11.14.2007

COTOM: Chapter Two

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Chapter Two

Go with the flow—and watch out for waterfalls. —Sister Sophia Mermaid

Gail helped Myla unload her table and boxes in front of Antigone Books. Then she left. Myla set up the table on the sidewalk near the far end of the bookstore picture window. She smoothed a blue oilcloth with red and yellow flowers on it over the table. Pietra rolled out a comfy chair from the bookstore for Myla.

“Good morning, Myla,” Pietra said.

“Thank you for this wonderful chair, Pietra!” Myla said, as if it were the first time Pietra had ever brought her a chair. “It makes the day much more pleasant.”

Pietra smiled. “What goodies do you have this morning?”

“We shall soon see,” Myla said.

She put one of the boxes on the chair, took off the top, and began pulling out items and arranging them on the table. Near one corner of the table, she placed a broken kitchen tile with a peach at its center. Next to it, she put a red piece of cloth, then a small white feather, a half blue marble, a Mariners baseball ticket, June 5, 2001 (Section: 113, Row: H), an empty orange plastic lighter, a red brick, a yellow t-shirt with the word “Who?” on it, several glass bottles without the labels, a smashed beer can, and a few other odds and ends. Closer to her, she laid out the items she had found today.

When the first box was empty, she opened the second box and took out the old pieces she had not sold yet but was not quite ready to throw away. In the middle of it all, she placed a small wooden sign with the words Church of the Old Mermaids and Myla Alvarez, Novice painted on it in yellow. On the far side of the table, she set an old cigar box with an orange-tailed mermaid painted on the lid. The mermaid held a sign over her breasts that read: donations. Myla put the empty boxes under the table, then sat on the chair.

“It all looks fine,” Pietra said. “And I could use one of those bottles actually. My sweetie Ellie brought me in a yellow rose this morning, and I don’t have a good vase for it.”

Myla picked up a slender empty clear bottle.

“Well, you might try this one,” Myla said. “I found it near where the old kitchen used to be in the Old Mermaid Sanctuary. I can’t be certain, but I believe this was the one that used to have a place on the window sill in the kitchen. It had a teardrop-shaped stopper. Oh, it was beautiful, that top, but it was off as often as it was on because you’ll never believe what precious liquid was contained in this bottle.”

Pietra said, “I would if you tell me it was so.”

“Ahhh, well, no one can know for sure, but they say it was filled with water from the Old Sea where the Old Mermaids made their home before it dried up. And before it all went away, Sister Bridget Mermaid had the presence of mind to fill a couple of empty bottles they found along the shore with sea water. This one they put in the kitchen. Sometimes when the Old Mermaids were aching for the Old Sea, they came into the kitchen to gaze at the bottle, sometimes hold it. When the longing became too much, they took the stopper off and smelled the sea and remembered their lost friends and the life they had had to leave behind. They would even dab a drop behind their ears and on their wrists, as though it were perfume, and of course, it was, to them. Sometimes their grief overwhelmed them and they wept as they held the open bottle. That was why the bottle remained full for a long time, no matter how often they used it or how much time went by.”

“Why?” Pietra asked. By now, two women and a man had walked up to the table and were listening.

“Because the tears of the Old Mermaids fell into the bottle and kept it full,” Myla said. “And no one ever knew the difference because Old Mermaid tears are really sea water. Gradually the Old Mermaids realized they carried the Old Sea within them, always, just as you and I do. Did you ever notice when you cry, the grief begins to subside once you taste your own tears? That’s because the sea water in your tears reminds the deepest truest part of you that you are always home, you are always with yourself, and that truth is comforting, even in the darkest times, even when you feel as though you are far from home, the way the Old Mermaids felt.”

Myla held the bottle out to Pietra, and she took it.

“A gift,” Myla said. “For the chair.”

“No,” Pietra said. “I want to help out the church.” She pulled a five dollar bill from her pocket. “This feels so inadequate for a bottle that once held the tears of the Old Mermaids!”

“I’ll give you ten dollars for the bottle,” the man said. The other woman elbowed him and smiled at Myla.

“It’s his first time,” she said.

