Mermaid Chapter 2. (NSFW)

Here’s the second chapter of the mermaid Story. I told myself that I would post when I had 70k words written, so here it is. Wherein we meet Chrissie’s mom and Chrissie and Tom meet face to face.  Not safe for work for the ending.

This sketch from Donato Giancola(http://www.donatoart.com/index.html) is a bit how I imagine Josh seeing Mera for the first time.

 

 

Chapter 2, Mermaid In The Boat.

Tom.

Mr. Fenner was as good as his word. I picked up the wheel on my way to Hyaniss and dropped it off at his shop.  I got the boat’s registration squared away and headed back to town.  I stopped in at the bar and Old man Claytor was talking to somebody I knew.

“Mike, I haven’t seen you in a while. What have you been up to?”

“The usual.”

I glanced at Josh, wondering.

“ I told him.”

“Still chasing monsters?”

“We finally closed the books on the last one, which is one of the reasons I’m here.”

“Good, there were too many bodies already. Any progress on bringing the people who made the monsters in the first place to trial?”

“We’re working on it. A lot of high placed people were involved.”

“They put my brother in those trenches and didn’t tell them what they were up against. Then they treated them like monsters.  What did they expect?”

“That’s a bit more than Mike told me, Tom.”

“Well Mike got me a job with Congressman Gibson and I learned some things about the war. The first was that the troops were sent over to France dangerously underequipped for the war.  It wasn’t just monster fighting, the preparations were inadequate at every level.”

“Why aren’t you still in Washington?”

“Low level Congressional staffers shouldn’t turn over too many rocks. You never know what you might find and who might want whatever it was to remain under a rock. I needed to get out of that swamp.”

“So where did you go next?”

“Worked machine work at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Engines until they had a layoff, went back to Vermont and had a small shop until I couldn’t take any more and came down here.

Josh did I tell you I bought a boat?”

“Which one?”

“Well it was the Missy “D”. I haven’t decided what to name it yet.”

“That rumrunner? They laid her up on the rocks before the Coast Guard confiscated her. She’s got a sprung shaft and broken wheel. She’s also a big boat.”

“Tom, I’ve got a send a report to my boss and then head on back to the city.”

“Anything around here that I should know about?”

“No, though there are some things you will find out about. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

“Ok, Mike. If I see anything that  you should know about, I’ll send a telegram.

“Josh, Your son Joe pointed me at the boat. The yard had bought her from the government auction, but couldn’t sell her.  Other than the shaft though, she was a good boat and Joe pointed me at a shop that could fix the shaft.”

“Turnwright?”

“Yup, apparently Mr. Fenner is a wizard with tools. Even if he can’t deal with the shaft I have some friends at Pratt and they’ve got machines that can pull anything straight. I’m not too worried about the shaft and I’ve ordered a new wheel. Mr. Fenner said that he might be able to fix the busted one, so we’ll see.”

That was true and from what I heard from some friends, things were really slow down in East Hartford. All over the place, really.  This Depression was going on and on and the clowns down on Washington only seemed determined to make things worse.  A tax on checks?  When cash was short? Fortunately my bank in Vermont had a stable customer base, most of which was family and had weathered the run on cash.  Many banks hadn’t.

I ran the pots for Josh and I over the week. Strangely enough, I kept hearing singing, in a young girl’s voice, but there was nobody around. And sometimes the pot line was heavy.  Nothing the winch couldn’t handle though.  Then there was the voice that kept saying “Thickhead!!” and a splash.

I rented a shed near the yard. and started setting it up with a cot and desk for the winter. As soon as things got too cold for the water, I was going back up to the farm and bring down my tools.  I figured that I could set up a shop and pick up some jobber work.  I had my old South bend, the mill and an almost new Hardinge cataract lathe from Pratt.  Not up to Mr. Fenner’s standards, but it would make a start on a small shop. That new institute over in Wood’s Hole could probably use somebody who could make small precision parts and I certainly had a lot of that in the carburater  shop.

On Monday I had a message from the yard that Mr. Fenner had called and said my shaft and wheel were ready so I headed over from the yard to Fenner’s shop, paid the bill and took the shaft and the wheel back to the yard. Joe and I started to run the shaft back up through the packing box and get the coupling reattached.  One of those painful and tortuous jobs in the bilge  of a boat.  Fortunately the boat’s engine was a fairly new Liberty, a legacy of her rum runner past, so we didn’t have deal with rusted bolts as well as everything else.  I also put a coat of paint on the boat while I was at it.  Joe built fenders up the side for the pots because the boat hadn’t needed them before.

“Joe, why so wide? And what are those holes for?”

“Tom you haven’t fallen off yet, have you? Trust me when you are in the freezing water looking up the side of the boat, you’ll really appreciate a place to grab on to and pull yourself out.”

“So how soon can we get her in the water?”

“Well the paint has to dry, so figure about another week. It’s a short season any way, why don’t you keep her in the yard and put ‘er in in April?”

“I’m going to live aboard and save rent, getting things set up during the slow season.”

Little did I know that those holes weren’t for me.

Mera.

