They called him “Salt Peter” because it had been his job to salt and so preserve the herring. He'd worked at the fish market up until it had closed a few years ago, he'd become a character there, not a popular one either. Salt Peter always had been a loner, his past was shady and once he'd settled in the town from wherever he came, he made few friends, he just salted fish and scared small children and stray cats and dogs. A short, thick set man, balding and hunched up he avoided conversation and socialising. He just cut and salted the fish and then packed them in tight in the oak barrels for shipment. His constant exposure to fish and salt had whitened and roughed up his skin, it was a peculiar and condition, hardly easy on the eye. The salt had not just affected his hands and arms but also the skin on his face and head, he was almost salted himself with dried up tear ducts and skin like a lizard but the whites of his eyes seemed extra glutinous and luminous, the pupils more watery and any hair or eye brow that remained was ginger crusted like the toasted skin of a kipper. Peter was slowly salting himself into becoming the local bogey-man. A reputation he did not deserve by any behaviour or action but had gained simply by his deteriorating look and chosen profession.
“The most important of all movements are your bowel movements,” said Mrs Macsween. She was taking in an automatic stream of consciousness way to Peter. Peter was concentrating on slitting the fish and rubbing salt. “If your bowel movements are irregular or difficult then you need treatment, you need freedom. It's all in the diet and of course the clothing. Your bowels need space and relaxation of operate and if you fail to allow them that then there can be dire consequences, almost too terrible to consider. The bowel is the key to good help in fact if you think about your system it's all like a long hollow tube running through you with the bowel there, at the very end finally doing all that last minute processing to keep you going. That's why it pays to be regular and that's, as I say, down to good diet and relaxation. Are you getting this Peter?” Mrs Macsween was a widow. Her late husband had expired in a domestic episode when crushed under the cast iron end of a Victorian bed frame, it had been a tragic accident that sent shockwaves across the cobbles and through the small town. The drunken funeral took place on a grey December day, the stormiest one anybody could remember. Since that day she had formed a tempestuous on and off relationship with the slow witted but compliant Peter. The local gossips had a bean feast.
Peter looked down at his fish and continued working. “I pride myself on my strenuous and robust regime,” continued Mrs Macsween, “It's a combination of planning and discipline and that’s key to keeping a balance, a regular balance and don't be afraid to check yourself, don't ignore the details, you need to be aware of what is right and normal in your body, how it operates, look out for signs and of course regularity and constituency are a large part of that. I'm not going to talk about smell because that is quite unseemly but it's still worth considering, it's a factor. You need to take all the factors into account. That's important, know the normal and keep the rhythm, times and things. You know you should follow my advice, a man your age, there are health problems that you're storing up and your posture wont be helping”. Peter grunted and looked away. Mrs Macsween was talking automatically, like a expert at a symposium, lecturing and describing, oblivious to the audience, their response, their interest. She ploughed on through with her topic – taking the right kind of care of the bowels. “Anyway”, she was almost finished now, “ it'll soon be time for lunch, where will you be taking be?” I'm not sure if Peter quite knew what he was doing but he quickly drew out his knife and sliced into Mrs Macsween like she was a wriggling fish. Then he applied the salt, then he put her into a barrel and shipped her along with another prepared consignment. I don't quite know where her final destination was and as for Peter...well nobody ever knew. All they found was a small white pile of Potassium Nitrate on the preserving room floor.