Thursday, June 30, 2011
(The Walk of the Mermaids: Part 1)
My crabby friends pinch me awake. I open my eyes, rubbing off some salt. Go pinch someone else, I say.
“We'll teach you to walk.”
Sideways? No, thank you.
Before reaching the first morning sparkles of sun, Nelson and I meet, grab hands and swim to the rocks in front of the cave. The same gray-haired man passes our view.
“Do we have to go as fast as he does?”
Probably, unless we see someone else doing it differently. We eat our breakfast. Our fins dry up. We crawl into the cave and put on some clothes. Nelson's pants are the same color as sand. I choose a shorter, coral-colored skirt this time. Yesterday's orange skirt dried but I like the idea of changing clothes everyday. After always being in the same skin, wearing new skirts and colors feels fun.
Nelson and I resume our positions from our last attempt – his left leg, my right leg. Then, my left, his right. Our drag quickens then slumps.
“Let's bend the back knee like the front knees were and bring them up ahead.”
Starting with feet together, we bend our inner knees upward and step down. Then we bend our back knees and swing those lower legs forward. Standing, we wondering what to do next. Our arms ache from holding onto each other so tightly.
“We're going to have to let go as some point, Meredith.”
I suggest we do three steps together, then let go. My left, his right. My right, his left. His elbow relaxes from my shoulder. My left, his right. We let go. My right, his left. Our arms sprawl like albatross wings. Like sand sculptures, we stop.
“What do we do now?”
I tell Nelson to just keep going. We do. When we get to the opening of the cave, we lean on some rocks and let the sun warm our cheeks.
To get to the beach, we sit on our backsides and scoot ourselves up and over some rocks. No blankets were down yet so we stood up.
Holding hands this time, we get going. My left, his right. My right, his left. His fingers relax their grip on my palm. My left, his right. We let go. My right, his left. My left, his right. My right, his left. Ouch!
I step on a broken bottle. My legs give way and pull me down to the sand. Nelson stops but doesn't turn around. We never thought about how to change directions.
Shutters of a cliff house bang open. I reach over to Nelson and push my hand into the back of his knee. He falls.
We have to go, I say.
Rolling into the tide still in our clothes, we're underwater before the lady at the window finishes rubbing her eyes.
“Do you think she saw us?” Nelson blurts out as soon as we reach the lighthouse.
“Who saw you?” Mother asks Nelson but looks into my eyes.
I told her about the lady up in the house.
“Be careful, ok?.”
Nelson and I nod then swim down to my coral for lunch. Grandfather is already at the table. We are the only mer-family to have a real wooden table, although slightly rotten. Grandfather found it in a sunken boat.
My skirt's weight floats around me. I quickly untie it and crumple it into a ball.
“What's that?” he inquires.
I tell him how Nelson and I swam home quickly so no one would see us. We didn't have time to hang up our clothes.
“That would be disastrous!” he pointed out.
I said that it would be more embarrassing than catastrophic. He smoothed out his beard all the way to his waist. His eyes crinkled under brows.
“What's it like?”
I wonder what he is talking about.
“What is it like to walk?”
I describe how the wet sand oozes in between the bits on the front of my feet. I describe the relaxing warmth I feel when I am on dry sand. When my real legs get wet, I get a chill up my spine.
Grandfather smiles from one side of his mouth. His lips part as if about to say something, then Mother carries over an armful of seaweed salad.
I spend the rest of the afternoon with my little sister. We chase fish and watch them scurry out of their formations when we get close enough to touch them.
“Will I have to walk one day?” she asks.
I say she probably will.
“Does it hurt?”
I say my muscles are sore but not painful.
“Is it difficult?”
If it were easy, I wouldn't have to practice so much.
“I wish you would still be in my school next year.”
I take her arm and swing her around. When I let go, she twirls backwards into Grandfather's chest.
“Come with me, you two.” His voice isn't mad but rather decided.
Sister and I flap our tails behind him until we get to his coral. We lie down on the sand in his front room.
“I want to show you something.”
He pulls out a rusty box. The latch does not quite hook. Water-marked pages of black and white pictures nearly float away from us.
“This is how you stand.” He shows us a little boy in long pants. A little girl, almost his age, has her arm around him.
“This is how you run.” An older boy poses in short pants. One leg is bent high in front of him while his other leg trails behind.
“Those are shoes,” he answers when I point to the things on the boy's feet. “That's enough for today. Time to go home.”
“Where did he get all those pictures?” sister wonders out loud.
I remind her how much he likes to hunt for souvenirs whenever a boat sinks.
We can barely see Mother through the foggy water when we notice her arms rotating, our signal for ... shark!
Sister and I push each others hands away. We swim in opposite directions. She squirms into a cave. I dive behind a planted anchor. He can't bite through it. The sound of his teeth hitting and scraping the iron makes my jaw clinch. Luckily, he is a young shark and tires after a few attempts at pushing the anchor out of the way.
The coast is clear, as Grandfather likes to say. Sister comes by to take my hand. I tell her that maybe there are advantages of living in a walking world after all.
What do you think?
* What tips would you give Meredith and Nelson to walk better or to run?
* Why do you think Grandfather does not want to go to shore to help them learn to walk?
* When you try something new, do you like to do it on your own or with someone? (with whom?)