“Mom, there are times when I want to just grab him and –“

“ I know dear, It’s frustrating.”

“But he doesn’t even know I’m there!!”

“I know it’s harder for a mermaid, especially when he doesn’t even believe yo exist. It’s even harder when fae souls are involved, like it was with your father.”

“ Father is fae? He seems so ordinary.”

“Appearances can be deceiving. And there’s very little that’s ordinary about your father.”

Mera looked at her daughter, who was the very vision of a mermaid princess and thought back to the time when she living the endless dance of the fae, before the stirrings. The stirrings of coming darkness that filtered through the water like a miasma.

“Mother, why did you go to the surface”

“To meet your father, of course.”

“But how did you know he was there?”

“The minute his soul touched the water, I knew.”

“Like Aunt Nera the other day.”

“Yes. Which considering what she put me through, that is more than a little consolation.”

So what’s Aunt Nera going to do if he never comes back to the water.”

“He will, he won’t be able to help himself. Like your father did.”

“He was a bum then, just working along.”

“What he does and what he is are different things. Just look at your Tom.”

“That’s different!!”

“Why aren’t you chasing after him?’

“He hasn’t been on the water for a week, the thickhead!!”

Therein was the source of her daughter’s distress. She was too human to not be unconcerned about others getting between her and her soulmate.  She was impatient when things needed time.  When souls needed to grow. She was also suffering from a good deal of teenage angst. Mera reached out with her senses, looking for Josh.  Good, he was on the boat, alone. It was time for a talk.

Chrissie, dear, go and stuff some more of Tom’s pots, I’m going to talk to your father.”

“What difference does that make if he’s not even pulling them himself.”

“Well find something else to do then.”

Mera left the bower and swam toward Josh’s boat. The distance disappeard almost by magic, but truth to tell, the boat wasn’t far, as if Josh was also looking for Mera.

Mera reached the boat and started to pull up the side. Then she felt Josh’s strong hands pulling her up and into his warm and comforting arms.  For the moment she just reveled in the feeling, something she had far too little of these days.

“Dear we need to-“

“Mera we need to-“

“I guess we both know what we need to talk about.”

“Chrissie, and Tom.”

“Chrissie’s at her wit’s end.”

“I know. I had to pull her from a pot last week. And it wasn’t the first time.”

“It’s hard when he doesn’t even know she exists.”

“Well you solved that problem. I still see the vision on the pier as I was drifting by. You, a goddess, showing yourself for all too see.”

“Modesty is hardly a mermaid strong suit. I love the way you talk though. And anyway, the only person who would have seen me was you and I was definitely trying to get your attention.”

“It worked.”

“About Tom.”

“He’s bought a boat, you know. That’s why he’s been spending so much time off the water lately.  Getting her fixed up.

I also had a talk with one of his friends, a man from Washington. Deals in our sort of world. Tom’s been through some dark and evil things.”

As I listened as Josh told what the man from Washington had told him I got a chill. This was a world and an evil that could reach out and grab us all.  I knew the terrible stories about the war from the mers across the sea, the terrible sinkings and dead ships.  Apparently the war on land had been worse.  At least in it’s evil.

The bright spot was that Tom was moving toward Chrissie, whether he knew it or not. Once souls start to touch they want to get closer.

“Tell Chrissie not to worry, Joe’s looking out for Tom. Getting the boat fixed up and in the water as fast as he can. Even sent Tom to the wizard to get the shaft and wheel fixed.”

“Fenner?”

Even the high fae knew about the wizards of metal and their work.  The wizard of Dennis was one of the most respected.

“Yup, he’s even doing his magic with the wheel.”

“Let me handle the boat while you pull the pots.”

“Do you still remember how?”

“I think I can figure it out, pull that box over so I can sit on it.”

Josh set his wife on the gunwhale and turned the box, normally used for bait and currently empty over and set it up next to the wheel in the wheelhouse. Then he picked his wife and set her on the box.

“Good, now we can work faster.”

“So that I can get back to harbor?”

“No, so you can Change and we can go for a Swim.”

“The bunk is right there?”

“Swim!! I insist. Hand me that jacket so I don’t get cold or startle some lander.”

Josh looked terrible, actually. He needed the Swim.  It had been too long, for them both.

Josh.

The work did go faster with his wife handling the boat. Which she did, expertly. Use the hook, grab the buoy, attach the line to the winch and start pulling pots, dumping the lobsters into the well as the boat moved slowly along.  Not having to stop the boat or go to the wheel and turn the boat just made the job easier.  Of course stopping to look at his wife, who was still the vision of thirty nine years ago slowed things down somewhat.  His wife was right.  He needed the Swim.

“That’s the last string!”

“Good, We’re done. And look there’s a nice little cove right there. Get the hook down right away and get undressed!”

Josh dropped the anchor. He didn’t worry about setting it as he would do that once he got below. Then he took his oilskins and the rest of his clothes off. Before he started the Change he put a lobster gauge around his neck.

“What’s that?”

“A lobster gauge. The fisheries people have a new rule about throwing lobsters that are too small back. As long as we are Swimming we can stuff some of Tom’s pots for him.  I wish that I could get Chrissie to use one of these.  Too many of the lobsters she stuffs are shorts.”

