by Larry H
“Fresh fish! Fresh fish! Get your fish while it’s still fresh!” the strident voice penetrated Marley’s skull as the woman called out with strident tones and foul vocabulary. “How ’bout you, my little stud-ling?” she leered as a near-teenager crossed the road to avoid her. “Maybe you’d like something fresher?” she said as she made an obvious show of grabbing her own crotch. The boy glanced quickly and hurried away, nearly breaking into a run. The woman cackled as she watched the boy, desperate to escape her view. Marley shook his head, remonstrating himself for foolishly marrying the obnoxious creature some four years earlier, despite the warnings of his parents.
Her coarse language was only the start of her inadequacies. Having a sailor’s mouth himself, he had actually believed that it wouldn’t matter, and it didn’t for several months. But she was as rough and unrefined in the bedroom as she was on the street, and she seemed incapable of enjoying intimate relations with him in any case. She seemed such a little mouse of a woman before they married, he’d never have guessed that a loud, abusive creature could be hiding within her.
He walked away, toward the cliffs just north of the village, wondering what he could do to change his fate. He stood on the precipice as sailing vessels, probably his competitors, moved with the wind. The sun fell into the sea, and Marley watched the full moon as it peeked out at him from behind some clouds. “Poseidon, I know now how fleeting a pretty face is, and how easy it was to lie to me without even speaking. I ask that you take that fishwife which has burdened me for far too long. Take her for your own!”
He fished a coin from his pocket, pitching it as far as he could into the water. He watched as it struck a wave and disappeared into the depths. Feeling just a bit foolish, he turned, and returned to the village by the light of the full moon.
For the following week, Marley spent his nights fishing with his crew, and turned the catch over to the woman, that she might sell them at a decent price. Loud and obnoxious as she was, she was still one of the best fish mongers in the village. The week passed, and on Sunday, when the rest of the village was at church, Marley invited the woman to join him for a picnic lunch by the sea. He could see the riptide flowing out toward the sea, and it occurred to him how easy it would be to push her into the current, never to be seen again. He imagined himself finding and marrying a ‘proper’ woman to sell his fish for him. He ran into the surf, inviting her to join him in the waters. Smiling, she stomped across the sand and walked into the waves, happy that Marley had finally decided to be a real husband to her. She waded out to him, but before she could reach him, the waters grabbed her, and dragged her far out to sea. Marley watched jubilantly as she disappeared from sight. At last, at long last he was free of her! With luck, she’d be eaten by sharks, and the other fishes that were often his prey, and he could claim he’d had nothing to do with her disappearance.
Monday morning he set out with his crew to catch their quota of fish. But as they sailed out to the reef where the fish congregated, Marley thought he heard the beautiful sound of a very feminine voice. Shaking his head, he dismissed it, and ordered the nets to be cast out.
There it was again! As soft and lovely as a violin, she had to be a beauty! Nothing like his irredeemable fishwife! Where was she? He scanned the horizon, following the musical voice until he spied a beautiful naked woman swimming over the reef. She ducked under the water, then resurfaced close to Marley’s ship. Singing, she looked at Marley, smiled, and waved, and rose up enough to display her breasts to him.
“She looks like someone who needs rescuing”, he commented to his crew. “Captain’s prerogative, I’ll be right back!” He stripped off what little clothing he was wearing, shirt and shorts being the normal wear of the day, and jumped into the water, taking long, strong strokes to reach her. She started singing to him, a wordless melody that could make angels weep, as she moved further from the ship. He caught up with her easily, and began treading water with her. “Hello, my beauty! Is there anything I can do for you?” She smiled beatifically and reached down to touch him between his legs. Hands softened by the sea played with him as he began exploring her body with his own hands. Soon his hands wandered below her waist, and he discovered scales and a long, strong tail. His hands jerked away, and he began swimming back to the ship. She swam easily beside him, laughing as she pulled him down to the coral below. He hadn’t taken more than half a breath when she dragged him under, and soon he was forcing himself to hold what little breath he had.
“What’s the matter, Marley?” he heard in his head. “You cannot be harmed while you are with merfolk. Go ahead. Breathe.”
Marley wondered how she knew his name. Then he looked again. Was this his old fishwife? She certainly didn’t sound like her…” Then it dawned on him. She’d never said a single word when they were on the surface. And she wasn’t using her voice at all down here. “I want to thank you, Marley,” her thoughts echoed in his mind “for paying my bride-price and setting me free as you did.” Her hair floating like a wreath around her head, she looked absolutely majestic to him. He wondered briefly if her crotch-flower was still intact, and without thinking, reached down to explore that which he had shunned for years. What he found reminded him more of a dolphin’s genitals than a human’s. Swiftly, she swam away into the reef. “Poseidon! Poseidon! A human has tried to violate me!” The god of the sea swam slowly out of the reef, looking half human and half shark. He wore a crown of seaweed on his head. “I know you,” the god said, “you were desperate to be free of this woman. I had mercy on you. I took that pittance as a token, nothing more. You asked that I take her as my own wife. I did so. And now you want to take that which is now mine, that which you so carelessly discarded, and try to take her back? Foolish mortal!” then he turned to his wife. “How did he find you, anyway?” She looked at him adoringly. “I recognized his boat, and wished to frighten the man who thought to drown me in the sea! Give me his blood!” Hearing this, Marley’s guilty blood turned to ice, and he swam as quickly as he could back to his ship. But with no merfolk to keep him safe, he soon ran out of air, and breathed in the cold sea water. Far above, the surface glinted as darkness filled his mind led and he began sinking toward the sea floor, never to be seen again.