The time had come for Marina to join her mother on the “The Great Journey.” In human years Marina would have been eight, but Marina wasn’t quite human, she was a mermaid. Marina was part of a clan of 75 sea-people living along this part of the coast. Marina’s mother was a very important part of this clan. Her mother knew what plants and other sea life that made the sea-people better when they were sick. This knowledge was passed down from mother to daughter and now it was Marina’s turn to learn from her mother.
The Great Journey happened once a year. Every year her mother would travel up a certain river to a special place where a water plant grew. In the early part of the summer the water plant would bloom and from the blossoms, her mother would bring back and mix it with other plants and certain corals, then she would give it to all the sea-people.
The mixture prevented the sea-people from getting sick from the different chemicals humans weere dumping into the ocean. From a early age Marina was taught to avoid the people who lived on land. They dragged nets through the water that the sea-people had to avoid. This wasn’t that hard, because before the nets came you could hear the boats on the surface a long distance away. When you heard them you kept an eye out for the nets and fishing lines that they pulled behind them.
Marina thought that the people living on the surface were very noisy. Even when their boats were not running they always seemed to be doing something. Once they came across a boat anchored in a small cove while the clan was looking for crabs. The rest of the clan kept away, but she has swam under it and listened. Marina could hear the human talking then walk to other parts of the boat. She had heard what the land people called music. Some was very loud and she did not like, others were soft and pleasant to hear. It was not like the music she heard in the sea like the whale songs, or the music her own people sang. On this boat the music was soft and nice to listen to. There were 2 of them and they began to giggle about something, and as she was trying to figure about what they were laughing, her mother found her and dragged her away from the dreaded human’s boat.
That was many months ago, now the day had come to begin the great journey, and Marina was feeling nervous. In the sea it was easy to avoid humans, but in a river there would always be land on either side of you, and the only way that you could travel was either up or down the river. You didn’t have the openness of the sea where you could flee in any direction to escape danger. Her mother told her that everything was going to be fine and for her not to worry, but before they left they had to make a stop at the sea cave.
This sea cave was one of several used by this clan of sea people. Marina liked to call it the stuff cave. It was used to keep the stuff that the sea-people found and could use in their day to day lives. Some were things from the sea, but most of the items in the cave were things made by the surface dwellers. Years ago the sea-people used to make bags from seaweed, but then they found the different bags and such that the surface dwellers threw away. The sea people used them to gather and store food.
They stored these and other things in the cave. Not all the things they found were thrown away, some were swept from ships by wind, waves, or washed into the ocean by storms. Her mother went into the cave and brought out a medium size backpack on her back. Last year she had come back from the Great Journey with it. She told the clan she had found it under what the humans call a bridge. There had been some things in the backpack the surface dwellers call books and paper. Her mother knew right away that she could use it to carry the blossoms from the water plant, so she found a place where no one could see her and emptied the backpack onto the shore.
The backpack was made of nylon and the zipper of plastic, so it would last longer than most other things in salt water. When her mother came back from the cave with the backpack it wasn’t emptied, inside were 4 long bags that once said “Bread” on them, but the lettering had been worn off. Her mother told her the final place where the plants grew was too dangerous for Marina, and knew of a place nearby where Marina would be safe while she gathered the blossoms.
The entire clan swam to them when they saw them coming back with the backpack. They were there to wish them a safe journey, and for the trip to be a short one. Marina felt like she had butterfly fish in her stomach, it would be days before they would see their clan again, and the trip still worried her. This would be the first time she was away from the clan for more than a day, and she still was not looking forward in swimming up the river.
The first few days were uneventful. They avoided the fishing boats with their nets. When they were hungry they would chew on some seaweed, or take a crab or two out of a fisherman’s trap. They were easy to find, all you had to do was to look for a rope leading up from the trap to a float on the surface. The fishermen never knew that mermaids were getting a free meal from their traps, they just thought that they were in a bad area.
Finally they came to the mouth of the river. It was scary, she could feel the land on both sides of her. Boats would pass overhead, and had to be careful of the fishing lines, and hooks trailing behind them. They came to an area where the boats with the fishing lines became less and less. Here faster boats and other things shot overhead. Then she heard it, at first it was a distant buzzing sound, then it was roaring angrily above her, turned and then shot back the way it had come. Soon there was another and another and more, they seemed to be all around them on the surface, and also in the water you could hear the humans splashing in the water.