“That’s a good idea. Back when I was there we were trying to work out some way of getting the fishermen to throw some back. Those little ones aren’t really worth pulling anyway.”

The Change was like throwing a switch in the back of his head. And the pain, but every time he changed the pain was smaller, as if he was getting used to it. At this point he hardly felt the Change at all. Before he started the change he put his wife on the gunwhale expecting her to slip in the water as he changed.  She didn’t.

“Watching me Change?”

“I love it when you get all handsome for me.”

Josh sat on the gunwhale as the Change proceeded and they slipped into the water together. They swam down so that Josh could set the hook and Swam together reveling in the intimacy of mer senses.

“Mmmm, it’s been too long.”

Josh reached over and kissed his wife. Things went on from there.

Once their lovemaking was over they lay together, just being together.

“Let’s hunt up some lobsters!”

“For dinner? We’ve got plenty up top, and a stove, with butter.”

Butter was one of Mera’s great weaknesses. Being fae, it didn’t go to her waist.

“No dummy, for Tom’s pots, that’s why you brought that stupid gauge isn’t it.”

Josh reached around his neck.

“Where is the gauge?”

“Over there near the anchor. It got in the way.  Next time tie it to the anchor line!!”

They Swam along looking for lobsters in their holes. For a mer, seeing wasn’t quite what they did.  A mer’s eyes were augmented by other senses that made the water transparent where a human diver would see nothing but murk. Well at least some water.

“Yuck, what’s that?”

“Somebody has poor way of handling sewage.”

“Wasn’t Boston worse?”

“Much worse.”

“So how did you get to that pier?”

“I don’t like thinking about it.”

The water, for the most part was not as dense as around the sewer pipe and the pair had no trouble tracking lobsters as they crawled across the sea floor or grabbing them out of their holes. So the lobsters had no chance and much fun was had with said gauge and finding big lobsters for the pots.

Josh looked up and saw that it was starting to get dark.

“I’ve got to go back.”

“You could stay overnight.”

“Well Tom is counting on me tomorrow to help bring his boat back from the yard so I need to be up early. Since we want to push this along I need to go back.”

“Joe could handle it.”

“Joe’s busy with another boat. Tom asked him first. I won’t be that far away and I won’t let things go this long again.”

They swam back up to the boat and nuzzled together.

“Father wants you to stay.”

“I don’t think I can. Even when Chrissie’s set up with Tom, things are starting to go to hell up top. That war was really ugly and for some reason I don’t think that it’s all over.”

“How would that affect the sea people?”

“I don’t know yet and that is what bothers me.”

“That man, from Washington, did he touch the water about two weeks ago?”

“He helped me get Chrissie out of the pot, why?”

“Well Nera was soul touched about two weeks ago. She was gushing and pining all over about some tortured soul.”

“Nera? After what she put you through over me?”

“I know, right. There she was, on the border, pining away, because she had lost contact. Chrissie saw her. Don’t be surprised if Nera shows up in the harbor.”

“I don’t know if I should tell Mike that there could be a fish in his future. I’ll tell the harbormaster and beach patrol to keep an eye out for strange mermaids. It’s not as if this would be the first time.”

“Could you say that his soul was tortured?”

“If there’s a hell, he went through it, damned war.”

“Where is Mike now?”

“New York, at least that’s where he said his office was. He said that he travels a lot. He also said he had Frankenstein’s monster for a boss.  Considering that he seems to hunt the dark and monstrous for a living that could actually be the case.”

“Well at least he knows about mermaids, which is more than you knew. I’m going to talk to father and then join you back in town.”

“In town? What if somebody sees what you are?”

“This time of year, nobody will care. Along the water half the people have at least some sea blood and rest know about what goes on.  Except maybe those students over at Woods Hole and the weirds up at P’town. I think that we sea people need to be more on top of things. I think you’re right that there’s something building and it’s bigger than we know.”

Tom.

The yard got the boat in the water and Josh came with me over to the yard to bring her back to town. I could have done it by myself, but moving a boat can sometimes be chancy and an extra pair of hands is always a help.  Especially when you are new to a boat.  I tied her off and we went over to the speakeasy for a drink.

Later I got back to the boat and turned on the wheelhouse lights.

And saw her.

“Hello, thickhead. You sure took your time getting back.”

I noticed some things going down from the top of her red hair, absolutely gorgeous face, my spare jacket and a fish’s tail. I hadn’t had that many drinks.

“Don’t you want to talk?”

Now I had come to grips with my brother being a werewolf so it’s not as if the the weird and strange was something I was going to get too excited about. Still she could be a monster, so I backed up slowly and reached for the boathook.  As I was looking at the top of the cockpit,  I heard my jacket flap and a splash.

“I don’t know what you thought I was, but you are still a thickhead!!”

I looked out over the water, but there was nothing.

Chrissie.

How could he, the thickhead. He saw me as some sort of monster, how could he, thickhead, thickhead.  Oh what am I going to do.  I couldn’t think as I swam through the harbor, straight for daddy’s boat.  He hates me, he hates me.

