Featured Fiction: Gabrielle Loisel’s “The Mermaid”

Crossed Legs in Repose by Mezoen

 

 

My wife was a mermaid first, before she was a woman. We met at a friend’s concert in a dingy bar with a sticky floor. She was in a wheelchair, a blanket over her legs despite the weather. “I’ve been saving up for the operation,” she announced over the clanging music, flinging black the plaid blanket. Underneath was her scaly tail, blue-green and iridescent, wrapped in a black miniskirt.

“Let’s get out of here,” she shouted.

I finished my beer. “Have anything in mind?”

“Definitely not seafood,” she said gravely.

In the early morning, she let me touch her hair, run my fingers over her scales. I lifted her onto the bed and took off my shirt. I lay next to her. “How are we going to do this?” She smiled. “We’ll figure it out,” she said, laughing and reaching for my zipper.

I brought her to dinner with my family. My mother made lobster, trying to be considerate. My future wife declined, pretending not to be insulted. After dinner, my brother the drunk made vulgar jokes about her tail until I turned over the table and barreled into him.

My father wept the day we married, trying to dissuade me all the way to the church door.

“It’s unnatural,” he cried.

My mother adjusted her pink hat and looked down at her lined hands, folded in her lap. No one
sat on my wife’s side of the church. Both her parents were dead; she was an only child. My brother, repentant and sober, wheeled her down the aisle to me.

We went to an expensive store and looked at shoes, holding hands and glowing. She found a pair of crimson heels and I bought them. When I wheeled her from the store, she clutched them to her chest like twin hearts, the empty box in her lap.

After the operation, she wept. I stroked her feet. I brought her the red shoes. They burned a hole of color in the white hospital tile like a bloody splash.

“Would you still love me? If I hadn’t–” She choked down a sob. I kissed the seam along the inside of her legs, the scar where she’d been split open.

“Always.” I said.

She learned to walk, to wear jeans and dance. The wheelchair grew rusty in the garage. We made love. We made a child. She craved salt and fish as the baby grew. She slept in the bathtub, surrounded by empty sardine cans. Her hair floated like blond kelp around her body.

She called for me in the middle of the night. She was standing in the tub, shaking. Blood ran down her legs. For the first time in years, I carried her again, rushing through the house to the car. I almost forgot her suitcase by the door, had to turn the car around to get it.

They placed her on a stretcher and she disappeared into a sea of white coats. My brother drove across the city to sit with me in the waiting room, sipping from a flask.

When I saw her again, she was weary, but radiant, eyes closed. She had not seen the baby yet. They brought the baby; a tiny girl. The doctor pulled back the blanket to reveal her two pink, curling, legs.

 


Gabrielle LoiselGabrielle Loisel was raised by wolves in Atlanta, GA. She is currently a senior Creative Writing major at Agnes Scott College.

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