A fisherman has a brief but legendary encounter
|“It couldna be,” thought Paddy as he glanced up from his oars. Then another ray of light flashed golden off to one side. “Tis but a bit o' kelp,” he told himself, hoping it might be more interesting than kelp, but fearing that it might be tragic.
As he approached, it became plain that it wasn’t cloth blown by the wind and there seemed to be too much to be human hair. Still, it looked like golden tresses swirling in the waves - except for a tangle of strands that were twisted in a wrack of seaweed. Then came a purposeful movement and a pale face emerged above the surface.
Paddy drew back in fear momentarily, but the face was very much alive! A beautiful smiling face with shining emerald eyes. A young woman’s face with delicate features. Paddy was entranced by the high cheek bones, pert nose, and rose-colored lips. He was so taken by the perfect skin that he didn't even notice its porcelain coldness.
“Aye then, lassie, an’ wha’ would ye be doin’ here?” he exclaimed in wonder.
“It’s only that I’m caught in the weed, good sir.”
“But how do ye not be drownt?” he persisted.
“I couldn’t drown in the sea, this is my home,” laughed the lovely mermaid, flicking the end of her tail out of the water for Paddy’s edification. His eyes were drawn to the glistening blue-green flukes and he completely missed the sharply pointed teeth revealed in her laughing smile. “Of course, this weed is most annoying," she continued. "Would you be so kind as to free my hair?”
Paddy was too stunned to even reply. He’d heard the old tales of fairies and mermaids, but he’d never quite believed them - until now. His gaze traveled up to where a hint of womanly bosom could be seen beneath the clear waters, and then quickly shifted away toward the horizon. Feeling slightly embarrassed, he silently moved his boat against the seaweed and began cutting it away from the golden tangle of the mermaid’s hair.
“Take care to cut only weed, good sir,” pleaded the mermaid.
“I’ll ne'er harm a hair, Miss, but why not tie it up outen yer way as women do?”
“I haven’t the means under the sea," replied the mermaid. "My hair is constantly washed and I can never do a thing with it! I would love nothing more than to have a pretty silver comb to tame these tangles."
"And I would be forever grateful to any kind soul who might bring me one,” she suggested, looking coyly at Paddy.
Paddy suddenly remembered that the old stories sometimes included bargains or wishes or . . . maybe this could be the end of lonely nights in an empty cottage! He was too excited about the prospect of a comely wife to even consider the difficulties of keeping house with a mermaid.
“Would ye be me wife in exchange fer a silver comb?” he asked in a rush. “I’ve neither wagon nor barrow, Miss, but if ye’ll swim inter me lobster pot, I’ll carry ye all the way home to me hearth!”
“Yes, of course, just bring me the comb and then let me arrange my hair for the wedding.”
Paddy pulled for shore with all his might, rushed to the shops, raced back with a beautiful comb and then watched the coy mermaid vanish beneath the waves to make her preparations. He waited a good long while, as anticipation became anxiety and then faded into rueful resignation. He thought once that he spied a flash of yellow-gold hair on the crest of a wave, but it was near the mouth of the harbor and too far away to be certain if there was a flash of silver as well.
"Aye, an' yer a gran' ol' fool, ain't ye!" Paddy shook his head and chuckled at his own folly. Oh well, at least he had a story - a story to tell for the rest of his life. Of course, no one would believe the whole of it. They'd easily believe that Paddy could be taken in by a pretty face, but they’d never believe the tail!
Author's note: ▼