I pulled up and there was daddy.

“He hates me!!”

“Who?’

“Tom!!!”

“How could he hate you? He’s never even seen you?”

“I went over to his boat and he wasn’t there so I waited. He came and saw me and went straight for the boat hook. Like I was a monster, I could feel it.”

Josh.

Sometimes being a parent can be painful. This was one of those times.  Here I had a daughter in hysterics and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it.  The best I could do was try to explain.

“Chrissie, You know how Your Aunt Nera was going on about a tortured soul? Well the soul she was talking about wasn’t the only one that was touched.  Tom’s was too.  Tom went through a terrible experience where he had to kill his brother.  The reason he had to kill his brother was that his brother was a werewolf. Mike told me about it two weeks ago.

Tom’s also worked in Washington and maybe saw some things that were fairly ugly. All in all his life has not been an easy path. He saw you and reacted according to his experience, which was wrong, but understandable.”

“Oh poor Tom!”

“Josh!”

There he was, almost inevitably.

“Chrissie, don’t go.”

I grabbed her before she could drop off the boat.

“Tom, meet my daughter, Christine. Yes she is a mermaid, as is her mother. She also happens to have fallen hopelessly in love with you for some strange reason.”

“Josh?”

“How much of a thickhead can you be?”

“Young lady, close your mouth. Now Tom, I’m going back to the bar, so that maybe just maybe you two can get this straightened out. Try not to let things get too noisy.”

Sometimes a man needs to know when to let things straighten themselves out

Tom.

“Your brother was a werewolf and you had to shoot him?”

“you’re a mermaid.”

“Obviously, and mom’s a sea faery princess and dad’s a merman when he wants to be which isn’t often enough as far as mom’s concerned. Since your brother was a werewolf and attacked you, I understand now about the boathook. Don’t do it again.”

“You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”

“That’s first nonthickheaded thing I’ve heard you say.”

Now I hadn’t had much experience with women, except my sisters, which only led me to be rather henpecked. Most of the time I felt that I couldn’t support anybody other than myself and I didn’t want to just play around or make promises I couldn’t keep. This, though was something else. Something I was not sure that I was ready for.

“I can see that you aren’t quite ready to talk yet so I will see you later.”

There was a leap, a splash and she was gone. I think that I was in love. I left Josh’s boat and headed back to mine.

Chrissie.

Success. I understood now about the boathook.  Daddy should have told me about the werewolf thing.  Well, now that Tom knew who I was, things would be easier.  I needed to talk to mother. Find out how to help Tom, like she helped daddy.  Maybe with treasure? I knew about some good wrecks, full of coin.  I could work something out. That most beautiful thing?  We could work with that. Take that, Missy O’doul.

Tom.

When I woke up I thought about a small can of black paint that Joe had given me. And the blank stern of my boat. I took the paint, some turpentine, a small brush and went to work. From now on my boat would be the Christine C.. I cleaned the brush and stowed the paint in the locker and headed out. I stopped the boat at the first buoy and got the hook.

“Is that for me? That’s the second nothickheaded thing you’ve done”

There she was on the gunwhale.

“Where’s that jacket, I want to help.”

My mouth gaped open.

“Here, grab that box and put it next to the wheel. I’ll handle the boat while you handle the pots.”

“You can handle a boat?’

“Better than you can, dummy. I was handling a boat from age ten to age fourteen when my life sort of Changed.”

I moved the box and sat her on it.

“That can’t be all that comfortable.”

Real mermaids, well at least based on the one example in front of me weren’t like the ones in the pictures. Instead of the tail starting at the hips and bending nicely at the knees the structure was more like the tail was continuous the back along with the muscles. Her scale pattern ran right up her back with a dorsal fin going up along the back.  She had gill flaps at the bottom of the rips and most of her front from the ribs up was more or less human skin at least in color though it did sparkle.  She couldn’t bend like a human and even folded up the dorsal fin had to dig into her back.

“I’ll live. Mother does this with dad all the time. Hand me the jacket. We don’t want to scare people.”

It actually worked wonderfully. It’s four times better with two people on a boat and she could handle the boat better than I could. If this was going to happen again I would need to fix something better up than that box.

 

Chrissie.

Mom was right. She said that it was better to build a partnership where both partners worked together rather than just hand over money. Even when we went through hard times mom and dad never resorted to wreck pillage.  Even when they were living in a barge deckhouse after she got her legs and had Steve.  I knew that it was going to work when I saw my name on the boat.  Now all we, and it was we now had to do was make it work.

We didn’t talk much that first day. For the most part it was work stuff and feeling each other out.  All too soon we were heading back.

“This is where I get off. We wouldn’t want to scare people.”

“Will you be back?”

“What do you think?”

I ditched the jacket and slipped over the side, leaving my heart on the boat.

Tom.

This had been the most wonderful day of my life. A whole day with a beautiful woman.  Who liked me.  A potential life partner.  A perfect match that was seemingly made in heaven. Except that she wasn’t human.  As the day wore in we grew more and more in sync, fitting like key and lock, working together.  Right up until the end, when she jumped back into her world, leaving me stranded. Because while my heart could follow her I couldn’t.

