OLD HARBOUR, St Catherine:
SCALES FLY in all directions as Angella Kepple deftly moved the scaling tool over the fish. She squinted somewhat while speaking between puffs of smoke, the cigarette snug between her lips in a fascinating demonstration of multi-tasking, about the hardships and rewards of the way she has made a living over the past 12 years.
She told The Gleaner: "Is it I use and school my three children; send them to high school," referring to the task of scaling fish for people who patronise vendors at the Old Harbour Fishing Beach in St Catherine.
Though she sometimes sells fish too, scaling them is the main source of income for Kepple who also sells banana chips. She explains that while using a glove is much safer, it slows down considerably the rate at which she works, in the process reducing her earning capacity; but knows very well the pain of going this route.
When the children's father drowned at sea some 10 years ago, the struggling mother took up the task full-time, competing with much more skilled persons, in a bid for economic independence. Though very competent now, she has been stuck by fish fins too many times to recall, but one incident which nearly left her disabled stands out.
Picking up a yellow-tail snapper to scale, Kepple did not realise the fish was alive and in the process was stuck, with the fin ending up embedded in her palm. While very painful, that in itself wasn't so bad but her efforts at self-remedy would prove disastrous.
She told The Gleaner it would eventually cost her $25,000 in medical fees as the hand became infected and by the time she sought medical attention was swollen and "black as dat scandal bag deh".
The loss of earnings was another matter, as she was unable to use the hand for at least three months before it was completely healed. Still, today though that painful memory is indelibly etched in her mind, the veteran fish scaler/vendor, favouring the income-generating odds against the risk of another life-threatening accident, is not planning to scale back anytime in the near future.