you know?  I decided not to swim with the school today because it’s so boring swimming with them the same way, all the time.  So I decided to see what it was like to be free to swim whichever way I wanted.

Eja:  Me too. I broke out of formation today, not because I wanted a taste of freedom –that would be silly –but because I saw this enticing worm wiggling upwards toward the surface of the river.  I followed it and was able to eat it, but for some reason I bit into a sharp hook that gripped my lip and pulled me upwards, out of the river and I ended up here after that.

Azu: Ouch! That must hurt and frustrate you at the same time.  Was the worm any good, though?

Eja: Haha! Not good enough for its consequences.  My parents have always told me to keep in line and follow the rules; never break formation to swim outside the school because the consequences are huge but largely unknown.

Azu: Hmm I see.  That’s perhaps why my parents always wanted me to obey the rules of swimming too.  Now I’ve ended up here as a result of my disobedience to them.

Eja: That’s not really why you ended up here.

Azu: What do you mean?

Eja: You ended up here because you broke the law and not the rules.

Azu: I don’t under–

The water was suddenly troubled as the little boy lifted the bucket as his father directed him to go dump it in the river. “We have to go now son”, he said, “Go put the fish back in the river, we don’t actually need ‘em at home”.

Azu and Eja felt the rush of familiar water as they were dumped into the river.  For a moment, they were confused; not knowing in which direction to swim to their homes.  Azu called out to Eja: “swim with me! I know the way.  I saw everywhere while running from that big fish”.

“It pays to break the rules sometimes”, Eja responded. “Now you have discovered uncharted waters by stepping out of line. Your parents would be proud”.

“I highly doubt that”, Azu replied. “They would be worried sick by now”.

The two fish were swimming side by side now and Eja was quite impressed by how much Azu knew his way around.  In a still, quiet voice as if to remember something, Azu asked Eja what he meant by what he had said about the rules and the law, back in the bucket.

Eja responded: “Oh, that! It’s just something my dad told me earlier.  He said there’s only one law in this river and then there are many rules.  The law is never to leave the river, and all the rules, like swimming in schools and in certain areas only, are there to protect us from breaking that one law.

When we break the rules, other people, like your big fish friend, come to punish you for that. But if you break the law, no one but the law itself punishes you and its punishment is fatal.”

Azu was still trying to take this all in when he spotted his parents in the distance. “Look, my parents!” He nudged Eja. “Boy, do they look mad. You’re sure getting a whopping tonight” Eja replied with a smirk on his face.

“Wipe that smirk off your bloody lip, my friend”, Azu retorted playfully. “Yours would give you the whopping of your life when they see that hole in your lip”.

“I would just tell them I wanted to get a lip ring but changed my mind after the piercing”, Eja joked.

Azu shook his head and let Eja swim alone toward his own home as he knew his way now.  The two new friends looked at each other one last time as they separated and deep down within them they had this connection.  A connection birthed out of stepping out of the box, but now realising to what extent they could do so.

Photo Credit: Invictus999 |


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