Monday, July 21, 2008

quintal sighting: Michael Crummey's Hard Light

This excerpt from "Making the Fish" by Michael Crummey appears in Hard Light, first published in 1998 by Brick Books.

The Bawn

Wait for a fine day in August. Sweep a stretch of beach clear, put stones down over any patch of grass that might spoil the fish.
The salt cod taken from the bins and washed by hand in puncheon tubs, front and back, like a child about to be presented to royalty, the white scum scrubbed of the dark layer of skin. Carried to the bawn on fish bars and laid out neatly in sunlight, 150 quintals at a time, the length of the shoreline like a well-shingled roof.
Two fine days would finish the job, a week and a half to cure the season's catch. The merchant's ship arriving in September, anchoring off the Tickle; the cured cod loaded into the boat and ferried out.

What It Made

You could expect $2 a quintal for your trouble, a good season for a crew was 400 quintals. Anything more was an act of God. The Skipper took half a voyage, out of which he paid the girl her summer's wage, and squared up with the merchant for supplies taken on credit in the spring. The rest was split three ways, $130 for four months of work, it could cut the heart out of a man to think too much about what he was working for.


Want to hear more? Hard Light: 32 Little Stories, narrated by Michael Crummey, Ron Hynes, and Deidre Gillard-Rowlings, is available from Rattling Books.

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