Stories by Leslie Cole

Cover art by Claude Smith

24 pages, hand-sewn

2004, Sebastopol



Me as a Mermaid


This was the day that I turned back into a saltwater mermaid.  He stood on the edge of the pool with his back to the water.  His right hand covered his crotch and his left hand gestured in a furtive way towards the pool shed where the lifesaving equipment is stored.  His face held the look of a caught man.  I was suddenly very thirsty and the space between us stretched out dangerously like a poisonous snake sunning itself before eating. Stupidly, I stepped towards him only to see that his surprise real girlfriend was crouched down with the hoses and was watching me unblinkingly.  I stopped with my mouth hung half open, my fingers fluttering wanly in the current of bad feeling coming my way.  At once I understood that I was not his lover, but was really something he could hide under the bed and drag out from time to time to frighten the woman he wants to grow old with. The stress of the public betrayal shocked me back to my true nature which is a rarely found saltwater mermaid. The veneer of my silly womanhood slid off me like how cornstarch sheets off smooth white skin.  My mouth opened and closed.  No words came out, and breathing in air was a nuisance, my gills heaving in an unattractive manner.  Behind the pair glittered the kind blue water of the public pool where I yearned to dive in and stay at the deepest part by gripping the rusted grate which covered the drain.  Instead I stared and stared, my eyes bulging and ashamed.