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Feather's Miscellany: Alfred Tickler

...All their married life Alfred was a liability to his wife. He landed her in some embarrassing situations; like the time he got his finger stuck in the washing-machine....

John Waddington-Feather tells a tale concerning a most unfortunate accident.

To read more of John’s stories and articles please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/feathers_miscellany/

Alfred Tickler had only two topics of conversation: ill-health and death. Normally the one, of course, inevitably leads to the other, but in Alfred Stickler they ran conjointly. He had one foot in the grave from birth, and didn’t take it out till it was too late. When you met him, he’d list everyone he knew who was ill and go into such detail you felt ill yourself by the time he’d done; utterly tent-pegged. His list of the dead was almost as long as the Obituary Column in the “Keighworth News”

He was a tall, gaunt man well above average height, so when he told his tales of woe they rained on you like a damp cloud; worse still, he had an over-active salivary gland so his words came out wet, so you kept your distance when speaking with him.

He’d lived down Garlic Lane all his life, and when he married Bertha Price they set up home in Opal Street off Garlic Lane. Now Bertha had much to put up with as you can imagine, for if he wasn’t complaining about his own illnesses (largely imagined) he was telling her to see the doctor about her own. In later life, he was so convinced she was going deaf, that on one of his many visits to the doctor he asked how he might persuade her to see him about her deafness.

“There’s quite a simple test,” said the long-suffering doctor patiently. “You can gauge your wife’s deafness by calling her name, first from about fifty feet, then forty, then thirty down to ten. If she can’t hear you at ten feet then she really does need a hearing aid.”

So when he got home Alfred tried out the hearing test. Bertha was hanging out clothes in the backyard, so he’d plenty of space to call out. “Bertha!” he yelled from inside the house. No reply, so he moved nearer. “Bertha!” he called again. No reply. So he tried three more times moving nearer each time. When he was only ten feet away he shouted again and she turned abruptly with an exasperated look on her face. “For the fifth time, yes. What do you want? How many more times are you going to call my name?”

All their married life Alfred was a liability to his wife. He landed her in some embarrassing situations; like the time he got his finger stuck in the washing-machine. He was never very practical and one day while Bertha was out shopping, the waste pipe to her washing-machine in the out-house got gummed up. Alfred fiddled and proggled but it still remained blocked. So he inserted his finger and wiggled it inside. It got stuck. The more he tried to free it, the more it swelled and the more painful it became.

He called out for help, but nobody heard him, so he unplugged the machine from its socket and dragged it to the door of the out-house. He managed to open the door and yelled outside into the street. “Help! Help! I’m stuck! Can somebody help me?”

Fanny Pickles across the road was hanging her washing out and head him shouting. She was a small, dumpy woman who wore down-at-heel slippers but no stockings and had her hair always in curlers under a frowsy mop-cap. She was also the street gossip and sensed a tale to tell when she heard Alfred’s cry for help. She was right.

She put her washing down quickly and shuffled across the street. “What’s up?” she called over the gate.

“I’m stuck!” bawled Alfred.

“What d’yer mean ‘stuck’?” asked Fanny, peering into the out-house. “Where are you?”

“I’m in here,” wailed Alfred, “and me finger’s stuck.”

“Stuck where?” asked Fanny.

“In the washing-machine,” Alfred replied, “and I can’t get it out.”

“Washing-machine! That’s a funny place to get yer finger stuck. How yer manage that, Alfred?”

“Never mind that, Fanny. Just get some help to free me.”

“Who?”

“Anybody,” said Alfred irritably. “It’s an emergency. The fire-brigade. Anybody. But hurry. I can’t hang on much longer.”

Fanny traipsed to the phone booth at the bottom of the street to phone for the fire-brigade, telling half the street en route why she was phoning – and half the street duly went back up the street with her to see Alfred Tickle with his finger stuck in the washing-machine. They stood outside but were soon joined by the fire-brigade, the police and an ambulance. The street had seen nothing like it.

Bertha returned from shopping to find the whole street standing outside her house along with the fire-brigade, an ambulance and a police car. Her washing machine was being cut open by a fireman as her husband knelt by it looking silly.

“What’s up? What yer done this time?” she said accusingly, glaring at her husband.

“Me finger got stuck,” was all he could offer, as he was cut free, and having freed him fire-brigade drove off in their tender, while the ambulance crew carted him to hospital to have his finger attended to, and a very large policeman took a statement from Fanny Pickles and jotted it all down slowly in his notebook.

It made Fanny Pickles’ day and she talked about it for weeks afterwards; but Alfred never heard the end of it from Bertha.

John Waddington-Feather ©

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