Tuesday, November 26, 2013

the visitor

It was a wondrous thing, that day, in the last days to fish in autumn, where augering through the ice in the days ahead did nothing more than wind a man, refreezing, drill, refreezing, drill, warm beer, sunset.

He was fishing alone on the calm mirrored lake when she escaped and dove overhead, plopping down into his boat, squirming. He was frightened at first, his breath held, chest tightened in fear. She was rather old for a mermaid, he thought. Her eyes were open, slowly rolling from side to side, seemingly searching. She was alive, so he decided not to roll her back over starboard, imagining an arch enemy hammer head in the deep directly below. He covered her with his old Rough Rider tarp, softly apologizing its roughness. The mermaid's lips moved after its fixed green eyes became still, aimed at his forehead. She moaned in a soft whispering desperate tone like a watered flute. Her silver eye brows knitted into a sharp V when he spoke to her softly, relaxing into a straight line, a laugh perhaps?, when he told her in a shaky voice that the only doctor close was ailing with a broken collar-bone. And besides, he always cured all townsfolk patients with 2 glasses and bottle of spirits, chased down with a little philosophical talk, seated at a wobbly kitchen table in the dubious light of a smoky kerosene lamp. Her breathing slowed. Rowing did not budge the craft. He buried his head into his cold hands. What did the Bible say about underwater creatures? It didn't matter. He had buried his Bible with his wife years ago. His thinking was fragmented as in late night slumber. "This living flesh is not a creature", he said unto his hands. Time passed, but no one could say just how long. It began to snow.

She touched his leg.
He looked at her hand. It was like his, only smooth. She spoke.
"What is your name?"
"Philip", he answered, astonished like he wasn't sure.
She smiled. Her lips and cheeks blushing baby-blanket blue.
"Like the vagabond disciple", she nodded. Her eyes widened. She handed him a small instrument resembling a golden harmonica with a solitary opening.
"I am dying today. Call my two daughters with this. They will stay with you forever, Philip."
He opened his mouth, but no words.
"The only spirits you will ever need", she winked, and then her eyes closed, lips whitening.
He had to hold the gift with both hands, afraid of it slipping overboard. There was sound of thunder in the distance, a sliver of blue sky reflected off the lake, a duet of laughing, all the burdens in his soul eased...in those fleeting moments from the song of the mermaid.

Autumn on the River, 1889, John Singer Sargent


Blogger Karen S. said...

Oh yes, floating the life and times of the woman of the sea. Lovely.

11/27/2013 9:05 AM  
Blogger phil said...

thanks, Karen!

11/27/2013 9:11 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

Pure magic, Phil ...

11/27/2013 10:17 PM  
Blogger Tess Kincaid said...

Beautiful...my favorite of yours to date, Philip...

11/29/2013 10:09 AM  
Blogger phil said...

thank you, Helen :)

thanks, Tess :)

11/29/2013 7:45 PM  

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