Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/947206-A-Fishy-Tale
Rated: E · Short Story · Comedy · #947206
Humorous short story.
“So, do you think there could be any permanent damage?” asked Helen, avoiding eye contact with the casualty nurse.

“Well, until the doctor gets round to her, I really can’t say.”

A buzzer distracted the nurse and she turned away from Helen to silence it.

“Sorry Mrs Miller, but I have to deal with this call,” she gestured towards the buzzer, “I’m sure your mother-in-law will be fine, she doesn’t seem the sort to let things get her down.” She smiled, rose from her seat behind the nurses’ station and left to answer the electronic call for help.

I,d better go for a cup of tea before John gets here, Helen mused. She turned and headed in the direction of the double doors. She knew she had seen a sign for a tearoom on the way in.

A few minutes later, Helen was nursing a cup of tea in the WRVS* tearoom and wondering how on Earth she was going to explain to John.

He’s going to go mad. He’ll never forgive me. What have I done?

It had started like a normal day. Helen and her mother-in-law had arranged to go to the local market together. Ange wasn’t the easiest person to get along with, typical mother-in-law in truth, but Helen really felt she had been trying lately. The events of the morning were definitely going to undo all that.

Who would’ve thought it would sail through the air so well anyway?

She took a sip from the cup, cringing in disgust and adding another sachet of sugar.

“What’s going on Helen?”

It was John’s voice and it sent a shiver down Helen’s spine.

“I told you on the phone not to panic, she’s going to be fine.”

“Where is she? Can I see her?”

“Oh that’s typical of you, one tiny little accident and you come over all prodigal son, I said she’s fine, we’ll go in when I’ve finished my drink!” She immediately regretted snapping at him and saw the surprise in his eyes.

“Sorry…I’m just a little tense that’s all, I didn’t mean to snap.”

“It’s alright, you must be worried too.” He relaxed and pulled up a chair next to Helen.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” he asked gently, feeling like he was treading on eggshells.
‘Highly strung’ was how most people described Helen.

This was their fourth year of marriage and they still weren’t sure how to be with each other.
Helen pushed her chair away from the table a little and tipped her head back, closing her eyes. She reached up and rubbed them, as if she were just waking up, then she grabbed her ponytail and pulled it in opposite directions to tighten it up.

“In a way, you could say it was my fault.” She looked at John to try to gauge his reaction. He looked confused, then concerned.

“I’m sure there was nothing you could do. Don’t blame yourself.”

He always seemed to make things hard for Helen. He didn’t mean it, he was just a kind, gentle and generous soul. And anyway, it was never going to be easy explaining that she, his wife, had possibly deafened his mother.
Helen sighed and shook her head.

“No John, what I mean to say, is that it was my fault. I did it to her. I’m sorry. It was an accident.”


There was a long, awkward silence. Thoughts swam around Helen’s brain, a muddle of voices trying to decide how John would react.
He stood and turned away.

I knew it, I just knew this would finish us.

“Okay, but you didn’t mean to do it, and she isn’t seriously hurt.” said John as he turned to face Helen again.

“Erm, no, the nurses think she will be fine, and no, I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“So what exactly did happen?” asked John.

“It’s complicated.”

“I’m sure I’ll manage to get the gist.”

“Okay,” began Helen, with a deep breath, “it was like this…”


“Right Mrs Pearson, let me see if I can get you sorted out.” The doctor took a handheld scope from his breast pocket and approached.

“First of all, it’s about bloody time young man. And secondly, you had better ‘get me sorted out’ because I need to get at my bloody daughter-in-law.”

Ange was a formidable woman. She was a real rough-round-the-edges northern sort, who took no messing from anybody. Dr Jackson sensed he couldn’t possibly win any argument with this patient.

“I do apologise Mrs Pearson, we have had a very busy morning.”

“Alright, well get on with it then.” She was as abrupt as ever.

The doctor approached and held the scope in his right hand, illuminating the built in torch as he brought it up to Ange’s ear. She perched on the edge of the bed, swinging her legs like a schoolgirl.

“What, exactly is this in your hair Mrs Pearson?” asked the doctor, confused.

“What colour is it?” asked Ange.

“Looks like silver, maybe grey…scales?”

“If it’s silver, it’s herring I think.”

“Of course.” Said the doctor as he put the scope in her ear, “I should have known.”


“So you just threw it at him?” John asked, stunned.

“And he ducked, yes. Ange just happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.” She informed him.

“Okay, so let’s get this clear shall we?”
Said John before continuing.

“You fell out with the man on the fish stall.”

“Yes.” Said Helen.

“Over the price of the fish, because you didn’t think he had worked out his pound to kilo conversion correctly.”

“Yes.” Said Helen.

“You then argued loudly, before storming off.”

“Sounds accurate.” Said Helen.

“At which point, he mumbled an obscenity which sent you over the edge.”

“Not an obscenity, he called me a ‘hormonal cow’, I heard him distinctly.” Corrected Helen.

“So you began hurling fish at him?”

“Yes.” Said Helen.

“He ducked and you managed to hit mother square on the side of the head.”

“Yes.” Said Helen.

“So she is currently in the casualty department with a possible ruptured eardrum?”

“I know, it’s daft isn’t it. It was a whole herring too, that’s why it didn’t break up. And why I chucked them in the first place. They sail through the air really well, I thought they would hurt.”

John couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He was sure she was enjoying this. His mother had been wounded, by a herring thrown in anger, at a fish merchant, by his wife.

Knowing Ange’s temper, they had decided it would be best if Helen didn’t go back in, so she wandered off to find the restaurant. She was starving all of a sudden.

She sat with her meal a few minutes later and smiled to herself.
She couldn’t resist taking a pot shot at Ange during the confusion, how could anyone pass up an opportunity like that.

Might cost me the price of a new herring aid though.

She picked up the vinegar, sprinkled it on her fish and chips, and laughed.

* WRVS (for the benefit of all you Americans!), is the Women's Royal Voluntary Service, they run tearooms, cafes and shops in hospitals all over England.

© Copyright 2005 Mark James Short (markshort at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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