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Aches and Pains

by Cornelia 

Posted: 04 September 2012
Word Count: 612
Summary: For Blob's challenge

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“Aches and pains, is it? Too big for his boots if you ask me. Trying to run before he can walk.”

Petey listened as his mum and Auntie Sharon talked about their brother. If Uncle Archie’s boots hurt him, they should buy him new ones, not expect him to walk in them. He probably tried to run to show his sisters he didn’t care what they said.

Next day they went to Uncle Archie’s new shop in the High Street. “Better than the market stall, eh Petey?” His uncle fastened his striped apron with tapes wrapped twice round his middle. His voice sounded strange as it bounced off the shiny wall-tiles.

“Where’s your boots, Uncle Archie?”

“Boots? No need for boots in the shop.” His uncle chuckled and ruffled Petey’s hair.

“Want to help me get ready, Petey? That alright with you, Sis?”

“I’ll make us some tea in the back,” answered his mum. “At least that’s one improvement on the stall – somewhere to make the tea.”

While his mum clattered about, Petey looked forward to the part he enjoyed most - watching his uncle lay out the fish. Uncle Archie said he’d make a fishmonger one day - a chip off the old block. Pete could tell from the way Uncle Archie laughed that it must be a good thing.

"So it’s goodbye whelks and jellied eels." His uncle opened the door of the big freezer behind the counter. “And it’s hello rainbow trout, hake and monkfish tails.” He winked at Petey. “Fried whitebait tonight, what d’you say?”

Petey knew bait was for catching fish,not for frying. Maybe it was another joke.

Petey smiled and took a deep breath of a smell that reminded him of the seaside -of sandcastles and rock pools. He watched as his uncle laid out the gleaming fish, then realised something was missing.

“You’ve forgotten the ice, Uncle Archie.” His uncle sometimes let him help spread the crunchy white beds for the fish, but today the fish were laid out on slabs of glass, with rows of green bristles between.

“No need for ice, Petey,” said his uncle, and pointed to pipes that ran through the thick panes.

"But it’s like an electric blanket, Uncle Archie. You said fish had to be cold.”

Uncle Archie explained that the pipes were like those in a fridge, so not to worry because the fish would keep nicely chilled. He asked Petey to straighten the green rows and set out two plastic lobsters on either side of the window space.

In the kitchen, Petey’s mum listened to their chatter as she lined up three mugs on the draining board.

“I'll give him goodbye whelks!” she muttered as she added sugar to the tea, then stirred so hard it slopped onto the draining board. “They were good enough for his dad, and his granddad before him.”

Then she thought of her husband, out with the trawlers somewhere. He wasn’t cut out to be a landlubber, he'd said. One day he’d come back and be proud of Petey, who had her stay-at-home genes and his dad’s affinity for fish.

She put down the mugs on the bright counter: Petey’s plastic one with the goldfish pattern, her own thick ceramic pink one and Archie’s birthday mug with the letters in blue: WORLD’S GREATEST UNCLE.

Suddenly, Pete’s mum gave her startled brother a kiss on the cheek and turned the shop door sign to OPEN.

“Drink your tea, Archie,” she said, then gave him a nudge and a big smile.

“You and your ‘akes and panes –there’ll be no stoppin’ you, now.”

Now why, she wondered, had Petey suddenly burst out laughing?

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Comments by other Members

fiona_j at 19:39 on 04 September 2012  Report this post

Nice story. I had to read it twice to get all the subtle mis-understandings, very funny.

The only thing that threw me a little, but not much, was the change in perspective halfway through. I understand why it was done and I don't think it has a negative affect like changes sometimes can, it just look me a little while to realise we'd changed. Maybe you could switch more obviously?

I loved the last couple of lines aches and pains indeed!


blob at 21:12 on 04 September 2012  Report this post
Hi Cornelia,
Good use of the cue! I enjoyed all the fishy references and particularly this line:
"Petey smiled and took a deep breath of a smell that reminded him of the seaside -of sandcastles and rock pools."

It's true that the first part seems out of place until you get to the end. I wonder if you could put the pun and the misunderstanding from petey together at the end.

The strong family links come across nicely - the stall passed down through the generations and the sister wondering of her brother has got all high and mighty in his ambition.

I'm not sure if you need the mention of Petey's father - it doesn't quite fit in with the rest (even if he's a fisherman)
Anyway, definitely a strong story here - IMO just needs a bit of tweeking

Cornelia at 22:30 on 04 September 2012  Report this post
Thanks, Blob. When I'd written this I could see the potential for a much longer story.

With a womag audience in mind, I must admit I wondered what they might think had happened to Petey's father. Maybe it's not necessary to explain his absence.


fiona_j at 22:35 on 04 September 2012  Report this post

I think the story as a flash doesn't need as much back-story. I was expecting the absent father thing to go somewhere. I think you could make it go somewhere in a short, but for the flash it's not really needed, the story is strong without it.


Cornelia at 22:38 on 04 September 2012  Report this post
Thanks, Fiona, for helpful comments. Yes, I did wonder myself whether the change of pov would work and I will try a re-write to see if it works better without it. Or, as you say, maybe I could make the change more obvious.

I got the idea of the pun from a radio programme I used to listen to - I think it was called 'My Word' - and the contestants in a quiz had to work a phrase or saying into a story. They often had to use distortions.



For me, I think 700 words is too long for a flash, which is probably why this is a bit padded out but I think I can work it up to 1,000 word short story for later use.

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