At least I could fix the seat. I pulled into port, dropped the lobster boxes off at the exchange and headed over to the shack. I pulled out my little portable drawing board and got to work. What was needed was sort of like a barber’s chair, only light with a slot up the back for her dorsal fin. The chair would have to fold for normal people and unfold just enough for her.  I sketched out some ideas before I had to pack it in.

The next day, it was foggy, but even so, there she was. I even knew where she was somehow before I saw her head in the water and stopped the boat.

“Howdy sailor, can I get a lift?”

“Any pretty mermaid like you can always get a lift on this boat.”

And off we went. The day went even better than the first one did, right up to the end.

This became a pattern. Go out, pick her up, pull the pots and drop her off. Well at least the seat was almost ready.  I had set up with my brother in law up in Vermont for the woodworking and talked Mr. Fenner into making the parts.  I really needed my own shop set up. Well the season was almost over and I could deal with that.

Chrissie.

Things had become routine. Wonderful, but routine.  For some reason Tom was distant even though I was giving signals that she wanted to bring the relationship to the next level.  He never touched me, let alone kissed me.  It was almost as if he was afraid of me, some way. I waited for the boat.  This was the last day out, to pick up the pots for the season. This would  be my last chance for a while,

“Hey Crissie, come on up, I’ve got a surprise for you.”

He pulled me up onto the gunwhale and then walked over to the wheelhouse where there was something covered over with a canvas sailcloth.

“What is it?’

He pulled off the sailcloth and showed me. He had made a seat for a mermaid at the wheel.  It looked almost like a barber’s chair but it was lighter and had a slot up the back for my dorsal fin.  It could be tilted and rotate and had arms to grab onto in rough weather. It was perfect.

“Oh, it’s perfect. I love it.”

As he picked me up to sit on the seat I reached over and kissed him. The shock went through both of us.

And then he pulled away. And started to pull up the pots. I knew he wanted me. As much as I wanted him.  What was wrong? We stacked up the pots on the boat for the rest of the day until was over. I had an idea. It was my birthday tomorrow, though I had nearly forgotten.

“Tom, tomorrow’s my birthday. We won’t be on the boat anymore, it’s time for a bake.  I’ll bring the lobsters and you bring the rest. Ask dad what to bring. We’ll meet up at that little cove up about five miles from town say about sixish.”

About sunset of course. Another of mom’s suggestions. A big feed on the beach, a fire and some nuzzling. And go from there. If I was lucky I could pull him under now that the season was over.

Tom.

I got back in and unloaded the pots on the dock next to the boat. The next couple of  months would be fixing them up for next year, not a task I looked forward to, but needed to be done.

Once I got to Josh’s boat I looked around. It looked like he might be up at his place, but I decided to knock on the cabin door just in case.  A woman opened the door.  She was wearing a long dress, which made me suspicious, but I wasn’t going to say anything.

“Hi, I’m looking for Josh.”

“Oh, hi, I’m Mera, Josh’s wife. You must be Tom.”

Thereby confirming my suspicion.

“Josh isn’t here right now, maybe if you tell me what you need, I can grab it or help you.”

“Well some friends of mine want to do a bake and I want to know what to bring,”

I was not about to tell Chrissie’s mother that we getting together on the beach.

“Oh I can help you with that. Let me write up a list and you can take it over to Jacob’s store. The big thing is butter. Don’t forget the butter.”

Mera.

So this was Chrissie’s young man. Planning a bake, with friends.  Or a special friend.  She would have to get Chrissie to tell her all about after. She could feel the dark spots though.  And the doubt.  She hoped it wouldn’t take more than one bake for Chrissie to fix him up.  She better make sure to tell Chrissie to bring oysters if this one didn’t work.  Though she would be astonished if it didn’t. She could feel the need boiling off like heat waves.  It had taken Josh six months to get to that point.

Josh came in through the cabin door.

“Tom was here, dear. He wanted to know what to bring to a bake.  I think that Chrissie’s planning to give herself and him a birthday present.”

“About time. Tom needs to be drownproofed and things can settle down some. I hope things don’t go wrong. Remember that we won’t be here. You know that we have to leave tomorrow, pick up your sister and go down to New York to talk the Fae down there. I’m not looking to three or four days on the boat with your sister.”

Neither was she if it came down to it.

“What can’t be cured-“

“Must be endured. Well, why don’t I take you out for dinner.”

“Do you think that anybody will notice?”

“Now? I doubt it. And nobody will care if they do.”

Tom.

There was a telegram pinned to my door. It was from my dad. Typical of him, he said that there was a family emergency and could I come up. The landlord, old man Georges had signed for it.  Of course he didn’t say what the emergency was which was typical of him. I was put in a quandary.  With him it could almost be anything. Since I was planning to go up anyway and pick up my tools I drove over to the Western Union office and sent back that I would be coming up the day after tomorrow.  Then I went over to Josh’s boat, dropped off the keys to my boat and left a note saying that after the bake I was going up to Vermont for a family emergency. Then I went over to the store, picked up a pot, a shovel, some charcoal, just in case, fixings, several ears of corn and butter, a brick of butter. I put the butter and the corn in the yard’s icebox and went to bed.

