Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Graveyard

 Here's another bit of writing from an early draft of my novel that I liked. It got the ax because I realized that my main character, Una, was actually a siren, and much more bad ass than a mermaid. So, one last look, and then it's time to start shoveling the dirt:

Once upon a time, there were mermaids. Once, people believed in such a thing. Some believed in ladies with long hair, seashell bras and tails; others believed in genetic abnormalities--freaks with fused legs and flippers for arms. Still others imagined darker things--monsters of the dark deeps, with flaking skin and rotting bone, yawning mouth and yearning hand.

Here on Nantucket, in the whaling museum, behind a pane of glass, there is a picture of the famous whaling captain Obediah Chauncey taking tea with a mermaid queen upon the tongue of a whale. Neither of them look very comfortable. This is partly because the painter was not very good.  

The mermaid queen balances upon her tail, while Chauncey sits on a stool on the whale’s tongue. He holds his cup up as if he’s toasting the queen, and she looks away, at the viewer. Her expression is difficult to figure out because the painter messed up her mouth. It’s so frustrating. I can imagine Chauncey’s reaction.  Anyone can.  Whale’s tongue, the stench coming from its belly, drinking tea with a queen.  Gross but cool.  But what must the queen have felt, entertaining this human? How are queens supposed to feel?  This is what I try to figure out, from her badly painted face, because I am now a queen too.

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