She was used to the quietness of the sea, and all of this was too much for her at once and she began to panic, darting this way or that, only to be cut off by the roaring of the human’s machine overhead. Her mother caught up with her and held her close. Marina began to cry, making the water taste saltier because of her tears. The machines continued to crisscross overhead, Marina hearing laughter and yelling. Marina wanted to be as far away from there as quickly as possible, but her mother held her. She was so terrified at first, she didn’t hear her mother’s words, but as she began to relax in her comforting arms, she listened to what her mother was saying over and over.
“Marina, don’t worry it’s alright.” When her mother felt Marina’s hold on her ease she went on, “Those things can’t hurt you down here, only when you get too close to the surface.” When Marina looked up, she noticed that while they did make a lot of noise, all they did was skim along the surface.
“What are those horrible machines called?” she asked her mother.
“They call them jet skis, and they are not as bad as you might think. They keep the boats with the nets and fishing lines away. The humans with the boats with the fishing lines don’t stay in the same area when there are too many jet skis around. When they are near, it means we are safe, as long as we can put up with the noise,” her mother told her, giving her a reassuring smile. Marina looked around, and thought about it.
Her mother was right, since they had swam into this area of the river, they had not seen any fishing lines or nets in the water. A jet ski roared overhead, bouncing in the wake of another jet ski when the driver of the jet ski was suddenly thrown off. Something kept him on the surface, a shiny jacket of some sort. The human had no idea that just a few feet below him were a mother and daughter mermaids. After the jet ski lost its driver, it lost almost all of its speed and made a slow circle bringing it back to the human. As it slowly made its way to him, he relaxed and just let his legs hang in the water under him.
This gave Marina a her first chance to look at a human up close. Marina’s mother wasn’t worried, the human was too busy waiting for the jet ski to get closer, so wasn’t paying any attention to what was happening below him, and if they were seen they could swim away before anything happened to them.
Marina was curious about the lower half of the humans, they didn’t have a fin like her, but limbs like her arm.
“What do they feel like?” she wondered. “They look fleshy like her fingers, but were they really that way?” There they were right in front of her, and before her mother could stop her she reached out to grab the little toe on the left foot. The man yelled out, “Something’s got me!” and began kicking his feet swimming to the jet ski as fast as he could. When he got to it he scrambled onto it, and shot off to the closest shore. For a moment the jet ski and water ski boat traffic stopped.
Sound travels better underwater than in air, and they could hear the surface dweller telling how he had been attacked in the water. Someone asked where the wound was, and for a second there was silence, then laughter could be heard. Soon the jet skis and boats were back on the river as if nothing had happen. Marina turned and looked at her mother and said, “So that is what they feel like,” and both her mother and her burst into laughter.
They traveled up the river, sleeping under docks at night when they needed to sleep. Her mother told her it was safe under the docks, because no boats could pass overhead, and the humans fishing there, don’t cast their lines under the docks at night.
As they traveled, Marina noticed the river getting narrower and narrower. She felt as if the land was closing in on her, being used to the open sea, where she could swim in any direction. Her mother began to notice something bothering her daughter, having an idea what it was, because her mother too felt the same way when traveling this far inland from the sea, but she had overcome her fear, and she would stop now and then holding her, saying that everything was going to be alright. This helped for the most part, yet the closed-in feeling of the land would never go away while she was still in the river.
On the 5th day they came to an old dock that looked as if it had not been used in a long time. Schools of fish swam around and under the dock. Mother and daughter swam halfway under it, when her mother turned to her and said, “This is where you stay while I go the rest of the way myself. I just have to go to the place where the medicine plant grows, it is just a little ways farther up, but you are not ready for this part of the journey. No humans come to this dock anymore, so you will be safe here.” She told her with a reassuring smile.
Her mother took the backpack off. From it she took out some sea clams she had brought with her. She explained to Marina that the salt water clams don’t like fresh water, and would be easier to open than in salt water. After they finished their meal, her mother opened the backpack and took out 2 of the bags they had brought with them. Her mother turned to her and said, “If I am not back by nightfall you are to swim back to the clan. You know the way now, just go with the current downriver to the sea.”
Until her mother had told her this, she never thought that anything might happen to her mother, and she began whimpering a little feeling afraid.
