The Mermaid’s Treasure

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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Mermaid's Treasure graphic

I waded out and dove in. The relief from the heat was incredible. I swam parallel to the shore, enjoying the cool ripples of water as they rushed over my skin. Through the green murk, I could see the white clam shells and the little hermit crabs that were scattered along the ridged sand. The beach was protected by a long reef, so the water was fairly still and prefect for swimming.

“Hi!” I stopped swimming when I heard the greeting and stayed low, only letting my head show above the water. There was a man standing there, smiling. He looked like he was about twenty-ish.
“I’m Guy!” he called. “Are you Sarah?”

“Yes,” I said, confused. “How do you know my name?”

“I’m working for Donald, but I ‘ave to go up to Vera’s. I was wondering if you wanted to walk with me.”

“I’m in my underwear!” I snapped, as I suddenly remembered that very important fact. Had he been watching me? What a creep!

“Oh,” he said. His cheeks went pink. “Well, maybe I’ll see you later. Sorry.”

As soon as I was sure he was gone, I got dressed and went back to Vera’s. The French guy didn’t seem to be around, which was just as well because the seawater had soaked through my clothes, since I’d been in too much of an angry rush to let myself dry a little.

“Ugh,” Vera sighed as she saw me. “Go and put the dress on.”

I stomped upstairs to the guestroom and dug the old dress out of the closet. The pink flowers had faded, but it was still pretty. It was the only thing of Vera’s that was small enough to fit me. We’d figured that out last spring when I’d fallen into the manure pile at the bottom of the garden.

Vera had cold fishcakes and hot tea waiting for me at the kitchen table. She eyed me through her thick glasses as I ate, then said, “You wouldn’t weed the garden this afternoon, would you? Someone needs to hoe around the turnips, and my hip is too sore.”

“Yeah, sure,” I sighed, still cross about being caught in my underwear. How much had that Peeping Tom seen? I drank my tea, put my dishes in the sink, and went out the back door. The hoe was leaning on the wall, and I grabbed it and set to work.

A gentle voice drifted down from the roof above. “I really am sorry I bothered you.”

“It’s fine,” I grumbled, irritated that he’d be watching me all afternoon.

I hoed the lambs quarters out of the red dirt as Guy scraped the moss from the red shingles. When I stole the odd glance at him, I could see that he was suffering up there in the sun more than I was in the lush garden. The sweat soaked his hair, and just when I was about to break down and get him some water, he climbed down and got a drink from the garden hose. When the clouds covered the sky and the air grew still, Vera called us in to eat. We had fishcakes again — hot this time.

I wished Guy would go away.

“You’d better stay the night,” Vera said. “You’ll never bike home before the rain.”

I nodded. She was right. The clock chimed once, awkwardly, and Vera and I whipped our heads around in time to see the both hands fall to point at six. The humidity and heat had expanded the metal hands so they wouldn’t hold.

“It’s coming!” I gasped.

“Maybe,” Vera chuckled. “Don’t get excited — the clock isn’t always right.”

“What’s coming?” Guy asked. I’d forgotten about him, but he was still sitting at the table, eating supper.

“The Phantom Ship,” Vera smiled eagerly. This was one of the few subjects that didn’t make her cranky. “It’s a ghost ship that sails the Northumberland Straight when the weather is just right.”

“Really?” Guy looked skeptical. “What ship is it the ghost of?”

Vera shrugged and sat down as I started to clear the table. Her arthritis was bothering her a lot lately. “No one knows. Some people think it’s Captain Kidd coming back for his treasure. Some think it’s an Acadian deportation ship that sank. There have been all kinds of ships lost around Prince Edward Island, especially near that reef.” She gestured vaguely in the right direction. “But I used to know an old lady who said that the natives used to see… something… before white men and their ships ever came here, so that’s a pretty good argument that it’s just swamp gas.”

Guy walked over and dried the dishes as I washed them. He didn’t know which cupboards to put them in, so he stacked them on the counter.

“So it’s just a boat?” he asked.
“It’s a great ship!” Vera sighed, annoyed at his lack of imagination. “It’s in distress, ready to go down with all hands! Sarah’s never seen it, but I’ve seen it six times in my life. She’s spent a lot of nights here waiting up for that thing.”

I wanted to see The Phantom Ship more than I’d ever wanted anything. I caught Guy looking at me, and I frowned. What was his problem?

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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