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The Mermaid's song

The Ogre lived alone on the top of the mountain and it seemed always to have been that way. He would go out drinking with his mates and play cards and pinch the bottoms of tired waitresses too numb from boredom to complain, and as far as ogre’s go, he seemed pretty happy.

But one night the Ogre fell asleep by the deep green sea, full of wine and fried food and snored so loudly that he awoke a Mermaid who was trying to catch up on her beauty sleep. The Mermaid thrust her head above the waves and glared at the snoring Ogre, swishing her tail behind her like an irritated cat. Even in the soft glow of the moonlight her beauty could be seen to have faded, as the years of salt water and sharp sand had etched her features deeper and her limpid eyes had a far-away look that could have been mistaken for sadness.

The Ogre shook so violently with his own snoring that he woke himself up, and dazed stared out ahead of him, his creased old eyes slowly focusing first upon a beautiful crescent moon, then upon a splattering of silver stars, and finally, upon the angry looking Mermaid.

“I should have guessed it would be you”, muttered the Mermaid, with a hint of softness in her voice. “You always did snore like a dragon”. The Ogre couldn’t help but smile: “How are you beautiful?” he laughed, “I have dreamed about you so many nights, and now you are here again in my dreams. That wine was stronger than I thought!”

“You’re not dreaming you foolish old man”, snapped the Mermaid.

The Ogre’s breathing slowed, and he sat upright so he could get a better look at the Mermaid. “You have aged” he said, slowly. She laughed, tossed her golden seaweed locks and splashed her tail so hard she sent spray shooting over the Ogre’s face. He wiped the salt water from his eyes and blinked. Suddenly, the salt water became tears that dropped from his large brown eyes and his mouth quivered.

“You were right to leave me on my mountain” he stammered. “I am old now too, and my life is unsurprising and full of mediocrity. Not how it would have been with you, my love. But each day when I stare out at the green sea, I thank the stars that I let you free to be without me as a burden to your life. You will have faired far better alone, without me.”

The Mermaid folded her arms, and put her head on one side thoughtfully. “And how is that so?”

“I am fat and ugly.” Replied the Ogre. “There were times with you that I felt fit and handsome but I was always going to fall prey to those delicious current buns in Mrs McGinty’s cake shop, and my big nose and huge crooked teeth were always going to be the first thing that anyone noticed about me.”

“That’s true” replied the Mermaid, calmly, with a slight smile.

“And I was always so unreliable” continued the Ogre, wiping away another salty tear with his large chubby hands. “I still am of course. I’d make a promise and then somehow I just couldn’t seem to make it happen, even though I tried and tried, and I couldn’t bare to keep letting you down and disappointing you. Why should you have to put up with that?”

“I shouldn’t” replied the Mermaid.

“So you have made a better life now?” Asked the Ogre, though his question was tinged with regret, and he turned his head to stare again at the moon as if he didn’t really want to hear an answer.

“You silly old fool” laughed the Mermaid. “Yes, you are fat, and your nose is big and cavernous enough to house a family of mice, and your teeth are crooked as ancient tombstones, and you are indeed a most unreliable fellow. Many times you would decide on some grand plan that would be almost impossible to achieve, and set forth with such enthusiasm. If only – if only….. “ The Mermaid’s voice trailed away with a gust of wind that tussled her hair and the Ogre could remember how it had felt, when he would put his big fingers into her hair and squeezed out the seawater and smelled the salty spray.

“You see” he cried out suddenly. “You see I was right to go back up onto the mountain and to leave you to swim free in the big green sea.”

“You silly old fool” laughed the Mermaid again. That unreliable man that you speak of was the man who brought adventure and excitement into my life. That large belly was where I laid my tired head to rest. Those big thick hands squeezed seawater out of my tangled locks. Those crooked teeth were the gatekeepers to a mouth that could kiss with such sweet softness and utter words of deepest love and tenderness. Those giant clumsy arms would hold me and make me feel safer than any place on land or sea.”

The Mermaid turned her back on the Ogre, and smashed her tail into the sea so that he was covered in cold salty spray. He stood up shakily, brushing the water out of his face. She turned to him once more and smiled.

“That person you so dislike, that man who you ‘saved me’ from – that was the man I fell in love with. But it is not enough for one person to love another – you needed to love yourself too. And I see you still have not learned that lesson.”

As the Mermaid swam out to sea in search of her supper, she sang a ditty that lay suspended in the air like the smell of fish hangs on the breeze once the fishing boats have left the harbour. The Ogre listened hard, and could just make out the words: “I loved you…. I love you…. I love you, you silly old fool…..”.

Suzy Miller

25 November 2009

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