A Newfoundland folktale
A fisherman from Newfoundland was having difficulty finding someone to assist him. Help was scarce, and he couldn’t find a soul to hire. Then one day he saw a handsome fellow in fancy city clothes walking along the docks. This was obviously not a man looking for work, but the fisherman still called out, half in jest: “Are ye looking for some work?” To his surprise, the city-man nodded and jumped into the boat.
They agreed to split the catch into three parts, one for the city-man, one for expenses, and one for the fisherman. Then they set out in the boat. At first, the skipper caught three fish to every fish caught by the city-man. He was quite disgusted with this performance. At this rate, he would have done better fishing alone. So he said: “Am I supposed to catch all the fish for you? Why don’t you catch some?”
“Well then, if it’s fish your looking for,” said the pesky stranger. “How about these?” He grabbed the fish gaff and smacked the port side of the vessel three times. “Come aboard, fish!” he shouted. Immediately, fish of every shape and size came leaping out of the water on the port side and flopped into the bottom of the boat. The stranger then hit the starboard side of the boat three times, and fish came hopping and flopping in from that direction until the boat was so full the skipper could barely see the stranger over the mound of fish.
“Stop or you’ll drown us both!” he shouted to the city-man. Well, that pesky city-fellow held up the fish-gaff and immediately the fish stopped jumping into the boat.
The skipper eyed the catch, and then grinned in delight at the city-man. “I wish I’d brought us a spot of rum!” he cried enthusiastically. “We should celebrate this fine catch!”
“A spot of rum, coming up,” said that pesky fellow. He bore a hole into the mast with a little gimlet he took from his pocket and out poured enough rum to fill a mug. Then he bore a second hole into the mast and poured himself some whiskey.
By this time, the skipper was marveling at the magic produced by the pesky city-fellow, but he wasn’t about to ask how he pulled off such stupendous tricks. He was just grateful to benefit from them. He topped off his rum from the hole in the mast and then turned the boat towards shore. The stranger wanted to steer, but the skipper wasn’t sure where that pesky fellow would take the boat, so he politely declined the offer and the man grinned knowingly and poured himself some more whiskey.
When they reached the docks, the two men sat down and started dividing the catch between them. “Lay out one for you, one for expenses, and one for the Devil,” the pesky city-fellow said with a lazy grin. So that was what the skipper did. He made three piles, and they kept throwing the fish one at a time into a pile, chanting: “One for me, one for expenses, one for the Devil,” until the entire catch was divided.
The skipper put the Devil’s portion on a wooden rack – called a stage – that was used for drying fish. “Much obliged,” said the pesky Fellow with a happy grin. He kicked over the stage, leapt into the sea with his portion of the catch, and the whole kit and caboodle disappeared in a puff of smoke.
The skipper shook his head a few times. Then he went back to the mast to pour himself some more rum. But both of the bore-holes had disappeared along with the pesky Fellow.
You can read more Canadian folktales and ghost stories in Spooky Canada by S.E. Schlosser.
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