James Follett

Very Short Fiction


Tiger Balm Tyrants

Last update was Sunday, 30 December, 2007 8:07 PM

Tiger Balm Tyrants James Follett © 2008

One night, when my poor wife had severe back pain and couldn't sleep, I suggested that she try some tiger balm that we had bought in Hong Kong. Full strength stuff with such a pungent, pervading odour that it was necessary to keep the tin inside another tin. One whiff was enough to persuade Dylan and Thomas to decamp under the bed.

I made a mental note of this because those two damned brothers are always sprawled on our bed like a pair of quotation marks, and they create a fearful uproar if we try to exclude them from what they regard as their bedroom. One cat on a bed is living proof of Follett's Law which states: "A sleeping cat on a duvet trebles in weight". With two cats the weight increase is in the region of a Sherman tank. Tiger balm was the solution to the problem.

Anyway, I rubbed some of this wicked concoction on my wife's back. Dylan and Thomas, sulking under the bed, had a valid point because, my God, did it stink the bedroom out. Eventually we went to sleep. I woke about an hour later and went for a pee. I returned to bed and after a few minutes became aware of an intense burning sensation. I tried to ignore it but it got steadily worse. Followed by Dylan and Thomas, ever hopeful that I could be herded into the kitchen and make with a can opener, I went into the bathroom and tried washing the offending part but that only seemed to spread the stuff around.

By now I was in agony. I swear that everything was actually glowing in the dark and decided that complete immersion of the injured area in warm water was the only cure. The question was how. Being a resourceful bloke, I filled the washbasin to the brim and, with one knee on edge of bath and hanging onto the basin's mixer tap for stability, I managed to lower burning tackle into the warm water.


It was while I was perched thus that I slipped and added further injuries to the already heat-damaged tissue. I managed to re-establish blissful immersion but Dylan and Thomas ensured that my wife would witness this by jumping on her. She entered the bathroom. Being a woman, and imbued with more than her fair share of women's curiosity, she demanded to know what I was doing and why was I doing it without her. I explained my misadventure with her wretched tiger balm whereupon she seemed to be seized by a sudden asthma attack that led to her rolling around on the floor with tears streaming down her cheeks.

`Vinegar!' she declared and disappeared downstairs leaving me wondering if I was the owner of 50 pence worth of chips straight out of the fryer. Well it certainly felt like it. By the time she returned I was convinced I was on the brink of a Three Mile Island meltdown, but her careful pouring of vinegar stopped the fuel rod going critical. The trouble was that the agony returned whenever she stopped pouring. A quick rummage in a drawer produced an old bowtie which she soaked in the vinegar and tied in place, with a rather neat bow, too. Peace returned to our household.

Of course, I swore my wife to secrecy but somehow the story got out even though there were no other witnesses apart from Dylan and Thomas. I trust my wife implicitly therefore the blabbers just had to be the evil siblings from hell. They have no shame because the story of my wearing of a bowtie has become a standing joke and I can no longer hold my head up -- if you'll pardon the expression.



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