Pietra lifted the top of the cigar box and dropped in the money.

“I gotta go to work,” Pietra said. “Thanks! It’s just what I needed.”

Myla nodded.

“What did I do?” the man whispered. “I thought you wanted the bottle.”

The woman shook her head. “This is my husband, Bob. He’s not been before.”

“It’s all right,” Myla said. “I love having novices. As you can see”--she pointed to the sign--“I am a novice as well. We generally don’t barter at the Church of the Old Mermaids. Each gift of the wash--and therefore a gift from the Old Mermaids--is exactly what a particular person needs.”

“Are you a nonprofit?” Bob asked.

Myla glanced at the woman with Bob. Then she smiled and said, “Do you mean have I registered with the government as a nonprofit and filled out the paperwork? No, I have not. No paperwork on anything here. Except maybe that baseball ticket.”

Bob looked down at the ticket. He stared at it for a moment and then looked away. The woman picked up an amber glass bottle.

“You said Sister Bridget Mermaid filled a couple of bottles with sea water?”

“You have a good eye, Dolores,” Myla said, remembering the woman’s name as it came out of her mouth. “The bottle you hold is one of those bottles. Of course, it was lost for a long while. Sister Bridget Mermaid put the one bottle on the kitchen window sill, and she hid this one in the pantry, way in the back so that no one would find it. She figured it would be there should they need it one day. Well, as it happened, Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid decided to make a pot of chili. She got anasazi and pinto beans from the Old Man who lived with the Old Woman in the mountains. Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid talked to the beans all the while she cooked. She always talked to the food. ‘Beans, beans, we’re Mermaid Queens. Make this stew a healing brew.’ She stirred in various chiles from the garden, along with fresh tomatoes, and onions and garlic. She added a pinch of this and a pinch of that. Then she tasted it. It didn’t quite taste the way she wanted it to. Didn’t quite have the spark she wanted. So you can guess what happened. She went into the pantry and looked around for something special to put in the stew. She found that bottle you’re holding. She thought it was filled with beer. Who can blame her? It looks like a beer bottle. She smelled it, and it didn’t smell bad. It didn’t exactly smell like beer, but she shrugged and dumped the sea water into the pot of chili.

“There are plenty of stories about what happened next. Some say the chili began boiling and bubbling like a great witch’s brew. Others said it began thundering and lightning outside. That seems a bit silly to me, doesn’t it to you? Why would it suddenly start thundering and lightning because Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid poured a little Old Sea water into the chili? Then again, why wouldn’t it? One person even claims the earth trembled. Someone else said that the birds on the kitchen tiles flew out of the tiles to get nearer to the pot of chili because everyone agrees that the chili gave off an aroma that woman or beast could detect for miles. And a funny thing happened. All sorts of animals and people began showing up at the Old Mermaid Sanctuary. And they were all hungry! The Old Mermaids began feeding everyone chili. Not the animals, of course, since the Old Mermaids knew it wasn’t good for wild animals to eat people food. The wild animals didn’t seem to mind. They wandered around for a while, watching what was going on, then they left and began eating each other, as is Nature’s way.

“The interesting thing is, the chili did not run out. Not until every last person had a bowl, including the Old Mermaids. After everyone had gone on their way, the Old Mermaids sat in the kitchen eating the chili and looking out at their garden. All of them wanted to know what Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid had done to make the chili taste so good.

“’It was that old bottle of beer in the pantry,’ Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid said. ‘That really made it perfecto.’ She put her fingers together and kissed them. Sister Bridget Mermaid got up and went to the pantry and looked for the bottle of sea water. As we know, it was not there. She asked Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid to show her the bottle of beer. ‘But it’s empty,’ Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid told her. Sister Bridget Mermaid insisted. So Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid went to her bedroom and got the bottle. You see, she had dropped several dried sprigs of lavender into it and then set it on the table next to her bed.

“’That was not beer,’ Sister Bridget Mermaid said quietly. ‘It was the last of the water from our Old Sea. Now it is empty.’

“The Old Mermaids got very quiet. Especially Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid. Then she apologized profusely. Sister Sophia Mermaid gently took the bottle from Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid. She put the bottle up to her ear. Who knows why? You know how Old Mermaids are.”

