The curtains were closed again in the pub but this evening the men had been cheered by a change in the weather. It had started to rain rain the previous night and had continued through the day. It was a thick heavy rain that came down in sheets. It scoured the loose earth from the hills and ran down to the sea turning the water a dirty brown. The streams ran full and the roads were slick with it.
The men had walked through it to get to the pub and their coats and hats were piled up in a chair. It was warm in the pub and with the wet brought in by the men there was a heavy fug in the air. It smelt of the rain, the moisture coming off the coats and the heat rising from the men and their jumpers as they sat in their corner.
There were eight of them again. The man with the black beard was stood by the bar and in front of him was a silver bucket filled with a dozen mackerel. They were large, heavy and sleek. Their colours took off from the metal and the sharp light overheard, grey, silver, blue and green and then as the eye passed over them pink and yellow.
The men sat round the table were talking and their faces bent in to each other the talk bubbling through them. No-one mentioned the mackerel but they all knew they were there. They acted as a quiet reproach to the talk that had gone on the night before.
A man could catch mackerel in February al that you needed was a desire to be at them and the right piece of sparkle on your hook.
‘So was it wet out there?’ Tom Cronin asked him.
‘Feck you know it was wet. If it is raining here on the ground it will be raining out there on the water and on the water the rain has further to fall so it comes down harder. You know that as I do. But if you are in the boat what difference does some rain make. So long as you don’t fall in you’re as wet out of the water as in. But you will be wanting to know where and how I went about catching them.’
‘You have to look at the water in the rain and see how it flattens out and goes straight. I think the fish like the sound of it. I looked out over the boat and I could see them there in the water rising up as if the rain was food from the sky. There were hundreds of them out there. There was no quickness about them and it was if they were rising to the surface to be close to the sound of the water.’
‘I put my line in the water there, just feather and hooks, and I could drag it through the water through where they sat and there was not one fish that would have a go at it. They were big fish, big like those in the bucket but they were not wanting to take a bite. So I let the line drag in the water and and I looked about me for something I could put on a hook to catch their eye.’
‘When you are out there on the water like that there is feck all in your pockets that is going to help. I had some coins and an old bottle top that had been in there for a month and nothing else. There wasn’t much to be catching fish with with that.’
He grinned then. ‘ A mackerel when its mind is set to it will eat anything but if the fish isn’t hungry then there is no persuading it. These fish weren’t hungry and they weren’t going to be caught by the flash of some silver in the water. Watching the hooks and the feathers it was almost as if the fishes were blind and nothing was catching their eye. So I pulled out the hooks and cut off the feathers and then rubbed each hook through something that smelt.’
‘I’m not going to stand here now and tell you what it was. But you know that a mackerel’s nose is as quick as its eye and if there is something there to catch at them they’ll bite even if there is no silver in the water.’
He looked down into the bucket. ‘These fish they smelt and they got caught. You can help yourselves if you want. They’ll all be good to eat even if it is only February.’