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The Autumn Mermaid

ten

Carolyn LaBuda

Ricky poked it with a stick. “It doesn’t look like a mermaid.” “What else would it be?” Rachel swatted the stick away before he could poke it a second time. “Don’t mermaids have hair and skin and, you know, a human half ?” Rachel frowned. “Not this one: look at it.” The two children looked at the mermaid. It was as big as any other fish they had ever seen, about a foot long, but it looked far different from the trout and blue-gill that normally swam near the pier. Thin, green skin couldn’t hide the veins spidering under its body’s surface. Black beetles of eyes bulged out of its face. Below, a cave of a mouth retreated into the dark abyss of a throat; its lips were fleshy and the color of toothpaste. The mermaid’s tail ended in hinted fins, clear and wispy, and the flippers on either side of its swollen belly were fans of veins; the creature’s flapping gills gasped for water. It rolled onto its back and burped a sour, yellow note. “I want to keep it.” Rachel cautiously picked it up, holding the wriggling mermaid in two hands as far away from her face as possible. Slowly, with her nose crinkled up, she pulled it into her arms and held it like a baby. It opened its fleshy lips and a gargled powdery green noise dripped from its mouth; the girl’s nose smoothed with a smile. “Where do you want to keep it?” “We can put it in the bathtub.” The slime and mud covering the creature climbed onto the girl’s sweater. Ricky laughed. “You think Mom’s gonna let you put that thing in the tub? It looks like a slug.” Rachel crumpled her face into a frown. “It does not!” The mermaid burped again, this time letting the powdery green and the sickly, yellow mix into sound. Ricky looked around, his eyes touching the bait cage at the end of the pier and brushing the tiny bucket that Rachel used for making mud castles. Then he saw the garage; he thought for a moment. “We can put it in Shadow’s old cage.” “You can’t put water in a rabbit cage.” “We can just put it in the lake. We’ll put it so that the door is on top, so we can get that thing in and out of the cage easier. Plus the holes are big enough for minnows to swim through. I don’t know what this thing eats, but it should be able to get food in the cage.” Ricky looked at the mermaid: it was swaying back and forth on its back. Its round belly caught the light, showing off veins the color of bruises. “You just splash water on it until I get back with the cage.” The little boy trudged through the dying November grass to the garage. The leaves were already gone from the trees: the world was dead, waiting for the snow to bury it. He searched through the garage, and when he found the wire rabbit cage, he turned to bring it back to the shallow lake seeping into the backyard. He could still see Rachel marching from the water to the mud with sand-castle buckets of water. Ricky carried the cage back with both hands, toting it awkwardly in front of him. His knees hit the wire cage with every step, no matter where he tried to shift his load. When he set it in the water, he had to walk halfway down the pier to get to water deep enough so that only the very top of the cage was still in the air. Rachel picked up the squirming mermaid and walked into the chilly water; she set the creature into the

Profile for Brushfire Literature & Arts

Edition 63 Volume 1  

Fall 2010. Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrus...

Edition 63 Volume 1  

Fall 2010. Brushfire is UNR's oldest literature & arts journal. Brushfire publishes biannually, check out our website for more info! unrbrus...

Profile for brushfire
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