By Emme Raus
I’m guessing you’ve already read about it in the papers and on the interweb. Jeez’em crow it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in Maine since the media stopped hanging around Stephen King’s gothic manor waiting for a spook or something to slither out the front gates. But I was the one who found her and it’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever been recognized for something. Don’t worry though; I won’t let it go to my head.
The guys and I always stop by this little seafood shack, about a quarter mile up the road from the harbor. After depositing my load of fishes and picking up the week’s pay, Penny and I found ourselves sitting like kings on opposite sides of a booth with an ocean view. I belong to a small fishing operation off the coast of Cape Elizabeth – practically miniscule – I’m talking like four or five guys on deck at the most. Three of us, including myself, don’t have families. Either the spouse moved out or the kids moved on or in my case, hadn’t gotten around to have loved ones grow up and leave yet. Anyways, it was the end of the week and I didn’t have any other place to be so me and Penny, my pooch that is, had taken a Sunday drive along the cool waters at the crack of dawn.
Most people get lonely real fast when they are out fishing by themselves but not me. There’s something other-worldly about rocking in a tiny rowboat surrounded by acres of blue as supporting as sheets of Egyptian cotton with the occasional stitch of white foam breaking the surface. I tell ya, as long as you don’t think too much about the unnerving amount of unknown life teeming beneath you, it’s pretty swell. Not to mention, they were biting that morning. Normally, I let a few guppies nibble on my fingers just for the interaction before hoisting my net up to uncover some cod and a few mussels, but on that day, my net was close to tearing from the shear amount of shellfish wriggling inside. Penny and I had never had such fortune shine down on us, so we decided to celebrate by turning in early for breakfast.
It was only eight in the morning and the place wasn’t busy so I didn’t have to wait long for my deluxe crab roll with calamari and a large Diet Pepsi along with a tuna sandwich for Penny. I had just swallowed my first bite of that glorious sandwich when I looked up and saw a few locks of gold hair hanging out of Penny’s choppers. You see, Penny has a grayish, rawhide coat so I had no idea where this gold could have come from. I reached over and tugged the hair from her mouth. Only Penny didn’t want to let go. And that was when I saw a doll’s arm flop out of her jowls.
I didn’t want my dog to choke so I grabbed the little arm and yanked it right out of its socket. Then I realized dolls didn’t have sockets and before I knew what I was doing, I cranked the dog’s mouth open like I was cracking open a walnut. Looking back I’m not sure what was worse, the howling crescendo of pain from the poor animal or the broken body I discovered lying on her tongue.
Now fishing is something that I’ve done for my entire life and I can remember all the way back to when I was boy, camping out for hours in a tin dinghy with my grandpa talking my ear off about mermaids. The old man had half a mind to believe that my grandmother was once one of them and I humored the bastard because she’d been claimed by the sea before I was born. But this was different. This was a real, golden-haired, scaly-waisted, fish-tailed merlady, about the size of a Barbie but much more hideous. Apart from the fact that I had accidentally dislocated her arm, her body was slimy like she’d been pickled in a can for some time and her reptilian features were all but lovely. Which is why my gut reaction was to hurl the thing across the room where it smack dab hit some fellow who had the misfortune of walking in right at that moment to grab a cup of coffee before church.
“What the fuck?” The man in the suit exclaimed as the creature slapped him across the cheeks and landed on the checkered floor.
The newly-hired, zit-magnet fry cook saw the whole thing and doubled over laughing until the manager came out and smacked him upside the head. Then all three ambled over and leaned in close to take a look at the contents of Penny’s tuna sandwich.
“Holy crow, what is that thing?”
“It’s got gills. Wicked.”
“It’s mutated! This is the kind of food you people serve here?”
“Where did this come from Danny?”
“I put it in that guy’s dog’s sandwich. You always say to cook off the bad fish first.”
Mr. Suit whipped around and took stock of Penny and me shrunken into the corner just then.
I lumbered over and swallowed hard before croaking out, “It’s not a fish. She’s human too I think.”
But before any of us could get a second look, Penny, that clever girl, scooped up the ragdoll remains and was out the door, pounding down the boardwalk. The rest of us hauled after her, not really sure of why we cared so much but enough to keep charging after the dumb animal. But seeing as all things larger than life are short-lived, we arrived just in time to see Penny fling the figure out to sea only to hear the soft watery burble of a heron before it swooped down and gobbled up the mystery.
It turned out that Mr. Suit was actually a reporter for the Daily Steamer, our pathetic small-town newspaper, but by the following Sunday everyone in the state was reading the editorial praising Cape Elizabeth as the underdog hotspot for all things supernatural – or something like that – with an interview from yours truly. I was painted like a hero, or a lunatic, depending on which way you read it, which is why I’m setting the record straight by putting my story out there on my own terms. For you see, I kept that lock of golden hair that I pulled out of Penny’s trap; found it later stuck to my jacket somehow, statically I mean. And I’m hanging on to it not for the simple assurance that the whole thing really happened, but as a keepsake to give my own maybe-someday little golden-haired girl when she asks about the time her adventurous daddy saw a mermaid.
Emme Raus enjoys writing realistic and historical fiction that gives readers a sense of hope. An outspoken young woman, she is also the co-copy editor for SCAD Connector and SCAN magazine and won first place for Best Column 2015 with Jen Schwartz at the Georgia College Scholastic Press Awards. She is a rising junior at SCAD and working towards a BFA in Writing with a minor in Creative Writing. Emme hopes to travel and pursue journalism by writing and editing for an arts and entertainment magazine as well as dabble in freelance work after graduation.