Post NaNoWriMo: Mermaid

Well, NaNoWriMo is officially over.  Sadly, I barely scratched the surface of that “word count goal”…well, sort of.  If I count the chapter story I’m working on, I may have just barely reached 50K words.  I really wanted to get more short stories written though…ugh.  Seriously, who decided that National Novel Writing Month should be smack dab in the middle of the school year?  And not just the middle, but nearing the end of a semester?  They couldn’t declare some month in summer or winter National Novel Writing Month!?

Oh well, regardless, I brainstormed quite a hefty number of short stories, roughly 15, that I intend to work on over the coming months, so that has me a little excited.  I may even post some of them or, gasp, attempt to get one or two published by some real, actual literary magazine type of deal for something along the lines of payment, pennies on the dollar type stuff, as if I were an actual, honest to goodness writer.  Oi, I’m speaking hubris now…

But, sigh, dreams.  Aren’t they lovely?

Anyhow, I mentioned I was working on this story (see below) in an earlier post and promised to finish and upload it, but I’ve kind of hit a standstill…I’m not entirely sure how I want it to end.  It’ll come to me later, I hope.  This is only, maybe, a bit less than half of the story.  It’s about a girl trying to sort out the events before and after her attempted suicide.  Maybe one day I’ll finish it and post the rest.  Fingers crossed!

Mermaid
current word count: 1,840

              Perish the cold fish that drowns in its own sea of tears, cowering in the darkest corner of its tiny pond, shivering rippled messages through the water, whispers of sorrow that fade away before they reach the next fish in the vast, expansive sea.

Forgive it, the pale, cold fish, that cannot float up to the surface and, if only for a moment, bask in the glorious light of day and relish letting its cold heart melt in those warm glowing rays.

Forget the cold fish, whose leathery lips brushed limp against your own, whose slippery scales slid unwilling from out of your grasp, whose eyes like glass see through everything, including — if not especially, you.

Fish.

The word is scratched, a branding letter like the scarlet ‘A’ of Hester Prynne, into the chipping sickly blue paint of my locker door.  It scrawls outwards and inwards and every which direction, lightening clamoring without thunder.   All around me, and pressing into me, the peers, they are the air slamming into my lungs, the stench odiferous, the beady blacks and blues and browns and greens and grays, tiny pearls in an ocean of bodies that whisper behind clandestine hands, “fish, fish, fish, fish…”

I pushed my way through the turbulent tide, “Move, excuse me…please…please move…” Stumbled through crashing waves, desperate to tug me with the undertow, broke the surface and burst down the hall.  I felt them watch me go. I heard their laughter at my back. I knew they’d never let me swim beyond the coldest parts of the sea.

Blue is an eternal color.  It imagines endless.  I have seen it stretch to the horizon, meld and fold into itself and roil back, forever cycling in and out and onward and beyond.  It is the sky.  It is the air.  It is the sea.  It is me.

“Are you cold?” she speaks.

She sits in a chair, high-backed, rigid.  It is a brown thing, smells of polished leather, legs and frame made of oak and upholstery studded with gold nails.

It is ugly.

She crosses her legs, slender, smooth things.  Her calves pop shapely outward from her knee, pronounced with muscles developed from years training in high stiletto heels.  Her skirt is a pencil, pinstripe, black and shades of gray.  Her blouse is ruffled in the front, soft and silken looking, sleeveless and low cut.  Her lips are painted mauve.  Her eyes are shadowed browns and apricots in tandem.  Her cheeks are a healthy rosy sheen.  Her hair, black and silvering in places, is pulled taut, wound into a neat bun.

She balances a pink colored legal pad on one knee.  Her hand, trembling slightly, precariously poises a ball-tipped pen across and between her middle and index finger.  Her eyes, shuddering brown and gold-flecked, three-quarter moons, gaze expectant.  Her mouth is pressed so firmly together, it is whiting around the edges and its corners are all but disappeared.

“Yes,” I tell her.  She shifts uncomfortably.

“I could get you a jacket,” she offers.  It’s perfunctory.  I doubt she has a stash of jackets at the ready to appease her chilly clients.

“I’m not that cold.”

The room isn’t overly engaging.  It is small and impressing.  Shelves line every available wall, filled to overflowing with thick, leather-bound books engraved in fancy gold, tomes wrapped in hard binding, manuscripts of pliable paper and typed in faded ink.

The desk near the back wall is passive aggressive in appearance.  It is dark oak, a rosy black color, glistening on its top.  It is flat paneled on the sides, muted and unnecessarily bulky.  It is scattered atop with papers and notebooks and an old computer coated in dust and the recording device that she uses to capture our – mine and everyone else whose sat in that office with her – every word.

“You don’t have to be polite.  I want you to feel comfortable,” she says.

Her words sound sincere but I don’t believe her.  How could I?  Her job is to make me trust her, and isn’t as though she lies about it, its advertised in the brochure.

I sit in a chair smaller and less brown than her own.  It is swarthy and underwhelming.  Its cushions are hard and carved as if from ice.  It gives away nothing beneath my sore flesh and aching bones.  Its feel is more akin to an iron maiden than a piece of furniture.   It is no wonder.  This has been, from the start, cruel punishment.

She taps her pen against the legal pad.  Her lips curl up at the corners, tug down and press into oblivion again.  Her eyes sweep over her minute scribbles, sloppy, willowy hand.  Her foot shakes and shimmies, pauses, shakes and shimmies again.

