Chanda J. Grubbs
So she just washed up like that? Michael said to John, staring down at the mermaid.
Yeah, I was out on the beach and I saw this thing that looked like a person so I went up and looked closer, to call the lifeguard or something and there she was. Just laid out.
Well what do we do with her? I mean doesn’t she have to be in water or something?
Michael squatted down to get a closer look and John knew he was going to make some comment about her body. Great tits. He said and reached to brush her hair to the side.
John slapped at his hand. Stop it man.
What? Michael stared up. She probably can’t feel anything anyways.
I don’t know, I mean, I think she’s still alive. John put the tip of his sneaker under her back and sort of gave a push, like he could tell by the way she moved if she was dead or alive. He didn’t want Michael looking at her the way he looked at his magazines, even though on the beach her hair was behind her shoulders, her nipples smoothed out and soft, the color of a new scar.
I think we should put her in the bathtub or something, see if she opens her eyes at least. John said.
Did you even feel for a pulse or see if she was breathing? John hadn’t, he didn’t really want her to be dead.
Carrying her up to the house, she felt nice in his arms, lighter than he thought and her tail reminded him of the outside of a glass bottle, cool and slick.
We could turn the hose on her. Michael smirked.
Come on, dude, I have to do something with her before Renee comes over; she’ll flip if she sees this. I think Mom’s tub is the biggest, should we put her in there? John bent to pick her up.
Yeah, I can’t wait to see Mom’s face when she comes home to find a half naked mermaid chick in her bathtub. Great idea, John. Fucking idiot. Michael said under his breath. Let’s just pack her up in the car and dump her back in the ocean.
No. I think we should keep her, make sure she’s okay or whatever. John had always been the one to try to save things. Like that possum Michael hit when they were coming home from Trish Geller’s party last Saturday night, drunk and late. John punched him in the arm until he pulled over to the side and he could run to the middle and pick up the possum, with its hind end hanging on sinewy marionette legs and candlewick-like tail, getting dirty animal blood on his new shirt but he didn’t care because at least the possum could die in peace on the side of road, instead of getting hit again, staring into oncoming headlights and knowing what was going to happen.
Carry her upstairs, will you? John didn’t really want to give her to Michael, but he was feeling anxious and desperate and Renee was supposed to be there soon and there was a body lying motionless in their front foyer. I have to call Renee.
In the kitchen, John realized that when the mermaid woke up she would probably be hungry. Walking back into the foyer he saw Michael with her slung over his shoulder, hair hanging down past his knees. Michael was still shirtless from earlier when John pulled him out of bed to look at her and it was obvious he was carrying her like that so he could feel her on his bare skin. It wasn’t the way John had carried her, like a new bride, but he didn’t say anything, just added it to the list of reasons why they couldn’t possibly be twins. What do you think she eats? John said, flipping through the phone book. I don’t know. Lobster, crab, shit from the ocean. John considered that it might have been a stupid question, but he couldn’t help thinking-what if she was a vegetarian? He called Kimpora Japanese Steakhouse and ordered shrimp, octopus, squid, crab, eel, a seaweed salad just in case, anything he thought she might like. He was glad Renee wasn’t there to see this, he didn’t want to listen to complaining about he never did anything for her.
Hey. Michael yelled down the stairs. John rushed out of the kitchen thinking maybe she was awake. Aren’t mermaids supposed to, like, have magical powers? Michael said over the running bath water. John rolled his eyes and walked away without saying anything. All he could think about was the mermaid waking up. Later, after he picked up the food, he would sit on the edge of the bathtub and wait. And when Renee called his phone to say she was on her way over, he would ignore her. And when she rang the doorbell, he would tell Michael not to answer it. Michael thought Renee was a bitch anyway. It would just be him and the mermaid. At seven or eight when their mom got home he might have a lot of explaining to do, but it wouldn’t matter because before then she might wake up—might flutter open and speak to him, she might let him feed her eel and seaweed salad with chopsticks because she wouldn’t know how to use them and then she might let him teach her how, putting his hand over hers to guide it. They might talk about serious things like family or love, or she might let him tell her jokes and they might laugh—her in the water and him out, but together all the same and happy for that moment.
Chanda J. Grubbs is a second year MFA candidate at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Although she hates Iowa winters, she does enjoy good wine, good food, and good books. Her dreams for the future include single-handedly bringing back NASA, perfecting the art of the gourmet JELL-O salad, and writing a musical.