I know that I skipped Motel Mysteries #2. I will post it eventually- after a little more revision. Meanwhile, here’s my nod to noir fiction. Hope you enjoy it.
I didn’t exactly wake up screaming because I hadn’t been to sleep. But the room was closing in on me the same way a nightmare does – a little at a time until there’s no escape. It was too late for any of the glitterati who frequented this dump of a motel to be out and about, so I headed for the pool. Make that pools, plural. The place had two, the smaller one ostensibly for the kiddies, but I don’t think much of a mother who would let her kid into it’s murky water. The larger pool was the same, just, well, larger.
The night was on the cool side, but I hadn’t changed out of my suit jacket so I didn’t feel the chill. I took a seat on one of the deserted lounge chairs, and stared into the dark waters of the smaller pool waiting for the jumps to ease off.
The moon was full and so close to earth that all it’s pocks and scars stood out. The stars were twinkling but the moon didn’t seem to care so neither did I. I just stared at it’s fuzzy reflection in the dark water, thinking about nothing, until I saw the mermaid floating back and forth. Yeah, you heard me, the mermaid.
The war taught me everything I needed to know about staying still when things get hincky. So I didn’t move a muscle, just kept staring as she drifted back and forth from one end of the pool to the other. She’d drift along until her head bumped the wall and then start to drift in the other direction and keep on until her ail hit that wall and then start the drift back again. To be honest, it was kind of peaceful to watch.
I may be a vet, but I’m not crazy, at least no more than most, so I didn’t really think I was seeing a mermaid. There was a movie a couple of years back about this geezer who hooked a mermaid on a fishing trip and brought her home to his bathtub. I saw the movie but that didn’t mean I swallowed that fish story. There’s no such thing as mermaids.
But there she was, drifting back and forth back and forth back and forth.
I thought about reaching into the water and grabbing her. But why bother? She wasn’t hurting anyone and I’m all about live and let live. Ask my boss. And she kind of reminded me of a couple of girls I’d known in the past –
that long wavy hair gets me every time. So I just watched and let my thoughts drift along with her.
I thought about my job and the things I needed to do to keep it. And I thought about leaving my job, and the things I’d have to do to make that happen. I didn’t find any answers, but drifted with a thought until it hit the wall and started back in the opposite direction.
Why was she in the small pool? Maybe she’d like it better in the big one. It wouldn’t take much too lift her up and move her. But then maybe there was something about the small space she liked better. Who was I to decide for her? I’d made that mistake with broads in the past. And she seemed to be comfortable. It would be nice to just drift like that, not trying to beat down any walls, just going along with the current.
Except that going along to get along is what got me where I am right now. The boss says “go”I say “yes sir.” Old habits die hard.
My old man had a song he used to sing all the time. Something from his war, maybe. “I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.” The line I remember the best, though, is “just like my dreams they fade and die.” Is this mermaid a dream? Maybe my life’s the dream. Then what happens when I wake up?
That’s the thing about dreams. They seem so real but they never are. Wake up and they’re gone. Stay asleep and they go too. Nightmares are different, they never end. Awake or asleep is all the same. At least this mermaid stays a mermaid. Hasn’t changed into some mackerel or shark or something. That’s a nice change of pace.
Maybe this pool is really deep, and underneath is some mermaid kingdom full of castles and gold and happy endings. I used to believe in those, in happy endings. You went off to fight for what was right, so you could come home and everything would be the way it was before only better. Mom, apple pie, true love and all that. Right. And I got a bridge I can sell you for a good price if you’re interested.
She just keeps drifting. What if I got into the pool with her. Quiet-like, not even a splash. Could I just float along with her? Would she take me to her magic kingdom? She wouldn’t have to do that. Just the drifting would be enough for me. Maybe she’d hold my hand, maybe her hair would float around me. And we would just drift together. I thought about that for a while.
Then I could hear my Top Kick laughing his ass off. Tough-as-nails Pete mooning over some dame with a fish tail. Hah.
But it sure is peaceful here. I keep coming back to that.
Do you think the owner of this dump knows about the mermaid? What happens to her when all those screaming ankle biters descend in the afternoons? I suppose she goes back to wherever she comes from then. Deeper, away from the noise.
Maybe I’ll quit the job. Go somewhere like Alaska and live off the land. Yeah, and for my next trick I’ll build a spaceship and fly to Mars.
But it’s like I can hear her humming. What’s her secret? This floating act of hers. If I just leaned over and put my ear near her mouth would she tell me? Whisper sweet nothings in the dark. It’s not so bad out here in the dark. Peaceful. No bosses, no guns, no screaming. I thought maybe I’d stay a little longer.
I must have dozed off with my hand in the water. I felt a sharp tug, a really strong hand grabbing mine and pulling. There was a sound like bomb hitting a brass band. I started to slide into the pool, that grip tightening on my wrist and lower arm.
I fought back. Hard.
It would take somebody smarter than me to find the words for what happens when the fight takes over the man. There is noise and silence, rage and blood and pain. Time goes away along with everything else.
When I came back to myself it was over except for the shakes. I looked at the pool. Empty. No mermaid. The water still and dark. Just another nightmare. I worked on breathing. I thought about going inside.
That’s when I heard the bird. Some song I’d never heard before, not even in the jungle. It was sweet and disturbing all at the same time. I looked around and saw it perched on top of the pool house. It was big. Real big. With talons hooked over the edge of the roof. And there was something strange about it’s head. It occurred to me to be worried but there was that song, like it was calling me. Like it had the answers to all the secrets in the universe.
I decided to stay out a little longer. The night wasn’t over yet. Morning was still far away.