Just Enough for Jenny


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Jennifer Shelby hunts for stories in the beetled undergrowth of fairy-infested forests. She fishes for them in the dark spaces between stars. You can learn more about her catch-and-release program  [+]

Image of Short Circuit #02

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While pulling lobster pots from the bay, Finn chanced upon the mermaid. His mind was on Jenny, dark with worry, when the mermaid appeared alongside his boat. An old friend once told him of a legend that consuming mermaid flesh could make a human live forever, a story he’d scoffed at once upon a time but that now seemed auspicious.

The pots tumbled back into the bay. Finn went after the mermaid.

She fought for her freedom, the bay frothing with her fury. Finn’s tired boat chugged through his reserves of fuel. The tide came and went, the sun set and rose again. Still, Finn and the mermaid fought. His mind grew wild with weariness, but he hadn’t been a fisherman all his life for naught. Finn had her in his nets by noon the next day.

He met the mermaid’s eyes as he hoisted her up. They were gray like the Atlantic, gray like the tumors the surgeon cut out of Jenny.

The mermaid’s hair fell into tangled, salty ropes. They reminded Finn of Jenny’s dreadlocks, the ones she wore before they’d fallen out, one by one. Cold sweats rippled over his skin and his guts clenched with sudden sick.

Finn’s knife sat heavy in his hand, anchoring him to his Jenny. He hated himself for hesitating, for the way his hand trembled as he sliced into the flesh of the mermaid’s tail and her breath hitched in horror.

Scales gave way to blubber. The mermaid’s shrieks spilled over the bay. “I’m so sorry,” said Finn, gritting his teeth against the salt of his tears.

Beneath the blubber lay the meat, pink like salmon. Like Jenny’s lips the first time he kissed her. Finn turned and vomited over the edge of the boat. The bay splashed it back to him, angry. He wiped his mouth, unsure if he could ever fish again.

He cut her free from his net and she tumbled onto the boat. Finn lifted her like he did his Jenny, clutching her to his chest. He lowered her gently into the bay, the water staining pink as the mermaid swam away.

“Forgive me.” In his hand Finn clutched a small and bloody chunk of the mermaid’s flesh. He hadn’t needed much. Just enough for Jenny.

14

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