“Don’t worry, I will be careful, this is just what we tell our young healers before we get the blossom. My mother told me the same thing when I went on my first Great Journey and someday you will say the same words to your daughter.” After saying this, she gathered up the two bags and swam under the dock to where the water plants that she needed grew.
At first Marina was scared. Sure she had been alone before, but never in what the humans would call 10 feet of water, and with no open water about her but land on both sides. She wrapped her arms about herself, closed her eyes wishing she was back in the safety of the open sea. Slowly she drifted down to rest on the sandy bottom, lying there, shutting out the world about her, thinking of the sea. She didn’t know when sleep came to take her, but she dreamed she was back home in the comfort of the open sea with the rest of her mer-people.
When Marina awoke, for a moment she thought she was back with her mother in the sea. Her hopes were dashed, seeing that she was still under the dock. The land had not swallowed her up while she slept, like she was afraid it would. Everything was just the way she had seen it when she closed her eyes. The schools of fish were under the dock in the shade, escaping the heat and glare of the early summer sun. The dock was the coolest place close by. Marina was starting to get a bit warm herself, when she had fallen asleep the sun had not reached her yet, but now it had making her uncomfortable, so she swam under the dock into shallower water.
Suddenly the first board of the dock creaked, then another. Marina realized in terror, that someone was walking out on the old dock!
“Should she flee from her hiding place under the dock to deeper water?” she thought. Her mother had told her to stay under the dock till she came back. What would her mother do if she came to the dock finding the human there and her gone. The boards continued to creak under the weight of the human. Each step brought the being closer and closer to her.
She almost bolted as the board above her creaked. Between the cracks of the boards, she caught sight of a flicker of movement, then the human was past her. The boards continued to creak and moan as the human walked on down the dock. When he was almost near the end of the dock, he stopped. There was a gentle thump, as if something was being placed on the dock.
After a time there was some rustling, then there was a soft plop in the water at the end of the dock. A round floating object had hit the water, and floated on the surface. Suspended below it was a bit of line. A small bead of lead, and a hook with a worm she had never seen before. She had seen worms, as there were many different kinds in the sea, but this one was different. Soil still clung to it, but in the water it was sliding off the worm leaving it looking clean.
Some of the fish swam up to it pecking at it, trying get a small taste. When they did, the float would bob around, then it and the worm would shoot to the surface and disappear, only to drop back down once again to the place it had just left. A school of 5 small fish surrounded the worm, and now and then, one would dart in and steal a bite. One of the 5 was more greedy than the others, and swam in managing to get most of the hooked worm in its tiny mouth, and swam away from the others, not wanting the other fish in the school to have his prize. Others of his school tried to follow, hoping to get a bite of the piece of worm trailing from his mouth. He pulled the float under the surface as it made a run under the dock trying to get away from his small school of friends.
Suddenly the fish with the worm in its mouth was jerked around by the line and pulled to the surface where it disappeared. Overhead Marina could hear a flopping sound as the little fish tried in vain to get off the hook and escape. Then the sound of the struggling fish stopped and it was very quiet. A minute later the board at the end of the dock creaked and a shadowy form appeared. Before her a human hand, the size of her own, slipped beneath the surface above her. In it was the small greedy little fish. The little fish looked tired, and there was a small cut behind the upper jaw on the left side, where the hook had cut through.
Slowly the hand moved the fish back and forth through the water. With each back and forth movement, the little fish seemed to get stronger, and soon shot from the human hands to the shelter of the small pile of clam shells, that Marina and her mother had dropped. There it seemed to sulk.
“It serves you right.” she told the little fish hiding in the pile of shells. “That is what happens for being greedy. You were lucky the human didn’t want you or you would have become his dinner.”
Marina herself was getting hungry. She couldn’t catch the quick little fish here, and besides they had become her companions as she waited for her mother. The fish had shown her that the worm put on the hook was edible. Very slowly Marina swam up to the worm on the hook to study it. If she was careful she should be able to unhook the worm without getting hooked herself. Very carefully she began to unhook it. As she did this, the float bobbed and moved above her, but she failed to notice it. The hook with the worm halfway off, shot to the surface almost hooking her. Marina was so startled, she swam deep under the dock, her heart pounding in her chest.
A short time later, the worm she had been trying to get off the hook came drifting down to rest on the bottom. One of the fish that had tried to take the worm from the one that got hooked, came up to it cautiously and bit a piece off. When nothing happened, he grabbed the worm and swam off.
