Sea Side Story

A WordPress prompt last weekend was “Grab the nearest book. Take the tenth word and write about it”.

WordPress often set prompts like this, not realising that most sentences have more words like “the”, “a” and “and” than they do words full of possibilities, such as “treasure”, “skullduggery” or  “Hogwarts”. The book I picked up was called “Shirley Flight – Air Hostess in Hollywood” (Shakespeare and Dickens do not feature much on the bookshelves of  the Tinhouse) and the tenth word is “she”…


She sold sea-shells. By the sea-shore. People spoke about that a lot.

Mainly because they were a bit baffled by her choice of career. If you’re going to sell sea-shells, a modest source of income in any case, then by the sea-shore, where free sea-shells are scattered all over the beach, is probably not the place to do it.

The shells she sold were sea-shore shells. I’m sure. I’m sure because it says that in the first sentence. Had she sold egg-shells, tortoise-shells or even armour-piercing shells she would probably have had a higher income, though the last of these would probably have got her arrested.

Her friend Molly Malone sold cockles and mussels. Live ones. This was a far better business idea, but unfortunately Molly died of a fever. People tried, but no-one could save her, so that was the end of that. And her.

At least it should have been, and the sea-shell seller could have taken over her business. Sadly Molly’s ghost kept the business running, and this was not a success. Shellfish can be dodgy at the best of times, so people were understandably wary of buying cockles and mussels that were more alive (alive-O) than the person selling them. Especially when that person had died of an unspecified fever.

Molly (after a bit of a disaster at a tanning salon)

Molly (after a bit of a disaster at a tanning salon) (photo via me)

So both ventures failed. Molly moved into a castle and into the haunting business, terrifying the residents with her plaintive cries while impressing them with her massive cleavage. The girl who sold the sea-shells moved to Africa, where she now tries to sell sea-shells at a camel-stop in the Sahara desert. If you hold one of the shells up to your ear you can hear the sea, which is bloody annoying when you haven’t had a drink for four days.

Some people just aren’t cut out for business.


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