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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fishy Gag That Nearly Backfired Very Badly

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I always feel sorry for the vendors at the Leningrad market, not far from our building. Rain or shine, blazing heat or brutal cold, they're on their feet all day hawking their wares. So I try to say something pleasant to them when I'm shopping, to amuse them. This annoys my wife. "Not everyone gets your jokes," she says. "Remember my words when you get yourself into a pickle."

Not long ago I really put my foot in it. My wife, Maria, saw some pickled belly lox at a fish stand and exclaimed with delight: "What a treat. And just 150 rubles a kilogram!"

The Azeri saleswoman joined right in, encouraging my wife. "That's a real delicacy, the best part of the salmon," she said. "It melts in your mouth." She was preaching to the choir. My wife is a big fish lover.

The lox was delicious and tender, just as the vendor had promised, and Maria polished off the last of it before the evening was out. In the morning she sidled up to me like a cat and asked me to go and get another half kilo of lox. I couldn't say no, and set off for the fish stand.

The vendor evidently remembered me, for when she caught sight of me she broke out in a welcoming smile. "Did your wife like the fish?" she asked.

"You're a dangerous woman," I replied. "A real seductress!"

The face that had been smiling a minute before now twisted into a frown. Her brilliant dark eyes burned with indignation.

"A seductress, am I?" she said. No trace of her former affability remained. "I'm dangerous? I seduce men? I have a husband and two children! I have been selling here for two years and no one has ever insulted me like this!"

A hulking Azeri gentleman appeared behind the woman's back holding a long, thin knife, which he was using to cut up the fish. People began to gather around the stall. The situation was starting to spin out of control, and I knew that I had to defuse it as quickly as possible. Putting on my most good-natured smile, I said in a slightly forced, joking manner: "Then who seduced my wife yesterday? Who talked her into buying the lox? She liked it so much that she sent me back for more."

The saleswoman stood silent for a moment, reflecting on what I had said. Then suddenly she got the joke, and said with a smile: "She liked it, eh?" She chuckled and added: "How much do you need?" Without waiting for my reply she ducked into the back room, then appeared with a kilogram of fatty belly lox.

Maria was so pleased when she saw my purchase that she covered me with kisses. Needless to say I didn't tell her about my joke gone astray, though I did learn my lesson: Joking with strangers can be a dangerous occupation.

Vladislav Schnitzer is a journalist and pensioner living in Moscow.