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Chasing the Mackerel Shoals

Short story By: donkylemore
Memoir



mackerel fishing in the last frenetic days of summer holidays


Submitted:Aug 27, 2008    Reads: 151    Comments: 2    Likes: 2   


I remember always the last days of August , when the harvest moons brought high tides , and the foreboding of returning to school hung like a pall ; a sentence awaiting ,as the last days of august went so fleetingly by. Their passing was unstoppable and the school term after the long summer came with asuddeness ; looming up like a winter cloud shadow across my boyhood's horizon .

But these last days, we spent in pursuit of the shoals of mackerel, which came in such abundance to our shore and strand and all along the promenade.

The tide rising at first in a listless desultory way at first . Then of a sudden the sight of the first shoal chasing the fleeting splashing the sprat in their dash to the shore .

The calm swell erupting in a chaos of swell as ther hunting shoal splashed like a frenzied wind chasing to the shore .

The first cry went up and the tempo of this wild exuberant the orchestra took flight; the gulls suddenly harkening the waiting listless anglers on the rocks.

The first excited whoops harmonise with the shrieks of frenzied gulls. The tempo raises with, the clamour of the shrieking gulls. The hunting birds whooping ; wheeling; swooping, diving with wide and yellow hunting eyes.

The sea bursting open with the breaking shoal as they dashed and seared through the sprat throwing up shards of severed seed. The frenetic energy of boy and adult enraptured in the same agitated urgency. When for a few short moments both threw themselves in to the fury of the chase with the same unbridled abandon.

The wheals of delight as the mackerel are hauled in over the mussle hugging rocks, on the full tide; menacing swaths of seaweed drifting and swelling and falling back on the tide. Boys pulling great whelps of tangled tawny seaweed from the sea in desperation ; discarding the kelp and casting out again lest they miss the shoal .

An armoury of ingenious home made arsenal ; catapults and slings and knotted lines of twine the better to et the distance . Rocks and door handles as baits and weights; And some more enterprising lad having fashioned even more deadly bait from a silver spoon from his mothers silver salver.

Fathers in rolled up trousers to the knees, perched without poise; ungainly on the rocks; boys thigh deep on the farthest rock, perched precariously hauling furiously, the better to make a longer cast further out into the tide.

Then the water erupting about him in a rushing wave - always a boy with the newest fishing rod , and reel, and dainty angling attire alone at the edge of the flurry; his still suited father watching nearby. ; He , watched in turn by his frazzled wife sitting in the car on the promenade .

And always a lad with belly- bait and a solitary cork; he always got the first mackerel and the last. And the red haired lad who was forever in a tangle and always missed the moment.

Another lad paddling offshore in a canoe, to get the first shoal now dashing back towards the beach having over run the fish , abandoning his canoe on the strand and joining the battalion of land lubbers ** now.

An old man who'd waited there long before the tide was always there; he hated children; a worn suit jacket and a tawny cap, cursing ;

why wont they fish their own water - who let them out at this hour ! Have they no homes! Jesus Mary and Joseph can I have one minutes peace - Jesus No ! I'm tangled again; not even scarcely concealing his wrath from proud parents nearby.

All along the beach and rocks, the catch of mackerel; silver ,bloodied ;shivering in their last throes, silver scales and slime everywhere ; The tangy smell of fish fused with the lusty smell of the full tide ,drifting all along the promenade ..

The full moon rising and the light fading on the swelled calm of the evening;

Flitting now back over the rocks in our shoes as the chill crept in to hunt the people on the prom waiting for fresh fish.

Hawking our loops of fish strung through the gills and driving hard bargains first until the prom was full of lads with more tidy preparations for sale ; they had wrapped their catch in paper bags , and always sold first .