Josh.

We got back from dinner. Truth to tell nobody noticed Mera’s tail, though several of her old friends dropped by wanting to know what she had been up to and commenting that she shouldn’t spend so much time “under sea.”And Mera wasn’t the only woman carried in, or on wheel chairs with suspiciously long dresses.  Anyway after dinner I carried her out the truck.

“Oof, I think we need to look into one of those wheel chairs if we do this again.”

“Dear, they were right next to the valet service. All you had to do was ask.”

“They were?”

“Yes dear. If you had been paying attention, about 10 or 15 percent of the women in that restaurant were wearing tails under their skirts. At least two of them were high fae who aren’t even supposed to know the town exists, let alone eating steak in a restaurant in that town.  Their fathers have been giving dad trouble over me for years. I get the feeling that steak house gets a lot of traffic from “under the sea.” Which is understandable as the steak was excellent.”

Mera does have that vindictive touch. Not that I blame her much.  The first years of our marriage were not much fun. She does like steak when she can get it.

We got back to the boat. Tom had left a message and his boat keys. He was going up to Vermont for a family emergency right after his date with Chrissie.

“I’m going to run by Joe’s and leave him Tom’s boat keys along with the message.”

It’s not a good idea to leave a boat unattended for long. We were leaving, so Joe was the next best person to keep an eye on Tom’s boat.

“I’ll go with you. I want to know why my son never visits. And why he doesn’t have a girlfriend.”

Vindictive touch. And nobody is immune.  That trip coming up was not going to be fun.

We dropped the keys off and got back to the boat.

“It was good to see Joe. I’m glad he was all right. Just how busy do they keep him at that yard?”

“Busy enough. On the other hand the owner wants him to take over.  You met the owner’s daughter who wants to take him over.”

“Good for her. She had a good head on her shoulders.”

“She knew what you were.”

“Of course she does, as I said, a good head on her shoulders.”

I wonder if Joe knew how much trouble he in for.

“Well we leave in the morning. I hope that there isn’t too much trouble.”

“How much trouble can there be in a week and a half”

Mera was going to regret saying that.

Chrissie.

One big lobster, or two smaller ones. One big one, Sharing would be sexier.  Sexier was good.  She knew just the one.  Some clams.  No, wouldn’t want to overeat and get tired.  Definitely did not want Tom tired.  At least at first.

She swam over to her chest and pulled out a brush. Mermaid hair shed water and didn’t have the issues that human hair did. Still she wanted it just so, for Tom.  Everything needed to be perfect tonight.

She swam out of her bower and there was Grandfather.

“Hello grandfather, what can I do for you?”

“Are you going up top today?”

“Yes grandfather, why?”

“No reason, I’m just a little worried. You know how those landers and mortals can be”

“I’ll be fine grandfather. I’m nineteen today.”

“Well then have a good day.”

Grandfather was a lot like the other high fae and didn’t really understand the real world. She really wished that daddy would come down full time and keep things straight.  Anyway she had a lobster to catch and a beach to party on.

Tom.

I drove up road next to the beach out of town. This time of year the cottages and road were empty.  Still I wanted to make sure that nobody else was around when Chrissie showed up. That cove that Chrissie talked about had two cabins on it, but they were both closed up.  There was a road down to the beach and I drove the truck down to edge of the cove and got out the shovel to start digging the pit.  I got the pit dug and put some charcoal in to start the fire.  There was enough driftwood around that I didn’t really need the charcoal, but the charcoal started easier.  I got the canvas tarp out and put it down next to the fire along with my spare jacket and blanket. Then I waited.

In about an hour, a head popped out of the water.

“Hey, Chrissie!! Over here”

I ran down to the waterline to pick her up. She was carrying a lobster that was at least five pounds, with the claws tied up with what looked like bound up kelp.

“That’s a big one.”

I picked up Chrissie and the lobster and carried her over to the tarp and then the lobster over to the pot.

“Put the jacket on and if anybody shows up, use the blanket.”

“I’ll use the blanket anyway. I get cold out of the water.”

Chrissie put on the jacket and wrapped the blanket around herself. I got ready to put the pot on the fire. As it looked about ready.

About then I saw a truck, with “BP” driving up the beach.

“Chrissie, company.”

“Oh them, it’s just the beach patrol.”

The truck stopped and two men got out.

“Hi, we saw your fire and wanted to make sure that you knew the fire regs.”

“They gave me a copy at the store, how to dig the pit, keep away from overhang and have water nearby. I used to do burns up at the farm too. So I know the rules.”

“That’s good, the last thing we need is a runaway brush fire. Oh hi Chrissie!!”

“Well If isn’t Bill and Bob, beach patrol.”

“Chrissie, don’t be like that.”

“Chrissie, the blanket!”

Chrissie had leaned up and it was obvious that the blanket didn’t have legs in it.”

“Don’t get excited, Tom, they know. Both of them have tails at home.  It’s almost mandatory for being on the beach patrol.  It is mandatory this time of year as landers can’t take the cold water.

