Taking A Walk


I was longing for a walk in the wash with Myla and Lily, and I thought you might enjoy it too. This section comes from Church of the Old Mermaids. Myla found Lily and her mother Maria in the desert after they had crossed the border and gotten lost. She brought them back to the Old Mermaid Sanctuary. In this scene, Myla walks the wash and picks up trash in the desert. With each piece she finds comes a story about the Old Mermaids.

Lily reached up for Myla’s hand as her mother and Theresa drove away.

“Do you want to look for treasure in the wash with me?” Myla asked.

Lily nodded, although Myla guessed she did not know what Myla meant. Myla picked up the plastic bag and the ruby-colored bag from the picnic table on her porch and put them over her shoulder.

“First, the desert is very prickly,” Myla said, “so you need to watch where you are going. You need to pay careful attention. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” Lily said. “We have prickles where we live too.”

“Of course,” Maria said. “Let me see your shoes. Those are good. All right. Let’s go.”

They walked across the drive and stepped into the wash. As they went by the house, Myla glanced inside. She had not seen David since Sunday. She hoped he was doing well. Maybe he was avoiding her. Maybe all that talk about her being a naked mermaid had embarrassed him. She smiled and turned back to the wash. She was beginning to sound like Theresa. The world did not revolve around her. She probably hadn’t seen David because he was not around—not because of anything to do with her.

“Is this where the Old Mermaids live?” Lily asked.

“Well, Lily,” Myla said. “They did live all around here. This used to be an ocean. Do you know what an ocean is? The sea?”

Lily nodded.

“Long ago this was the sea,” Myla said, “and all kinds of creatures swam in the sea.”

“Mermaids too?”

“That’s what some people believe,” Myla said.

“Look at the red bird!”

“That’s a cardinal. Isn’t he beautiful? His mate is around here somewhere. She isn’t quite as colorful.”

“Do the Old Mermaids have fathers and husbands?”

They came to a wide stretch of the wash. Up ahead was the log and the orange rope.

“You know, Lily,” Myla said, “I’ve been asked that question before. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t really know yet.”

“When will you know?” Lily looked up at her.

“Maybe I’ll just remember one day,” Myla said.

Lily let go of her hand and ran ahead to the orange rope.

“Look,” Lily said. “A treasure!”

Lily started pulling on the rope, but it wouldn’t come loose. She stopped and looked at it, her face smooth with concentration. A few moments later she began unwinding the rope from the log. Soon it was free. Lily wrapped it around her waist.

“Will you tie it?” Lily asked. Myla squatted and tied the rope loosely but firmly to the girl.

Lily danced around Myla and swung the end of the rope back and forth.

“Now you,” Lily said.

“What do you mean?”

“Tie it to you.”

“Darlin’, there’s not enough to go around my waist.”

Lily grabbed her left hand. “Here! I’ll tie it here.”

Myla let Lily tie the rope to her wrist; Lily had not quite figured out the art of the knot, so Myla held it with her closed fingers when it started to slip off.

“There! Now we can’t get separated,” Lily said.

“Like your momma and you did in the river?” Myla asked.

Lily nodded. “And in the desert.”

Myla frowned. “When did you get separated from your mother in the desert?”

“You know,” Lily said. “You were there. Can I have this rope or do the Old Mermaids need it?”

“You may have it,” Myla said. “The Old Mermaids left all these things as gifts for us. They don’t need them any longer.”

“Was this their rope?” Lily asked.

“I can’t be certain,” Myla said. “But I think this is the rope Sister Laughs A Lot used to tie the crow so it wouldn’t try to fly away.”


“Well, it happened when they first got here,” Myla said, “when the Old Sea first dried up, and they didn’t quite have their land legs.”

“What are land legs?”

“They weren’t swimming in the Old Sea any more,” Myla said. “They had to get accustomed to solid ground. It was different than the Old Sea, you know. One day, Sister Laughs A Lot Mermaid found a crow outside the house. Actually, it wasn’t quite a house yet. The Old Mermaids were still building it, with the help of some neighbors. They used mud and straw and stone—all materials from the old dried sea. As they built the house, they let the mud and straw and stone tell them stories. They listened to what the cacti and coyotes and crows had to say too. The neighbors had more stories. The stories made the work easier, and the house seemed to like the stories. It shaped itself beautifully around them and this land. It was a piece of art. The Old Mermaids had tile in the kitchen and bathroom and in funny places in the walls all over the house, so you might look here and see a flower blooming from the tile or you might look there and see a cardinal flying. They painted scenes from the Old Sea on the walls. And scenes from the mountains. Valleys. The desert. These paintings on the walls were so realistic, Lily, that you would swear you could walk right into them and keep on going. Everyone liked to be invited to the Old Mermaid Sanctuary because it was so beautiful. Many people—even to this day—swear the house was alive. And it was a happy house. Care was taken with every bit of it. The Old Mermaids even asked the land before they built the house where would be the best place.”

“And the land answered?”

“It did,” Myla said. “The place answered. The Old Mermaids could feel where the house should be, where the house wanted to be. And they talked to the plants and animals all around and asked to be welcomed to this place. They intended no harm. So Sister Laughs A Lot Mermaid found the crow outside as they were finishing up the house. Sister Bridget Mermaid was working on getting water with Sister Sheila Na Giggles Mermaid while Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid and Sister Sheila Mermaid finished up work on the bathroom and Sister Maggie Mermaid painted the front room with Sister DeeDee Lightful. Sister Faye Mermaid helped plant the garden with Sister Bea Wilder Mermaid. And the others were around, too, doing their share. You’re being very patient, Lily, since I have wandered all around this crow who didn’t fly away when Sister Laughs A Lot Mermaid walked toward him. And it was a him. He strutted a bit more than the female crows Sister Laughs A Lot Mermaid had seen. Plus he had a deep voice.”

Lily laughed. “That’s silly!”

“Yes, but it’s true.”

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm following your story with interest. The mermaid in your tale is quite different fromthe mermaid in my "The Old Mermaid's Tale" but both are fascinating.

Thank you.