I had to tell my friend Orville today to go get a haircut, so I could test my fish theory.
“But I don’t need a haircut,” he protested.
Sheesh, he sounded a lot like I did when I was a teenager and my father used to say: “Why don’t you go and get a haircut, you long-haired lout?”
“I don’t need a haircut,” I would say.
And it was true. My hair was rarely all that much longer than dad’s. My father could never see that.
I do see Orville’s point, however. My guess is that he has not really needed a trim since the last of his stubble fell out about five years ago and he became completely bald.
“You can wear a wig if it worries you,” I told Orville. “Just make sure that Guiseppe is the one who cuts your hair and let me know if he says anything about making money from breeding fish.”
“Fish?” said Orville
Yes, Guiseppe cut my hair this morning and it came up in our conversation, right after he enquired about how I filled in my spare time.
“If I were you,” he said, merrily snipping away, “I’d get into breeding pets.”
“Pets?” I said.
“Yeah, lotsa money to be made breeding pet fish,” said Guiseppe. “I know a fella who breeds fish and sells them for $5 a centimetre. Five centimetre fish, $25 dollars. Easy money. He breeds millions of fish at a time.”
“No kidding?” I said as he picked up the cut-throat razor. “Does he make millions of dollars, too?”
“Hundreds, anyway,” said Guiseppe, as he lathered the back of my neck. “I tell you: it’s easy money.”
It was at this point two thoughts flashed through my mind.
- If the money is so easy to make, why doesn’t Guiseppe make a fish-breeding career change; and
- Maybe this is just how barbers get their kicks on slow days. They have bets with the other barbers to see who can string along the most customers. Before they know it all their customers have chucked in their jobs and are breeding fish. Or other pets.
Not that I have ever thought of fish as pets.
When I think of pets, I usually think of critters that drink from a bowl, not live in one.
I think of creatures that you bury in the garden when they die rather than flush down the dunny. I just hate large family funeral processions in the usual tranquility of the little room.
I certainly do not generally think of things with fins when I think of pets.
“I know another fellow who breeds birds,” Guiseppe went on. “Or he used to. He had to let them all go during the bushfires. I don’t know what kind of birds they were but he used to sell chicks for thousands of dollars a breeding pair.”
“No kidding,” I said. I did not say it but I thought it: they were probably geese who laid golden eggs.
Orville was less diplomatic with me.
“You don’t really believe all that?” he said.
“No, but you can’t be too sure,” I said. “That’s why I want you to go in there, undercover, and see if they tell you the same story.”
“But I think they’ll see through my disguise,” said Orville.
“If they do, just tell them you forgot you’re bald. You just want to look your best for your fish’s funeral.”
©June 24, 2003, John Martin, All Rights Reserved
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This is a collection of funny columns that have appeared in various Australian newspapers and on John Martin’s website.
John Martin is better known these days as the writer of humorous mysteries but this is a nod to his past as a journalist.
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