Scene: an old-style fishmongers’ somewhere in England.
The Customer is enquiring of the Fishmonger concerning the freshness and potential health risks of some Mussels.
CUSTOMER (C): A lot of these seem to be open. Doesn’t that mean they’re dead, and will poison me?
FISHMONGER (F): You give them a sharp tap, like this. (Raps a Mussel on the counter.) It takes a moment, but see? (The Mussel slowly closes its shell.) They’ll close up. So that one’s alive. Perfectly safe to eat.
C: Right. (Raps another Mussel on the counter, and waits. The shell stays open.) So that one’s dead?
F: That one’s dead. (Pause.) But the dead ones are all right too, long as they haven’t been dead for too long.
C: I see. (Pause.) How long?
F: Oh, four or five hours.
C: Right. (Pause.) How do I tell how long they’ve been dead? (Longer pause.) I mean, you can’t ask them, can you? (To the Mussel:) Please Mr Mussel, how long have you been dead?
F: I see what you mean. (Begins to tap the open Mussels.)
C: Oh, don’t bother.
Author’s note: Later, after they had been exquisitely prepared by C (who is B), I ate many of them. They were delicious, and I’m still alive and well. (Unlike the Mussels.)