Thursday, July 14, 2011

(The Walk of the Mermaids: Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3)

Part 4
Nelson is not at the lighthouse this morning.
“There's his father on his way.” Mother waves her tail beside her.
He excuses Nelson from practice. “He got stung by an eel last night. Nothing serious. But, his right fin will have to heal completely before going out in the sun.”
“Thanks for letting us know. Come, dear, we'll come back another time.”
I can go today. I can walk on my own.
“Really?” Her left eyebrow arches.
I tell her how school starts soon. I tell her I need to do this.
She nods and reminds me to be back at the lighthouse by the time the sun is directly above us.
Blowing her a kiss, I kick my tail toward the shore.
The blue sky feels like a blanket to me. It looks warm even though when I get to the cave entrance, the atmosphere chills my scales. I scurry inside for a skirt. I find a pair of shorts.
Perched on the rocks out of view, I eat my breakfast bar and my last coconut. With my tail dried up, I reach for my clothes of the day. The green fabric ends just above my knees. I chuckle out loud imagining I have seaweed wrapped around my legs.
My hands cross over each other as I walk against the wall of the cave. The cool dampness encourages me to let go. One hand at a time, I do. I stand. I inhale the salty air and watch the fog it makes when I breath out.
The sand feels colder under my toes than the first days of walking. At least, I think, I have figured out what toes are. And my heel, it sinks just enough into the beach to push me off.
A bubbly feeling in my stomach tells me to not go any farther. I ignore it. If I want to walk, I have to walk. Up and down the beach I go. With every aisle I make with my foot prints, I approach the beach blankets and parasols. The elderly man Nelson and I see every morning has already passed me twice. I don't know if I'll ever go as fast as him, but I may try.
Children hurry past me. Mothers and fathers call after them, chasing them with plastic bottles. I wonder what the white stuff is all over their skin.
Many Walkers are not even walking, but lying on long chairs or blankets. The parasol shadows create a kaleidoscope: shades of brown, stripes of blues, reds and oranges. In between, legs of all lengths run, walk and crawl.
The sun beats harder today. My head begins to ache. I sit down. I lie down. I fall asleep.
“Is she ok?”
“Just fine.”
“Maybe she should stay here from now on.”
“She'll go back to shore when she's ready.”
That's Grandfather's voice. Where am I?
“You're home, dear,” Mother says. “We were so worried.”
I almost cough waking up underwater. Grandfather grins at me.
“I'll go get your supper. You must be hungry.” Mother flaps past us toward the kitchen shell.
Grandfather, did you...come for me?
“I didn't know I still had it in me. After your mother waited an hour at the lighthouse, she came searching for help. Her voice bubbled and popped louder than ever.”
Grandfather's eyes sunk low. “I had to go back up for you.”
He explained how he went to our cave and found piles of dried scales. He then dried out his fins and looked around for some clothes. All he saw was the skirt I had left behind. So, feeling a bit silly, he stretched out his leg muscles, climbed over the rocks and headed for the beach.
Grandfather recognized the lines of footprints as mine. He said Grandmother had paced back and forth the same way.
After about ten rows, the prints stopped, right where I had. The Walkers had not noticed anything out of the ordinary. I was just a young girl in her shorts, asleep on the beach with a sunburn on half her face and the side of one leg.
“You looked so much like your grandmother when I first met her,” he said.
He picked me up in his arms and walked back to the cave. I did not even wake up while he massaged my legs in the sea.
“You have had an eventful day. You should stay among the corals tomorrow,” Mother warns.
I can't wait to go back to the beach, but agree to rest a day or two until my sunburn heals.
Just in time for the first day of school, Nelson returns to the lighthouse.
“I'm not sure if I remember how to walk.”
Don't be silly, remember what my grandfather always says - It's like riding a bike, once you learn you never forget.
“What's a bike?”
I don't know, but let's find out.

What do you think?

* Was Meredith right to go to the beach without Nelson? Why or why not?
* Imagine Meredith and Nelson's first walk to school. What might be exciting for them? What might bother them?
* Have you ever had to change schools or return to a previous school? How did you have to prepare? Were you excited or nervous?

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