The fevered hunt continued now to sell the mackerel. Moving ever further in towards town in desperation at the inflated market and the danger of being left with too many to take home. And so the price dropped the further down the promenade you went ; dropping sadly every hundred yards

And as the light was falling the sea taking on that full cobalt colour of the Clare hills. And the shoal gone looking out and taking marks on perilous rocks that would be good for stuck baits in the morning at low tide.

The old man with a dozen mackerel swinging from his handlebars string through the gills.; still unrepentant ; seething oaths from his clenched teeth.;

Ye'll have to fish in ye're own place… Jesus get out of me way ; I'll knock ye down.. I'll report ye to the guards..

The failure to sell the fish could infuse a kindly disposition to a neighbour you otherwise detested but who just might be cajoled to give some modest remuneration; ;and when all these were shown the rewards of our now necessary magnanimity then giving the last unsold fish to that cranky neighbour whose orchard we raided and who suspected us all but principally me ; with good reason . Whether we gave him fish to placate him of to further flare his fury I've forgotten; it could've been either motivation.

And I now think of the people on the promenade on those nights of high tide and higher spirits.

One elderly couple shuffling along; each slowed by the others pace and a lifetime of waiting for one another only now to walk the final distance of all their distances together.

An elder nun and a novice sitting in a volkswagon car ;the novice filled with all the gushing doubts before her final vows ; the elder wishing she could dissuade her from her chosen path if only it weren't a sin ;a lifetime of regret now bourn with resignation - like those notices for the dead in the newspapers - .. Died after along illness bourn with great dignity, only now there were there also the dark doubts of the secrets of Fatima and the children of the unwed floating in some dark silent eternity - or could it be so.. Purgatory.. Could God condemn them to Purgatory of all places - Heaven forbid?

A Christian brother watching with hooded eye the bare legged boys scampering on the rocks ; thinking of his transfer to another parish where he would find more suitable work in his surplice; and the cane he'd fashioned from a golf stick,

A civil servant counting his stipend and calculating his holiday budget waiting for the dance in Seapoint Ballroom ; Would she be there ; the country girl he'd seen in the singing pub last night ; swaying with the warbling country music ; the last songs of the night - show me the way to go home im tired and i wanna go to bed.. Just then did she smile at him..She could be like him searching for company from the loneliness of her job in Dublin as was she, and maybe like him ; maybe she didn't really enjoy Holliday's for all the accentuated they brought , and which the dreariness routine of work had numbed .

A tea shirted man charging downs the promenade in heated despair.;

Randal Randal !! you left your wellies on the rocks ..Where's Marylyn now Oh Lord ..!! .. Mar ---lyyn .. Don't let the dog loose .. The lead..Wait.. Randal.. Back to the car .. God where is she now.. Marylyn.. !! - and to a stranger passing by ..

'' you just cant let them loose ....!! children you know … Oh God..!!! ! Randal… Mar …Lyn!!

The lights on the promenade coming on and the sound of Salthill singing pubs faintly drifting along the seafront.

But the tangled swirling seaweed lurking and weaving with a menace with each drift and swell of tide dark their fronds foreboding like a witches hair in the tide; weaving in an ever- wrangling pattern like those dreams of childhood which roll and weave and twist and torment the restless child with an unknown terror in the bed ; rolling in like the tide , backing out again in a repetitious confusion like a feverish dream but in the morning or when the fever passes they seem hideous and enfeebled things in the morning light .

And I always knew that I was being dragged back into the relentless tow and knew then the summer was turning despite the persistent optimism of youth ;turning as surely as the tide and the surrender to the return of school lay like a raging deception. ..

I think of those torments now with a longing, for their fear; for their foreboding and the horror they held; held me in the wrath of fear and apprehension like the tumultuous overpowering draw of a destiny ;an allurement and a revulsion at the once.

When like a child I thought I lived for uncertainties and surprise; and the as yet unawakened doubt of certainties ; and later to know that there are no certainties at all.

It was the summer that Marylyn Munroe died. My father told me she took her own life - poor girl - he said. She was talented and it was a shame.. Poor girl..





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