Flash Friday 24/01/2014: The Grand Scale
“A scale please,” the well-dressed man said. “Extra large.”
Isabella had heard all of the stranger customer enquiries. One person wanted to know if their train ticket also worked on airplanes. Another asked her for a ticket from London to Scotland ‘with no stations in-between’. One even asked that, if they sat on the train for long enough, if they would eventually find themselves in Belgium before dinnertime. As she watched the man shove several ten pound notes under the cash receptacle in the booth, however, all she could do was gawk.
“You want a scale?” she asked.
“That’s right. Extra large.”
“Sorry sir, but if you want a scale, it’s best if you bought one at a store to take home.”
“What? Don’t be silly. How on earth do you think I’d fit one of your scales in my home?”
Isabella thought this was an insult to her weight, but her inner demon quelled itself when she saw the man’s pointing finger to the train service provider.
“Besides,” the man continued. “It’s not for me, obviously. Oh, I see what this is! This is one of your little jokes that businesses have. Awfully sorry, I’m in a horrible mood after escorting the cargo here. You know how it is.”
“I…really don’t,” Isabella said, pushing the notes back through. “This isn’t a place to weigh things.”
The man took back the notes, without breaking his confused-looking eye contact. “Yes it is,” he said. “This is exactly the place I want to be. It’s where someone told me to go when I said I wanted Beatrice weighed.”
A scruffy-looking man in the queue behind him waved a hand. “Travelcard, please.”
“Please, wait your turn,” Isabella said. “Sir, I don’t know who Beatrice is or why you’d want her weight, but–“
“She’s a lovely sperm whale, obviously. Can’t you see her?”
Isabella pressed the side of her face against the window of the booth to see where the man was pointing. Sure enough, parked in the car park of the station, was a gigantic tank with a sperm whale inside. In fact, saying it was parked in the car park was a bit of a stretch; its tail was currently holding up traffic on the main road, as well.
“Why on earth did you bring that here?”
“Well, I asked my good friend ‘where do you go to weight a whale?’ and he said that he had ‘heard this one’ and told me that you could get them weighed at a ‘whale-weigh station’. I tried looking for one, but he slapped me across the back of the head and said that he meant a railway station. So, here I am.”
“We don’t actually weigh whales here. What your friend said was a joke.”
The man looked like the personified version of a just-smashed window. He looked over to the whale, then back at Isabella. “But…if you can’t weigh my whale, then who will?”
“I can’t say I’m a professional at that, sir. I advise that you ask fellow…whalekeepers? Of your dilemma.”
“But she needs it now! It’s an emergency!”
“A medical one?”
“No, of her self-esteem. You see…” the man leant forward, eyeing Beatrice nervously, before whispering. “I think she has a bit of a self-conscious issues with her weight. What with all that blubber and all. Thought about getting her weighed, so we can find out her BMI.”
“I think that’s only for humans.”
“Travelcard, please,” the man behind said again, waving an arm.
“So what am I to do?” the whale-owner said. “How am I supposed to convince her that she’s fine as she is?”
Isabella had an idea. She wished she didn’t, because the idea was ultimately the worst and silliest one she had ever had, but it was the only thing that made sense in this nonsensical time.
She got out of her booth, walked to the car park, put her hand against the tank, and spoke to the whale.
“Hello,” she said.
The whale acknowledged her with a single eye.
“I hear that you have issues with your weight, so…I came here to talk to you about it. I mean, I’m not exactly the ambassador of fitness over here.” She slapped her belly, which waved to the whale. “But weight isn’t something to be ashamed about. If you never accept yourself for who you are, then you’ll never be happy with yourself. I’ve seen people who make rakes look like party balloons, and they lose their mind if they can pinch a centimetre. So, accept yourself for who you are, but also maybe get some exercise. I like to go down the pool, but I don’t think the pool owners would much like a sperm whale doing lengths down their pool. Maybe go to the beach? Hire yourself out as a freelance Jonah re-enactor? Either way, don’t feel bad. You’re very, uh, slim for a whale. I think the one in Free Willy was a bit on the chubby side.”
The whale blinked.
“Well?” Isabella said to the man. “Do you think that worked?”
“Worked? You cured my whale of her anxiety, of course it worked!”
“Really?” Isabella frowned. “Because it feels like I just spoke to a what for the past minute. Probably because I did.”
“They were the truest words, and now my Beatrice is shining pure rays of confidence. I came here for a weight, and leave instead with words of wisdom.”
“If you say so, then,” Beatrice said. She should have felt nicer about it, but she couldn’t help but feel the burning stares from everyone around her as she went back to her day job after a brief stint in whale whispering. Taking her place in the booth, she beckoned the next in the line forwards.
“Excuse me, madam,” the scruffy man said, “but I’d like to buy–“
“–a travelcard, got you,” Isabelle said, printing one off. She was going to hear ‘whale of a time’ jokes for months now.
Book Spotlight: ‘Til Death Does His Part — A story where Death is framed for murder, and gets a little (misguided) help from his friends to keep the death count going.