What the magician’s assistant said to the lighthousekeeper about mermaids

Why is it mermaids are always sitting on rocks combing their hair with those shells that look like combs, on sunny days? The water is calm and their tits are out but covered with hair. Hanging down from their heads, I mean. The hair. Long and usually blonde. Or they’re wearing bikini tops, sometimes made out of scallop shells, or they have scales to their armpits or their backs to us. But how often, really, is it sunny and calm? We, who go inside when it rains, aren’t we projecting? Wouldn’t mermaids come out to play in storms?

I can see them avoiding coast and shore in storms, due to the getting dashed on rocks and coral part. But in deeper water? A good storm in deep water sounds like fun for soemone who breathes air and water both and doesn’t get seasick. Surfing waves the size of skyscrapers, just watch out for floating logs and dinghies and other big debris, but otherwise?

After a big storm you’d want to sit on a rock combing your hair, for sure. Look at that world, the gentle swells, the glassy surface, the golden sunlight coins spent for you. You can’t only rejoice all the time, but neither can you grieve to the exclusion of all else. There is a time to tape your David Cassidy posters to the wall and a time to remove them and help your dad put up a new coat of paint. There is a time to listen to the very crust of the planet groan in a good storm, and a time to smell the ozone and tease sailors.

There are so many voices in my head, or maybe it is just one voice but it speaks in a variety of accents and frequencies,  so many people inside there or one person pretending to be many different people, or having different moods, saying so many things and nonstop, projecting some inner storm on the calm, and calm on storm.

If I could, I’d learn to breathe water and be like a mermaid and feel the actual storm directly and be part of the calm.

The lighthousekeeper looked at her blankly. The cut on his head still hadn’t stopped bleeding entirely. “Four cherry tomatoes,” he said, “sit in a shallow Japanese dish on my kitchen table, practically motionless, at least while I’ve been here writing this. A pitcher one-third full of water likewise motionless, but for tiny ripples echoing my movements. My coffee cup, my laptop, and four walnuts.”

They sat there on a rock and combed their hair with their fingers, and felt the quiet, and recalled the storm,  for a couple minutes.

It was so stormy the lighthouse fell over

It was so stormy the lighthouse fell over. Luckily the lights stayed on and thanks to the way it laid on the jetty ships could still sort of see it over the waves now and then, depending on distance as more of a glow than piercing golden beam but enough to warn them in a safe direction if they knew what they were looking for, so there were no shipwrecks in the area that night. The lighthousekeeper was not so lucky. He lay draped over his bedframe amidst scattered chess pieces, bleeding from a cut over his eye where he’d hit his head on a king, one with a crown with a sharp cross on top. He would have sat up, shook his head to clear it and began making plans to deal with his catastrophic situation, except a space spider alien squid (giganticus) stuck a tentacle through a (broken) window and dragged the lighthousekeeper to the bottom of the sea, where a shining city lay spread out on the seabed.

There was air inside so he could breathe.

There was light, also, because the walls – made of ships and plastic refuse – glowed with an eerie bioluminescence. Because it was at the bottom of the sea, air pressure was high, which gave him a headache like a migraine announcing itself but otherwise it was okay.

Immediately he began exploring, looking for an exit. The air had a fishy smell, but oxygen is oxygen, beggars can’t be choosers.

“Hallo?” he said, in sort of a careful shout, and not “hello” because he was a European lighthousekeeper, not an American one, as far as he knew, all American lighthouses had been automated. In fact, strictly speaking, he was a writer, rather than a professional lighthousekeeper and had sought the job thinking it would give him time and solitude to reflect and write.

What a mistake. He reflected on how his first impulse in this squid-made city had been escape. He resolved to explore, instead, maybe he’d be able to write about this. No! No! Maybe he’d be able to experience this for once, he thought. Here, in this fishy place at the seabed, he finally opened his eyes to his existence.

Someone cleared their throat behind him and he screamed like a girl. He was embarrassed. A woman dressed as a magician’s assistant held her hands up. “Sorry! I didn’t want to scare you!” The lighthousekeeper introduced himself. “What is this place?”

The woman shrugged. “I’m Winona. I was working on a cruise ship that went down. It’s over there.” She pointed.

The lighthousekeeper thought he saw what she was pointing at. “Are there other survivors?”

“Not from my ship. One per catastrophe,” she said.

“I was going to explore. Come with me?”

Winona shrugged. “For a while. Avoid the horror of the abyss, though.”

“The what?”

“That’s what I call it,” she said. “Everyone who gazes upon it goes mad because their minds are overwhelmed by what they see.”


“Here, try this on.” She gave him a top hat.

It was a little big, but he had a match book in his pocket and when he put that inside the hat band it fit fine.