The small group of people listening laughed.

“Then Sister Sophia Mermaid said, ‘It is not in my nature to be contrary,’ she said, although they all knew it was in her nature to be contrary. ‘But this bottle is not empty. I can hear the sea.’ And she passed it around to all the other Old Mermaids. They were astonished and so happy. Mother Star Stupendous Mermaid nodded, as if she had known it all along, and she said, ‘Of course. It is good you emptied the bottle, Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid. Because of the emptiness, we are now able to find again what we lost.’ All the Old Mermaids nodded in agreement, even though not all of them understood what she meant. The Old Mermaids were not hierarchal, but they were respectful. And Mother Star Stupendous Mermaid was older than many of them. Sister Sophia Mermaid liked a good discussion, however, so she said, ‘Was it because of the emptiness that we heard the Old Sea or because of the bottle? One could argue that in order to hear what we long for in the emptiness, we need a container. Like this bottle. Or our ears.’”

“She has a point,” Dolores said. “Without the bottle, they wouldn’t have heard the Old Sea.”

“Unless they went to the ocean,” the other woman said.

“So what did Mother Stupendous Mermaid say?” Dolores asked.

“For the longest time she didn’t say anything,” Myla said. She went down to the wash--the wash where I found all of these treasures--and she listened. She heard the wind through the bushes and trees. She heard the woodpeckers tapping away on the saguaros. She heard the beating of her heart. She heard the rivers of blood within her pulsing, washing through her body. As the sun went down, she thought she could hear it sizzling in the west, as though this giant ball of heat was dropping into a vast ocean. She heard the quail and the owls and the coyotes at night. She listened for many days.

“Then one morning she took the bottle with her out to the wash. This time she put the bottle--the one you are holding--up to her ear and listened. She heard the Old Sea, or something which sounded like it. She went back to the Old Mermaids and said that Sister Sophia Mermaid was correct: a container helped. Just as the chili pot contained the chili. ‘Just as our bodies are containers of the sea we lost,’ Mother Star Stupendous Mermaid said. ‘In our grief over the loss of the sea, we sometimes forget that our bodies are containers of that sea. Our bodies are home.’ The Old Mermaids agreed that this was a good thing to remember. By the way, everyone had pretty much forgotten about Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid dumping out the last of the sea water into a pot of chili. The Old Mermaids ate dinner, then jumped in the pool, and life went on as usual. That was the way they settled their differences.

“They kept that bottle because they liked listening to the sea sometimes. And also, and this is just a rumor, some say that Sister Ruby Rosarita Mermaid continued to cook using the bottle. She’d fill it up with water and leave it sit until she needed it. If she wanted to feed a lot of people--or if the dish was not tasting the way she wanted it no matter how she tinkered with it--she would get out the bottle. It worked every time: the dish was magnificent. And every time, people came from miles around to eat with the Old Mermaids.”

Dolores and the others clapped. Then she put money in the cigar box. “I do need to remember that I have everything I need right here,” she said, tapping her chest with the fingers of her right hand. “Don’t need to be pining for the good old days. And I could really use a little help with my cooking. This bottle is just what I need.”

Dolores and Bob moved away. Others came up to the table. Most of them greeted Myla by name.

“Every item is from the Old Mermaid Sanctuary wash today,” Myla said. “It is a very special day!”

Red, one of her regulars who had long bushy red hair, picked up the broken sheep staff.

“Now this is different,” Red said.

Myla nodded. “Yes. When the Old Mermaids first came onto land, they were not used to walking, and in the desert, as you know, one has to have shoes! Well, they eventually figured out shoes, but they still kept bringing in cactus thorns on the bottoms and sides of their shoes. You know how that is. Well, one of the Old Mermaids--I think it was Sister Laughs A Lot Mermaid--found this piece out in the wash, just like I did. She liked hunting around for lost things, too, so before she’d go back into the house at the Old Mermaid Sanctuary she’d hold it like this--Myla stood and took the staff from Red. She grasped it by the curved edge and then held up her foot. With the straight end of it, she picked off a stone on the bottom of her shoe. “And she was able to get the cactus thorns off her shoes.”

