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THE FISH 

“It would really help a lot if you could do this” said Cath, turning on a 100-watt smile. I had seen her smile often but this was a whole new level of luminescence. As a mere man I had no power to resist.

 I had agreed to help out on a charity stall at a forthcoming car boot sale. I had often been involved in fund-raising stalls in the UK sometimes as an assistant and sometimes having responsibility for the whole stall.  I had sold plants, books, and even bric-a-brac.

Whatever it was I was willing to give it a go in aid of a good cause. To help out on a stall in Tenerife would be an interesting new experience. I would be working with Elsa who is one of those amazing residents of Tenerife  who can switch between German English and Spanish without a pause and seemingly without thinking. With her abilities and my halting Spanish and half forgotten  French we should be able to communicate with at least most of our customers. If any other language happened to be required we could always resort to sign language. It is usually enough to nod, smile and hold up the required number of fingers.

 Eventually the day of the sale arrived and we were relieved to find the weather was just perfect. Sunny with a gentle breeze to keep things comfortably cool. The stall was soon set up and we laid out all the  things we hoped to sell. It was a very varied mixture of items, all of which had been donated by friends and supporters. Bits of jewellery, books, CDs, some household items, and assorted ornaments and bric-a-brac. We also had a few bottles of wine and some chocolates. Business was quite brisk right from the start with everyone hunting for a bargain. We had not troubled to price anything beforehand. We simply decided on the price to ask for as we went along with a little margin built in so that both we and our customers could enjoy a haggle before reaching a price which suited us both.

 We had not been going all that long when a tall and rather elegant lady arrived with two plastic bags with some  things for us to sell. She apologised for not getting them to us earlier but we reassured her that it was not a problem and I started to set out the new items. One was a carved wooden ornament in the shape of an angel fish. It had large fins sweeping back above and below a narrow body and was finished in an attractive blue-green colour. It was rather nice and I gave it pride of place in the middle of the stall.

 We were doing quite well and the money in our cash box was growing. As a precauntion most of the notes were removed and placed in an envelope for safe keeping, leaving the coins in the box as change. I was enjoying meeting and chatting with such a varied  mix of customers. Most were very pleasant although there is always the odd one who expects to get something for practially nothing and is aggrieved when the stall holder is not prepared to cooperate. Our pricing policy was fairly relaxed and we felt we would rather have a euro or two in the cashbox than be left with stuff at the end of the day. Nevertheless for the sake of the charity and the good folk who had donated our goods we were not going to give the stuff away.

 People were still coming in at the gate and paying the small entrance fee before making their way from stall to stall. One lady arrived at our stall and immediately picked up the fish. “My sister has one exactly like this” she said. “How much is it?” I told her the price was five euros. She offered me four which I was quite happy to accept. “She has a birthday next week. I will give her this as a surprise and then she can  have a matching pair.” I wrapped up the fish for her  and off she went delighted with her purchase.

 As time went on the bargain hunting fever seemed to have eased a bit. There were still lots of people around but they were doing more browsing than buying. Elsa went off for a break leaving me in charge and when she came back it was my turn. To one side of the rows of stalls was a stand where burgers and sausages were being grilled. The appetising smells had been drifting our way for some time and I headed over for a snack. A few tables had been set out and I sat down with my beer and burger roll.  At another table was the tall lady who had donated the fish. Beside her was a familiar looking lady who resembled her and whom I recognised as the customer who had bought the fish. The two were clearly sisters and one was going to get her own fish back on her birthday. Both sisters were going to get a surprise when that particular birthday gift was unwrapped and the truth was revealed. I hoped they would both be able to see the funny side. I certainly could.

Jim Rankin