“Both of them tried to get me to go out with them. Mostly because of who my mother is. Pair of slugs.”

“Hey Chrissie that’s rough. Well stranger, well met. It’s about time that Chrissie found somebody to eat the fish. We’ll be moving on now.”

The truck drove off.

“Chrissie, weren’t you a little rough on them?”

“They deserve it, trust me they do. Idiots.”

Considering what happened next, I truly wished that they hadn’t showed up.

“Chrissie, what is “eating the fish.”? I keep hearing that.”

“It’s disgusting, but I should tell you anyway. You know that a significant portion of the people around here have had relations with or are merfolk. Well, when a mermaid has relations with a man, they start kissing and the man’s kisses move down to a certain area.  That’s “eating the fish.””

Perhaps if those two guys hadn’t pissed her off so much, she wouldn’t have been so blunt about or set off my subconscious alarm bells.

“It looks like the pots ready, let’s eat.”

Chrissie.

Those two piss me off more than they should. First of all their nosy busybodying and rule mongering.  Then their commenting on stuff that they shouldn’t be.  So when Tom asked me about “eating the fish” I didn’t think to cut the edge off.  After all everybody around here had been using it since they were kids.  I forgot that Tom wasn’t from around here and might be a reticent to literally “eat the fish.” Of course I didn’t think of those things until much later, which is why things ran off the rails. Merfolk and landers had been intermarrying for so long that nobody on the Cape thought of them anything other than being different with advantages and disadvantages. Being a mer was like being good with tools or black hair.  Something to make you different and something you could share.  Honestly it never occurred to me until tonight that Tom could possibly think differently.  Or how much power we had to hurt each other.

Tom grabbed a pair of tongs and started pulling the corn out of the pot and putting it on two plates. Then he pulled out the lobster.

“I forgot to bring a sharp knife, how are we going to deal with this?”

“I’ll deal with it”

Merfolk have claws that can cut right into crustacean shells. Of course using those claws was a mistake.  Well at least I hadn’t waved my webbed hands around.

Tom brought the plates, a bowl of potato salad and bowl filled with butter over.

“You brought the butter!! I haven’t had butter in so long!!”

“Your mom said to make sure.”

“You met my mom?”

That was strange, mom rarely left “under sea.”

“She was on your dad’s boat at the dock.”

Even stranger, but frankly it was about time those two had some time together. Daddy was looking terrible. They went to so much time and trouble keeping the “big secret.” The secret that was almost printed in the newpaper, “Fae and merfolk on Cape Cod, read all about it.

Of course mom and dad together usually meant that dad was doing something for grandfather. Grandfather had seemed worried when I left. Dad often had to play diplomat or troubleshooter for grandfather.

I tore into the lobster with my claws while Tom melted a small pan of butter over the fire, I put the meat on the plates watching the steam come off. I wanted that butter. I didn’t notice Tom watching me, or at least watching my hands.

Tom sat down beside me and we started to eat.

“We don’t get food like this “under sea. I haven’t had butter since I was a girl.”

Talk about the wrong thing to say.

“What do you eat, “under sea?”

“Raw, mostly what we can catch, but we use magic and our claws to prepare what we catch, along with kelp.”

I really should have talked to mother before mentioning food “under sea.” While food wasn’t scarce it was mostly catch and eat without too much concern for meals or rituals and of course cooking and hot food were right out. Mom had said that the food was the biggest thing she missed about up above and that daddy had had some difficulties adjusting when they first got married.

“This is delicious.”

It was. But then food made with love always is. I sat there, just reveling in Tom eating and the desire building in me.  My body and soul knew what they wanted and my head was going along for the ride.

Tom.

The bake was wonderful. The corn was bleeding butter all over the place, the potato salad was sandy and the lobster was ragged chunks and it was still the best meal that I had had in a long time.  The meal with the woman my soul wanted more than any other, the woman my body wanted to love. My head just hadn’t caught up yet. I watched Chrissie reveling in the food, enjoying every bite.

When we had finished I sat down next to Chrissie.

“Hold me close, I’m cold.”

She had a jacket and the blanket, was next to the fire and she was cold? Still I wrapped my arms around her, Pulling her tight, enjoying her Chrissieness. Through the jacket, I couldn’t feel the scales, so her merness didn’t register.  Frankly most of me didn’t care.

She turned around in my arms and we kissed, deeply with a taste of butter.

“I’m beginning to understand why mother likes butter so much. Do that again.”

I did, reaching under the jacket to feel her body. Somehow the scales didn’t matter so much now.  Her hands started to grab at my jacket. Working the buttons.  Once she was done she slipped her arms out of her jacket.

“I think it works better this way.”

“MMM.”

I couldn’t stop kissing and started down her neck.

She kissed my nose.

“Don’t stop, that feels so good.”

I didn’t want to stop as I worked down toward her small firm breasts. She worked the buttons of my shirt.

“Those clothes are starting to get in the way.”

She kissed me as I took my shirt off and then started dancing kisses all over my face.

“I knew you had a nice chest under there. At least you don’t have as much hair as daddy did. Mom used to call him bear.”

“All that work on your dad’s boat paid off.”

