Saturday, 5 September 2009

a testing ask

Fill in the gaps with the correct phrase from below and ONLY THEN click on the “gap” box to check your answer.

don't ask

don't ask me

if you ask me

be asking for it

ask after somebody

'Yes, I saw it,' confessed the old man.
He was said to be 137, but he looked older, his fingers gnarled like exposed tree roots, and his hair sparse like frost-rimed weeds in winter farmland. He sat in a stout oak chair, bowed over a weak fire, staring into the pallid flames.
'It was the greatest thing ever to happen,' he mused. 'But no-one said a word about it. Ever.'
His name was Bo-Widdly Gon Fane, a common enough name in these parts, and he was the sole survivor of the short-lived war between the Republic of Pustula and the Kingdom of Vitristan. I had been trying to track him down for many years, and finally here he was.
'So, what exactly did happen Mr Gon Fane?'
He groaned. '. I don't want to talk about it.'

Nothing I could say seemed capable of changing his mind. I pleaded with him, offered him money, flattered him - none of it made any difference. He remained mute on the subject.
Feeling deflated, I returned to my hotel where I sat disconsolately at the bar. An old lady, perched like an antique carving, straight-backed, at a table near me obviously noticed my depression.
'What's the matter, son?' she inquired.
I explained to her my problem with Mr Gon Fane. She listened patiently and nodded her head at the end of my tale.
'Go back, son. I know old Bo-Widdly very well. He's as stubborn as a mule near thistles, but just tell him Rosa-Rosa was him.' She winked at me and went back to nursing her drink.

I thanked her heartily and ran back to find Mr Gon Fane. He sat, still hunched over the fire. Without turning round, he barked that he still had nothing to say.
I crouched down beside him. 'Rosa-Rosa said to say "Hi",' I replied, as nonchalantly as I could.
He grunted at that. ', you should take more care choosing the company you keep.'
I made no retort to this.
He sighed. 'Ok, if you really want to know...,' he trailed off. 'It all began when a Vitrian made a comment about the name of Rosa-Rosa's great-grandmother, after whom she is named - Rosa-Rosa Pug Harking-Box. He called her Plug-Ugly Barking-Hog, as I recall. Seems kind of quaint now, I don't doubt. But in those days it was a deadly insult. Yes, they alright.
Pretty soon, insults were flying back and forward between the Pustulans and the Vitrians. Insults led to fists, fists led to clubs, clubs led, in the end, to war. Every able-bodied man on both sides took up arms and prepared to fight for the honour of his country. I remember it like it was yesterday. Tens of thousands of us lined up on either side of the Ichthy Valley, our buttons and gun barrels gleaming in the sun. We stood there, staring each other down, waiting for the order. Suddenly, our commander shouted the command: "Fire!" And we did...'
Mr Gon Fane paused. A tear rolled down his left cheek. I hardly dared breathe.
'And then...'
'And then...: fish!'
'Yes, fish. Instead of bullets, fish came shooting out of all our guns. Can you imagine? Thousands of fish, flying idly though the air before splatting down into the valley floor. It was amazing. Of course, the Vitrians were shocked at first, but then they started laughing, thinking they had us cornered. They all fired at once while we stood there, in shock. But the same happened to them. Fish, everywhere.'
'What happened?'
'What happened? I'll tell you what happened. We tried everything. We shot our pistols and out came clown fish. We shot out cannons and out came dolphins and whales. We threw our grenades and they turned into squid on impact. Within minutes we were knee-deep in fish and crustaceans. The smell was unbelievable. What could we do? We had to get out of there as quick as possible.'
'But what caused it?'
Bo-Widdly Gon Fane chuckled. 'What caused it?!'

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Collocation of the Week by Dr Myers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.