There once was a little girl whose eyes twinkled like sapphires, and whose heart shone like the very bright sun. There was also a little boy whose smile was mischievous, yet open, and full of fun. The two of them played every day, soaking up the sunshine as they ran over fields and glades, playing in forests and on hillsides. Streams were especially fun for these two children, as they had a frog friend who told them tales. This is one of the tales the frog told them one day:
Once, down in a deep blue lake, there lived a mermaid. But this was not a mermaid as you have ever heard of one, she was tiny and lived in a carbuncle encrusted hermit crab shell. She pushed her upper body out of the shell to look about the underwater world, and by pushing with her freshwater slug foot, she could stroll along the bottom of the lake. She was very deep down, and that is how no human had ever seen her. The sunlight barely reached her. Every night she would go into a hollow under a large rock to sleep, but during the day, she would come out to see the blue, filtered sunlight rippling in light, wavy streamers along the lake floor.
Her best friend was a large blue fish who had lived his whole life in that lake, and he brought her trinkets every day from the shallows – the shells of other creatures, water weeds to make her hammock bed under the stone with, flowers that grow underwater to put into her hair. Sometimes he brought her pretty stones he found along the shore, and she had piles of odds and ends around the opening to her cave that he had brought her, carrying each one in his mouth to her and giving it as an offering or a gift. The fish’s name was Brock, and the mermaid’s name was Aisling.
Sometimes, in the warmest part of the afternoon, when the lakewater was really comfortable, Brock would let Aisling ride on his back while he swam around. This suited them both very well and they spent a lot of time laughing and chatting and finding trinkets to take back to her cave.
One day, when they were swimming together, though, disaster struck.
Brock had taken Aisling up near the surface of the water so that she could see the sky better, but a boy in a boat had seen them. Reaching down into the water quickly, the boy snatched up the beautiful creature in her jewelled shell. Brock tried to follow, but being a fish, he could only jump so far out of the water, and truly did not want to jump into the boat where he knew he would die. He wanted to save Aisling, however, and he swam around and around the boat so fast that it started to spin in the whirlpool he was creating. He was a very large fish, after all.
The boy was in the boat by himself, and when the boat started to spin, he panicked and dropped the shell to the bottom of the boat and grabbed one of the oars from the same area. The boy then began to try to beat the fish with it. Aisling, using the distraction to her advantage, heaved and pulled herself up onto the lip of the boat and was about to jump into the safety of the water, when the boy saw that he was about to lose his prize and dropped the oar to grab at the shell. Brock, also, saw what was happening and jumped up near Aisling to assist her. Alas, he missed, and the boy snatched the mermaid just as she was jumping.
With Aisling in one hand and an oar in the other, the boy tried to row for shore. Brock did everything he could to stop him, swimming around the boat in circles, bumping it when he could. Just before the boat reached the shore, Brock succeeded in knocking the boat hard enough to flip it over and drop both the boy and the mermaid into the shallows of the lake.
In the fall, the boy dropped the mermaid, and she scuttled underwater toward the deeper part of the lake. The boy saw her escaping and scrambled to catch her again, but Brock interfered, this time meaning business. Brock bit the boy in the seat of his pants, causing the boy to cry out and stop his pursuit. Aisling got away, and moments later, Brock swam under her and carried her back to her rock at the bottom of the lake.
The mermaid and the fish considered the situation a close call, and they laughed nervously about it for the rest of the afternoon. However, they did not know that the boy had gone ashore to a cabin on the lake where he was staying and told his whole family about the mermaid and the fish that had beaten him, showing them the bite on his bottom with embarrassment. He was more anxious than ever to get the mermaid back again, so he was willing to go through any mortification.
The following day, the father took an even larger boat than the boy’s boat had been and rowed out to the middle of the lake. Not knowing what mermaids eat, he did not know what to bait his line with, and tried everything he could think of, to no avail. Finally, he decided to bait his hook with his wife’s pearls, which he figured no mermaid could resist, especially not one with a jewelled shell, which said plainly to him that she would appreciate such things.
Down went the hook with the pearls and the line followed after. It went all the way down to the bottom of the lake, and just happened to land right in front of Aisling’s cave. Aisling sat in her cave and watched the pearls come. They were so beautiful, but she knew it was a trap. She really wanted those pearls, though, and so she reasoned with herself that if she could just gently work them off the hook, she could get the pearls and the man would pull up his line empty. So she went to the pearls and started to gently unwrap them from the hook.
Now, the man was paying very close attention to the behavior of his line and the tension on his fishing rod, and he felt her maneuverings. He was a skilled fisherman. With a quick snap, he reeled her in very fast. As Aisling, tangled in the pearls, flew toward the surface of the water, she regretted her desire for the necklace and knew that it was no one’s fault but her own that she was now caught.
In the instant before she broke through the water’s surface, just as the man was beginning with awe to see the beautiful glimmerings of the jewels on her shell, Brock came from out of seemingly nowhere and snapped at the hook with his strong jaws! Alas, although his attack had set Aisling loose, the hook embedded into Brock’s mouth and the man pulled the fish out of the water instead of the mermaid. He pulled the hook out of his mouth and set Brock in the bottom of the boat.
Before the man could turn back around to try again for the mermaid, she had jumped onto the boat rail using the upward motion of the water when he pulled the fish out. She began to plead tearfully with the man for her friend’s life. She promised that he could keep her if he put the fish back in the water. She wept in heartbreak as she looked on Brock, dying in the bottom of the boat. The man was not heartless, and moved by the tears of a maiden, no matter how small, he returned the fish to the water. Aisling watched Brock return to the water and saw that he was still alive with a sense of true relief.
Holding to her word, Aisling moved toward the man along the boat rail, intending to give herself up to him. The man observed her beauty, and her gorgeous carbuncle encrusted shell, but thought it such a pity to see such a lovely lady weeping. He gently picked her up in his two hands, being very careful and delicate with her, and then, leaning over the boat railing, he set her in the water and released her.
Brock rushed up and caught her on his back, and they surfaced for a moment. Aisling sang her thanks to the man for letting them go, and blessed him and his children for his kind heart. Brock then took Aisling back down to her rock at the bottom of the lake, and from that day on, they were more careful never to be seen by men or boys, or by anyone in a boat.
The man went back to the cabin, and to his family. They were on vacation that day, but the man was a fisherman by trade in his small fishing village a few miles away from the lake. From that day on, the fishing was good, there was plenty to eat, and he knew he truly was blessed by the mermaid. He knew for the rest of his life that he had made the right choice.
The frog closed his story to the two children like this: “I knew this mermaid, and I knew the fisherman. Both are still happy to this day.”
Written for Ramona Fricosu, friend and fellow writer/creator
Copyright Mina Marial Nicoli January 2017