We all have our secrets. Mine is that I used to be a mermaid. I lived in Puget Sound, rather cold waters for our kind but we’d grown up here and didn’t want to migrate south. We developed thick scales to hold in the warmth of the sun. They held in the heat like solar panels. As you can imagine, we took advantage of every sunny day that came along, even at the risk of getting spotted by curious humans. That was always funny, particularly the fisherman. They tend to nip at the bottle when they’re out on the water for a while, so I’m sure they often wondered what kind of trick their minds were playing on them when they saw us. Some of them would get out the binoculars, wondering what the heck that was, laying on a jutting rock in the distance or a dock outside an abondoned cabin. Sometimes, they’d get all excited and pull up anchor, reel in the lines and start the motor, cautiously approaching, hoping not to scare off whatever it was they were seeing. Hoping it really was what they thought it just might be!
It was fun to wait until they were close enough to get a good look, but not close enough to be a threat. Then we’d slip out of sight in a split second, leaving them darting around, watching and waiting for the mermaids to come back. At least that’s what it looked like, a mermaid, right?
Of course, they would keep the sightings all to themselves. Everyone knew there was no such thing as a mermaid, and after all, people would talk. They’d say they were crazy and that they needed to lay off the drink. Their wives wouln’t let them out of the house! So they were quiet about it, excitedly planning the next fishing trip.
Sometimes, the same fishermen came back to the same spot day after day hoping to see one of us again. But we had to be careful and not get careless. That could land a mermaid in a lot of trouble. Which is exactly what happened to me.
I fell asleep in the sun one warm summer day, on an abandoned beach right at the waters edge. There was a man walking waste deep in the water with a large fishing net, scooping up crab. By the time I realized I needed to get out of there, he’d spotted me. I tried to dart past him but he was quick. In a flash he had the net directly in front of me and I swam right in to it.
It was all over for me then. I became human; that’s what happens if a mermaid is out of water for too long. The man and I married and had a family. When I miss what used to be, I go for a swim in the Sound on nice summer days and feel at home once again.
This is the story my husband told our kids when they were small and they believed it for many many years. Isn’t it great!