King of Fish


As a small child I was fascinated with mimicking the mackerel man. We lived in a suburb of Halifax that verged on rural and the small fishing villages that dot the Nova Scotia coast were only a few miles away. While most of the Atlantic fishery is based on massive ships far out to sea for days or weeks on end, the area around Halifax harbour abounds with fish as well, and during mackerel season, small-scale fishermen with one small boat can make a regular month’s wages in one day simply by heading out to the mouth of the harbour in the morning to catch mackerel and then driving through the residential neighbourhoods at mid-afternoon, selling mackerel from the back of his car or truck – just in time for supper. (This is not exclusive to fish, although the mackerel man is the most memorable. It is still not uncommon to buy strawberries, corn or even lobster from the back of someone’s car in suburban Nova Scotia.)

The mackerel man who frequented my Grandmother’s neighbourhood had a distinctive nasally voice and during the last weeks of June (when the mackerel started “running”), I would wait impatiently for his wood-paneled station wagon to make its way slowly up the street. I would then run out to greet the mackerel man, following along behind him, yelling “Mackerel!” at the top of my small lungs until we got to the point on the street where I was not permitted to go beyond by myself. Then the mackerel man would wave good-bye, and I would make my way home, continuing to yell “Mackerel!” until my Grandmother stuck her head out the window, demanding that I shut the hell up.

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