If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood, and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather, teach them to long for the sea.
Antoine de Saint Exupery
For her 60th birthday Maggie decided to become a mermaid. She wondered why it hadn't occurred to her before then, as she had heard their calls all her life, but she chalked it up to the old adage that all things happen at the required time. Which is, of course, a prime tenet of mermaid philosophy.
The morning of her 60th birthday Maggie had risen early in time to reach the beach when it would still be quiet and secluded, washed in morning's cool, grey light. Sea mist was marching across the waves, spilling onto the shore, and Maggie could see to the horizon over the polished surface of the water. A few feet out into the Gulf, Maggie noticed a small object bobbing in the surf. She thought at first it was the silvery minnows that would jump and dive repeatedly, but saw that the motion of the object was more static. Wading into the surf, jolted by the water's pleasurable coldness, she plunged in to her waist, and retrieved the object.
Back at her beach chair, toweled off and warmed by a pulled-on sweatshirt, Maggie examined the item. It was an old jade-green fish-shaped bottle that had previously held the contents of a German Riesling or a California Chardonnay. It was tightly sealed with a cork, and Maggie could see it held a scroll of paper.
She pried off the cork and shook the bottle till the tiny scroll fell into her hand. Carefully unrolling she read:
Come and join our mermaid kin,
we are bound by natural laws.
We have neither tail nor fin,
but are mightier for that cause.
There was no signature, no date, nothing that would reveal the author of the enigmatic words or from where the bottle had originated. Maggie rerolled the scroll, slipped it back in the bottle, recorked it and placed it carefully into her beach bag.
She didn't give the invitation on the scroll too much further thought, but placed the bottle and it's tiny scroll on her nightstand. She cleared away the loose change and odd unmatched earrings that had been collecting there. At the base of the bottle she arranged a few shards of beach glass and some tiny shells she had collected. As an afterthought, she dug through her jewelry box, found a tarnished mermaid pin and placed it with the other objects.
Over the next days Maggie found herself thinking of the sea more and more and feeling overwhelmed by a need to be submerged in water. She couldn't be at the beach all the time so instead signed up for a twice weekly aquasize class and that seemed to help.
After a few months of the water aerobics Maggie noticed she had dropped a few pounds and inches and all her clothes were too loose. She had also found an increased energy and interest in sex....and that made her husband happy. She began buying floaty things in blues and greens and wearing the silver and turquoise jewelry she had inherited from her mother.
On a wild impulse she stopped cutting and coloring her hair, allowed it to go grey and wound it into a knot at the top of her head. With all the new found energy she joined the local sea turtle watch and spent days on the beach saving the turtle nests.
At her 61st birthday Maggie had dinner with friends. They all exclaimed how well she looked, how vibrant, and young! Everyone wanted to know her secret. She smiled and said, "I've become a mermaid". Her friends all laughed thinking she was merely being secretive.
The morning after her 61st birthday, Maggie rose early and drove to the beach. She took the fish-shaped bottle and flung it back into the sea, with a prayer
to the next old mermaid.