by Meg Pokrass

Each day she was more like a mermaid. Sitting near the windowsill, waiting for the Weeki Watchee men.

Distrusting the sea, her mother was surprised, worried that her daughter had a mermaid calling. But look at her coffee table, strewn with chemotherapy survival packets and old women’s magazines, never a word about a fin or a tail. 

Don’t be snide, she muttered at her mother under her sea breath. Since her mother got sick, she kept the mean words to herself. The Weeki Watchee uncles, a middle-aged carload, would be here any minute to take her to her inauguration. Tammy, a blonde pole-dancer, last year’s mermaid, would hand her the trophy and pose with her next to the pedestal. 

The sounds of the sea had followed her that day she first walked into lodge, when she felt how sick she was, as a human. She floated into the meeting, water coming down from her eyes as her fins moved around. Then one of the uncles came over and propped her up: she was just the right size and had, miraculously, landed on their beach. 

‘That was a sneaker wave,’ he said.

She was done with being part of the herd, an ordinary high school girl. Her uncles brought her glasses of cucumber water or poured it over their own heads, just to make her laugh. 

They’re sincere, Mom, she said with her pooling eyes. She tried not to worry about the human cancer stalking her mother. Instead, she dreamed about crawling into a shell, living there quietly, while the big changes happened around her. Inside the shell, she would glow from the inside out, drinking seawater slowly, looking back at the ways she might easily have drowned.

oOo

Meg Pokrass is the author of six flash fiction collections, an award-winning collection of prose poetry, two novellas-in-flash and a forthcoming collection of microfiction, Spinning to Mars recipient of the Blue Light Book Award in 2020.