Ah, those good old Cape May days… by Jackson D’Catur
I shall never forget the Cape May Mermaid. Though at that time she was known as “Half Woman, Half Fish, ALL Freak!” and was the star attraction in the Wildwood Traveling Circus that used to hop from town to town like a summer pox.
The circus was the usual fare: mutants, freaks, sports and uglies: in short, a random sampling of its home town’s population, dressed in scanty, colorful clothes with painted faces.
But that day I will never forget: I was wandering the circus grounds with a band of Cossack horsemen (in town for the Cape May Rodeo) and scoffing at the shows on display. Then I glimpsed The Mermaid and stopped in my tracks. She was a beauty beyond description, a fusion of our two species; from the waist up, a double of the great Sophia Loren, from the waist down, a glittering, scaled tail. We made eye contact and nothing more had to be said.
That night, after close, I revisited with wirecutters, a knobkerry and a hipflask of malt for courage, plus a burlap sack. I wirecut the fence, knobkerried the muscleman on guard duty and drank the malt. The Mermaid was asleep in her tank, half out of the water, forlorn and lovely. I clasped a hand over her mouth lest she accidentally scream and alert the owners, but she saw me and smiled. I bid her hush, slipped the sack over her (gently), and we were off.
Within no time we were home, and I carried her to the Point and slipped the sack off. She clasped me around the neck and we kissed. She went to speak but I hushed her with a finger and whispered: “My love, I will not condemn you to a life of misery away from your natural environment. It is best that I set you free and you can come visit once a year, at this same spot.”
Her eyes widened and she started to shake from fear, no doubt at being torn apart from me so soon, but before she could object I hurled her far out into the swirling waters. Her last words were: “I shall never forget you, my two-legged love,” though the wind caught them and made them sound like “No, you damned fool you don’t underst …” then she was gone with a wave.
She never did come back, though every year I waited: possibly her own family made her see the sense of a clean break so as to reduce the heartache. Not long after, I happened to find a fragment of iridescent green-scaled fabric, with a zipper, washed ashore not far away. A relic from a costume party in a faraway land, I thought, how lovely.