Thursday, July 7, 2011
(The Walk of the Mermaids: Part 1 and Part 2)
This morning, I swim straight past Nelson and yell out for him to meet me in the cave. He is out of breath when he gets to our rock.
We start our routine: eating breakfast while our legs dry out, slipping into some clothes, holding arms until we're out of the cave. Nelson and I laugh more with each other than at each other these days. The sun's heat dries us out quicker each morning.
We manage to walk by holding hands or by holding elbows until we arrive at the beach.
I suggest we let go completely for ten steps. Nelson looks at me as if I had told him to climb up the lighthouse.
I reassure him that we are ready. If we do not try, we will never know.
Morning heat warms our cheeks, pulling us forward. I look at Nelson who is not looking at me.
“All right, Meredith. Let's go.”
Our arms stretch out, my right palm against his. We agree to the count of three...and go.
Right leg. Left leg. Right leg. Left leg.
At exactly ten steps we stop. We turn to each other and smile.
“Hey! We turned!” Nelson notices.
This is getting fun. We continue to walk ten paces, then turn right. We walk twenty paces then turn left. Our bare feet make a lovely design in the sand.
Shutters open. My eyes explode and stop Nelson's feet in their tracks.
We are too far up the beach to roll back into the waves.
“Just sit down,” he whispers.
We sit. We look behind us to see if the lady is still at her window. She is. We look again. She is gone. We look one more time to be sure. She is back, this time, carrying a chair. She sits down and lifts her feet onto the balcony rail.
“She's going to be there all morning,” worries Nelson.
Parasols pop open. Blankets flap down onto the sand. Walkers surround us.
“Our mothers are surely waiting for us by now. What do we do, Meredith?”
Let's go. I say it, but still sit a minute to hear it.
Nelson grabs my hand. He pushes himself up onto his feet. “We just have to go back to the rocks.”
He extends his hand and pulls me up.
We raise our chins, steady our balance, and take our first steps on a crowded beach. Ten paces, twenty paces, thirty, forty, fifty... We are at the rocks.
Relieved to sit down, we flip our legs to the other side of the rocks and walk back into the cave to hang up our clothes.
We jump back into the sea. With arms stretched out, we reach for each other.
Our tails grow back their scales and swim us to the lighthouse quicker than ever.
“What took so long?” Both mothers shout.
“We were just taking a walk.” Nelson smiles.
“Go tell your Grandfather!” Mother suggests.
I see Grandfather, from the distance of a whale, sitting on an anchor. I flip flap myself excitedly down to him.
Old photographs sit in his hands like playing cards. One walking woman looks just like Grandmother.
I never knew she walked.
“When you were still a little guppy," Grandfather explained, "I took Grandmother back to shore to celebrate the day we first met.”
She must have really liked that. In the photograph, both of them look like young Walkers sitting on a terrace at tea time. Their grins rise as sharply as clams.
“That afternoon, she stepped off the curb to go see a souvenir shop. Can you imagine a mermaid wanting to buy a seashell in a shop? Just as her foot hit the road, a car sped by.”
I gasp, not knowing exactly what a car is.
“Her foot was crushed. I carried her back to the beach and into the sea.”
I bet she never wanted to go to shore again.
“She loved going to the shore. But, her tail couldn't grow back properly into shape. She was never able to swim to the top of the sea again.”
That's why you never wanted Mother to walk. But, I am learning. And, I like it.
Grandfather covers me with his arms. Although we are deep in the sea, I can feel warm drips of water on my forehead.
Are you ok, Grandfather?
“I am ok because I have you - on land or sea.”
I squeeze myself tighter against his chest.
What do you think?
*How do you feel when you accomplish a goal? Who do you like to run and tell?
*What have you learned that you really weren't sure you could?
*Mer-people must watch out for sharks, for example. What are you careful about when you are at the beach and in the ocean?