“Your mother tells me they call you ‘Fish’?  Is that because you like to swim?” she wonders.

“No,” I reply.

I chew my thumbnail, rip its top off in splintered shards, take them from my mouth and flick them across the room.  I watch her as they fly.  Her eye crinkles in the corner; her cheek muscle gives a tiny twitch.  I scratch at my bandages, cellophane-like wrapping laced tight around my wrists.  They feel as though under siege by a thousand and one ants.  They pucker and pinch, and sound as though I’m unfurling the packaging of a piece of candy so I can suck its sweetness brittle.

“Then…would you like to tell me why it is they call you ‘Fish’?” she asks.

“No,” I reply.

She smiles at me, nods short and stilted, with that kind of concession that says: fine, be that way, bitch.  She writes something on her pink pad, taps her ball-point pen, and looks up at me expectantly.

“So then…what would you like to tell me?” she asks.

I met Leah the summer before last.

Her eyes were aquamarine, the color of the deepest and farthest tropical seas.  Her hair dripped like golden rays of sunshine in her face.  Her skin was burnt the hardest bronze.  She wore a pink and green string bikini and I felt overdressed in my halter top and board shorts.  Hemp cords were wound tight round her wrists in braided layers, and draped over her neck, intertwined with glass beads warped and shaped by the ocean tide. She glistened in the beach sun, still damp with dew-like drops of salty ocean water.  She held her board, dripping water pooling in the sand at her feet, beneath her sinewy arm.  When she smiled and laughed, the entire world seemed determined to smile and laugh with her.

“You’re such a pretty girl,” she told me.

I thought to tell her the same, but the sentiment wouldn’t sound as genuine, falling under the shadow of her words.  It would be a returned gift, null and void.  Instead I asked if she surfed, as if it weren’t obvious.  She laughed at my stupidity and sprinted into the ocean, board gliding beneath her and torpedoing out into the crashing tides, and left me standing cold and alone and humiliated on the beach.  I watched her in the water for hours, sitting on the sand, breeze ruffling my hair.  She didn’t ride the waves, she became them, roiling and rippling, crashing and clashing, pushing in and fading out, erupting in froth and foam.

She came in with the tide.  The sun was setting, a grapefruit exploding across the horizon.  She walked towards me, abandoned her board, knelt in the sand in front of me and smiled toothily into my face.

“Next time, you ought to surf with me,” she suggested.

“Next time,” I promised.

We got hotdogs on the boardwalk.  I slathered mine in relish, onions, ketchup and mustard.  She paid extra for chili, nacho cheese, and jalapenos on hers.  We sipped cola and ate and walked around the boardwalk, peeking into store windows interestedly, pointing out clothes, shoes, jewelry that we’d “just die to have”.  We sat at the park benches and watched the boys and those few girls skateboarding and rollerblading in the concrete vert ramps, full and half-pipes, and skirting across the rails.  We cheered when they landed their aerials, booed when they splattered onto the pavement, laughed at their displays, and played hard to get when they whistled and hollered at us.

“You’ll be my best friend,” she decided.

“And what will you be?” I teased, and she giggled uproariously and I grinned and we slung our arms around one another and swaggered away into the night.

Mom sits on the couch, her feet up on the ottoman.  She watches her primetime dramas eating a microwave heated dinner: turkey in gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, and apple dessert.  Her hair is in curlers, pink and made of plastic.  She wears a pale blue nighty, and a tattered robe draped open.  Her slippers look like white rabbit faces, except their eyes are missing and their fur is stained and smudged with dirt and debris.  She barely acknowledges when I come into the house still wearing my apron from work, and hair falling from my ponytail.

Daisy and Dukes greet me at the door, their wet snouts sniffing intently in every inappropriate nook or cranny they can find.  Daisy is a chocolate lab mix.  Her eyes droop and her paws are huge.  She drools constantly, dribbles in long, lathered chains to the floor.  Dukes is a beagle but thinks he’s a Great Dane.  His tail is missing and eye permanently sealed shut, mementos of an altercation with a Rottweiler he refused to back down from.

I push them away, pat their heads, and tell them they’re “good dogs”.  I shuffle into my bedroom.  My curtains are open but it is too dark outside to see out the window.  Light comes from a lamp shaped like a mermaid lifted up on a rock as dolphins leap from the ocean behind her.  I have a twin-sized mattress.  It sits on the floor without a frame, wrapped in graying sheets and a red and blue quilt my grandmother made.  There is also a bureau.  It’s made of beech wood, a sandy, creamy shade of brown.  My closet doors slide, they’re both full-length mirrors framed in faux gold.  My dirty clothes sit in a pile on my floor. My walls are bare, but sun stains in the white outline where the pictures once hung.

I put my house keys on top of the bureau.  I take off my apron and untie my hair.  I change into night clothes, a t-shirt and loose fitted drawstring sweat pants. There’s a book on my pillow, the story of some girl that can’t decide between her lifelong crush and a boy she’s only recently met but who has swept her entirely off her feet.  Romance, it’s not something I can relate to.  I pick it up, sit down, and start to read.

“How was it at the psycho-doc’s?” mom asks.  She fills my doorway, leans against the frame and leers down at me.  Her program, I can hear, is on commercial.

(And that’s all I have so far…um…I take criticism well, so please, if you have some, give it to me.  And be harsh.  Or nice.  However you honestly feel.  Otherwise, thanks for reading!)

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