“That’s exactly what I need!” Red said. “I’m always poking myself with things I’ve brought in from the desert.” She dropped some dollar bills into the cigar box. Then she opened up a captain’s chair she had brought with her and moved out of the flow of people traffic.

Dolores brought Myla a limonada from Maya Quetzal, the Guatemalan restaurant a couple of doors down. They made it especially for Myla, no sugar, touch of honey. Fresh lemons. Her lips puckered when she drank it.

“Thank you, Dolores!” Myla said after she took a sip, as though it was the first time anyone had brought her lemonade. “I think this is the best limonada I have ever had.”

James walked up to the table with his son Trevor. They had been coming to the Church of the Old Mermaids since Trevor was a small boy. Today they each carried a folded captain’s chair. As usual, Trevor held a lined record book in one hand. Across the cover in bold lettering were the words: TREVOR’S JOURNAL. PRIVATE.

“Trevor and James!” Myla said. She leaned over and kissed each one on the cheek. “Anything you need today from the Old Mermaid Sanctuary?”

“Just one of your smiles,” Trevor said.

“Such a charmer,” Myla said, smiling. “With a sincere heart, of course.”

“How is everything at the sanctuary?” James asked.

“Everything is as it should be,” Myla said. “And yourselves?”

“We’re doing great,” James said.

“What do you need today?” Myla asked.

“I’d like a present for my girlfriend,” Trevor said. His face reddened when his father glanced at him.

“What’s she like?” Myla asked.

“What would she like or what is she like?” Trevor asked.

Myla shrugged. “Whichever.”

“She’s funny,” Trevor said. “I mean she has a good sense of humor. She’s pretty. She’ll do practical jokes and then pretend she didn’t have anything to do with it. Nothing harmful. Just funny. Kind of artistic.”

“Sounds like a peach of a girl,” James said.

Trevor looked over at him. James nodded toward the broken tile with the peach at the center of it.

“This is a very special tile,” Myla said. “It comes directly from the kitchen of the house in the Old Mermaid Sanctuary. You’ve heard me talk about this kitchen. It was a very special place. This is where they did all their cooking, naturally, and oh could the Old Mermaids cook. The kitchen was open to the outside, at least during the day time, so they could walk straight out to the walled garden.

“When they were building the house, they wanted tile in their kitchen,” Myla said, “that goes without saying. The Old Mermaids were very creative, but none of them knew how to make tile. That’s a very solid, earthy art, and the Old Mermaids were still a bit watery then, so they hired a young man from town to come out to the sanctuary. Sister Magdelene Mermaid--they called her Sissy Maggie Mermaid--volunteered to work with the man once he got to the house. She thought artistic men were quite attractive, you see. Sissy Maggie Mermaid and the young man, Carlos, worked together for many days. Soon they were painting the tiles to go around the kitchen. They painted seashells and saguaros. Even a couple of mermaids. Carlos liked to paint birds. He told Sissy Maggie Mermaid that he liked painting birds because he felt as though he were flying when he painted. When he worked with the earth to actually create the tiles, he felt like a lizard. Lazy and warm and comfortable. It was a nice feeling. But when he painted, he flew! And he loved that feeling. So he painted birds.

“Sissy Maggie Mermaid loved to listen to Carlos talk. And to be truthful, he worked without his shirt a great deal of the time; he was a young man, and he was nice to look at. Brown, sweaty. You know. Sissy Maggie Mermaid began painting peaches on the tiles. No other fruit. Just peaches. The sweaty man said, ‘You must really like peaches.’ ‘Indeed I do,’ she said. She had not known about peaches until the Old Sea dried up. One day someone brought a basket of peaches to the Old Mermaid Sanctuary. At first, Sissy Maggie Mermaid did not like the fuzz. She was supposed to eat this? They didn’t have fuzz in the sea. But then she put the peach up to her face and rubbed it across her skin. ‘Oh my,’ she whispered that first time. As she ran the peach along her cheek and over her mouth, she couldn’t resist taking a bite. All the other Old Mermaids did the same. They gasped as the juice went down their chins. And they laughed. It was the finest fruit they ever had. Since then they hardly ever ate any other fruit. If it was out of season, they waited. Old Mermaids are very patient, even when they are impatient. Sissy Maggie Mermaid explained all this to Carlos. As she talked she noticed he had a little peach fuzz on his cheeks. She wanted to rub her cheek against his, but she felt a bit awkward. After all, she was an Old Mermaid and he was a young tile maker. She wasn’t quite certain how that would work.

