The Little Mermaid, by Cezarija Abartis
Updated: Aug 24
He did not expect the heartache of his life to lead to this bar and this barstool and this mermaid on Halloween. She pushed the green hair back from her brow and pulled up her green sequined strapless top, over which she had modestly added a gauze shawl.
Outside, flakes of the first snow drifted down. The dim lights stroked his face. The ancient jukebox thumped a loud and murky song into the half-empty room. He had just been dumped by his girlfriend, Diane, who fell in love with someone else. The mermaid next to him leaned over and said, “Can I buy you a drink?”
He did not want a romantic liaison just now. “Thank you, but I’m waiting for someone.”
“I’m not proposing marriage.” Her green lips stretched into an ironic smile. “I just want a drink and conversation.” She looked at the door and shrugged. “I was stood up by my date. I’m Marina.”
“I’m Joe.” He extended his hand, which she took. Her hand was small and, even in this hot room, cool.
“I’ve been waiting for an hour,” she said softly and wrapped her shawl around herself. “I felt cut in two when he didn’t show up. And now you’re going to think I’m some sort of castoff, some needy castaway.”
“I’m thinking what a fool he must be to leave you waiting.”
“He’s left me completely, I know it. I would’ve left me too. The other woman is beautiful and rich and maybe also smart.”
“How could she be more beautiful than—”
“No false gallantry.” She raised her hand up as if in warning. “We don’t need lies. We’re strangers.”
“Do you only lie to friends?”
“And lovers.” She sipped her blue martini, her eyes appraising him over the rim.
“I lie to strangers.” But that wasn’t true.
She clapped her hands together. “How compatible!”
The music changed to a slow tempo. “Do you dance?” he asked.
“I should have flat slippers. These new shoes feel like knives.” She raised up her feet as if to admire the open-toed green glitter pumps. “But I’d like to dance with you.” She pulled off her shoes and placed them on the barstool. “To save my seat,” she said.
He led her to the open floor, where a few couples were slow dancing in the blue watery light. He leaned toward her and thought he could smell the sweet lily of the valley perfume that Diane wore because it promised good luck in love. Marina moved in closer. Her small purse dangled from her elbow and kept hitting his arm. “I bruise easily,” he said.
“If I knew you better, I’d say ‘I’ll kiss it and make it well.’ But I don’t know you so much yet.” She lifted her chin.
“Perhaps we’ll get to know each other better.”
She took her purse and slid the silver strap up to her shoulder, so it would not swing into him. “You’re safe now.”
Cezarija Abartis has published a collection, Nice Girls and Other Stories (New Rivers Press) and stories in Bennington Review, FRiGG, matchbook, Waccamaw, and New York Tyrant, among others. Her flash, “The Writer,” was selected by Dan Chaon for Wigleaf’s Top 50 online Fictions of 2012 and “To Kiss a Bear” was selected for Wigleaf’s Longlist 2016. Her flash “Sisters” was selected by Amber Sparks for Best Microfiction 2021. Recently she completed a crime novel. She teaches at St. Cloud State University.
Carol Auld’s creative explosion began by studying and working at Atelier Pochinko, with the late Richard Pochinko. After that, she studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Ontario, where she graduated with a Double Major in Intermedia/New Media. She subsequently completed a Masters of Media Arts at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. She has worked on a wide range of community-based creative projects, and taught art and media classes and workshops at artist-run centres as well as the college level. In her work, she explores the meaning of visual communication by combining her knowledge of many different techniques of art and design. She has exhibited her work in Canada, the US and internationally. Carol creates compelling and vibrant visual images to attract attention from an emotional viewpoint, rather than just a scientific or intellectual one. Her work combines elements of dream states, abstract expressionism, surrealism, feminism and graphic art and is infused with psychological, spiritual and sexual content. Her feeling for texture, colour, line and form create pieces that vibrate with energy. In 2015, she was an Artist-in-Residence at the Starry Nights Residence in Truth of Consequences, New Mexico. In 2016, she returned to New Mexico to photograph the northern part of the state, focusing on environmental issues. In 2020, she moved to beautiful Victoria, BC, where she is engaged in a variety of creative endeavors while in lockdown due to COVID19.