If I had been a real mermaid, all the other darkness might have been beside the point. Dark water would have sufficed. But I was caught between —neither land nor water— unable to know my natural origin. Which was Momma’s point from the very beginning. And what the encyclopedia could not tell me was what it was like out there, beyond the wetlands and mazy waterways, where I was dangerous to others.
But I couldn’t help myself. I had what every mermaid has had since the beginning of time. Look it up. We appear of good intention and we’re ravenous. Many would say we’re predatory. But, as I said, I wasn’t a real mermaid. I wasn’t sure what I was.
“Come with me.” Momma cracked open the door to our ’67 Dodge.
I jumped, I giggled. “Really?”
“Get in the truck,” Momma said. As if a gun was at her head. “You smile, you got craters in your cheeks.”
I sat back, the coil of the bench seat poking through, stinging me where Momma’s cigarette had charcoaled and blistered open the seat. Layers of dust settled behind us as we drove past our rusted caboose and bounced out of the clearing, the rutted road rattling and shaking me till we hit the Route 15 asphalt. Momma was taking me away from the farmhouse. For the very first time: an adventure. “Where, Momma, where?”
“Keep your head down, look at the pretty people in the magazine.” Momma pulled the jacket hood onto my head even though Minnesota’s August lay hot and thick on my skin. She shoved a tattered copy of Life & Style Weekly into my lap. Brigitte Bardot looked up at me.
My excitement lasted till the doctor’s office when everything changed forever.