Marina got her nerve to try again, promising herself to be more careful. There was no telling what the human would do if he caught her. This time she bumped the line a few times, then the hook and line would shoot up. She kept doing this and the line would always shoot to the surface. It was kinda fun actually, and she could hear the human muttering in frustration. After a while no matter how many times she bumped the line, nothing would happen. The fisherman must have either become bored, or he was wise to her tricks.
“Now I wonder what would happen if I pulled the line under and held it.” she thought. She tried this. Right away the line would be yanked up.
“It was back to having fun again!” Despite all the fun teasing the fisherman she was starting to get hungry. So very carefully, she unhooked the worm without it shooting out of her hand. When she was done she pulled hard on the line, and watched it disappear at the surface, knowing a new worm would be threaded onto the hook.
She looked at the worm, then smelled it. The worm didn’t smell all that good, but the fish around here seemed to like it. She put the whole worm into her mouth and bit into it.
“YUCK !!!! It tasted like mud and not very good mud at that.” she thought, spitting it out as fast as she could. As it drifted in the water a small fish snatched it up and darted away. “You can have it!” she told the fish.
This gave her an idea. Taking the bait off the hook, just the challenge of it without getting caught was fun, but she sure didn’t want that yucky worm. She also didn’t like seeing her little friends getting hurt. This was also a whole lot more fun, than just waiting for her mother to return.
She began to take the bait off the hook, and began breaking it up into little pieces and feeding it to her little fishy friends. Soon she had 50 little fishy friends swarming around her. When she needed more she would simple yank on the line a few times, and a new worm would come down. She was starting to become quite good at removing the worm, it was simple once you knew how to do it.
Sometimes one of the fish in the school around her would see the large worm on the hook, and would beat her to the bait. Most of the time they would get hooked and be pulled to the surface. If it was a certain size it wouldn’t be returned to the water. This saddened her a little, but this was OK, as the larger fish were more greedy, and ate more than the smaller fish and didn’t seem as friendly.
It was late in the afternoon when the hook quit being dropped into the water. Marina waited and waited before the baited hook was dropped back at last into the water. Right away the small fish swam up to it. This time they didn’t go after it, instead just looking at it, and then turning and swimming back under the dock to Marina, waiting for her to feed them. Marina thought that this was very strange, and looked at the new offering.
It wasn’t a worm this time, and there wasn’t much of a smell coming from it. It had a hard dark brown shell on one side, while on the other side it was tan with something in it. A small piece of the brown shell had broken off, and slid down the tan sticky looking stuff, slowly fluttering towards the bottom.
She caught it before it touched the bottom, smelled it herself and put the fragment into her mouth. As it slowly melted in her mouth, her eyes widened in surprise. It was sweet, very sweet, like nothing she had ever tasted before. She turned back to this tasty offering. This was not going to be as easy as removing the worm. The hook was encased in the treat, giving her no idea where the point of the hook was. She grabbed the line above the hook with her left hand. With her right she held the treat with her thumb and forefinger, and slowly began to pull the hook out. She couldn’t stop the float from wiggling, and only hoped that the fisherman didn’t notice.
The fisherman did notice. Marina suddenly felt a sharp pain at the tip of her right finger as the line slid in her left hand. The hook had pulled through the treat and into her finger. She wrapped her left hand around the line a few times, swimming around the closest pier despite the pull of the line wanting her to come to the surface.
The treat fell from her hands, drifting slowly to the bottom. After swimming around the pier a few times the pull on the line wasn’t as strong, and Marina was able to pull the hook out of the tip of her index finger. The fisherman had bent the barb back on the hook, so she was able to remove the hook easily.
When she removed the hook, she simply let it go where it soon became caught on the wooden pier. From the constant pulling of the fisherman on the end of the line the hook embedded itself in the pier. There was no way the hook could be removed without her help. The line began to hum as the fisherman hoped to pull it free. Finally the line snapped with a loud CRACK.
Marina lay far under the dock, sucking on her finger till the pain began to fade away. On the sand just out of the shade was the tasty treat, that had caused her so much pain. It lay there with the hard shell on the sand, and the creamy looking part facing up towards the sun. It seemed to call to her, tempting her once more.
“This time there would be no hook, so what would it hurt.” She thought. The rumble in her stomach caused her to overcome her fear and the pain, and without knowing she found herself swimming over and picking up the tasty treat.