“On Carlos’s last day, Sissy Maggie Mermaid decided to let him know how she felt. Well, Sissy Maggie Mermaid was artistic, as you know, but she was not always good at expressing herself verbally. She made a peach tile--this peach tile--and then she tried to break it in two so that she could give Carlos one half and she’d keep the other.”

“Like two halves of a single heart,” Trevor said.

“Exactly,” Myla said. “As you can see, it didn’t quite break in two. When Carlos was leaving, Sissy Maggie Mermaid ran out to give him the broken tile. She kept the little piece for herself. She held it out to him, and said, ‘This is how I feel about you.’

“As you may have guessed, Carlos was an artisan. To him, a broken tile was a broken tile. It was shoddy work. He held up the tile and said, ‘This is how you feel about my work?’ ‘No, no, not about your work,” Sissy Maggie Mermaid. Carlos dropped the tile into the wash and walked away. And that’s where I found it, right where Carlos had dropped it. Or near enough. The bottom of a wash is like the bottom of the sea. Things shift. Anyway, Sissy Maggie Mermaid was stunned and a bit peeved. She pulled the smaller piece of tile out of her pocket and threw it into the wash. A legend grew up around this broken tile. Can you imagine what they believed would happen if someone found both pieces?”

Trevor said, “That they’d find true love?”

“Okay, that’s good, but no, the legend was that if someone found both pieces a good tile maker was in their future.”

James and Trevor laughed.

“What about Sister Maggie Mermaid?” Trevor asked. “Was she brokenhearted for long?”

“Oh no,” Myla said. “You know what Old Mermaids say about love, don’t you?”

She paused. Trevor shook his head.

“There are always more fish in the Old Sea,” she said. When the laughter subsided, she added, “And the other Old Mermaid endeavored to teach Sister Magdelene Mermaid how to communicate more directly. In the sea, the Old Mermaids didn’t talk much. A little wiggle of the tail here, a little wink and a nod there. But on land, they had to learn to be more direct. In a charming way, of course.”

Trevor reached into his pocket and pulled out some money. He slipped it into the cigar box.

“It’s just what I needed,” he said. “I’ll be direct with her, in a charming way.”

Myla laughed. James winked at her, and the father and son moved away to set up their chairs.

And so the day went. At one point, Myla looked up and thought she saw David Thomas Crow for a split second. Then he was gone. She chuckled. Had she conjured up his lookalike because she had been thinking of him earlier?

For lunch, Trevor brought Myla vegetal tacquitos from Maya Quetzal.

“These are the best tacquitos I have ever tasted,” Myla said. “I think you must have asked Sandra to do something special to them to make them so tasty, Trevor.”

“I told her one of your stories,” Trevor said. “That spiced up the food.”

Near the end of the day when most everyone had wandered away, Dolores’s husband Bob came up to the table. He put his index finger on the Mariners ticket.

“Do you have a story about the ticket?” he asked.

“I can’t quite remember it yet,” Myla said. “But it will come back to me. What about you?”

“My college roommate’s name was Robert too,” he said. “When we first met, he decided I would be Bob and he would be Robert. He didn’t really like Robbie. Or Bobby. So he became Robert. Which made him sound a little stuffy. But he wasn’t stuffy. I was. I told him it should be the other way around, but he insisted. He told me I’d grow into it.” He laughed, quietly. “I don’t think I ever did. Maybe when I was around him. He saw things differently than most other people. We went to a baseball game together not long ago. Someone had hit a line drive and Ichiro--yes, it was a Mariners game--Ichiro caught it. It was the third out, so Ichiro tossed the ball to an outfielder, the way they do as they all run off the field toward the dugout. That slow run. And as Robert watched Ichiro, he said, ‘He’s so beautiful.’ I laughed at him. But he said, ‘Look at him. He’s relaxed. He’s completely in his body. It’s beautiful to watch him. He’s always right there, in the game.’ I watched until Ichiro disappeared into the dugout. And Robert was right. It was beautiful. Robert was like that, like Ichiro, at least most of the time. He was present in his life.” Bob picked up the ticket. “I don’t mean he was perfect. He wasn’t. He drank too much. He cheated on his wife. But he wasn’t cruel.”

