I’ve started pulling together another collection of short fiction from what I wrote on my blog in 2018 to follow on from Life In A Flash and Life In A Conversation. This will be provisionally called Life Sentences and the story below will be one of the pieces I include. I hope you all have a fab Christmas and may you never need the help being provided to Norris Skiffle.
Norris Skiffle stood on the deserted beach and studied the sea. He itched all to buggery in his new-to-him wetsuit (its previous owner, a part time dominatrix claimed to be allergic to Croatian latex) and improvised flippers (a cunning combination of plastic ties, flip flops, a couple of wire coat hangers and that staple of all DIY ephemera, sticky-backed plastic). This would have to do. He stepped into the cold unforgiving ocean and, checking in all directions to satisfy himself that there was no one around, he reached behind him to release the carefully positioned flap to expose his flaccid and beige buttocks which he lowered gingerly into the cold water.
Norris held his breath. He hadn’t been lucky in love in his twenty seven years on the planet, his only meaningful relationship (with an asymmetric bull-inseminator from Basildon) having ended nine months previously in hospital when at a moment of heightened passion he accidentally sat on his amour’s carelessly pre-cocked turkey-baster. The resulting tendency to whimper when walking would, he was assured, fade with time and liberal salt baths but NHS waiting lists meant the salt baths had to be of the informal, al fresco kind.
Norris stared out across a deserted beach on this mizzly Wednesday in March, waiting for time and tide to sooth his mutilated nethers. After fifteen minutes and a growing realisation that cryogenically preserving his rear was the more likely consequence of his dip, he heard a voice.
As doubts began to surface, something else did just that.
‘Hello.’ The voice suggested a female seductress even if the setting was more home-knit dog walker.
‘Don’t look, please…’ If Norris had one passion it was to avoid embarrassment at all costs, something he singularly failed to do with depressing regularity.
‘I was going to say the same thing.’
Norris tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice. ‘I can’t see you even if I wanted to. I left my glasses on the beach. I’d just prefer it if you looked away, that’s all.’
‘Well, get you,’ said the siren voice. ‘All you have to worry about is someone gawping at your pendulous posterior and, being as kind as I can, I doubt you’d fill a thimble with that audience, whereas if you see me then my life will be transformed utterly.’
‘I am a merperson and…’
‘A gender ambivalent fish-human chimera.’
‘Really? Must we? Haven’t we left all that old neo-oceanic sexualised nomenclature behind?’
‘Sorry. Why mustn’t I see you?
‘Don’t you read? Or watch films? If you see me I’ll no longer be able to undertake my aquashift? I’ll become human. Full time. Can you imagine how grim that would be?’
‘Yes. So you’re like that Darryl…?’
‘Hannah. Yes, her. And no I don’t look like her. The hair for starters.’
‘Have you any idea how hard it would be to have flowing tresses like hers and spend fifty percent of your life in sea water?’
‘I’ve not focused on that aspect of a Mer-person’s existence in truth.’
Norris heard a sigh.
‘You could do with some help in the tonsorial department, you know.’
‘Are you looking?’
‘At your hair. God, you are the sensitive one, aren’t you?’
He felt gentle fingers lift his hair, like it was being gently washed. He purred. Involuntarily, of course.
‘You could do something with this, you know. A bit of seaweed oil and a coral scrub.’
‘Defo. Look, I’d love to chat about treatments and all that, but thanks for not looking but I must get on.’
‘Yes sure, my pleasure, erm… do you have a name?’
‘Theonewhosatonarockandsangbadlyyetwithacertianerraticcharm… but most people call me Finn.’
‘On account of your tail?
‘Because I come from Finland. Now, see, we have this rule. If a human is good to us, lets us go without poeeping, we promise to return in the form he or she most desires at the next high tide and take him or her to the place of his or her dreams. How are you placed for Friday? About nineish? By the old jetty?’
‘Good. Yes, that works for me.’
‘Right ho. See you.’
Finn began to slip away when Norris called, ‘Do I need to bring anything?’
‘Something to keep you warm.’
And thus Norris stood near the water blinking as a tall human form emerged from the surf. The golden haired maiden of his dreams it was not. Instead he gawped as a large, rather overweight man of about forty, wearing what appeared to be green scrubs and pushing a wheeled bed struggled up the sand towards him. He appeared breathless but smiled.
‘Finn? Is that you?’
‘The same. Why are you wearing a wet suit?’
‘You said to wear something warm.’
‘I said to keep warm. Take it off.’
‘Of course here.’ He turned to the still dripping bed and began to fiddle with a monitor.
‘What are you doing? More to the point why aren’t you my deepest desire?’
Finn appeared to be filling a syringe with a yellow fluid. ‘I’m exactly what you desired when I saw you last.’ He turned and smiled, holding up his hands in which he held two long rubber gloves. ‘Can you give me a hand getting these on?’
‘I don’t understand. I want a golden haired maiden who…’
‘No you don’t. Lie down Norris. I haven’t all day. There’s a chap in Bridlington who’s expecting a freshly oiled vegan upholsterer at eleven thirty so I need get a move on.’
Norris, now naked lay on the bed. ‘Who are you? This isn’t about my hair, is it, because I’m fine with my follicles the way they are.’
‘Silly boy. Now hold still.’
Expert hands flipped Norris over and gently prised his buttocks apart. ‘I’m your dream proctologist and we’ll soon have you right as rain. Now deep breath, I’m coming in…’