1.22.2009

The Fish Wife: an Excerpt


One day Juan said to Sara, “This is a sanctuary, and I think a sanctuary needs a church. A church of the Old Mermaids.” He pointed up the path where the old mermaid wall was. “I think we should build it right there and make the wall part of it. And we’ll paint the inside and fill it with old mermaids and the old sea.”

Sara smiled at him. “You’re doing this because you think I’m unhappy,” she said. “I’m not. I’m just sometimes sad for the sea and my ma.”

He kissed her forehead. “Can I build it for you?”

She nodded. “You can.”

And he did. It was a tiny church. As round as can be, built mostly from stone. As far as Sara could tell, everyone from the sanctuary and everyone else they knew came and helped. Every one of them went into the chapel and painted something: mermaids, seashells, fish, trees, lions, bears, coyotes, little girls with fish tails and wings on their hearts. And the old mermaid wall was part of it all. Juan did put a roof on the chapel so that the building was exposed to all the elements they loved.

When Sara stepped into it for the first time after they finished it, she could hear the roar of the old sea.

“It’s as if I’m inside a seashell,” she whispered to Juan. “You did this? It’s beautiful. I may never leave.” She kissed him.

That night she slept in the tiny church of the old mermaids. In the morning, she heard the mermaids whispering to her. She got up and went outside. She followed the sound into the desert until she saw a spot of green. She went to it and discovered a tiny spring bubbling up from the earth. She smiled and bent over it.

1 comment:

patricia a. boutilier said...

Some time ago while browsing at the Salvation Army, I cam across a wonderful children's book, "The Desert Mermaid" by poet Alberto Blanco. It has both English and Spanish and charming needlepoint pictures....and this story reminds me of it.

Blessings!