Read by Lin Sagovsky & Louisa Gummer
Hello, dearie, don’t be shy, come all the way in. On your own are you? I know, it is a bit of a shock, isn’t it? Especially after all the noise and razzmatazz outside. Not what you were expecting? Well, now don’t be coy; I know what you were expecting.
The thing about it is, you lot, what you imagine, when you think of people like us, like me, it's – it’s all about sex isn’t it? You think mermaid, and you think pale, slender, pretty shoulders, long floaty hair.
And the fact of the matter is we aren’t all pretty, some of us look like the back end of a walrus, although you’ll never find us getting exactly flabby – not with all the swimming, and frankly, if you let yourself go, a shark’ll finish you off in two shakes of an electric eel.
So when I say mermaid, or when you see that tasty little sign outside, for that matter, you are not thinking colossal great things like me with generous hips and flaky scales and big floppy tits. So I saw you screwing your face up, like I wouldn’t notice! Are you disappointed? Thinking about asking for your money back? If I was still in the sea I’d look better, my skin wouldn’t be so dry and cracked and my hair would have a good deal more bounce. And I wouldn’t have put on this much weight.
I’ll tell you what though; you weren’t really expecting me, a genuine mermaid, were you? You thought I’d be some girlie in a clamshell bikini and yardage of slinky blue skirt with unconvincing fins. So why are you disappointed that you got the real thing? That makes no sense at all! You should be in awe, really.
See these? These are gills. Impressive aren’t they? It’s only because of the nose and mouth arrangement I can breathe air – and talk to you, obviously. If I had to rely on the gills I’d be dead in – oh – half an hour? Very few of us survive without the sea. Take us away from it and we pine, dead in a fortnight mostly. Fortunately I’m tough, and I can see the positive side of a career.
Of course, I was young once, but never what you’d call pretty, or little. None of us are – your average full grown mermaid clocks in at ten feet and close on 300 pounds, that’s a lot of ballast, not as much trouble to move as the elephant, but the elephant can walk on her own four feet, of course.
I need my own vehicle, complete with travel tank. It’s not very big, not very comfortable but it’s generally only a few hours.
Do you want to get in the tank with me sweetie? You might not want to really – the water’s not been changed for a week, not since we pitched the tent last Saturday. Too much effort. I should talk to my agent about that, there’s bits of popcorn and dead flies and all sorts – look – cigarette ends. You people are disgusting, sometimes. The things you think to throw in the sea, and the tank, well that’s worse, do you think I don’t notice?
What do you mean liberation front? What do you think this is, Free Willy? I’m too old to go back to the sea.
I told you, some Orca, or a Great White would snap me up within the hour, my speed swimming days are over.
No love, you’d not be doing me any favours. I’m not what you’d call content exactly, but I meet some interesting folk, here and there, like you, for instance. And we have some great sing–alongs, me and the strongman and the fortune teller, when all the punters have gone home. She’s the genuine article too, that fortune teller: when we first met, in the harbour of some little place I never knew the name of, she told me I’d see more of the world than I’d bargained for. And she was right – not that much of it’s been all that attractive. We bring the attractions, the bright lights – the tall stories, no point bringing them somewhere that’s got all that already, is there? So it’s places like Coventry and Croydon and Catford, and Stoke and Swindon and Slough, and here, no offence. Hardly ever go near the sea of course, just fluke they found me, someone not paying attention and they took a wrong turn, several, really, ended up on the harbour wall, and nearly drove the caravan into the water. How I laughed. Had a lovely chat with the fortune teller while they were sorting it all out. Spur of the moment decision really, and, well, here I am! Ta da!
Right ho, you scuttle along now lovely, you’ve overstayed your five minutes a bit haven’t you, and I can see someone lurking behind the tent flap. Hello! Be with you in a tick! I expect you’ll be wanting some candy floss, and a cup of tea? Oh, and don’t tell anyone will you sweetie, don’t spoil the surprise. That’s a good lad.
Hello, poppet, come all the way in now, I don’t bite. I know, it’s a bit of a shock, isn’t it …?
(c) Cherry Potts, 2014
Cherry Potts is the author of two collections of short stories, Mosaic of Air and Tales Told Before Cockcrow. She runs the award-winning Arachne Press, and is editor of the three Liars’ League anthologies including Saboteur 2014 Award Winning Weird Lies. She runs South London live lit event, The Story Sessions.
Lin Sagovsky’s credits include talking books, TV narrations and BBC R4/World Service programmes a-plenty. She’s equally passionate about taking her actor/playwright background to all corners of the business world via her consultancy Play4Real, helping businesspeople use voice and body to create presence and fun in their working lives.
Louisa Gummer is a Liars’ League regular. Louisa trained at Mountview. TV includes EastEnders (BBC1); The Sitcom Trials (ITV), various commercials and independent films including The Ultimate Truth (Best Foreign Film - Long Island) and The Orange Tree (Shooting People's Mobile Cinema). Theatre includes Girls’ Night (UK No1 Tour); Listen to My Heart (Brockley Jack); The Sitcom Trials( Edinburgh 2004 & Tour). She's also an experienced voice-over artist.