This was not the tiny fragment, as she had nibbled on before, but a whole bite filling her mouth with a delicious sweet wonderful flavor. She closed her eyes enjoying every moment it while it lasted. Maybe she could forgive the fisherman for what he had done, she had known that she could get hooked, and maybe she could have been more careful. Overhead she heard the fisherman rustling.
“Was he leaving! No, please no, not after she had tasted such a wonderful thing and now have him leave. Maybe if she gave him his hook and bobber back he would bait the hook again like he had done with the worm and drop it back down.” Marina thought. She swam over to the hook, removed it, unwrapped the line from around the pier, swam to the end of the dock and let the bobber float to the surface.
She waited, and waited what seemed for hours, but was in fact a few minutes.
“What is the matter with this human, was he blind or what?” She wondered as she began to grow impatient. Finally she couldn’t take it any more. Marina swam up to the surface near the broken line and looked up. She couldn’t see the human, but knew that he was there, because the boards would creak as he moved, and this had not happen.
“Maybe he needs a little help.” she thought. With this in mind, she gathered up the line and bobber, then without making a sound she lifted her hand out of the water, and then flicked her wrist and threw it onto the dock. There was a loud “Thud” as the bobber, hook, line and sinker hit and rolled onto the dock. Satisfied with what she had done, Marina swam back under the dock. Overhead she could hear the human say something, but couldn’t make out what it was. At the end of the dock she could hear the human doing something, then the noise stopped. All was very quite. Puzzled Marina poked her head out of the water and swam farther under the dock.
Very slowly a young boy’s head inched over the edge of the dock. From the look of him he looked to be Marina’s age. He had soft green eyes, and short sandy brown hair. In fact he was even kind a cute she thought, for a human. He didn’t say anything, just stared at her before saying, “Are you the one who has been eating my candy bars?” As she looked into those soft green eyes, she couldn’t find her voice to answer him. She had never talked to a human before, as it was forbidden, yet here she was face to face with one now. All she could do was look at him and smile slowly.
“Well if you wanted one, all you had to do was ask. Do you want one now? I will share what I have with you.” he told her. When she didn’t answer, his head disappeared and she could hear him moving about.
“What is a candy bar?” she wondered. “Was it that wonderful sweet thing that he placed on the hook the last time?” She swam closer to the end of the dock.
“What would her mother do when she told her that she had talked with a human, even let one see her.” she continued to wonder. Before she could answer that thought, the boy appeared at the edge of the dock once more. This time he reached under the dock and in his right hand he held something that was 8 inches long, 2 inches wide and was a very dark brown color. The color was like the top and bottom of that tasty treat that he had put on the hook. Was this a candy bar? The boy opened his hand offering this tasty treat to her.
Should she accept this gift he offered, and what if it was some sort of a trap? If she moved quickly enough, she could snatch the candy bar from his hands before he could do anything, or she could slowly sink to the bottom and swim away to safety, but that candy bar was soooo good and tempting, she could still taste the last bite of what he called a “Candy bar.” She ached to have just another taste, and here he was offering a whole bar of it to her. Whatever the trap or trick, she knew she would be quick enough.
Marina shot forward and swiped the candy bar out of his hand. She struck with such swiftness, that as her hand with the candy bar hit the water, it splashed the boy in the face forcing him to close his eyes. While his eyes were closed, Marina felt a little mischievous, and turning away with her prize in her hand, she hit the surface of the water with her tail getting the boy even wetter. She giggled, then dove for the bottom, swimming deep under the dock to enjoy her treat.
While she enjoyed the candy bar she heard him sputtering, “What did you do that for?” as he jumped away from the edge of the dock. Under the water resting on the bottom, she could make out the shadowy outline of the edge of the dock. A shadow began to expand from the edge and Marina knew that it was the boy once more crawling over the edge of the dock and looking under it.
“Hello?” he said. Then a little louder he said again, “Hello?”
When she didn’t answer him the shadow disappeared and she heard the boards begin to creak overhead and heard him yell, “Helloooo?! Hey, where did you go?”
When she didn’t answer, she heard him moving around, stop, then walk off the dock. When creaking of the board stopped at the end of the dock she heard him yell, “I don’t know who ever you are or why you got me wet, but I will be back tomorrow if I can. Bye.”
The boy had been fun to trick, and play with, but now he had gone, and quickly Marina become bored. She wished he was still around, feeling sure there had been the risk of him actually catching her, but anything was better than waiting for her mom.