Bob was silent. Trevor cleared his throat and then said, “That date. Does it mean something to you? Was that the game you went to see with him?”

Bob looked over at him, kind of dazed. “What? No.” He shook his head. “No, it’s the day he died.”

Dolores came and stood next to him.

Myla nodded. “The Old Mermaids sometimes played baseball. They did. I know it’s difficult to believe. As you can imagine it was a bit tricky with all the prickly things growing around them in the desert. You have to really pay attention when you’re playing ball in the desert.”

Bob smiled but kept looking at the baseball ticket.

“They played in the wash, mostly,” she said. “They liked games. They’re a playful lot, the Old Mermaids. They liked baseball because it’s not a fast paced game. They couldn’t hurry anyway, especially when chasing the ball through the cactus, mesquite, and palo verde. The best player was Sister Faye Mermaid. You remember her. She knew more about plants, animals, and the ways to talk to the wind and the earth and the clouds and the sun than you could shake a stick at. I’ve never been sure what that expression means, but you get the idea. She knew a great deal. She was organized. She understood methodology. She was very focused. And that was exactly what made her a good baseball player. It wasn’t because her head was in the game, as they say. But her entire being was in the game. Whatever she was doing, she was there: mind, body, and soul. Or however you want to split it up. She was there. Once, a neighbor of the Old Mermaids stopped by to borrow a cup of sugar. This particular neighbor could get irritated if the sun was shining one day and the next day be irritated because it was finally raining. Sister Faye Mermaid irritated her most of all. Sister Faye Mermaid was the only one around on this particular day, so the Old Neighbor had to ask her for the sugar.

“‘We only have honey,’ Sister Faye Mermaid said. ‘I’ll get you a cup of that.’ And she went into the pantry to get her some honey. This annoyed the neighbor. Who knows why? Just then, Sister Sheila Na Giggles Mermaid walked through the kitchen. ‘Well, hello,’ Sister Sheila Na Giggles said to the neighbor. ‘How are you this fine day?’ ‘Oh, I wish you had been here when I arrived,” the old neighbor said. “Sister Faye Mermaid won’t get me any sugar!’ Sister Sheila Na Giggles Mermaid said, ‘We don’t have any sugar.’ ‘Exactly,’ Old Neighbor said, ‘but oh, she’s just so full of herself! I can’t stand it.’ Sister Sheila Na Giggles Mermaid frowned. ‘I’m confused, Old Neighbor. Who should she be full of if not herself?’ Sister Faye Mermaid returned with a cup of honey for the neighbor. ‘Enjoy,’ she said. ‘This honey was made by the finest desert bees. The finest! They made this honey just for you. You and their babies, but you will do. It’s great medicine. And it’ll taste good in your cookies. Have a grand day.’ The neighbor took the honey and stalked away, madder than a hornet.”

Bob nodded. “Yep, Robert was full of himself.”

“I don’t know anything about your friend Robert except what you’ve told me,” Myla said, “but maybe he took the name Robert because he wanted to be more like you, not because he thought you should be more like him.”

Dolores said, “Bob is full of himself, too.” She smiled and patted his arm. “That’s a good thing.”

Bob looked up from the ticket. He reached into his pocket, pulled out some money, and put it in the cigar box. “He used to tell me he wanted to be more like me, but I couldn’t imagine that was true.” He dropped the ticket into his shirt pocket. “Thanks. This is just what I needed.”

Myla held out her hand to him, and he shook it. “Nice to meet you, Bob. I’m Myla. I hope to see you again.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. He and Dolores linked arms and walked away.