“You should have worked harder and caught me, thickhead!”

‘It worked out in the end didn’t it?”

“Do you know how many of your pots I had to stuff?”

That explained all those dirty looks that I kept getting from the other boats. At least until Chrissie started working topside with me.

“So that’s why they were always so heavy.”

“Get back to business, thickhead.”

She reached for my belt and loosened it. Then she unbuttoned my Levis.

“Well at least one part of you is ready. Wait your turn little man, you will get your chance. Well Tom what are you waiting for?”

I grabbed her again and kissed her forehead and started working down, kissing her nose, another deep throated kiss on her mouth. Chrissie’s arms reached around me and I could feel the light touch of her claws along my back as I kept on kissing her working on down her body. My hands could feel the smoothness of the scales on her back but I wasn’t paying attention anymore. I danced my kisses down her belly.

“Mmmm. Don’t stop.”

Then I went a little lower, toward that slit under her belly. Which was covered in scales. And stopped.

“Don’t stop now!!”

“How do I go on.”

“Just use your fingers and spread.”

That was when “eating the fish” hit me and I realized that I was making love to something that wasn’t human, something that had Changed, like my brother. Something that could Change me, make me a monster like my brother. And I stopped. Even though I wanted to go on more than anything else in the world I couldn’t go on.

“I, I can’t”

“Why NOT!!!”

“I don’t know, I just can’t”

“DO YOU THINK I’M SOME SORT OF MONSTER!!?”

“No, yes, I don’t know. I don’t really understand.”

Chrissie.

“DO YOU THINK I’M SOME SORT OF MONSTER!!?”

Of all the angry things I have ever said, all the emotional things I ever screamed, all the senseless rants, the pointless tantrums that I had ever indulged in, If I could take any one thing I ever said, if I could take anything back that one sentence would be it.  To say that the next ten minutes did not go well is an understatement of the highest order.  I don’t remember what we said to each other.  I don’t think that we really understood just how much we could hurt each other.  I went on about how stupid and thickheaded Tom was, how he didn’t understand  and Tom started to go on about I wasn’t human and how Change made people evil monsters and what had happened to his brother and in the end all I wanted to do was leave, so I crawled down to the water and swam off to cry, my heart and soul feeling torn and crushed.

About an hour later, Bill and Bob found me in the water being washed up the beach, put me in a blanket and drove me back to the cove. The fire was out, the beach cleaned up and Tom’s truck was gone.

Tom.

If there was any time that I wish that I had said something different this was it. I watched Chrissie crawl down into the water and all I could think was to reach out, even when I knew that there was nothing I could say at this point. I had never felt more a failure as a man or as a human being.

It was getting dark so I doused the fire and cleaned up, packing everything back in the truck. There was no way to chase after Chrissie. So I drove back up the beach and over to the shack.  I thought that I would talk to Josh in the morning before driving up to Vermont.

When I got to the dock in the morning, Josh’s boat was gone and he wasn’t at this place either. I checked with the harbormaster who said that Josh had said that he was taking the boat up the Sound for a week.  He also gave me a message saying that I  should talk to Joe  about the boat before leaving.

So I drove over to the yard and found Joe.

“Harbormaster said that I should talk to you before going up country.”

“Yeah, I wanted to let you know that dad gave me the keys to your boat before he left. Good, though, I didn’t know that he was going away or I would have dropped them off here myself.”

“What’s the family emergency?”

“Who knows. With my family it could be almost anything.  At least all my sisters are married so it’s not a wedding.  I want to go up there anyway to get my tools and get the big stuff shipped down.  Look, if you run into Chrissie, tell her I’m sorry and where I’m going and that it was important and that I really didn’t have a choice.”

“What happened, last I heard you were doing fine.”

“We went on a date on the beach yesterday and had an argument.”

“What about?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Look, tell Chrissie or her mom that I should be back in a couple of weeks if not sooner.”

Joe.

Tom didn’t want to talk about it. Since mom had told Moira and me about Chrissie’s plans, hint, hint, night before last and Tom had obviously not Changed I could guess what the argument was about. Chrissie had been pushing things and Tom wasn’t ready. I love my little sister, but sometimes she can be stupid about things.

“Did you tell Chrissie about going up to Vermont?”

“I never got the chance. I left messages with your dad and you, but it’s not as if I can send a telegram to where she lives. I’ve got to go. The sooner I get up there and get things handled, the sooner I get back.”

I couldn’t lose the sinking feeling that Tom shouldn’t be leaving at all as he drove off. Actually he could have sent a message “under the sea.” Western Union had a messenger service. Even mers had to conduct business from time to time. Unfortunately Tom left before I could explain.

Moira walked out.

“Was that Tom?’

“Yup.”

“I just missed him. I wanted to let him know that his new wheel came in. Should I get it delivered to Turnwright?”

“I guess so, but tell Keith that there’s no rush.”

“Having Tom set up a shop next door will be a help even he isn’t the wizard that Keith is.”

“I know, but with mom and dad on their way to New York and Chrissie probably in a state, this about the worst time for Tom to be doing this.

Chapter 1.

https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/a-snippet/’

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