The shadows had begun to grow, when at last her mother appeared close to sundown, settling next to her on the bottom with the bags she had taken with her, bulging with the water plants that they had come for.
“How was your day?” her mother asked her as she began to clean the mud from the roots of some of the plants she had gathered. These were not the plants that she had been sent there to gather, but were what the humans called, “Cattails,” and tasted like celery. Her mother gave her one, and she began chewing on the white tender roots. It filled what little hunger she had left from eating those, what had the boy called it, “Candy bar” things, but wasn’t even close as to those candy bars had been. “Oh, it was OK, some ducks swam by, and a furry thing swam by some time after it, then that was it.” Marina told her.
As they ate her mother noticed she was still eating her first cattail root. “Are you feeling not feeling well, by now you should been on your third root.” she said with a little concern in her voice.
“My stomach is feeling a little upset. I think it’s because I’m not used to being in fresh water for so long.” Marina lied. In truth she knew it was because she had eaten too much of what the human boy had given her.
Her mother dug into one of her herb bags, and gave her a yellow leaf of seaweed telling her, “Here you go, eat this, it should make you feel better.” Marina took the leaf and chewed on it slowly, and it did make her tummy feel better. “Her mother was such a good healer.” Marina thought.
As darkness began to fall, Marina cuddled close to her mother. It felt comforting to her. Just a few more days of her mother gathering the fresh water plants, and then they would head back to the open sea, away from being so close to these humans with their strange, and tasty food. Back to the sea, where you could go for days without seeing anything human, but for their boats far overhead.
It was cattails again for breakfast, and then her mother was off to gather more plants to take back, leaving Marina under the old dock. Marina was worried if the human boy would show up before her mother left. As it turned out her mother was gone, and the sun almost reaching the middle of the sky, yet still no human boy showed. She began to wonder if he was ever going to come back, when she heard the now familiar creaking of the wooden boards overhead.
“Hello? Are you here?” a small curious little boy’s voice said above her. Marina didn’t answer, but instead stayed deep in the shadows under the dock. It was very quiet for a long time before hearing him move to the edge of the dock. A sandy brown-haired boyish face peaked under the dock.
This time Marina knew that he couldn’t see her, so she stuck out her tongue at him just for fun.
“I’ve got something for you.” he said, and held out a candy bar. The little boy waited and waited, but Marina didn’t want to show herself, she felt that she had done enough, remembering her mother’s warning about not letting any humans know about her.
“OK, if that is the way you want to be I’ll put it on the hook again.” the boy said to the water under the dock.
A short time later there was the sound of a plop in the water, and there again like yesterday was the fishing bobber with a piece of candy bar on the hook. Marina didn’t swim out to the candy right away. A perch swam up to it, then another. The two of them just looked at it deciding if it was tasty enough to eat. It must not have been, because they swam away joining 15 other small perch.
Yesterday she had eaten all of his candy bars right away, and spent the rest of the boring afternoon by herself. She didn’t want to spend the rest of her day alone, even the company of a human was better than no one, even though it could be dangerous.
Marina swam over to it, bumping it with her finger. Nothing happened. She bumped it again expecting the boy to jerk the line in, but still nothing happened. Carefully she removed the piece of candy bar off the hook without moving the bobber, popping it into her mouth, feeling the wonderful flavor of the candy bar, this one being different than the one he brought yesterday.
When she was finished Marina gave the line a couple of hard jerks. This time the line didn’t shoot up like it had done the day before, this time it was slowly lifted out of the water. When the hook cleared the surface she heard the boy exclaim, “So you are here!”
Another piece of candy was placed on the hook and lowered into the water. Again she took this piece also without moving the bobber, jerking the line when she had the candy safely off the hook. It was after she having her third piece of candy, that she heard the boy say, “Now we will see who laughs at who when you try to eat this.”
The line plopped into the water, but instead of candy there was a strange green thing on the hook. It had a short thick stem, and at the end it looked like it had tiny flower buds. Whatever it was it was hard to get off the hook. It looked like some kind of strange plant that she had never seen before. While trying to get it off she had accidently moved the bobber around, but the line didn’t shoot to the surface.
Marina held it in her hand, and took a little nibble of it. It crunched slightly in her mouth, but it was still a whole lot better than cattails, and she liked it. When she was finished eating it, she jerked hard on the fishing line. Marina thought she could hear the boy laughing like he had pulled off some sort of bug joke, until the hook cleared the water.
