The Bones of Wisdom: A Cautionary Tale for Mother's Day

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Motherly advice is always
just a phone call away
The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed, to protect the innocent.

It was a Wednesday night like any other. Outside under a vast and solitary sky, the rural suburb of Torrytown* was bathed in the soothing, cool glow of a full moon. Amidst the wash of pale blue, a single ray of yellow light peeked out from behind the curtains of a cosy little house nestled into a quiet Torrytown valley.

Behind those curtains sat a young woman of extraordinary beauty, intelligence and Scrabble playing skill**. Encased in the warmth of her home, she sat quietly; tapping away on her keyboard, chatting online to a friend in a strange and distant land.

As she worked away on the keyboard with one hand, the other speared tiny pieces of salmon onto a fork from the plate beside her. She ate absently, her mind on the conversation and not really on her dinner.

Suddenly, a sharp pain jabbed at her throat! Her hands flew to her neck. The fork clattered to the table. Her typing stilled. She gasped!
Looking down at her dinner, the cause of her pain became apparent.

With shaking hands, she reached for the keyboard and typed a desperate message that crossed thousands of miles to tell her friend the cause of her agony.

'I'm choking on a fishbone!' She wrote. 'In my (allegedly) de-boned fish!'

She clutched at her throat, clawing at it as though she could remove the bone from the outside. Her mind flew to the advice that she had received about these kinds of things; tid-bits of advice from mothers, uncles, grandmothers, fathers.
She sifted through these kernels of wisdom, searching for something she knew she'd heard about fish bones.
'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush' - No.
'Always wear clean underwear,' - No.
'Don't pick your nose' - NO!
'Be careful of bones in fish or they'll get stuck in your throat.'; YES! That's it! Her mothers voice rang though her mind, telling her over and over again to be careful.

Backwards and forwards she played this information in her head, as the fish bone jabbed painfully at her throat. But try as she might, she could not find a single piece of advice in that vast catalogue of wisdom to tell her what to do if that initial pearl of wisdom should fall through!

From the other side of the world advice was coming in thick and fast from her friend (the guy who sometimes kicks her ass at Scrabble, and who has this awesome website, and he's really funny and handsome, and writes great)***.
'Are you dying? Should I long distance call you an ambulance'? he typed. 'Can't you just pull it out? Mash the keyboard if you're turning blue!'

She tried to reach in and grab the bone, but alas, her hand was too big (or her mouth too small) and her gag reflex much too strong.

'Blergh, cough, splutter' she typed back; then realising that her fingers still worked - 'No, I can't.'

'You should have listened to your mother' he typed back. 'Mothers always know best.'


Gasping for what could be her last breaths she grappled for the phone and hit speed-dial. Her mother answered after what seemed an agonisingly long time.

She croaked out her dilemma through stilted breath, feeling the fish bone jabbing into the soft flesh of her throat with every word.

'Mum! you never told me what to do when your advice failed!' She cried out.

'Bread.' Her mother told her calmly and knowingly. 'Eat a large piece of dry bread and it will dislodge the bone.'

With this simple advice, and another firm 'Mothers know best' from the Las Vegas Larrikin, she picked up a slice of bread and began to chew.

She could feel the fish bone moving a little as she swallowed the great wodge of bread, then a little more when she swallowed another. But four slices of bread later, while her breathing had eased, the little fish bone was still sharp against her throat.

'Mothers know best' she said to herself, 'until they don't! And then what?'

So what does one do when all the advice a mother can give you fails dismally?! She was stumped. Short of a trip to the ER, she had no idea how to remove the fish bone. If only her gag reflex wasn't so strong and her hands too big (or her mouth too small), then she could remove it easily enough.

The answer, then, was simple. What do you do when all roads lead nowhere? You have a drink.

There was some element of logic in this, although the specifics eluded her. Something about the medicinal, sterilising properties of alcohol and the muscle relaxant type of effect that it would have on her body.

So she poured herself a Bourbon and drank it down fast. Then she had another. And another. She could feel the tension in her muscles melting away, could feel her senses dulling. After four bourbons in as many minutes, she began to feel that she had underestimated her ability to extract the fish bone manually.
Suddenly, her hand seemed smaller (or her mouth larger) and her gag reflex dulled. With the kind of swift (and thoughtless) decisiveness characteristic of a drunk, she contorted her hand and somehow, she reached into her mouth and down her throat to pluck out the sharp little bone.

Later, she would look back on this moment and be unable to explain how she had managed it. Sober attempts to replicate the fitting of her hand into her mouth proved impossible. It was as though some law of physics had been broken - or perhaps just stretched momentarily to allow her to do things that she couldn't normally. It wasn't the first time that Bourbon had this effect on her, and she was sure it wouldn't be the last.

She called her mother in relief, telling the tale of how bourbon had worked more effectively than bread, believing wholly that things had come full circle and she was now the one handing advice to her mother.

'Have another bourbon' her mother told her knowingly, with the tone of one passing on an important token of wisdom. 'The alcohol will do your throat good, you know.'

This brings us to the moral of this tale, which is threefold:

1. If you're a mother, give advice to your children that is not just cautionary, but which is also problem solving. There will always be those rare times when caution isn't enough.

2. When advice fails you, you can always fall back on alcohol and its ability to help you defy the laws of physics.

And finally (and most importantly):
3. No matter what you think, Mothers always know best.

*names have been changed to protect those suburbs involved.
**My story, so I'll look however I want!
***Individual results may vary


Tyge said...

I really enjoyed this one, and have learnt to always have a bottle of bourbon in the cabinet. Learnt. I got that from you.

squarerootofmsquared said...

Very funny, looking forward to reading more of your stuff.

Freelance Guide said...

Wow! I love it! Very true, my mother gives me advices in cautionary style and let's me solve the problem my self. Nice freelance writing! Simple yet amazing and true. :)

cynical.girl said...

Brilliant. One more reason to have bourbon at an arms length @ all times.

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