Late in the afternoon when Myla decided it was time to leave, Trevor returned the chair to the bookstore while she began putting the few remaining items back into the boxes. She folded the oil cloth and slipped it into the side of one of the boxes.

“I don’t know how you do this week after week, Myla,” James said as he turned over the table and began unlocking the legs and pushing them down. “It’s just wonderful.”

“I’ve been telling you for years that I’m not doing anything,” she said. “It’s the beauty of the Old Mermaids flowing through me.”

“I’m starting to believe you,” James said. “I remember you told me once you studied to be a teacher. Why didn’t you ever teach?”

“I don’t know. My ex and I started the business. Then after the divorce, the Church of the Old Mermaids was born, and the rest is...mystery!”

James laughed. Myla smiled.

“Do you remember when I first started coming?” James asked. “I was so angry about my divorce.”

“You listened to me for one afternoon, and then you came up and told me I was making these stories up.”

He smiled.

“I thought you were some kind of charlatan,” he said. “A trickster.”

“And now?”

“You’re a trickster all right,” he said.

“I don’t remember what you needed that first day,” she said.

James laughed. “Yes, you do!”

She grinned.

“After practically accusing you of stealing from people,” James said, “I looked around and saw there was nothing on the table I needed.”

Myla nodded. Trevor came out of the store and stood with them. Myla put her arm around his waist as he stood next to her.

“I agreed with you,” Myla said. “Then I reached over and took a hair from your shirt.”

“And you said, ‘You don’t need anything from the church because you already have everything you need. See, you’re even wearing a reminder of that on your shirt.’ And you handed me this long black hair. Your hair was very long when you were seven years old, Trevor.”

“I remember,” he said.

“I took the hair from you and looked at it,” James said. “And I knew it was Trevor’s hair, and I knew you were right. I had everything I needed. I think I started to cry.”

“Just a few tears,” Myla said. “The next week, you brought Trevor to the Church of the Old Mermaids.”

“And I put the hair in this,” he said, pulling on a string around his neck until it came out of his shirt. At the bottom of it was a tiny glass vial, like a pendant on a necklace. “To remind me of what was important when he wasn’t around.”

“He put one of my baby teeth in there, too,” Trevor said.

Myla nodded. They had shared this story before, and it was good to hear it again.

“That scared away women for a long time,” Trevor said. “Thank goodness he’s got a girlfriend now. Maybe he’ll put her hair in the vial now.”

James laughed. “Now that seems a little weird, son.”

Gail’s car pulled up to the curb. The back popped open. James carried the table to the car, and Trevor lifted the boxes into the back. Gail waved to them from inside the car. Myla thanked them. Trevor leaned over and kissed her check.

“I needed a little sugar today. Thanks, Trevor. See you boys next week.”

Myla got into the car, she waved, and Gail pulled the car out into traffic.

4 comments:

Junie Moon said...

I thoroughly enjoyed chapter two and thank you for sharing it.

I'm now thinking about the mermaid tears and the bottle of sea water. I'm flying to my husband's family in Florida on Friday. Since we'll be at the beach, I'll make my annual mermaid pilgrimage and this year I'll collect my own bottle of sea water to bring home. I love this idea as it will help me when I'm back in Tucson and am missing the beach.

I do have a question. Will you be publishing a new 2008 calendar? I bought the 2007 version when I discovered it on your site and love it.

Kim Antieau said...

Hi, Junie Moon! I love imagining you collecting your own bottle of sea water like the Old Mermaids. I'd love to see pics. I meant to start the datebook this summer, but time got away from me. I won't be doing one this year. I'm sorry! I will try next year...Unless I decide to do a wall calendar. Hmmm....

patricia a. boutilier said...

Loved the new chapter. I've been weeping a lot lately because of family issues, but the tears do bring me back to myself.

There are ancient tiny vessels called lacrimals created to hold tears.

And baseball....I love baseball movies...my favorite "Field of Dreams"....happy dreaming, and happy tears,only!

Kim Antieau said...

Thanks, Patricia! I'd never heard of those. A lacrimal vase. Love it.

We all hold the Old Sea within us, that's for sure.