“You, ate broccoli!” she heard the boy stammer as if it was something really horrible. “Gross!”
“Broccoli, so that is what it was called. I wonder what he would think of cattail roots.” Marina thought. Then she smiled, the boy tried to trick her by offering to her something that he thought was yucky to eat, which to her she liked. A few more times this broccoli stuff was sent down on the fish hook, and she ate every bit. She found that it didn’t give her a stomach ache like all the candy had done to her.
The hook and bobber quit coming. “What was this strange human up to now?” Marina wondered. There was a shuffling to the end of the dock, then the boy’s head appeared.
“I know that you are there.” the boy said, and waited for a reply, or for something to happen. Marina didn’t move, so soon the boy would get up, and they would continue playing their little game, or so she believed. Only this time the boy didn’t get up.
“What if she didn’t do anything, and the boy never came back.” Marina thought. She missed her friends, and the rest of the sea people, she missed her home, and while her mother was gone, this human boy was the only one other than her mother that she had any contact with in the past few days. Without this human boy she would have been very lonely. If he left and didn’t come back, the time they had left to spend in this fresh water with no one to talk to or to even play silly games with, would make her very unhappy she knew, yet it was the most sacred rule that they were to never show themselves to humans. Marina made up her mind.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk and share my lunch with you.” the boy said in a reassuring voice. Slowly Marina rose to the surface feeling very nervous, she was going to meet face to face with a human. This time she would not hide. Her head cleared the surface. The boy spotted her right away.
“There you are!” He said excitedly. They looked at each other closely. This was the first time he had been able to see her, and at first he didn’t say or do anything, then he lifted his right hand and waved.
“Hi” he said, then seemed to wait for her to say something. Marina wasn’t sure if she should talk to the boy, so she kept quiet.
“Hey, why are you under this dock, and how can you hold your breath for so long?” he asked her. Still Marina didn’t say a word, but instead bowed her head while her eyes were still on his, and shrugged her shoulders.
The boy gulped hard. “Humans are so funny.” Marina thought. “He must think that I am human also.” Maybe this was why her mother gave her what the humans call a bikini top, instead of her normal shells she wore when in the sea. Her mother had given her the blue top before entering the river. Her mother also wore one as well. It had to be because if the humans did see them, they might think that they were humans too.
When she still didn’t say anything, the boy said, “My name is Jason. What is yours?”
“Should she tell him her name?” She wondered. She wasn’t even allowed to let a human to see her, but to talk with one was one of the things that was forbidden to do her her clan. But she was taught to always be nice to others, and this boy had done nothing to hurt her.
“Marina.” she said softly as she moved her tail to stay in one spot.
“I have never met anyone named Marina before. Why are you under this old dock?” This boy she now knew as Jason asked.
“Because it is cooler here.” Marina told him. It was true, it was cooler under the dock than being in the open sun.
Jason looked at her with a puzzled look on his face before he said, “There are lots of trees around. Wouldn’t it be just as nice to be in the shade of the trees as under a dock?”
“I like being in the water.” she told him.
That strange look appeared on the boy’s face again Marina noticed. “Ok, would you like to have a sandwich. It’s peanut butter and jelly.” he told her.
“Sure,” she said, wondering what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was. As soon as he turned his back to get his lunch, she swam forward till she was at the edge of the dock. By the time he turned back to her, she was right there in front of him.
With her left hand to hold her in one spot in the water she accepted the thing called a “Peanut and jelly sandwich” that Jason handed her. She took one bite and her eyes light up. It was almost as good as the candy bar thing, but some of it seem to stick to the roof of her mouth. She couldn’t talk right away to tell Jason how good the sandwich was. The boy seemed to see she was having problems, so he asked, “Would you like a pop to wash it down? I brought 2 along with me.”
When she nodded yes, he turned to his “Lunch Bag” he called it. Marina heard a pop, then he was offering her a red can with a white stripe on it. She set the sandwich on the edge of the dock and took the can. Marina had seen humans drink from them, so she copied how she’d seen them use them. She took a gulp and could feel tiny bubbles fizz in her mouth. This funny tasting water was also good, and like the boy said, it helped to wash away the peanut butter sticking to the roof of her mouth. This boy was sharing so many wonderful things with her!