Tom Cronin shifted uneasily on his chair at the news that the mackerel he had enjoyed for his breakfast the last two days and the fish that were in the bag under where he was sitting had been caught on hooks tainted with the smell of two week old horse shit. He thought on his wife who had enjoyed the fish as well. She had even congratulated him on getting the man out to catch them this time of year. He knew he was caught between letting her know and her finding out elsewhere.
The men were quiet behind him so he said it first, ‘Bill was it the smell of the shit you had on the hooks or did you snag some of the brown stuff there as well?’
At that the men behind him started to murmur.
Clancy O’Connor, who had been in the pub since lunchtime, rested his right elbow on the table in front of of him and lifted a finger as if to clear the air before he spoke and then thought better of it his mouth hanging open. He remembered he’d fed yesterday’s fish to the dog. He’d do the same thing tomorrow. So he put his arm down and sat back to listen.
‘Patrick O’Mohaney kept his hooks with the hens he had in his garage. He had them buried under a good thick layer of straw and he let them take on the smell that way and if a hen caught its arse on a hook it could always shake itself free and a few free feathers only added to the smell. Caught plenty that way he said.’
‘Feck Bill will you explain it again? How was it you got the smell on the hooks. Did you rub some of it on there with your fingers? There’s no better way of getting a smell into a thing but rubbing it. But feck Bill you wouldn’t want to be rubbing too much with a bucket of horse shit. You might be out there catching mackerel but you’ll catch feck all in here apart from a cold shoulder.’
Clancy had something to say now and he put his elbow back on the table and lifted his finger, ‘Bill, now I say now, Bill if you’re out there catching fish with horse shit then you need to introduce some method into the process. Did you think of taking a bucket of the stuff out there with you and spreading a few handfuls on the water. I say now Bill, Bill did you not think to hang your arse over the side of the boat and see how the mackerel took a bite at that?’
The men laughed at that and Clancy put down his finger.
‘The only fish that will eat any old shit is a grey mullet and they have soft lips so they don’t have to taste the stuff and you don’t have to catch them. Their lips are like a piece of jelly if they take a bite on a hook and they just seems to slide of it. Live in shit and eat shit does a grey mullet. But if you get one out of the water then the eating of it is as good as any fish.’
Clancy was laughing now, the sound coming through his teeth, holding up his finger again.
‘Bill,’ he said. ‘Bill, if you have your arse over the side of the boat you could try blowing bubbles at the same time and see if they like that.’
He tapped his glass, ‘Bill if you drink plenty of this stuff and let it rest for a while then it will smell well enough. And any man here who has not lain in bed in the morning and put his head under covers after letting go some air that man is a liar. This stuff’ll build up a good fug down there and the fish’ll like that .’
His voice dropped a touch as if to let on a secret. ‘You’ve all seem the ladies who swim in the afternoon and take themselves out to the island. Do you think they put on those black rubber suits to keep themselves warm. Feck. It is to keep in the bubbles of air. If that bit of air got out they’d have mackerel nibbling their arses to the island and back.’