The Mermaid’s Treasure

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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Mermaid's Treasure graphic

My grandmother’s old blue bicycle clattered loudly on the uneven dirt road. I wasn’t in any hurry to get to Vera’s, since she never wore a watch, and the dusty, wooden clock in her kitchen ticked loudly for another time zone.

I reached my pink-tipped fingers out to grab another raspberry from the bushes as I trundled along. If I’d thought to bring an old ice-cream tub, I could have picked it full without getting off my bike. I popped the berry into my mouth and hummed a few broken lines from a tune that I only half-knew… something about the sea.

The road turned, and the trees got thick overhead, cooling me as the berry juice covered my tongue and lips. It was going to be a hot day. Another bend in the road, another pothole made by the big potato trucks, and then I could see Vera’s old cottage, half-swallowed by apple trees. Beyond that was her son Donald’s farm, and beyond that, the lighthouse and the beach.

Vera limped around the side of the garden shed with a cracked plant pot in one hand and a short, dark rope in the other. The rope twisted eerily around her wrist. I hopped off my bike to unlatch the old gate that was supposed to be propped against the fence, overgrown with hop vines.

“Who fixed the gate?” I asked. I leaned my bicycle up against the shed. The peeling, green paint flaked off as I brushed against it.

“Donald’s got some hired man down here for the summer,” Vera grumbled. “He’s from Gaspe… a young French fella. Donald keeps sending him up here to fix things,” she snorted. “He’s supposed to come this afternoon to work on the roof.”

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” I glanced up to the yellow, mossy shingles as she led me behind the shed to where she’d been building some kind of miniature hut with dead leaves and broken plant pots.

“Good?” Vera snapped as she unceremoniously shoved the black garter snake into his new house. “The poor snake’s nerves are fried. He’d lived under that gate for years! That French fella tried to kill the poor little thing.”

“I’m sure Don means well,” I smiled. “Where’s Barty?”

“Hiding on the veranda,” Vera sighed. “He’s scared of the snake.”

I whistled for the dog, and Barty stuck his nose around the side of the house. “Come on, boy. It’s not a cobra,” I told him. He whimpered and disappeared around the corner again.

Vera sent me out into the garden to pick the cucumbers and cauliflower that she needed for her pickles. I picked until the old apple basket was full. Then I dumped the veggies in a pile on Vera’s kitchen table before going out to fill the basket again. She cut everything up while the pendulum on the old clock ticked and chimed.

An hour later the dirt from the garden had mixed with my sweat to make a mud paste over my hands, feet, and legs. As I brought the last load in, I looked out the window at the beach. The water was so blue.

“Oh, go on! Go!” Vera snapped, jovially. I hugged her hard, then ran out of the kitchen with Barty. “Be back in half an hour for lunch!” Vera roared after us.

I raced by Donald’s farm and paused where the lane ended to kick off my tattered grass- and berry-stained sneakers. It was one thing to have dirty shoes, but it was another matter entirely to have dirty shoes that smelled like rotting seaweed. I chucked my T-shirt on a piece of driftwood, and my shorts joined it a moment later. Barty wandered off down the beach to chase seagulls. I whistled for him, and he completely ignored me.

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Mary J. Webster is a Canadian writer with an English degree on her wall and a trucking license in her wallet. She enjoys SCUBA diving, metal detecting, tea, and upcycling things she finds at the dump. You can find out more about her at